A Virtue Called Patience

Will being impatient and fretting about things we cannot change, change anything? To be patient and let things run their course as they should, is one of the secrets of happiness and contentment.

My father seemed to sense my impatience. “The big ones didn’t get that way by snapping the first thing to hit the water,” he said quietly. “You’ll soon find that anything big and worthwhile usually takes a lot of time.” Patience is one of the most important qualities demanded of those who claim to love Allah, as the degree of patience determines those who are sincere in their claim and those who are not. The degree of patience needed to endure hardship and difficulties in order to please the Beloved proves the sincerity of one’s love. Many claim to love Allah, but when Allah tests them with hardship, they forget the true essence of love. No-one can adhere to the love of Allah except those who are patient and persevering (as-sabintri). If it were not for the test of hardship and sincerity, there would be no proof of the sincerity of a person’s love for Allah. The one whose love of Allah is greater, has a greater degree of patience. Therefore, Allah has attributed the quality of patience to His close friends (awliya) and most beloved. He said about His beloved slave Ayyub (AS): “... Truly We found him full of patience and constancy. How excellent in Our service! Ever did he turn (to Us)!” (Sad 38: 44) Allah instructed the most beloved to Him of everything He created to have patience in accepting His decree and told him that patience comes only by the help of Allah. He praised those who have patience and promised them the best of rewards: the rewards of others are defined and limited, but the reward of as-sabirun is without measure. Patience is vital at all levels of Islam, iman and ihsan, as well as being a major element in iman (faith) and tawakkul (putting one’s trust in Allah). Patience for the sake of Allah, by the help of Allah, and in accepting the decree of Allah.

1. Patience for the sake of Allah, hoping for His rewards and fearing His punishment.

2. Patience by the help of Allah, as man realizes that he has no patience himself, and has no power to acquire patience. Rather, he knows: “there is no power and no strength except by (the help of) Allah.”

3. Patience in accepting the decree of Allah, as man realizes that Allah is the only one Who is controlling the affairs of the universe, so he will patiently accept the ruling and decree of Allah, regardless of what it may mean for him in the way of ease or hardship.

Patience is a half of Iman Iman is in two halves: half is patience (sabr) and half is gratitude (shukr). Therefore Allah has mentioned patience and gratitude alongside one another: “... Verily in this are signs for all who constantly persevere and give thanks” (Ibrahim 14: 5; Luqman 31:31; Saba 34: 19; ash-Shura 42: 33) The reasons why one half of iman is patience and the other half is gratitude are as follows: Iman is a term which covers words, deeds and intentions, all of which are based on one of two things, action or abstinence. Action refers to performing a deed in accordance with the instructions of Allah, which is the reality of gratitude. Abstinence, as in refraining from wrong action, requires patience. The whole of religion is embodied in these two things: carrying out that which Allah has commanded, and refraining from that which Allah has prohibited. Iman is based on two pillars, yaqin (conviction) and patience, which are referred to in the following ayah: “And We appointed, from among them, leaders, giving guidance under Our command, so long as they persevered with patience and continued to have faith in Our Signs” (As-Sajdah 32: 24) It is through faith that we know the reality of Allah’s commands and prohibitions, of reward and punishment, and it is through patience that we carry out His instructions and abstain from that which He has prohibited. Man is constantly being pulled in two opposing directions: should he respond to the lure of this world of desires and pleasures, or should he answer the call of Allah and the hereafter, with the eternal Paradise that Allah has prepared for His friend (Wali)? Going against the call of whims and desires is patience, and responding to the call of Allah and the hereafter is gratitude.

Emulating the attributes of Allah

If a person loves an attribute of Allah, then this will help him to reach Him. Allah is as-Sabur, patient, and there is none that is more patient and forbearing than Him. It was reported that Allah revealed to Dawood (AS), “ Have my attributes, as one of My attributes is that I am Sabur (patient).” Allah loves His attributes and characteristics, and He loves to see the effects of His attributes on His slaves. As He is beautiful, so He loves beauty; as He is all-forgiving, He loves forgiveness; as He is generous, He loves generosity; as He is all-knowing, he loves people of knowledge; as He is strong and powerful, so a strong believer is more beloved to Him than a weaker one; as He is Sabur (patient), so he loves those who have patience; as He is shakur (grateful), so He loves those who give thanks. As He loves those who have His characteristics, so He is with them, and this is a special and unique type of companionship.

Sickness is evil but if we remain patient it is something good because our sins are being wiped. Abu Huraira related that the Prophet (Pbuh) said, ‘for any trouble, illness, worry, grief hurt, or sorrow which afflicts a Muslim, even the prick of a thorn, Allah removes in its stead some of his (minor) sins”(Bukhari, Muslim) So if this person remains patient then its something good but if he is not patient then it becomes evil.

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