Generally, patience is one of the most beautiful virtues of life. In Islam, patience is one of the great attributes a believer must possess. This is important because, not only does patience as an attribute keep us on an easy page with other creatures, but it also endears us to Allah, our Creator who is As-Sabūr (The Absolutely Patient).
And Allah loves those who are patient.” (Sūratu Aal- I’mraan :147)
3 Kinds of Patience
Patience in a simple sense implies the ability to remain reasonably calm, and or persistent during periods of trials or challenges. It is depicted in our reactions to our environments and life when we are faced with hardships or unpleasant experiences. In Islamic scholarship, three broad categories of patience have been identified. These are 1) Patience in the worship of Allah, 2)) Patience through abstinence from haram, and 3) Patience on calamities (and when they first occur).
Patience in our ‘ibadah (worship) as an Islamic virtue is situated in our persistence in the worship of Allah (SWT). Do we continue in our devotion to Allah (SWT) even when we are saddled with a series of difficulties or tests? Or how steadfast are we in observing our salat especially during the early hours of Fajr when we battle to fight off sleep? Or during the ‘Asr Prayer when we are mostly getting off work with fatigue? Do we continue to fast during Ramadan because we have been instructed to do so by Allah?
Patience through abstinence from haram; staying away from haram despite all the temptations that usually deceitfully embellish them is another type of sabr because the trappings of haram are many in our worldly affairs. While most Muslim men and women may be safe from conspicuous haram deeds like eating porks especially in Muslim countries, there are common challenges for Muslim youths when it comes to lowering our gazes, gossiping and other common weaknesses. Dealing with the opposite sex in a proper, non-lustful way and seeking our financial needs in this world through absolute halal means are part of the lifetime challenges that require persistent sabr for Muslims.
Patience on calamities (and when they happen first) as the third type of sabr here is one of the most discussed. The reality of life for us as Muslims is to expect that Allah will test us. As made explicit in the Qu’ran:
Do men expect that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction? Lo! We tested those who were before you. Thus Allah knoweth those who are sincere, and knoweth those who feign.” (Al-`Ankabut :2-3).
In another ayah, it is stated that “And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones.” (Al-Baqarah 2:155)
Life without patience?
According Junaid al-baghdādī as quoted by Imam Ahmad al-Ghazaali in his book, Mukaashifatul-qulub, ”Calamities serve various purposes which have to do with the level and depth of the recipient’s Iman or the absence of it; calamity serves as a torch or guide to those who are very close to Allah because it brings them closer to Him. It wakes them up from their spiritual slumber and strengthens their faith, while on the other hand, people who lack faith or who do not believe in Allah may go down or perish when calamities befall them. Allah sees our minds and knows us deeper than we know ourselves, but the series of tests from Allah serves as a reality check for us to see where we stand when life becomes difficult. When calamities befall Muslims they see it as a test from Allah.”
Who, when disaster strikes them, say, Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy.” (Al-Baqarah, 156)
In another hadith, our beloved is reported to have said “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Muslim)
Never mistake patience for weakness, it is a highly honorable attribute that is only honed through practice and with great strength.
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