Monday, 20 June 2011

Sabr or Patience


by Ayub Hamid

It implies patience, forbearance, perseverance, determination,
fortitude, constancy and steadfastness. Sabr assumes different dimensions
depending upon which aspect of life is the point of reference:

Sabr in personal life

1. The first kind of Sabr is 'patience' as it is ordinarily understood.

It is the ability to hold back, remain calm, maintain one's cool,
restrain oneself and wait and see despite the urge to jump on, barge
in, respond, and do something in the situations of heat, pressure,
anxiety, curiosity, anger, confrontation, etc.

It also represents the patience exercised during the hardships
people face in their lives such as illnesses and diseases, death
of loved ones, natural calamities and disasters, and problems or
setbacks emanating from the situations and circumstances beyond
one's control. Knowing that all these things are part of our test
for which we have been put on the earth and knowing that our success
lies in how well we react to and handle such situations helps a
believer endure these hardships without panicking, complaining or
being frustrated.

"A person who faces a physical or financial setback, keeps
quiet about it and does not complain to people, has a right on Allaah
to be forgiven." Attributed by Ibn 'Abbaas to the Prophet sal-Allaahu
alaihi wa sallam as reported in At-Tabaraani's Al-Owsat

"A Muslim does not suffer any mental or physical anguish,
or any distress, grief, pain or sorrow - even from the prick of
a thorn - except that Allaah expiates his mistakes and sins."
Bukhaari and Muslim

This Sabr is an extremely important virtue for a believer. The
Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam, talking to some poor Muslims
from Ansaar whom he had given whatever he had, said:

"Whoever practices Sabr, Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa gives
him Sabr. And no one can be given anything better or more far-reaching
(comprehensive) than Sabr." Aboo S'eed Khudri in Bukhaari and

In a letter of condolence dictated for Mu'aadz Ibn Jabal on the
death of his son, the Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam said,
"May Allaah increase your reward and bestow you patience, and
enable us and you to be thankful to Him. Our lives, our wealth and
our families are blissful gifts that are trusts temporarily entrusted.
Allaah gave you the opportunity to enjoy (your son gifted to you
in trust) with happiness and pleasure, and then he took it from
you in return for a big reward. May He bestow upon you blessings,
mercy and guidance, if you restrain yourself in expectation for
His reward. So, be patient and do not let wailing destroy your reward,
to be sorry afterwards. Remember wailing neither brings back the
dead, nor removes the grief. What had to happen has happened."

However, tears or sadness is not against the spirit of the patience.
When the son of the Prophet's daughter, Zainab, was taking his last
breath in the Prophet's lap, tears came down from Prophet 's eyes.
When Sa'd wondered, the Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam explained,
"This is an expression of mercy that Allaah has put in the
hearts of people." Reported from Usamah Ibn Zaid in Bukhaari
and Muslim.

This kind of patience is the lowest level of Sabr expected of the
believers and is one of the qualities emanating from the Taqwaa
in the heart. The test of the patience is at the initial shock.
With time, everyone cools down. The patient person controls his/her
reactions at the very outset. Reacting emotionally in the beginning
and then cooling off is indicative of lack of patience.

The Messenger of Allaah sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam told a women
crying over the grave of her husband, "Maintain Taqwaa and
be patient." Later on he explained to her, "The real Sabr
(patience) is that which is demonstrated at the initial shock."
Reported from Anas in Bukhaari and Muslim.

The Messenger of Allaah sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam said, "Allaah
Tabaaraka wa Ta'alaa says: O son of Adam! If you remained patient
restraining yourself and expecting my reward at the initial shock,
I will not be happy without rewarding you with Jannah." From
Abee Umaamah in Ibn Maajah.

The complementary quality for this Sabr is Shukr (gratitude) which
means thanking Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa for any good things,
happy occasions, successes, health, profitability, good harvest
and prosperity we enjoy in our life. Because all of these things
depend, in addition to our hard work, on many favourable circumstances
and conditions that are beyond our control, a believer thanks Allaah
Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa for providing the ability to work hard and
making our efforts fruitful through all those favourable circumstances
and conditions.

This is what is alluded to in the following Ahaadeeth:

The Messenger of Allaah sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam said, "Wondrous
are the believer's affairs. For him there is good in all his affairs,
and this is true only for a believer. If he encounters

something troubling, he remains steadfast with patience, and that
is good for him. If he experiences something pleasing, he thanks
Allaah, and that is good for him. Reported from Suhaib in the Muslim.

The Messenger of Allaah sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam said, "Allaah
told Eesa (Jesus) peace be upon him: I will bring up an Ummah after
you who will thank Allaah when they encounter what they like; and
they will restrain themselves expecting reward from Allaah and will
remain patient when they suffer something they dislike." Reported
from Aboo-Ad-Dardaa by Baihiqi in Shu'abul-Eemaan.

Here is a brief review of the second dimension of Sabr:


2. The second kind of Sabr is the forbearance exercised in the
face of the ignorant behaviour shown by people around oneself. It
is to endure verbal abuse, accusations, disrespect, slander, backbiting,
false assumptions, name-calling, ridicule, maligning comments, etc.
from people around us because of their jealousy, misgivings, maliciousness,
difference of opinion or dislike for whatever reason.

A person will be within one's right to defend himself from any
misbehaviour. That is justice and everyone is entitled to it without
being blamed for it. However, Ihsaan is that the believer takes
all that in stride graciously and magnanimously without responding,
fighting back, paying much attention or complaining. Ihsaan is the
standard good Muslims are expected to strive for. The Holy Qur-aan

"The fair settlement for a wrong is equal retribution. However,
whoever forgives and reconciles, his reward is due on Allaah, and
Allaah does not like the unjust. And whoever avenges himself after
being wronged, they are not to be blamed. The blame is on those
who oppress people and wrongfully rebel in the land. For them, there
will be a painful punishment. And indeed whoever practices Sabr
and forgives, that is a highly resolute, top-notch behaviour."
Ash-Shoora 42:40

It is also indicated by the following episode:

Once, a person was verbally abusing Aboo Bakr while the Prophet
sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam was curiously watching with a smile.
After taking much abuse quietly, Aboo Bakr responded to a few of
his comments. At this, the Prophet sal-Allahu alaihi wa sallam exhibited
his disapproval, got up and left. Aboo Bakr caught up with the Prophet
sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam and wondered, "O Messenger of
Allaah, he was abusing me and you remained sitting. When I responded
to him, you disapproved and got up." The Messenger of Allaah
sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam responded,

"There was an angel with you responding to him. When you responded
to him, Shaytaan took his place."

He then said,

"O Aboo Bakr, there are three solid truths: If a person is
wronged and he forbears (without seeking revenge) just for the sake
of Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa , Allaah will honour him and give
him upper hand with His help; if a person opens a door of giving
gifts for cementing relationships with relatives, Allaah will give
him abundance; and, if a person opens a door of seeking charity
for himself to increase his wealth, Allaah will further reduce his
wealth." Reported from Aboo Hurairah in Mishkaah and Musnad

The prime example for practising Sabr, forbearing and then forgiving
is the behaviour of Yousuf in response to his brothers' wrongs.
The Holy Qur-aan observes:

"Indeed, whoever maintains Taqwaa and practices Sabr, Allaah
does not let the reward of the Muhsineen be lost." Yousuf 12:90

The above two dimensions of Sabr were purely from the perspective
of the personal life of a Muslim. The third and fourth dimensions
cover the kind of Sabr needed in the Islamic work. No matter what
dimension of sabr we talk about, we must always remeber, that our
Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam provided the best examples
in all of them.

Sabr in the Islamic Work

The most important Sabr expected of Muslims is the determination,
endurance, fortitude, perseverance, steadfastness and constancy
that the Muslims must demonstrate in fulfilling their duties of
establishing Islam in their own lives, in their communities and
in their societies with a vision to implement Islamic world order
of peace, justice and security over the whole globe. This work --
which all believers are obligated to undertake firstly to establish
a global community of believers and then to maintain it is a very
perilous work beset with hardships, challenges and risks. It requires
a lot of endurance, fortitude, tenacity and perseverance (Sabr).
Practising Sabr In the Islamic work is the basic requirement of

The Islamic work has two distinct stages that call for two kind
of Sabr, each relative to a different stage of Islamic work.

3. The first stage of Islamic work is spreading the word of Islam,
seeking commitment of people to the Islamic work and organizing
and mobilizing those who respond positively to the Islamic Da'wah.
This work continues until the majority of the people of a selected
society have become workers of the Islamic movement resulting in
the establishment of an Islamic state or kingdom of God.

As soon as a believer sincerely dedicates himself to and embarks
upon an organized Islamic mission, tests and tribulations start
in full force. The more dedicated and effective the efforts are,
the harder the persecution is. The persecution starts with verbal
abuse progressing to psychological, financial and physical abuse,
imprisonment and sometimes leads up to attempts on one's life. Depending
upon who is the object of Da'wah and where the Da'wah is being given,
the perpetrators of the persecution can be people who call themselves
Muslims or they can be Non-Muslims. Some of the problems are even
caused by those who are companions of the Islamic workers. It may
be due to their lack of experience or vision, or due the gullibility
or influence of negative propaganda of the people against the Islamic

The negative reaction from non-Muslims is understandable and expected,
but opposition from 'Muslims' is very discouraging, injurious and
problematic. As soon as a believer stands up for Islam, people expect
him to be perfect according to what they think Islam is about. The
moment the worker differs in any respect from their viewpoint or
the moment he makes a small mistake which every human being is prone
to, all his selfless efforts and the high standard of his character
are disregarded and

forgotten. People overlook their own major sins but the Islamic
worker's small error of judgement becomes the biggest concern in
the world. Backbiting, baseless accusations and false stories start
flying against the person all over without even his knowledge. His
words are twisted, motives doubted, and even the best of the action
flawed. The most popular accusations are usually: 'He is greedy
for leadership or fame' or 'he thinks he is better than others'
or 'he has caused disunity in the community'. But this is just the
beginning, If the Islamic worker remains strong and continues his
work with dedication, it becomes much more nasty.

The Sabr during this work, at the basic level which is the corollary
of faith, is to continue to work steadfastly for the mission, enduring
all the verbal, physical and financial abuse as well persecution,
torture, oppression, imprisonment and loss of respect,

wealth and property without retaliating, fighting back, and showing
any weakness, reduction in efforts or giving up. Sabr at the level
of Ihsaan is enduring the aforementioned abuse and persecution,
while continuing to wish for the guidance and well being of the
people with care and conviction, without slowing down in the missionary
work and enthusiasm; without making any compromises whatsoever;
and without hating the tormentors.

The Messengers of Allaah sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam have set excellent
examples of this Sabr. Moosa (Moses) peace be upon him demonstrated
a good example of Sabr on the problems caused by Banee Israaeel,
the members of his Islamic movement, with their nagging questions,
superficial objections, foolish arguments, short-sighted suggestions,
undue demands, improper expectations, lack of firm commitment, half-hearted
support and weakness in obedience. To discourage repetition of that
kind of behaviour, Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa commanded,

"O Believers, do not be like those who abused Moosa; then
Allaah cleared him from what they said. And he was, in the sight
of Allaah, honourable." Al-Ahzaab 33:70

"And when Moosa said to his people, 'O my people, why do you
abuse me when you surely know that I am the messenger of Allaah
to you?' When they deviated, Allaah caused their hearts to deviate."
As-Saff 61:5

Eesa peace be upon him was the best example of those who practised
Sabr on the reaction of the so-called Muslims, Banee Israaeel (who
were supposed to be and claimed to be the believers), to his call
for the Islamic movement and revival. He was sent to revive Islam
without bringing any new Sharee'ah. So, he tried to bring them from
petrified, ritualistic Islam to the true spirit of the dynamic Islam
that results in the establishment of the kingdom of God and that
converts every believer into a missionary for the establishment
for the supremacy of the Islamic way of life, but he was rejected
and persecuted. So much so that they plotted to kill him, siding
with the pagan Romans.

Our Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam demonstrated best of Sabr
in all of the situations described above giving us a vivid picture
of what a perfect and ideal Sabr looks like. The most outstanding
example of Sabr in the way of Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa demonstrated
in the face of persecutions from non-Muslims was that of our Prophet
sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam's 13 years in Makkah and his experience
in Taaif. That was humanity at its best, Sabr par excellence and
Ihsaan without a parallel. To prepare for this, he was admonished
at the very outset of the mission,

"And practice Sabr for the sake of your Lord." Al-Mudaththir

And then he was reminded,

"Rejected were the messengers before you, and they continued
to practise Sabr while they were being rejected and persecuted,
until Our help reached them." Al-An'aam 6:34

"And practice Sabr, certainly Allaah does not let the reward
of the Muhsineen be lost." Younus 11:115

He indeed excelled in what he was commanded. The same is expected
from us. Although we may not be able to reach that level of excellence,
our goal is to strive towards that level. We all have an obligation
to revive Islam as a movement and we are bound to face all three
kind of difficulties mentioned in this section requiring us to exhibit
appropriate Sabr in response to all of those circumstances. The
Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam did warn us about this situation,

"A time is going to come on people when remaining steadfast
on Deen will be like holding a burning coal in one's hand."
Anas in At-Tirmidzee

When asked what should we do in those circumstances, he said:

"Just as did the companions of Eesa Ibn Maryam: they were
sawed into pieces, they were hanged on the crosses. Death in the
obedience of Allaah is better than the life in disobedience of Allaah."
Mu'aadz Ibn Jabal in At-Tabaraani

Often, when Kuffaar become blinded by their hatred and anger against
Muslims, they violate every principle of human decency, break every
ethical rule or moral code, use every deceitful and immoral tactic
and they viciously persecute and savagely torture Muslims. This
has always happened in the past and continues to happen today, though
unashamedly they lay claims to civilization, freedom and human rights.
However, despite observing this vicious phenomena or experiencing
the deceit and torture at their hand, a Muslim continues to practise
Sabr by strictly following Islamic values and moral code in their
treatment of Kuffaar.

Thus, the true believers stand up for Islamic mission and, when
they face the persecution, they say:

"And why should we not rely upon Allaah while He indeed has
shown us our ways? And we shall certainly practice Sabr on the persecution
you inflict on us." Ibraaheem 14:12.

4. Once an Islamic state or the kingdom of God is established to
conduct the affairs of the community of believers according to Islamic
values and Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa's rule, Kuffaar usually attack
such a state with their full military might to destroy and annihilate
the Islamic state. They usually do not give up until either their
own power is eroded or Islamic state is destroyed. If the Islamic
state survives by withstanding the onslaught and by eroding the
power of Kuffaar, then they try to put obstacles in the way of the
Islamic state's ability to expand and to bring the rest of the humanity
under the law of Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa. Whether it is a war
when the Islamic state is trying to survive or whether it is a war
put up to stop an Islamic state from liberating other people from
the rule of Kufr, the believers are supposed to demonstrate Sabr
by fighting bravely with valour, without showing any weakness and
without retreating, surrendering, running away or giving up despite
the intensity of battle or casualties. This Sabr pertains to the
Madani stage of the Islamic movement. Again, the most excellent
example of this Sabr was demonstrated by our Prophet sal-Allaahu
alaihi wa sallam and his devout companions at battles of Uhad, Ahzaab
and Hunain.

At the beginning of the Madani stage, keeping the inevitability
of onslaught of Kuffaar over the fledgling Islamic state, Muslims
were prepared to face the inevitability by the following command:

"O Believers! Seek strength through Sabr and Salaah, verily
Allaah is with those who practice Sabr. And do not consider those
who are killed in the way of Allaah dead, but alive; however, you
do not understand. Surely, we are going to test you through things
like fear, hunger and loss of wealth, lives and produce. And give
the good news to those who practice Sabr -those who, when they encounter
troubles, say we are for Allaah and to Him we are going to return."
Al-Baqarah 2:153

They were also told:

"You will surely be tested in regard to your possessions and
your lives; and you will surely hear from those who were given the
Book before you and from those who equate others with Allaah much
hurtful abuse." Aali Imraan 3:186

This is the most emphasized Sabr in the Holy Qur-aan. In this regard,
Muslims were commanded:

"O Believers! Practice Sabr, outdo others in practising Sabr,
and be prepared to face the enemies so that you may be successful."
Aali-Imraan 3:200

"And We shall test you until We know those who perform Jihaad
and those who practice Sabr (remain steadfast);

and We shall test to appraise your state." Muhammad 47:31

"Do you think that you will enter Jannah without Allaah testing
as to who are those that perform Jihaad and that practice Sabr."

And the Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam admonished, while
addressing people in one of expeditions:

"Do not wish war, rather ask Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa
for peace and security. However, when you confront the enemy, practice
Sabr (fortitude and perseverance) and know that Jannah is under
the shade of the swords." 'Abdullaah ibn Abee Owfaa in Bukhaari
and Muslim

And Muslims are assured:

"Allaah is with those who practice Sabr." Anfaal 8:46,

Regardless of the type of circumstances and causes of difficulties,
Sabr is an essential quality of a believer. Sketching the personality
of those who truly have Taqwaa, Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa mentioned:

"And those who practice Sabr in hardships, physical afflictions
and during the war." Al-Baqarah 2:177

Although Sabr is a basic requirement of faith expected of all Muslims,
the difficulty of the task is well recognized:

"And if you practice Sabr and keep Taqwaa, that is quite a
resolute, high calibre of the tasks." 'Aali Imraan 3:186

"O my son! Establish Salaah, enjoin good, forbid evil, and
bear with Sabr whatever befalls on you, indeed, that is quite a
resolute, high calibre of the tasks." Luqmaan 31:17

Hence the reward promised to those who practice Sabr is equally

The people who practice Sabr will be entered into the beautiful,
everlasting Jannah and angels of Allaah will welcome them with:
"Peace be upon you for the Sabr you practised. Excellent indeed
is the final home." Ar-Ra'd 13:24

"And He will reward them for their Sabr in the form of Jannah
and silk, reclining on raised thrones wherein they will not see
sun or cold." Ad-Dahr 76:12-13

"Those who practice Sabr will be rewarded their recompense
without measure." Zumar 39:10

They will be rewarded not according to their average, but according
to the best of their performance:

"We will certainly reward those who practice Sabr according
to the best of their actions they used to perform." An-Nahl

The practice of this standard of Sabr is not possible without collective
efforts of the Ummah and mutual support and reminder towards each
other. Hence, it is incumbent upon believers to enjoin each other
this Sabr. Without it, (according to Soorah Al-'Asr) loss is not
insured, salvation is not promised and success is not assured.



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