The life of this world is a place of test and trial. It is not meant to be a phase of consistent, uninterrupted happiness, well-being, and goodness. Allah decrees tragedies, calamities, grief, and loss for us during the life of this world. No person among mankind is free from being destined to endure some level of difficulty.
Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a messenger for the last of mankind. He was, however, meant to be more than just a person who conveyed Allah’s message of guidance. He was also meant to be a role model; someone for mankind to emulate.
Prophet Muhammad was a human being. During his life, he endured many trials that tested his human nature. What stood out prominently for bystanders was his patient demeanor. His attitude was always positive during the difficult times in his life.
He was the epitome of beautiful patience and fortitude.
Crying at the Death of Loved Ones
At some point in life, each one of us endures the death of a near and dear one. It can bring on a barrage of emotions. To know that you will never meet, see, or talk to them again, makes you cry.
The Prophet Muhammad would cry when his loved ones died. This means that shedding tears does not negate patience. We tend to have varying beliefs about watching a grown man cry with tears. The Prophet, however, did cry real tears when he was deeply aggrieved.
One such example was when his cousin, Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, the older brother of `Ali, died in the battle of Muta. Ja’far took command of the army when the previous commander, Zaid ibn Haritha, was martyred. Ja’far fought valiantly, but was also eventually martyred.
When the Prophet went to deliver the sad news to Ja’far’s wife, Asma, he requested to see Ja’far’s children. Upon seeing them, he hugged them, his tears flowing, before delivering the sad news. When Asma started grieving, however, the Prophet advised her commendably:
O Asma! Do not say any bad words and do not beat your chest.
He then commanded her women companions to prepare food for Ja’far’s grieving family. (Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 22; Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 282)
His advice indicates that crying is not against patience. We can cry during a calamity. What undermines patience is to speak something that can anger Allah.
The Prophet also cried when his young son, Ibrahim, passed away. His eyes flowed with tears, but he was careful not to say anything that would displease Allah. (Jami`Al-Tirmidhi)
Ibrahim was his third son to pass away in early childhood. Yet, how patient was the Prophet’s behavior, in a society that looked down upon any man who had no son.
We learn, therefore, that if and when we lose someone beloved due to death, it is okay to cry in grief. However, we must be careful not to say anything to question the decree of Allah.
This is what the Prophet’s patience teaches us. He lost many of his loved ones to death during his life. Yet, he never once complained or expressed dissatisfaction at Allah’s decree.
Restraining His Anger
Another form of patience that a Muslim should practice is the control of anger. There are many factors that can contribute to making one angry. Most causes of anger in everyday life are trivial, i.e. they do not warrant losing patience. Nevertheless, a Muslim is allowed to get angry for just causes and valid reasons. However, it is what they do when they get angry, that constitutes patience.
Prophet Muhammad rarely got angry. But when he did, it was justifiable, praiseworthy anger, directed at an issue that warranted such anger. Still, he always refrained from harsh verbal rebukes and retaliatory physical aggression. He remained silent and would go red in the face. At times, he would stop talking to the person who had done what made him angry. He would also not respond to questions of others about the matter.
What made him angry the most, was when he witnessed someone violate or dispute the laws and commands of Allah. For example he once got very angry when he passed by two companions who were arguing about Qadr (i.e. Divine decree). (Sunan Ibn Majah)
He also expressed his anger when he saw a curtain in his home that had pictures of animate beings upon it. (Sahih Al-Bukhari) He once stopped talking to all of his wives for one month, when they collaborated on something that hurt him. (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
One thing that stood out about his anger, though, was that he did not express it as personal insults or mistreatment. For example, once a Bedouin pulled him aside a bit harshly, to demand a gift from the war booty. The sudden jerk made a heavy mantle that the Prophet was wearing, leave a mark on his neck. Despite the physical abrasion, he still smiled and ordered the man to be given something. (Sahih Muslim)
The Prophet Muhammad’s suppression of his personal anger, and his measured expression of anger for the sake of Allah, teaches us valuable lessons about patience.
First, that we should try to control our anger as much as possible. And this is part of patience.
Second, that when we do get angry, it should be only for the sake of Allah.
Third, that we should express this praiseworthy anger in tempered moderation. We should be careful what we say and do, even when our anger is justified.
And this is a form of practicing beautiful patience, in accordance with the sunnah of the Prophet.
Submitting to Allah: The Supreme Form of Patience
Lastly, one of the supreme forms of patience of Prophet Muhammad was his submission to Allah. Despite personal difficulty, whenever Allah commanded him to do something as a Prophet, he did it. This included actions that had an adverse impact on his social life and well-being. Often in the Quran, Allah mentions the constriction of the Prophet’s heart due to the hurtful things done to him by his own people.
For example, Allah commanded him to marry the divorcee of his adopted son, Zaid. This was very hard on him because Arabian society considered this to be a social taboo. He nevertheless went ahead with the marriage. Similarly, it was very difficult for him to leave his city Makkah, which he loved dearly. Yet, when the command from Allah came to emigrate to Madinah, he submitted.
If we were to study Prophet Muhammad’s life, putting ourselves in his shoes, we would have an epiphany. It would hit us hard how difficult and painful a life he endured with patience after becoming a Prophet. It would make our hearts melt with love for him.
To know how to beautifully practice patience, we need to look no further than the harsh realities in the life of Prophet Muhammad.