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What Is Beautiful Patience? (Part 2)

Different Forms of Patience

Part 1

In the previous article, we talked about internal patience as well as the fruits of patience.

Once the true concept of patience is rooted in the heart, its outward form can take different manifestations depending on the circumstance. Here we will give some examples.

A Little Reminder

Patience may be difficult at times, but we are ultimately patient for God. Patience for God means that we know the end goal of our patience, we understand the strength that comes with patience and we know that no matter how difficult it gets, we remain steadfast because we are only seeking Him.

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And when we are patient for God, He is with us. Nothing that is done for His sake is wasted. God tells us in the Quran:  

{O you who believe, seek help through patience and prayer; surely God is with the patient.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 153)

And when God is with us, that is when our patience becomes through Him. God says:

{So be patient, and your patience is only by [the help of] God.} (An-Nahl 16: 127)

When our intention is for God, He strengthens us. And the patience becomes worth it because God helps us with it. So we should heed the advice of Prophet Muhammad who said:

“Whoever persists in being patient, God will make him patient.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Manifestations of Patience

With an understanding that patience requires certainty, and its general manifestation is perseverance and determination, what are the situations that require patience?

Patience with the Everyday Struggles of Life

When going about things in life, no doubt we are faced with bumps along the way. We may work in a financial firm, we may be trying to open a new business, or even trying to get married. All these have elements of the Hereafter in them depending on our intentions. And patience is being put in the required effort to complete the task in the best of ways.

If the intention is to get married, and yet nothing seems to be happening, patience is in not seeking the haram (unlawful) means. If the goal is to open a business to be self-sufficient, it is not to give up when obstacles come our way. Patience here is seeking the proper channels, getting the right advice and persevering in the path that we feel is best for this life and the afterlife.

Of course, patience does not mean stubbornness. If we find that there are clear signs that it is not a good idea to go forward with something because of its possible adverse effects on our lives, it may be best not to continue. Wisdom is in knowing what the situation requires. One of the ways of knowing is assessing our emotional state:

Is it a purely emotional decision?

Is it based on fear or lack of trust?

Or are there real negatives that may arise from the situation that outweigh the benefits?

Patience in the Struggle for the Hereafter

Spiritual highs are hard to maintain, and it is difficult to continue with something when we do not taste its sweetness or see immediate fruits. But Ibn Ata Allah said:

“Do not leave the invocation of Allah because of your lack of presence with Allah therein, for your heedlessness of invocation is worse than your heedlessness in invocation. It may well be that He raises you from invocation with heedlessness to invocation with attentiveness, and from invocation with attentiveness to invocation with presence of heart, and from invocation with presence of heart to invocation in which there is absence from anything besides the Invoked.”

If you take one step closer to God, He comes to you at speed – and this is a promise. If you find yourself experiencing a real spiritual low, then go back to basics, meaning the obligatory. It will not be seen as impatient to do less with more meaning, as Prophet Muhammad said:

“Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way.” (Al-Bukhari)

Your patience is in finding more meaning with the things you are already doing and maintaining it. Your continuation is a sign of your hope in God.

Start with the obligatory. And even if they are hard on you, continue doing them. Patience in this case means to persevere in doing the obligatory, but also to seek to find meaning in it. If we are having difficulty keeping up our prayers, only one part of patience is to do them anyway.

The other part is asking God for help and seeking practical venues, such as lectures, articles or talking with someone trusted to revive the feelings that should come with prayer, even if our souls are telling us otherwise.

Patience in the Face of Calamities

We are all faced with calamities at certain points in our lives. They are difficult to bear. And the Prophet taught us that:

“True patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” (Al-Bukhari)

And why is that?

Because a person who can be patient at the first stroke of calamity is one who is truly with God. God describes such people in the Quran:

{…but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.”} (Al-Baqarah 2: 155-56)

That patience comes when we know that we will be tested and there is a purpose to the tests, as we are told in the first part of the previous verse:

{And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits…} (Al-Baqarah 2: 155)

The Prophet reminds us:

“How wonderful is the case of the believer; there is good in everything and this is not the case with anyone except a believer. If good attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” (Muslim)

Yet it is natural to feel sad when trials afflict us. We are not asked to stop being human. When the Prophet’s son passed away, he wept and said:

“The eyes shed tears, and the heart is grieved, but we only say what pleases God. Indeed we are grieved by your separation O Ibrahim.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Again, patience is linked to not despairing. There is a time for mourning and sadness. But a believer understands God’s wisdom. So in the case of calamities patience is to not despair, it is allowing oneself to mourn but also to continue on the path. It is to find comfort in knowing that:

“Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Patience in Dealing with People

There are people who test our patience. It may be our parents, our siblings, our friends or our co-workers. God tells us in the Quran:

{And We have made some of you [people] as trial for others – will you have patience? And ever is your Lord, Seeing.} (Al-Furqan 25: 20)

Patience is in our reactions. There may be someone who asks the same question twenty times – patience is not to get angry or humiliate them. As the Prophet said:

“Indeed gentleness does not enter into anything except it beautifies it, nor is it removed from anything except that it makes it ugly.” (Muslim)

Another level of patience is in refraining from backbiting and gossiping. If we show patience to a person who is irritating us, but then backbite, then that is not within the spirit of patience. The only exception is if we are seeking advice from someone trusted.

Patience with people is a beautiful thing because it is also rooted in the belief that it is God who can change the hearts of people. Sometimes people need time for their hearts to soften and their stance to change. And God is capable of doing that.

While these are some examples of the manifestations that patience may take, all of these may overlap.

What About Abuse?

This is probably the most misunderstood aspect of patience. Some people are abused physically and psychologically. And oftentimes the response of some community members is to tell them to be patient, meaning to put up with abuse that could scar a person, both literally and metaphorically.

But that is not what patience is. The principles of shari’ah are aimed at maintaining the dignity and life of a person, and abuse is obviously contrary to that.

Read Part 3