“Those who follow innovations and heresies have failed in the obligation of istiqaamah. Istiqaamah implies being upright along the Straight Path. Those who follow innovations have chosen to swerve from that path to other ways. They may, thereby, be robbing themselves of the rewards and benefits of istiqaamah.
There are many forces and pressures upon a person that attempt to drive him away from the path of istiqaamah. Satan and his allies will do their utmost to make believers stray from the Straight Path. Therefore, before concluding the discussion of this hadith concerning istiqaamah, some of the ways and means that help a person remain along the Straight Path should be mentioned. Briefly stated, the following, Allah willing, are very beneficial to keep a person along the Straight Path:
(1) Turning to the Quran, reading it attentively and benefiting from its teachings: Reading the Quran strengthens a person’s imaan(faith), reminds him of Allah and of the Hereafter. It reminds him of his real purpose in life and the fleeting nature of this world. All of these aspects are very important in helping a person stay along the Straight Path. They will make the person realize that there is nothing in this world that is so desirable or necessary that one should risk straying from the Straight Path. Furthermore, reading the Quran will show the person what the Straight Path actually is so that he may avoid swerving by avoiding innovations, heresies and incorrect beliefs or practices.
2) Continually checking oneself and reviewing one’s deeds: Allah has said in the Quran
“O you who have believed, fear Allah . And let every soul look to what it has put forth for tomorrow – and fear Allah . Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do. And be not like those who forgot Allah , so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient.” (Surat Al-Hashr :18-19) It has also been reported that Umar ibn al-Khattaab stated, “Reckon yourself before you are reckoned and weigh yourself before you are weighed.”
(3) Striving to improve oneself: Everyone should keep in mind that his deeds are not sufficient for the reward of Paradise in the Hereafter. In addition to performing the proper deeds, the person must strive after Allah’s mercy and grace. If this idea is firm in a person’s mind, he will not be content with the deeds that he is performing. Instead, he will always seek to do even better, especially better in quality and with respect to sincere intention.
(4) Sincerely supplicating to Allah: For example, when the person says, “Guide us to the Straight Path,” in every rakah of his prayers, he should mean that sincerely. He should think about what he is saying and ask for it with full conviction and hope.
(5) Acquiring sound Islamic knowledge: This is one of the keys to avoiding innovations and straying from the Straight Path. It is only through sound Islamic knowledge that one can first recognize the Straight Path that he is trying to adhere to from all of the other paths.
(6) Studying and following the examples of the earlier prophets: Satan tried his best to make the prophets stray from their mission. Allah has shown their examples in the Quran and how they responded. This should make the heart of the believer firmer in belief and make it easier for him to adhere to the Straight Path. Allah says
“And each [story] We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We make firm your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers.“ (Surat Hud: 120)
(7) Sticking to the Islamic Community and associating with pious people: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“You must stick to the congregation for the wolf eats the sheep that is off by itself. “( Recorded by Ahmad, al-Nasaai and Abu Dawood.)
(8) Thinking about the Hereafter with its pleasures and punishment and remembering death often: When one thinks about the Hereafter and remembers death, one puts this world in its prosper perspective. Again, the result of this should be that the person will realize that there is nothing here of importance in comparison to remaining steadfast and adhering to the Straight Path. One should also be aware of the environment he is surrounded by and how its different components affect his ability to stay along the Straight Path.
There are many different atmospheres that encourage a person and help him stay along the straight path. However, many times one is surrounded by- even bombarded by- influences that call him to stray from the Straight Path. Sometimes the person himself does not realize what all of these influences are and then he cannot understand why he is finding it so difficult to abide by the shareeah in his life. In his work on istiqaamah, al-Daryuwaish highlighted the importance of the following different environmental influences in one’s life: (1) one’s house and family, (2) one’s school, (3) the mosque, (4) the society as a whole and, finally, (5) the surrounding media in all its forms. One’s workplace should also be added to those environments al-Daryuwaish mentioned. Every Muslim should think about these influences in his particular life. He should try to find the positive influences and frequent them most often. He should identify the negative influences and do his best to remain away from them. In this way, he will be helping himself, by the will of Allah, fulfill this important condition of istiqaamah”
Source Commentary on the Forty Hadith of An-Nawawi Vol.2 page 693-695