Republished from Islam Today.
All families have problems, be they great or small. Scarcely a home is spared. There are problems between siblings, between parents, between husbands and wives. How often do husbands and wives find themselves unable to see eye to eye?
Sometimes, the problems become so serious and difficult to solve that they become publicly known. Problems can get so bad that they lead a husband and wife to lose feelings for one another and ultimately to divorce.
I have thought about the problems that people have with one another, and found that they all have one in common – there is a deficiency of justice in the relationship.
Each party to the problem always foists the blame on the other and absolves himself of fault. He is the one who has worked the impossible and carried all the weight and shown infinite patience. It is always the other party who is abusive, difficult, and neglectful.
In order to lessen the magnitude of our problems, we need to be able to put ourselves in the other’s place, at least for a moment. We need to look at the problem from the angle that the other person sees it. We need to understand his motives and the reason why he has the attitudes that he has.
We need to have the good will to show a sincere and concerned interest in the other party’s point of view. This provides us with the opportunity to come to an understanding, a meeting of minds. This is the way to arrive at compromise and reconciliation.
Rarely does anyone come complaining about a problem and say: “I am the one who is in the wrong. I am the one who has been unfair… What can I do to set things right and make it better?”
No, everyone paints a beautiful picture of himself, as close to perfection as possible, and draws the other in as negative a light as he can.
This is one point. The other is patience. Nothing in life can be achieved without patience.
`Umar once said:
“We found the best of our lives through patience.”
Whoever practices patience, Allah fortifies him with patience. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Whoever seeks chastity, Allah blesses him with chastity. Whoever seeks self-sufficiency, Allah enriches him. And no one is given a gift that is better and more extensive than patience. (Al-Bukhari (1469) and Muslim (1053))
There are some problems that can be solved. There are other problems that can be made less serious. Then there is a third class of problems that can neither be solved nor lessened, however, they can be borne with patience. A person can acclimatize himself to living with them and can cope.
Even those problems that can be solved or lessened, for them patience is the best remedy.
People who have constant dealings with one another – husbands and wives, relatives, friends, colleagues at work – they will not be able to deal with each other over the long term unless they exercise patience.
This is why Khidr said to Moses (peace be upon him):
Truly, you will not be able to have patience with me. And how can you have patience about things about which you do not have understanding? (18: 67-68)
To this Moses (peace be upon him) replied:
If Allah pleases, you will find me patient and I shall not disobey you in any matter. (18: 69)
There are difficult and bitter circumstances that a person will have to live through, but enduring sometimes those circumstances is the only available option. At other times it is the best of all available options. A person may possess no other way except to wait for Allah to provide relief. Waiting for relief from Allah is an act of worship. Allah says:
Truly with difficulty comes relief. (94: 5)
These, then are the two foundations in any relationship between people:
The first is self-assessment by which a person realizes his own mistakes and then can work to address them.
The second is patience, by which a person is able to bear with some of the mistakes of the other in exchange for that other bearing with some of his mistakes. Both parties to the relationship are called upon to exercise patience with the other.
All of what I am saying here is general. It refers to no one in particular. It is not directed at women to the exclusion of men, or men to the exclusion of women. Instead, it addresses most, if not all, of the problems that people face in their relationships with others.