How often, in times of difficulty, have we reached out to others, to our Imams, or our friends or family and are told, “Patience” (Sabr) “Have patience”?
How often are we told this, but then are not given the proper steps or directions needed to rectify the circumstances we find ourselves in?
I have had first hand experience several times and have always walk away frustrated and confused. It was not until I really began to unravel the true definition of patience that I realized the advice of “have patience” is not enough, unless we know and understand what it means.
Because many of us do not know the true meaning of patience, we take the advice to mean, sit back, continue with your daily routine, and wait.
What exactly are we waiting for?
Are we waiting for some miraculous lightning strike, some mysterious turn of events? Do we think that we will wake up someday and everything will be fixed?
This is what most people think when they hear the phrase “Have patience”
In the famous words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for ya?”
It isn’t working, is it? In fact, it sounds very similar to old definition of insanity that most human service workers, counselors, etc. are taught:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” (Albert Einstein)
What needs to happen is a bit of education. We need gain a deep understanding of the definition of patience.
The Wikipedia definition of patience is “the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties.”
The Islamic definition includes all of this along with forbearance, perseverance, determination, fortitude, constancy , steadfastness, and restraint of ones self to that which is dictated by divine law. All of which are virtues that we must turn into actions. Breaking the definition down even more:
- To be steadfast in obedience of Allah
- To be steadfast in avoiding what is prohibited
- To be patient at the onset of calamity
More importantly, in Islam it is understood that Allah will test us with loss, hardship, and difficulty. It is understood that when we are being tested, that we are to remain patient.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to as-sabirun (the patient ones).” [Qur’an 2:155]
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and not be tested.” (29:2)
When we are faced with trials, we are not to react in extreme anger, we are not to complain to others who have no way to help us, and we are not to jump into making irrational decisions.
However, we are human, right? Emotions erupt, don’t they? When we are attacked, when we are faced with loss, when we are faced with disaster, or calamity, or turmoil, our human weakness becomes more apparent. Our first instinct is of raw emotion. And, shaytan is just waiting to jump in, catch us at our weakest, disturb events even more, and attempt to pull us far from Allah. Once that anger takes over, Shaytan has arrived! Shaytan has won that round of discontent and is relying on our weakness to win round 2, 3, and 4.
When we begin to feel overwhelmed we need to do all we can to seek Allah’s help and protection from the Shaytan. We need to seek refuge with Allah. “I seek refuge with Allah from shaytan, the cursed one.” “Audhu billahi min ash-shaitanir rajeem.”
Once we have sought protection with Allah from the cursed Shaytan, take a breath, be patient. This is where the actions of patience must begin. Here is where we can gain the Blessings of Allah, InshaAllah.
If we can check ourselves, hold back that initial anger, that initial reaction, and immediately seek protect with Allah and seek Allah’s help and guidance (action) we begin to calm. And, if we continue to ask only from Allah as part of our daily routine (action) , if we crawl out of our warm beds in the early morning hours to seek Allah’s help (action) , to cry opening to Allah (action) , and if we remember Allah throughout our day (action), our struggles become less overwhelming. And, if we do this, if our intentions are pure, if we are patient (with intention and action)we are showered with blessings from Allah.
When we utilize the actions of patience, we may not immediately understand why we are going through certain trials, or we may not immediately be removed from the trials. However, we will begin to feel relief in the knowledge that we have reached out to our Creator to seek His assistance. We will put our trust in our Creator, the only One who we should be putting our utmost trust in during these trials.
When we begin to feel that raw anger, stop, breathe and take the time to sit with it before reacting and be sure to seek Allah’s guidance and assistance (an action of patience).
As Muslims, when we are angry or highly frustrated, we are told to make wudu (action) because wudu will prevent us from increased anger and prevent us from taking the wrong action .
Narated By Atiyyah as-Sa’di : The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) as saying: “Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created of fire, and fire is extinguished only with water; so when one of you becomes angry, he should perform ablution.”
Good advice! Wudu will stop us from committing the wrong action! When we stop, take a breath, make wudu (action), run to Allah (action), put our heads to the ground in prayer in seeking guidance , forgiveness, and assistance (action, action, action), our anger begins to subside.
Although the trial is not immediately removed, or changed it in the way we may want (immediate gratification), we are being heard. Remember always, Allah hears our call and He responds.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
“When my servants ask you ( Oh, Muhammad PBUH) concerning Me, tell them I am indeed close (to them by My Knowledge). I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them obey Me and believe in Me so that they be led aright.” (2:186)
There will be a bit of “waiting”, of letting the fog lift, of letting things settle, and letting our emotions adjust. However, within that waiting is action:
- Action in the form of seeking Allah’s help and knowing that He is the only one who can truly help, truly guide, and truly forgive.
- Action in the form of increasing our remembrance of Allah, increasing our duaa, increasing our connection is needed.
We need to take these steps, these actions! He is waiting for us!
So, when we are told “have patience” take that advice and be sure to follow the actions of patience!
We may not believe that our supplications, our duaa, have been answered because we do not get what we expect or we want, however our duaa ARE answered with the best of answers. It could be that what we want is not good for us. Therefore, Allah is about to replace that with something which IS good for us. Something harmful may have been removed from our path in place of our duaa. Or, something we have done that was not so nice is being forgiven.
What is required of us? Patience!
Patience also comes in the form of what we can do for ourselves. While we are putting our trust in Allah, we also need to be proACTIVE!
We need to ask ourselves:
- What do we need to do as we struggle through the difficulties?
- What are our priorities?
- What are our responsibilities?
- What do we need to do to be patient while being accountable and making the correct changes?
Do we need to walk away from something that is not good for us? Do we need to accept something that we may not like because it is good for us? What do we need to do to fulfill our obligations? What is our “to do” list? And, our “what not to do” list? Do we need to look for new employment, new housing, more knowledge, new associations? Do we need to remove ourselves from certain people, certain circumstances, certain perceptions?
All of these steps that we may need to take require a connection to Allah through seeking guidance, through the prayers of Istikhara. This is a must as Allah knows best and can help clarify our decisions for us.
SubhanAllah, if we can take a step back, breathe, and call upon Allah, we will benefit with blessings for enduring, with true patience, what Allah has placed on us here on Earth.
It is also an opportunity for us to have sins removed. An opportunity to get closer to Jannah and further from Jahannam.
The Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) show us examples of patience/sabr and the rewards of true patience.
One of the most beautiful Hadith on patience is narrated by Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said, “The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind becomes quiet, it becomes straight again. Similarly, a believer is afflicted with calamities (but he remains patient till Allah removes his difficulties.) And an impious wicked person is like a pine tree which keeps hard and straight till Allah cuts (breaks) it down when He wishes.”
So, be patient with whatever Allah wills upon us. Bend with the wind, endure!
Some ayah on patience in the Qur’an:
And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives, that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah.” (42:43)
“And surely, We shall try you till We test those who strive hard (for the cause of Allah) and As Sabirun (the patient)” 47:31
So, why are we tested?
As Muslims we know why. We know that Allah is Most Merciful, Most Forgiving, and Most Patient. In times of struggle, hardship, loss, and sadness we put our heads down and ask for His help alone.
We do not turn away!
We grab this opportunity to get even closer to Allah. And, when we are patient in all of our affairs, even while faced with temptation, with desire, stress, sadness, with ill-health, with calamity or loss, we are rewarded. Patience is a great weapon for the believers. When we go through troubles, illness, and difficulty, remember that Allah’s plans are the best of plans.
SubhanAllah! Do you see? Even the slightest hurt, if endured with patience, is rewarded!
This is why when we are faced with distress, we still say “Alhamdulillah”
Patience…..Sabr…… What is our reward?
“Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final Home!” (13:24)
Patience is required:
“By time, Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (Surah al Asr)
When we are blessed with health, love, family, sustenance, goodness, happiness, be thankful to Allah.
And, when we are faced with hardship, endure with patience, and turn to Allah.