Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (a): Whoever fasts the last three days of Sha‘bān and joins it to the month of Ramadan, Allah will write for him [the reward of] two consecutive months.
(Al-Sadūq, Man lā yahduruhu Al-Faqīh 2:94; Ibn Tāwūs, Iqbāl 723)
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ أَلاَّ تَخَافُوا وَلاَ تَحْزَنُوا
Innal-ladhīna qālū rabbunallāhu thumma-staqāmū tatanzzalu ‘alayhimul-malā’ikatu allā takhāfū walā tahzanū.
Indeed, those who say, “Our rabb is Allah!” and then remain steadfast, the angels descend upon them, [saying,] “Do not fear, nor be grieved!”
(Sūrat Fussilat, No 41, Āyat 30)
In this blessed verse, Allah ‘azza wajall informs us that having belief in the ‘rubūbiyyah’ of Allah is not sufficient in attaining spiritual progress. Another factor is crucial in this regard: having steadfastness. Steadfastness means that one does not give up. It means to not surrender in the face of difficulties and obstacles. Indeed, steadfastness and hard work are required to achieve anything of worth, even in the material and transient realm. People who have been very successful in this world have often gone beyond what was expected of them. They put in extra efforts to reach higher levels of success.
If steadfastness, efforts, planning, vigilance, and so on are all expected for one to progress in the material life of this world, then what can be expected when it comes to man’s spiritual states? Does this not also need effort and steadfastness? Does it not need guidance and a planned program? In fact, the need in this regard is even more dire, because the objective is more difficult and more precious. The goal is that man lives a life of purity and piety, or in other words he attains the proximity to Allah. Imam al-Husayn (a) says at the end of the famous Du‘ā al-‘Arafah, as narrated by the eminent mystic from the sixth century Hijrah, Sayyid Ibn Tāwūs (may Allah’s mercy be upon him): What did he find, the one who lost You [O Allah]? And what did he lose, the one who found You?!
Of course, the difficulties and obstacles along the path of self-purification are not to be undermined. Comfort and pleasure in this world seem very important. Losing them seems difficult to bear. On the one hand the material world is such that its benefits are derived quickly, and man can easily develop an attachment with them. On the other hand, Shaytān uses the glitters of this world to distract man. He also magnifies man’s failures to try and make him lose hope in his resolve to rectify himself. The Quran says: He [Shaytān] said, “My Lord! As You have consigned me to perversity, I will surely glamorize evil for them on the earth, and I will surely pervert them all (Q 15:39).
But by setting aside time to ponder on ourselves and the benefits that can be attained by self-purification, and by strengthening our relationship with Allah, the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) and the pious scholars of Islam, we can strengthen our resolve to be steadfast and not despair in the face of difficulties. Imam Ali (a) says: A believer is eager and inclined towards that which lasts and detached from that which perishes . . . he is away from indolence and laziness and is constantly active and energetic. (Majlisī, Bihār, 78:26, H 92)
We narrate a beautiful story from one of the eminent teachers of spirituality in our time, ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī (may Allah be pleased with him): During the time that I was studying in Najaf, one of the years our connection in Iraq with Iran, was cut off. This brought about poverty and a lack of the necessities of life. In addition to financial problems, the intense heat of the long summer had put us under more stress. One day—extremely tired of these unpleasant and uneasy circumstances, and with dark clouds of despair and grief that had troubled my mind and thoughts—I went to visit the teacher of akhlāq, Āyatullāh Sayyid Ali Qādī (may Allah be pleased with him) and recounted to him my heart’s sorrow. In a fascinating manner, he admonished and consoled me. The wondrous statements of my teacher became engraved in my heart in such a manner that all the sorrows were purged from my heart, and when I returned from the presence of this great teacher, it seemed my heart had become so light that I had no worry in life. (Qāsimlū, Tabīb-i ‘Ashiqān, 43)
This verse is a reminder that faith and steadfastness go together. During the month of Ramadan, our fasting and intense worship disciplines us and helps us become more steadfast in the path of Allah. We pray that Allah helps us in this path, strengthens our resolve and lets us taste the sweetness of His proximity and servitude.
References: provided within the Reflection.