Patience, also known as sabr, is one of the essential characteristics that Muslims should have. It is an integral part of Islamic history. Sabr was one of the main reasons behind the Prophet (PBUH) ’s triumph over the disbelievers. Allah often emphasizes the importance of patience in the Quran. The Almighty refers to the people who are patient as “as-Sabiroon.” In Surah an-Anfaal, He says that He is with the as-Sabiroon. Allah mentioned patience around 100 times in the Holy Quran.
Patience means for believers to be steadfast. That can be in their acts and their deeds. It especially refers to perseverance during hardship. Allah associates patience with doing good in the Quran. The Almighty says that He tests the believers. Hence, we may undergo specific trials and tribulations that are like a test for us. If we persevere and have sabr, then we will be rewarded for it. If we get frustrated and impatient, that will only hamper us. Impatience is a negative trait that means that one is discontent with Allah’s decree.
We can think of sabr in many different ways. It does not only mean to be content in the face of hardships. Instead, it also means to refrain from complaining or questioning why things happen. It also means not to lose hope or be frustrated. These negative qualities are reasons why people harm others or even themselves. It also means to patiently worship Allah and avoid giving in to temptations. We must adhere to His commands and obey Him at all times.
Patience in the early days of Islam
This was one of the earliest characteristics Islam ingrained in Muslims. When Allah revealed the first verses to Muhammad (S), Makkah was a place of polytheism. All kinds of evil acts were prevalent. The Prophet (PBUH) was disillusioned with the life of the Meccans. As he began to understand Islam, he knew that he had a tough task ahead of him. People were slow to accept his message, but he had to have patience, knowing that Allah would make him victorious.
As people began to accept Islam, they had to make perseverance a way of life. As the disbelievers got to know about Islam, they vehemently opposed it. At first, they ignored the Muslims. However, once the Prophet (PBUH) started to propagate Islam openly, the hardships began for Muslims. The Quraish began to persecute the Muslims. The followers of the Prophet (PBUH) underwent massive difficulties. Indeed, some of them, especially those of low social standing, were tortured, humiliated, abused, etc.
What better example of patience in this situation than the Prophet (PBUH) ’s companion, Bilal? Bilal was the slave of Umayyah, a harsh disbeliever. Upon learning of Bilal’s acceptance of Islam, Umayyah tortured him in the vilest ways possible. Then, he told him that he would stop the persecution if Bilal renounced Islam. However, Bilal was firm upon Allah’s faith. He said, “Ahadun Ahad,” meaning that Allah is One. He persisted with this until Abu Bakr paid for his freedom.
Allah commanded the Muslims to be patient because they were small in number at the time. Hence, if they resisted and the disbelievers launched an assault on them, Islam could be wiped out. So, they must persevere until Allah willed for them to fight back and turn the tables.
Sabr in the face of calamities
Allah tests humanity with a lot of tests and trials. This can be in several forms. Among the most wide-reaching ones are natural disasters that can affect a large number of people. Then, there are also illnesses and pandemics. On a lower level, death is a part of life, and people die all over the world every day. Hence, Islam has clearly defined the way for Muslims to behave in the face of such difficulties.
This mainly relates to being content with Allah’s decree. When humans lose patience in such situations, then what they are mostly doing is expressing discontentment with Allah’s decree. This is unacceptable. It also makes life difficult for people as they regularly have negative thoughts about life.
Allah says in Surah al-Baqarah that He will test humans with fear, hunger, and loss of wealth and lives. Then, He says to give good tidings to those who are patient. Therefore, Muslims must understand that any seemingly adverse event has some hidden betterment. That may be in this life or the next. Temporary hardship may be countered by immense reward in the afterlife for those who have patience.
The Prophet (PBUH) said (Sahih Bukhari) that sabr is a gift that Allah grants certain people. A significant benefit of calamities and tests is also that it erases one’s sins. The Prophet (PBUH) said (Tirmidhi) that Allah hastens punishment for those whom He wills good for. Meanwhile, those who He wishes for otherwise will have to face the punishment in the afterlife. Allah tells believers in Surah al-Baqarah that they should say “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun” when afflicted by a disaster.
Patience in worship
Allah tells believers in Surah Maryam that believers should worship Him and have patience while doing so. It is quite common for Muslims to worship Allah, as Allah requires them to do. However, people then begin to get disillusioned if Allah doesn’t give them what they asked for. However, that is a misguided approach. Allah hears all our prayers, but He is the All-Knowing, and He knows what is best for us. Our Lord says in Surah al-Baqarah that we may like something that isn’t good for us. Similarly, we may dislike something that is good for us. However, He knows best. Hence, patience in this context means to be content with Allah’s decree, realizing that we may not always be able to see the bigger picture.
Closely related to the worship of Allah is to adhere to his commands. Allah has given strict directions regarding how we should live our lives. Islam is a complete way of life, and it encompasses the whole society. Hence, Muslims should always view everything through the lens of Islam. In the 21st century, Muslims have to undergo a lot of difficulties. The Prophet (PBUH) said (Tirmidhi) that a time of patience will come for Muslims. During this period, holding onto religion would be like holding hot coals.
This is an apt way of looking at the world right now. Being a Muslim is looked at as something negative. The media and people all over the globe frequently demonize Muslims. Others find it strange when a Muslim practices his religion. This goes to the extent, that practicing Muslims are called extremists. In this world of temptations and technological advancements, it’s important for Muslims to hold on fast to the rope of Allah and obey what He has commanded us to do.
Benefits and virtues of sabr
The foremost benefit of patience is that one is obeying Allah. When Allah has mentioned sabr and similar words in the Quran around 100 times, there can be no doubt about its importance.
Allah says in Surah as-Sajdah that he made Muslims into leaders when they showed patience. Abu Bakr (r.a.) is the most prominent example of this. He was patient and persevered despite hardships during the early days of Islam. After the Prophet (PBUH) passed away, he became the first caliph of the Islamic state. Among other examples are the likes of Bilal, who was the primary caller to prayer—an immensely privileged position to have in the Muslim community.
Allah says in Surah al-Furqan that He will reward people who are patient in the face of difficulties with Paradise. There, the people of patience will be received with greetings of peace.
Allah says in Surah al-Anfal that He is with the people who are patient. Additionally, He says in Surah az-Zumar that He will reward, without account, those people who are patient.
As previously mentioned, the Prophet (PBUH) stated that Allah will forgive the sins of the people who go through hardships and are patient.
Patience is among the most virtuous acts in Islam. The Muslims with the best faith showed tremendous patience. We see that in the example of the Prophet (PBUH), who persevered in Makkah despite persecution. His followers followed his example and did the same. We can also see the same trait in the stories of other prophets. For example, Nuh (a.s.) persistently called to Islam for several centuries, despite few believing in him. Islam contains numerous examples of patience. To be successful in obeying Allah, we must do the same and have sabr.