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Straight Path or Path of Steadfastness?


QIstiqaamah means steadfastness, so, should Siraat Al-mustaqeem in soorah Al-Fatiha not mean the “path of steadfastness”?


AIn the Qur-aan, Ismul-faa’il “Al-Mustaqeem” has been used as an adjective of the word Path (Siraat). Now a path can be can be straight, taking people directly to their destination; or it can be crooked thus taking people in circles, diverting them away from their destination or sidetracking people, instead of taking them to their destination. In Soorah Faatiĥah we pray to Allaah SWT that we want to be continually shown the path that takes us directly and straight to our goal of attaining Allaah’s pleasure, approval and bounties of Jannah; as opposed to other paths that mislead. The adjective “Al-Mustaqeem” describes that quality of the path. The Qur-aan itself alludes to this meaning of the Siraat-Mustaqeem in Soorah Al-An‘aam, when it says: “Wa anna haadzaa siraati Mustaqeeman…”, i.e., “And this indeed is My straight path, so follow it. And do not follow other paths, for they will sidetrack you from His way” (6:153). Even the Prophet ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself has been reported to demonstrate the straightness of the Islamic path by drawing it as a straight line and surrounding it with different crooked and convoluted paths.

Now, people may be on the straight path, but they will not reach anywhere unless they steadfastly continue moving forward on the path. So you are right in your thoughts that Istiqaamah (constancy, consistency and steadfastness) is needed to reach the destination through the straight path, but that steadfastness is adjective of the travelers of the path, not the path itself. It is the attribute of the people “those who were favoured upon”. In other words, straightness is the attribute of the path, steadfastness is the attribute of people, not of the path.

Also, the essence of the word Istiqaamah is straightness. It is used to describe steadfastness because steadfast people continue to stand up straight despite the severest pressures to bend them or knock them off as well as they keep going straight consistently and constantly, avoiding all distractions and diversions, without being sidetracked, come what may.

Lastly, it is “Siraat-Al-Mustaqeem” not “Siraat-al-istiqaamati”.

Hence, “path of steadfastness” will not be an appropriate translation of Siraat-al-Mustaqeem, even though steadfastness is needed in human behaviour to reach the destination.

November 23, 2004

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