On the authority of Abu Amr Sufyaan ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, tell me a statement about Islam such that I will not have to ask anyone other than you.” He answered, “Say, ‘I believe in Allah’, and then stand firm and steadfast to that.”(Recorded in Muslim)
Sufyan ibn Abdullah al-Thaqafi (r) was a Companion of the Prophet (s) who came from Taif. Umar ibn al-Khattaab (r) put him in charge of collecting the zakat from the people of Taif. Five hadith have been recorded on his authority. This is the only one Sahih Muslim.
“O Messenger of Allah, tell me a statement about Islam such that I will not have to ask anyone other than you.”
In this hadith, the Companion of the Prophet (s) asked him (s) to tell him something concise about Islam, something so comprehensive, that he wouldn’t have to ask anything after it. He (r) wanted something that didn’t need a lot of explanation, something easy to remember and apply, and something that would guide him to the essence of Islam. What the Prophet (s) told him was something so comprehensive, that it summarised the essence his (s) mission of 23 years.
“He answered, “Say, ‘I believe in Allah’, and then stand firm and steadfast to that.”
The Prophet (s) told him “Say, ‘I believe in Allah’”. This is the first principle or foundation of Islam, belief in Allah (swt) known as Tauheed. The correct belief in Allah (swt) comes with conditions, and it is not the same as when the polytheists said ‘We believe in Allah’, but they also worshipped idols. We must believe in Allah alone, in His Lordship, in His Names and Attributes as they were revealed to us, and that He (swt) is the only One worthy of worship. As we know from the hadith of Jibreel, Imaan or faith, comprises not just of belief, or a statement on the tongue, but also includes the actions of the limbs. So what the Prophet (s) is advising here is in essence “Say, with true conviction and belief in your heart that you are prepared to act on… ‘I believe in Allah’.”
After having the correct belief in Allah (swt) the Prophet (s) then advised us to remain ‘firm and steadfast’ in that belief. This means that we must not swerve from that proper belief in any way whatsoever. We must fulfill what it obligatory upon us by meeting our obligations to Allah (swt) as detailed by the religion of Islam. We should also strive to stay away from what is forbidden to us. And we also remain steadfast in our belief in Allah’s final Prophet Muhammad (s) and striving to follow his (s) Sunnah or way.
The key to this type of steadfastness is soundness of the heart. The heart must be set firmly on tauheed and filled with fear of Allah, or Taqwa, as well as love for Him (swt). If the heart is righteous, then the rest of the body will follow. We can cultivate this in ourselves by turning to the Qur’an and reading it attentively with translation if we don’t understand Arabic; calling ourselves to account for our actions and asking Allah’s (swt) forgivness; striving to improve ourselves and our conduct and making dua to ask Allah (swt) to help us achieve this; acquiring sound Islamic knowledge; sticking to the Islamic community and keeping pious company; and thinking about the Hereafter and its many blessings and pleasures.
The rewards for this type of steadfastness are truly sublime. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“Verily, those who say, ’Our Lord is Allah [alone]‘, and stand firm and steadfast, on them will descend angels [at the time of their death saying], ‘Fear not, nor grieve!’ But receive the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised. We have been your friends and protectors in the life of this world and are [so] in the Hereafter. Therein you shall have [all] that your souls desire, and therein you shall have [all] that you ask. A hospitable gift from [Allah], the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Fussilat:30-32)
SubhanAllah, could we ask for anything more?
Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 2) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 823-844