{O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient} (Al-Baqarah 2: 153) In this stage of seeking tranquility of the heart, we will be building upon the above verse.

When we talked about things we need to know – such as thinking well of God and trying to understand tests, as well as things to do – such as connecting to Allah through our salah (prayer), making du`a’ (supplication) – some comments that were received were along the lines of “I’ve already done that. But it doesn’t seem to be working.”

No doubt, knowing we will face tests and trying to understand the reason behind them is crucial, because it enables us not to feel hopeless. However, difficulties sometimes make it hard for us to continue with the practice of doing things that get us close to God. So we must seek help not only in prayer, but in aspiring to be of the patient.

Patience – An Aspiration?

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that patience is a light. (Muslim)

The characteristic of light is that it shows us the way and allows us to see clearly. How does patience do this?

Patience is linked with hope and trust in God. When something bad happens, we can force ourselves to be patient by reminding ourselves that with hardship comes ease and that after a period of hardship God gives relief. We can only be truly patient when we realize that everything is from God, and that is how everything is illuminated. It is the opposite of darkness and impatience. Impatience is darkness because it frustrates us, we can behave rashly and we do not see the wisdom in the delay. The Prophet said:

And whoever remains patient, Allah will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.” (Al-Bukhari)

Patience is an aspiration because it is not just something that we do, but rather something that we need to build in ourselves and adapt to different situations. Its importance is highlighted in the fact that it has been mentioned in the Quran over ninety times.

We all know that nothing in the Quran is without purpose, so reflect on the fact that God is reminding us of this characteristic numerous times. Ali said: “Patience’s position to faith is similar to the position of the head to the body. If the head is cut off, the body dies.” Then he raised his voice saying: “There is no faith, for a person who doesn’t have patience.”

It won’t come easily, because we are humans and get tired. At the same time, being of the patient is what we aspire to, because when we do reach that level, God is with us. What does Allah being with us mean?

Imam Ash-Shawkani talks about this and he says God can be with us in a general sense (as He is with all human beings) and in a specific sense, which entails a higher level of care and love for those whom He is with. So when we read “Allah is with the patient,” know that when you embody the characteristic of patience, Allah is taking care of you in ways that you cannot even imagine, and that He is with you every step of the way.

Why Should I Aspire to Be of the Patient? It’s Just Too Hard!

God says in the Quran: {Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account} (Az-Zumar 39:10)

At-Tabari states that you will be given your reward without having to go through the scale that other people will. Imagine! Another interpretation is that the reward you will be given is one without measure – only God knows the greatness of the reward for those who are patient.

God also says: {And Allah loves the steadfast} (Al-Imran 3: 146)

Remember how we said God treats those He loves? Because He is Al-Wadud, God’s love is not silent; it will be manifested. Not only will God love you, but He will show you that love.

Moreover, the Prophet said:

There is no Muslim who is stricken with a calamity and says what Allah has enjoined – ‘Verily to Allah we belong and unto Him is our return. O Allah, reward me for my affliction and compensate me with something better’ – but Allah will compensate him with something better.” (Muslim)

Recall the story of Umm Salamah, who was so grief-stricken when her husband was killed. The Prophet taught her these words and she said “Who could be better than Abu Salamah?” So God gave her the Prophet.

Does Patience Mean I Just Have to Wait Around?

Sometimes we think being patient means doing nothing. Someone tells us “be patient!” and we say “give me something practical to do!” but if patience was not practical, God would not have told this to all of the Prophets in the Quran. We just need to understand what patience really is.

Firstly, we need to know that there are different kinds of patience:

Patience with Doing Good

This means perseverance. The Prophet told us:

Know that with patience comes victory” (At Tirmidhi).

Does this mean victory comes by sitting and waiting for it? Of course not. The sunnah of the Prophet shows us that this is not the case, because he strived to do good, and as he persevered (i.e. he was not impatient in the sense that he expected the result to be immediate) God gave him victory.

Patiently persevering in doing good takes many forms: it can be anything that is praiseworthy in the religion – whether it is acts of worship, our relationships with people, etc. It is sometimes tempting to return like with like. If someone is rude to us, let’s try to be like God’s Name As-Sabur (The Patient). Despite all the wrong that we commit, He is patient with us and does not punish us immediately. If we appreciate this patience from God, should we not try to have the same kind of patience with people?

God wants us to strive for this kind of patience. For example, with the issue of qiyam al-layl (the night prayer), the Prophet has told us:

Whoever goes to his bed intending to get up and pray at night, then his eyes overwhelm him and (he sleeps) until morning, the (reward of) that which he intended will be written for him, and his sleep is a charity for him given by his Lord.” (An-Nasai & Ibn Majah)

Why did the Prophet tell us this? So that we never give up; we are patient with our weaknesses and continue to strive. This is what patience is.

Patience with Stopping Ourselves from Doing Bad

One of the types of people who is given shade on the Day of Judgment is the person who is tempted into fornication but resists and says: “I fear Allah!” (Al-Bukhari)

It is much easier to fall into sin. But the one who constantly prevents himself from doing bad, can be of the people who is beneath the shade of God. This requires patience and conviction; despite the hardship, we are doing something that is beloved to God. Nowadays we are taught to strive to achieve what we want no matter what. Although having ambition and drive is good, it should not be by compromising our ethics. We may have to face setbacks now and then, but when we remember that our aim is for the hereafter and not simply this world, patience is easier to inculcate.

Patience When Something Bad Happens

The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us that:

Patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” (Al-Bukhari)

It is not easy to bear bad news and not lose it or break down. It is even harder to prevent ourselves from questioning something that is so, in our eyes, blatantly bad. Why? But as we said before, there is a reason for tests. This is why we are taught in the Quran to say: “To Allah we belong and to Him we return” so that when are afflicted, we remember that nothing is outside the realm of God’s knowledge, power and mercy. He knows this is happening, and there is a higher purpose to it.

Examples of Those Who Are Patient

The Prophet is the best example. Despite being exiled from his home, losing his loved ones, being abused and suffering near starvation, he never wavered in his character. He was patient in doing good, patient in refraining from evil even when he was tempted with wealth and women, and he was patient when afflicted with calamity. All of his children died in his lifetime except Fatimah. He lost his wife and two of his uncles whom he loved dearly. Those who followed him were tortured. Yet he persisted in praying in the night, was described as always smiling and never hesitated to help people. His patience was in perseverance and never questioning the will of God.

Look at Prophet Ayyoub (peace be upon him), who was not only patient with his affliction but he was content! He lost all fourteen of his children, his wealth and the companionship of the people because of his disease. Yet when he was asked to supplicate for God to heal him, he said: “Allah gave me 50 years of blessings, should I not be patient with the same number of years of hardship?” He never complained of his illness. Of course, we should always ask God to help us (and Prophet Ayyoub finally did) but what we should take from this is he wasn’t angry with God and never questioned His will.

Finally, ‘Urwah ibn Al-Zubair, one of the companions, had to have his leg amputated. While he was being visited by a friend, he said, “If you came to give me condolence for the loss of my leg, I already submitted to God with patience to reward me for its loss.” But the guest told him: “I came to inform you that your son fell down in a stable, and the animal stepped over him, and he passed away.” What would be the response of ‘Urwa of that moment? He said: “O Allah! You took one child, and left me many…You took one organ from my body, and left me many organs…O Allah! You tested me with my body, and you were kind to leave me with good health. You tested me with the loss of my son, but you were kind in leaving me the rest of my children.”

May we all be of the patient!

By Jinan Bastaki