A very dear friend of mine recently asked me a question, to which I immediately knew the answer. He asked me, “What is your greatest fear?” Had this question been asked to me when I was young, I might have, with full confidence, said, ‘Roaches.’ Or a few years ago I might have said, ‘Placing my trust in someone, only then to have them break it.’ Or perhaps I would have said, ‘Torture inflicted upon the spirit.’ At this time, the answer came easily, and was from deep within me: My greatest fear is that after being gifted by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), time and time again, being brought from darkness to light (time and time again), after believing in the beauty of God so full heartedly, that one day—in a state of heedlessness or when hit by a great calamity, that I turn my back on all that was, is and will be.
Over the past few years I have seen people who seem so incredibly strong, whose hearts are so filled with a passion to get to know their Lord, and then a hardship strikes—harder than ever expected, and they turn back. They throw away all the gems and jewels and they settle for rocks and pebbles. I do not mean that they struggle along the way, because we all do, I mean that they turn their backs and walk into silence. And the thing is—I know that I am not above this. I know that I too can find myself, one day, in that same sorrowful situation, and it terrifies me.
Two days after this conversation with my friend, I was sitting in a gathering with a sheikh (scholar). The students began to speak of different karamaat (unique miracles) of saints. They wanted to dive into this subject, as they were fascinated by all the possibilities. The sheikh kept diverting the conversation elsewhere, but they kept bringing it back to the same subject. Finally, he addressed the situation head on. He said that today people are so obsessed with the karamaat of this sheikh or that sheikh—of tales of walking on water and speaking from behind the veils of death itself. And in this obsession, the karamaat themselves have become a veil from what is true and real. If a person truly receives a karama from God, it will not be one that they openly speak about or flaunt to their students. They hide them the best that they can, for fear of losing sight of the Ultimate Goal, by the glitters and shimmers of the path to get there.
He then went on to say something revolutionary (for me): There is only one karama that a person should seek, should beg for, should ultimately crave: Istiqama (staying firm in faith). Being steadfast in our belief in God, following His commands and above all, our love for Him. This is the ultimate gift of God to His servant.
How does one strive for istiqama? Through seeking Him. Asking Him. Through seeking assistance in Him through patience and prayer. Never giving up hope even in times of what feels like divine abandonment. Again, patience and prayer. This means that we should not only have patience, nor should we simply pray. Rather to actually seek assistance in patience and prayer. To run to sujud (prostration) when the inner walls of our being begin to cave in—be it from our own experience or experiencing through someone else’s eyes and heart. It is about praying with our heart in our hands and handing over our hearts to the One who created the hearts—the one who controls the hearts, and the One who heals the hearts.
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