Sabr is usually translated as patience. We are all familiar with this word and we are quick to advise others to have sabr when they face any difficulties in life. But if we are faced with a similar situation, then we realize how difficult it is to have sabr. From Quran and sunnah we know that if a person fulfills the conditions of sabr, then his or her reward is far-reaching: Allah is with those who have sabr (2:153); with sabr one can attain to a happy state (3:200); Allah provides succor to those with sabr (6:34); understanding the Signs of Allah depends upon sabr (31:31); Allah loves those with sabr (3:146); leadership is conditional upon having sabr (32:24); those who practice sabr will receive a reward without measure (39:10); and finally, the ultimate reward for sabr is Jannah (13:24). Sabr is not only to be patient in hardship, but it is also to restrain ourselves from any haram, disobedient, or harmful action, and to persevere with unwavering resoluteness to fulfill all of our obligations.
As Muslims, our lives should pivot on sabr and shukr.
As Muslims, our lives should pivot on sabr and shukr. According to a hadith related by Abu Yaha Suhaib bin Siman (RA), the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “How excellent is the case of a faithful servant — there is good for him in everything and this not the case with anyone except him. If prosperity attends him, he expresses shukr (gratitude) to Allah (SWT) and that is good for him. If adversity falls on him, he endures it patiently (with sabr) and that is good for him” (Muslim). Our lives are the combination of prosperities and adversities. If we practice shukr and sabr, then our daily living becomes an ibadah, and our accounts from this dunya will be full of rewards with which we can gain Jannah on the Day of Judgment, insha’Allah.
Allah (SWT) has blessed us with this life, and further blessed us with knowledge of the various rules and regulations which lead to a life of goodness. These guidelines are conveyed to us by the Prophets (peace be upon them). Allah is watching all His creations as He tests us to measure our faith and its characteristics that must be expressed in word and deed, including that of patience. In Surah Baqarah, Allah (SWT) says, “And surely, We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth, lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the patient” (2:155). As we ponder this verse, we take note of all the calamities around us and should think deeply about the kind of behavior Allah (SWT) wants from us — to be patient and steadfast. If we do that then Allah (SWT) promises us that through our patient endurance, relief, ease, and success will be yielded; insha’Allah, if not in this dunya then in the akhira.
Even when we experience the death of a loved one, we are instructed to fulfill the conditions of sabr. On the occasion of the death of the grandson of the Prophet (peace be upon him), when the child was brought to him taking his last few breaths, the eyes of the Prophet (pbuh) overflowed with tears. Sa’d bin Ubaida asked, “O Messenger of Allah! What is this?” The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “It is the mercy which Allah (SWT) has bestowed in the hearts of his servants, and Allah (SWT) is merciful to only those of His servants who are merciful to others” (agreed upon; this is part of the hadith narrated by Usama bin Zaid). In fact, tears of grief are natural, expected, and permissible; but excessive overreactions such as loud, complaining grief, pulling of hair, or tearing at one’s clothing are not permissible.
Whenever anyone faces an adversity, as time passes he or she comes to accept it. But genuine sabr is not the gradual and passive resignation about a loss that comes with the healing of time. True sabr is active and intentional in the moment of loss. The following hadith narrated by Anas (RA) explains this well. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was passing by a woman who was weeping near a grave and said, “Fear Allah and be patient.” She replied, “Go away from me! My calamity has not befallen you and you are unaware of it.” The woman was later told that this was the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Therefore, she came to the house of the Prophet (pbuh) where she found no doorkeeper. She said, “O Prophet of Allah, I was unaware [that it was] you [passing by her at the grave].” The Prophet (pbuh) then said, “Patience is only at the first [stroke] of grief” (agreed upon).
Brothers and sisters, that quality of sabr is a challenge for us, but we believe in Quran and sunnah through which we are continuously given glad tidings of sabr’s reward in Jannah. In Surah Hud, Allah (SWT) says, “And be patient, verily Allah (SWT) loses not the reward of good doers” (11:115). And we are provided with the best models of this trait, as sabr is a prophetic tradition. Quran is full of examples of the patience of Ibrahim, Ismaeel, Yaqoob, Yusuf, Ayyub, Younus, Nuh, Lut, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). We must observe how they were struck by various adversities and how they remained patient. We can learn profound lessons from how they dealt with their challenges. And in our own lives, faith and patience can mitigate or even cure psychological disturbances like anxiety and depression.
If we take time to really reflect on the Islamic teachings about sabr, it will be easier for us to practice it. Abu Sa’id (RA) narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Never a believer is stricken with discomfort, hardship or illness, grief or even with mental worry, that his sins are not expiated from him” (agreed upon). And the following hadith demonstrates how beautifully the Prophet (pbuh) puts in proper, positive perspective the issue of suffering so that we are motivated to face hardship with sabr. Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Anyone for whom Allah (SWT) intends good, is made to suffer from some affliction.”
If we believe that Quran is shifa (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual healing) then we must also be willing to utilize whatever is prescribed and implement the treatment protocol. Thus, in the following verse, we are given the prescription and the action plan for those times we are tested with difficulty or adversity: “Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except for those who are humble in spirit, who know with certainty that they shall meet their Sustainer and that unto Him they shall return” (Quran 2:45-46).
Let us pray sincerely to Allah (SWT) at all times, make du’a of yearning for His help when we need it, and patiently wait for His succor. Allah (SWT) promises in Surah Ash-Sharh, “So verily with hardship, there is relief. Verily with hardship, there is relief” (94:5-6). May Allah (SWT) guide us, grant us wisdom, and facilitate us in our striving to practice shukr and sabr no matter our circumstance. Ameen.