Yā ayyuhalladhīna āmanū idhā laqītum fi’atan fathbutū
O you who have faith! When you meet a host [in battle], then stand firm.
(Sūrat al-Anfāl, No 8, Āyat 45)
One of the outstanding characteristics of a true believer is to stand firm in the face of any attack on his faith. The believer meets those who assault his faith – physically or in other ways – with a determined resistance. He stands up for faith and counters the attacks. This inner strength is derived from his connection with Allah ‘azza wajall and his conviction in the hereafter. It infuses a resolve and determination that is unwavering in the face of opposition.
The Prophet (s) said: A believer is firmer in religion than a tall mountain. A mountain may shrink [because of erosion] but no-one can reduce the faith of a believer. That is because he is possessive of his faith and will not give a part of it to anyone. (Bihār al-Anwār, v 64, p 299).
According to Tafsīr al-Mīzān, The word ‘fathbutū’ in this verse is the command to stand firm and steady, as opposed to fleeing. It refers to inner firmness in the face of difficult circumstances – being patient and not giving in to weakness of spirit, sorrow, anxiety, etc. It also refers to outer firmness of the body – being ready to act rather than being lazy or lethargic. It means doing what is required without being too slow or too hasty, depending on the situation.
Many verses of the Quran show believers praying for the ability to stand firm. When the forces of Tālūt meet Jālūt (Goliath), they are a few in number. But they pray for strength that eventually leads to their victory. The Quran captures this beautifully: And when they went out against Jālūt and his forces they said, ‘Our Lord, pour down upon us patience, and make our feet steady and assist us against the unbelieving people.’ (Q 2:250). In another place Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā quotes the prayer of the Godly people who struggled with the holy Prophet: All that they said was, ‘Our Lord, forgive us our sins and our excesses in our affairs, make our feet steady, and help us against the unbelieving people’ (Q 3:147). Allah (swt) also promises to grant firmness to those who help His way: O you who have faith! If you help Allah, He will help you and make your feet steady (Q 47:7). Interestingly the Quran also talks about firmness in speech (Q 14:27) and strength and firmness of the heart (Q 11:120). There can be no success in faith without firmness in all aspects of human output.
Strength in faith is most necessary when faced with challenges. It was required during battle, hence the prayers of the believers when they went to fight. It is also required in attacks of other forms such as attempts to undermine faith and sow seeds of doubt and weakness, plots to weaken the Muslim Ummah, and oppression against Muslims. We must mobilize our inner strength and harness it to defend our faith and its followers. This is the true meaning of standing firm. It shines brightest in the darkest of times.
It is also necessary to stand firm in following one’s principles. A person wrote to Imam Muhammad al-Jawad ‘alayhis-salām saying, ‘My father is an enemy of the Ahlul Bayt (a) and I face a lot of distress and difficulties from him. Would you please pray to Allah for me? What do you think I should do? Shall I confront him about this or tolerate it from him?’ In his reply, the Imam after mentioning the name of Allah said: I understood your letter and what you mentioned about the case of your father. I shall not stop praying to Allah for you inshallah. To tolerate and indulge your father is better for you than confronting him. Surely with difficulty there is ease. Be patient for the end is for the God conscious ones. May Allah make you firm on the guardianship of those whose guardianship you have undertaken. We are all the trust of Allah who does not thwart His trust. (Bihār al-Anwār, v 50 p 55)
Let this verse be a reminder to stand firm in the face of difficulties and challenges to our faith. We must be ready for action and resolve to do what is needed. Recite the prayers quoted from the Quran for steady feet often, in Qunūt of our salāt or elsewhere. It will inshāAllāh help inspire a strong spirit of active adherence to faith.
Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān