Imagine, there are two brothers living in a house which is constructed by their father. Naturally, it is the father who arranges for them adequate shelter, foods, and garments. He would also teach them all the things which they would need in their life. He cares for them well, as much as he can. Everything they both have and will have, in fact, belongs to him. If one of the two tries to harm the other, how offended will be the feelings of that father! How is it that one of them would do anything which would grieve their beloved father?
This is how Almighty Allah takes offence at his creatures. He has created the earth, appointed human beings as His representatives, provides for them everything they want and has instructed them to be accepting and patient towards others of his social contacts. Thus, we the human beings living on the earth belonging to Allah, eating his food, drinking the water provided by him, should be careful to avoid doing anything which could be regarded as disobedience to him, especially against our brothers and sisters, who are also His creatures. Keep in mind the feelings of the “father.”
For Allah, His believers’ kindness to each other is not only the conduct He has ordered of us, but also it is a matter for which He has proclaimed unlimited rewards here in Dunya and in the Hereafter when we practice it. So, our behaviour should contain at least the following elements: forgiveness, patience, acceptance, righteousness.
While inspecting these qualities of behaviour, we find that Patience [Ṣabr] has a unique and remarkable place in Islam. So many verses, Ahadith, and words of scholars enlighten us specifically in being tolerant with our fellows in the diverse difficult situations of life. If one is ready to keep up his patience, ample rewards are there waiting for him, as the Quran undeniably emphasizes:
Those will be rewarded with the highest place (in Paradise) because they are constant in their patience [ṣabarû]. Therein they shall be met with greetings and the word of peace and respect. [Surah Al-Furqân, 25:75]
It is crystal-clear from this verse that those who remain patient will enter Paradise [jannah] with an elevated position.
Patience [Ṣabr] in the Holy Quran
In the Quran, Allah has said:
And be patient and persevering [aṣbirû]; For Allah is with those who patiently persevere [al‑ṣâbirîn], [Surah Al-Anfâl, 8:46]
What did Allah mean by saying that He is with those who conduct themselves with patience? What kind of reward is offered in this verse?
Yes, answers for these questions could best be found in the practical context of whenever one needs God’s help. One needs Allah’s help in his difficult situations in order to tackle them successfully. Those who will definitely get help in such needy times are the above mentioned al-ṣabirûn, those who persevere in patience. Even though they have to suffer something miserable during the times of maintaining their patience, the ultimate triumph would be for them.
The way of having Allah present with us is by putting ourselves into a state of Ṣabr. Allah will test his slaves with various difficulties. But the one who tackles that situation —believing that this hardship is from Allah and that what Almighty Allah has decided for him is for a better life [khair] — this person would get the offered enormous reward.
As is prominently indicated in the Quran, Allah states unequivocally that He will try us:
Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere [al‑ṣâbirîn]. [Surah Al-Baqarah. 2:155]
Allah reiterates that we will suffer adversity:
And We shall try you until We test those among you who strive their utmost and persevere in patience [al‑ṣâbirîn]; and We shall try your reported (mettle). [Surah Muhammad, 47:31]
Allah distinctly reveals that He shall put to the test his servants so as to differentiate between those who have learned to maintain their Ṣabr and those who do not. It can be grasped that one of the notable characteristics of Ṣabr is that not everyone will know how to cope with adversity in patience. Our aim must be to increase our patience through trial and error, through success and failure.
We have not been created by God so as to be able to arrange our own future and to decide our status before Him. It is Allah who decides the outcome of our efforts. So, what is up to us is to endeavour to obey his mandates and thereby to stand in the path of our pious forefathers. Then, with the help of Allah, we can become one of His favoured beings. In the Holy Quran Allah says:
And verily, whosoever shows patience [ṣabara] and forgives, that [behaviour] would truly be from among the things recommended by Allah. [Surah Al-Shûrâ, 42:43]
By “recommended” Allah states that, Ṣabr is not only a mere quality of behaviour but a special divine blessing which Allah provides to those who seek His help and struggle within themselves. Moreover, it is the way of Allah to forgive sins committed by his slaves when they avoid taking destructive actions. When one begins to be good to others and patiently to avoid harm to them, certainly, he becomes one among those who follow the path of Almighty Allah. Those people are offered complete reward from Allah, as He indicates,
Only those who are patient [al‑ṣâbirûn] shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning. [Surah Al-Zumar, 39:10]
Yes, those who practice Ṣabr would get their recompense, generously multiplied and beyond our estimation.
Patience [Ṣabr] in the Ahadith
As we know, the life of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was the exemplary expression of the Quran. In the Quran, Allah talks about Patience in a broad way while the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) clarifies for us the circumstances wherein Ṣabr is fruitful. There are many Ahadith by which the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) has shown specific applications and the necessity of being patient. The aHadith record many examples related to Patience in the life of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) that we should consider and exercise in our daily lives whenever facing any trials or difficulties.
People often become impatient when a relative or close acquaintance dies. But if one knew the actual reward of being patient towards such a death, he would not have crossed the limits by crying out loudly. As the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
Allah says, ‘I have nothing to give but Paradise as a reward to my slave, a true believer of Islamic Monotheism, who, if I cause his dear friend (or relative) to die, remains patient (and hopes for Allah’s Reward).’ (Al- Bukhari)
See how exquisite is the way Allah treats those who are patient even when one near to him dies. This is one of the utmost tests of Ṣabr. There are many other opportunities in our day-to-day life to become a reward-holder. When some harm happens to you by a person of less strength than you, it is the unique chance for you to forgive him in the same way as the most Gracious Allah does to all of his slaves, rather than to take revenge on him.
The one who suffers from illness, in the light of the words of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), is actually blessed to have been exonerated from his sins. It is also a kind of patience, patience towards ourselves when we suffer from pain, thinking that this is the way in which Allah tries and strengthens his slaves. Accordingly, no one should fail in this self-scrutiny even though he would have to suffer through it.
My dear readers, this is Ṣabr. No one is there concerned in this matter other than you and your Lord. This does not mean that you should not approach a doctor for your sickness. It is the mandate of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) to use medicine as per the degree of necessity.
What is meant by Ṣabr in the context of illness is to avoid complaining of your suffering in front of others and to avoid being impatient when thinking of your recovery. How can a mu’min voice his complaint while the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) says:
No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that. (Al-Bukhari)
Yes, it is true that we do not display as much patience as our pious scholars did before us, but when we do at least a part of what has been done by them, this would be considered by Allah as Ṣabr. And we will be among those aforementioned as al‑ṣâbirûn.
All the calamities we face and the troubles which come our way are character builders, making us stronger than before. If we don’t see the reward for our patience in this world, then it will surely be saved up for us by Almighty Allah for our enjoyment in the Hereafter that will never end. Our beloved, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
Whoever persists in being patient, Allah will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience. (Al-Bukhari)
May Allah strengthen us to face all our difficulties with complete persevering patience. May He make us among al–ṣâbirûn! Ameen.