The Virtues of Patience

May 30, 2008

Patience: Solution for Life’s Sorrows  

A lengthy excerpt from the tremendous work of Tawheed, Fathul-Majeed by Imaam ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Hasan.  The author begins by giving a proper definition of patience in Islaam from the speech of the Scholars. He then goes onto to mention the three kinds of patience and the various benefits attained by those who have it.
And know that sabr (patient perseverance) is of three kinds: [i] sabr whilst (fulfilling) the orders of Allaah, [ii] sabr whilst (abandoning and keeping away) from the prohibitions of Allaah, and [iii] sabr with the Decree of Allaah with respect to afflictions and difficulties.

The Virtues of Patience:

Imaam Ahmad (d.241H) said, “Allaah has mentioned sabr (patient perseverance) in over ninety places in His Book.” [2]

And there occurs in the authentic hadeeth, “Sabr (patient perseverance) is light.” [3] The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, “No one has been given anything more excellent and more comprehensive than sabr.” [4]

‘Umar – radiyallaahu ‘anhu – said, “We considered the best part of our lives to be that in which there was sabr.” [5]

‘Alee – radiyallaahu ‘anhu – said, “Indeed sabr is from eemaan (faith). Its position is like that of the head with respect to the rest of the body.” Then he raised his voice and said, “Verily, there is no eemaan (faith) for the one who has no sabr.” [6]

The Meaning of Patience:

The word sabr (in the Arabic language) is from sabara – to be patient and to persevere, and it indicates to holding back and restraining oneself. (In the Shaee’ah sense) it implies: restraining the soul from being agitated; restraining the tongue from complaining and restraining the hands from slapping the cheeks, tearing the clothes and doing other similar actions. This has been mentioned by Ibnul-Qayyim (d.750H). [7]
And know that sabr (patient perseverance) is of three kinds: [i] sabr whilst (fulfilling) the orders of Allaah, [ii] sabr whilst (abandoning and keeping away) from the prohibitions of Allaah, and [iii] sabr with the Decree of Allaah with respect to afflictions and difficulties.

Guidance for the Hearts:

Allaah – the Most High – says: “And whosoever believes in Allaah, He guides his heart aright. And Allaah has full knowledge over everything.” [8]
And this aayah begins with, “No affliction occurs, except by the permission of Allaah.” About this Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “By the command of Allaah – meaning: by His Will and His Power.” [9]

So the meaning of this aayah is: No affliction occurs except by His Mashee’ah (Will), His Iraadah (Desire) and His Hikmah (Wisdom) – as Allaah says: “No affliction occurs upon the earth, nor in yourselves, except that it is written before We bring it into existence. Indeed, this is easy for Allaah.” [10] And Allaah says, “Give glad-tidings to those who have sabr. Those who – when afflicted with a affliction – say: Indeed, we belong to Allaah and to Him shall we return. They are those on whom are the blessings from their Lord and His mercy. They are the ones who are guided.” [11]

And Allaah’s saying, “And whosoever believes in Allaah, He guides his heart aright.” Means, “Whosoever – when afflicted with a affliction – knows it is by the Decree of Allaah and His Power, and thus patiently submits to it, then Allaah rewards such a person by guiding their heart aright. So this is the root cause of all happiness, and the foundation of excellence in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allaah promises such a person (a reward) for what He has taken from them.” [12] And Allaah’s saying: “And Allaah has full knowledge over everything,” is a reminder that such a affliction is by His Knowledge which necessitates His Wisdom, which obligates sabr and being contented with His Decree.

Aboo Dhibyaan said: We were with ‘Alqamah [13] and this aayah was recited to him, “And whosoever believes in Allaah, He guides his heart aright.” So he said, “It is the man who – when afflicted with an affliction – knows it is from Allaah, so he is pleased with it and submits to it.” [14]
In the above narration is a proof that actions are a part of eemaan (faith).

Sa’eed Ibn Jubayr (d.104H) said about, “And whosoever believes in Allaah, He guides his heart aright.” He said, “That (at the time of a affliction) a person says: Indeed, to Allaah we belong and to Him shall we return.”

In the above aayah is an explanation that having sabr is the cause for the heart’s guidance; this being the reward for the saabir (the one having patience).

Complaining against the Decree of Allaah:

The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Two characteristics of the people are from disbelief: attack on one’s genealogy and bewailing the deceased.” [15] Meaning: that these two characteristics are actions of kufr (disbelief), since these are actions of jaahiliyyah (pre-Islaamic ignorance) which continue to remain in people. And no one will remain safe from them, except for the one to whom Allaah grants safety, and the one to whom Allaah grants knowledge and eemaan (faith).

However – it should be known – that whosoever has within him a branch of kufr (disbelief), then it does not cause the person to become a kaafir (disbeliever) with absolute kufr; just as a person who has within him a branch of eemaan (faith), is not called a mu’min (believer) with absolute eemaan . Indeed, there is a difference between the word kufr having the definite article attached to it (i.e. al-kufr) and the word kufr without the definite article – as occurs in the saying of the Prophet, “There is nothing between a servant and between al-kufr and ash-shirk, except abandoning the Prayer.” [16]

The saying of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), “Attack on one’s geneology,” means: finding faults and defects. Entering into this also is a person’s false denial of another man’s genealogy by saying, “This is not the son of such and such,” and the person knew that this denial was false.

And his saying, “And bewailing the dead.” means: raising the voice in lamentation and wailing and in enumerating the virtues of the deceased. All of this is a form of complaining against the Decree of Allaah and is against having sabr – such as the saying of the one bewailing: “He was my close friend,” or “he was my aid and supporter.”

So in the above hadeeth is a proof for the obligation of having sabr, and a proof that there is a type of kufr (disbelief) which does not cause its doer to become a kaafir.

Tender Hearts and Compassionate Tears:

The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “He is not one of us who strikes the cheeks, tears the clothes and calls with the call of jaahiliyyah (pre-Islaamic ignorance).” [17] This is one of those textual threats related in the Revelation. It is related from Sufyaan ath-Thawree and Imaam Ahmad that they disliked explaining the meaning of such threats, so that people would have fear of committing such actions and would remain far away from them. This narration is a proof that the actions mentioned are against complete eemaan (faith).

Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar (d.852H) whilst explaining the saying, “Whosoever strikes the cheeks,” said, “The cheeks have been particularised since that is the most common place of striking. However, striking any other part of the face is just the same.” [18]

The saying of the Prophet, “Tearing the clothes,” implies: tearing open the clothes from the chest. This was the practice of the people of jaahiliyyah (pre-Islaamic ignorance) as an expression of grieving for the deceased.

Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728H) said about, “And calls with the call of jaahiliyyah,” “It means to wail over the deceased.” [19]

Ibnul-Qayyim – rahimahullaah – said, “Included in calling with the call of jaahiliyyah is calling to tribalism, partisanship and party-spirit; being zealous and bigoted towards one’s madhhab (school of thought), party, or Shaykh; giving precedence to one over the other and calling to this; and forming alliances and enmity based upon this. All of this is from the calls of jaahiliyyah.”

Aboo ‘Umaamah relates the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) cursed the woman who strikes her face, tears her clothes and wails over the deceased. [20]

So this is a proof that these matters are from the major sins. Also, whosoever laments lightly-without being impatient with Allaah’s Decree, nor complaining against it, and says only that which is true – then such lamenting is acceptable. Just like the lamenting of Aboo Bakr [21] and Faatimah [22] (radiyallaahu ‘anhumaa) when the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) died. There is a text also from Imaam Ahmad concerning this. [23]

However, this is not a proof for the prohibition of crying, since there occurs in an authentic narration: That when the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came to know about the death of his son Ibraaheem, he said, “The eyes shed tears, the heart grieves, but we do not say except that which pleases our Lord. O Ibraaheem! It is because of you that we are grieving.” [24]

In the two Saheehs Usaamah Ibn Zayd relates: That the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) went to one of his daughters, who had with her a young child that was dying. So she raised the child and placed the child in his lap, who was gasping for air. On seeing this, tears rolled down the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam’s) eyes. So Sa’d said: O Messenger of Allaah! What is this? So he replied, “This is mercy which Allaah puts into the hearts of His servants. And Allaah is merciful to those of His servants that show mercy to others.” [25]

Trials Faced by the Believers:

The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whenever Allaah intends to do good to a servant, He hastens to punish him in this world. And whenever Allaah intends evil for a servant, He postpones the punishment until the Day of Judgement.” [26]

His saying, “Whenever Allaah intends to do good to a servant, He hastens to punish him in this world.” means: that he is punished by being inflicted with afflictions and difficulties due to the sins he has committed, due to which he is cleansed from them all, and in the Hereafter he has no sins to account for.

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “The occurrence of afflictions are actually a form of blessing, since they are an expiation for sins committed and they call for a person to have sabr – for which he is duly rewarded. Likewise they cause the person to turn to Allaah in repentance, being humble and submissive before Him, whilst at the same time turning away from hoping in any of the creation. There are – besides these – other great advantages.

Thus, those afflictions which befall a person are actually the cause of Allaah wiping away his sins, and this is one of the greatest blessings. So the occurrence of afflictions are a source of mercy and bounty, providing such a person does not enter into that which is a cause for even greater disobedience than before. For this affliction will then become a cause of great evil to the person’s Religion. Indeed, there are people who – when afflicted with a trial or a affliction; such as poverty, illness or starvation – causes hypocrisy to sprout in them, or causes their hearts to become diseased, or it causes them to fall into ingratitude and disbelief, or to abandon certain obligations or commit certain prohibited acts – all of which is extremely harmful to one’s Religion. So to remain safe from, and to be protected against such afflictions and trials, is better for a person, since the afflictions and trials – rather than being a source of blessings – becomes a source of great injury. However, if the person had sabr and remained obedient, then such an affliction would have been the cause of mercy and blessings from Allaah – the Mighty and Majestic -which necessitates praising Him.

So whosoever is afflicted with a calamity and is provided with sabr, then this sabr is a blessing for the person and a mercy for him, since his sins are expiated due to it. Likewise his Lord bestows upon him praises and prayers, as Allaah – the Majestic – says,

“They are those on whom are the blessings and praises from their Lord and His mercy. They are the ones who are guided.” [27]

Such a person is also forgiven by his Lord for his sins, and is raised to higher ranks – all of this is due to the one who has sabr.” [28]

The saying of the Prophet, “Whenever Allaah intends evil for a servant, He postpones the punishment until the Day of Judgement,” means: such a person’s punishment is delayed until the Hereafter, where he will receive severe punishment.

Al-‘Azeezee (d.1070H) said, “Such a person is not punished in this world, so that in the Hereafter he can be punished for his sins in a way that he fully deserved.” [29]

In the above hadeeth is a lesson and a reminder that one must have good expectations in Allaah and a good opinion about Him with regard to what He has decreed for a person, as Allaah – the Most High – says,

“It is possible that you hate a thing and it is good for you, and love a thing and it is evil for you. Allâh knows and you do not know.” [30]

Rewards are Proportional to Afflictions:

The Prophet sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Reward is directly proportional to the affliction. If Allaah loves a people, He inflicts them with a calamity. Whoever accepts it, Allaah is pleased with them, and whoever resents it, Allaah is displeased with them.” [31]

Likewise, the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whenever Allaah loves a people, He sends affliction upon them. So whoever is patient, is one of the patient-ones, and whoever resents it, is one of the resenters.” [32]

The meaning of the first hadeeth is: the greater the affliction, the greater the reward. And it is said: Indeed, afflictions bring about a reward as well as expiating sins. This was the preferred saying of Ibnul-Qayyim that the one afflicted with a calamity is not only rewarded for it, but his sins are expiated as well. However, if this affliction was the cause of him doing certain righteous actions – such as having sabr, contentment with the Decree of Allaah, repenting to Allaah or asking for His forgiveness – then the person will be rewarded for such actions as well. Because of this it is said that the meaning of the hadeeth is: Indeed, the reward is proportional to the affliction, providing there is sabr and expectation of reward.

Similarly, in the hadeeth of Sa’d, ‘The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was asked, ‘Who from mankind suffers the greatest afflictions?’ He replied, ‘The Prophets, then those most like them, then those most like them. A person is afflicted with calamities in comparisons to his Religion, so if he is firm in his Religion, then his afflictions are strong and if he is weak in his Religion, then his afflictions are lighter. A person is afflicted with calamities until he is left walking upon the face of this earth without any sins.” [33]

This hadeeth and its like are from the proofs for Tawheed. Since if a person knew that the Prophets and the awliyaa’ (the friends of Allaah) are themselves afflicted with calamities and that none can remove these afflictions from them except Allaah, then it will be known that they can bring neither benefit nor ward of harm to themselves – so how can they ward off harm for others! Thus rather than turning to the Prophets and righteous people for the removal of harm, or relief from worries and grief, one should turn directly to Allaah alone – the One who is able to accomplish this.

ATTAINING TRANQUILITY:

And ar-Ridaa (the pleasure of Allaah) – which occurs in the saying of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), “So whosoever is pleased, then Allaah is pleased with him.” – is one of the Attributes that Allaah has described Himself with in various places in His Book, such as His saying,

“Their rewards are Gardens of Adan, beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever. Allaah is well pleased with them, as they are with Him.” [34]

The way of the Salaf (the Pious Predecessors) and those who follow them from Ahlus-Sunnah (the followers of the Sunnah) is to affirm those attributes which Allaah has affirmed for Himself, or which have been affirmed by His Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) – in a way which befits His Majesty and Greatness – without tamtheel (likening Allaah to any of His creation), and without ta’teel (divesting Allaah of His Attributes). So when Allaah – the Most High – is pleased with any one, then such a person has acquired all good and excellence and is safe from all evils.

Ar-Ridaa is: a servant’s surrendering his affairs to Allaah, whilst having a good opinion about Him and expecting His reward. Such a person will then experience tranquility and joy, love of Allaah and reliance upon Him.

Ibn Mas’ood – (radiyallaahu ‘anhu) – said, “Indeed Allaah – from His Justice and Fairness – made delight and tranquility the fits of yaqeen (certainty) and ridaa (pleasure). And He made grief, anxiety and worry the result of doubt and resentment.”  [35]

The meaning of resentment being: “A dislike for something, with the absence of pleasure.” [36] Thus, whosoever resents what Allaah has decreed, then Allaah will resent that person; and this is sufficient as a punishment from Allaah. Also, from the above hadeeth, some Scholars have deduced that ridaa (contentment and pleasure) with the Decree of Allaah is obligatory – this being the view of Ibn ‘Aqeel. However, al-Qaadee Aboo Ya’laa did not consider it to be obligatory [but rather preferable], and this was the preferred view of Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibnul-Qayyim. [37]

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “Just as there is a specific command attached to having sabr (patience), there is, however, no such command for having ridaa (contentment and pleasure). Rather, there is a praise and an excellence for those who have ridaa with the Decree of Allaah.” He further said, “The narration: ‘Whosoever does not have sabr with My afflictions, nor have ridaa with My Decree, has taken a Lord other than Me.’ [38] This narration is one of the Israa’eeliyyaat and is not authentically related from the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).” [39]

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah also said, “Indeed, there is a station higher than [both sabr and] ridaa, and that is to show shukr (gratitude) to Allaah for the affliction, since this is the cause of receiving excellence and bounties.” [40]

Footnotes:

[1] Edited and adapted from Fathul-Majeed li Sharh Kitaabit-Tawheed (2/603-615); Chapter: From eemaan (faith) in Allaah is to have sabr (patience) with the Decree of Allaah.
[2] Related by Ibnul-Qayyim in Madaarijus-Saalikeen (2/152).
[3] Related by Muslim (no. 223) and Ahmad (5/343), from Aboo Maalik al-Ash’aree (radiyallaahu ‘anhu).
[4] Related by al-Bukhaaree (no. 1469) and Muslim (no. l053), from Aboo Sa’eed al-Khudree (radiyallâhu ‘anhu).
[5] Related by al-Bukhaaree (1 l/303) in ta’leeq form, and it has been related in connected form by Imaam Ahmad in az-Zuhd with a Saheeh isnaad – as al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar mentioned in Fathul-Baaree (11/303).
[6] Related by al-Laalikaa’ee in Sharh Usool I’tiqaad Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah (no. 1659), al-Bayhaqee in Shu’abul-Eemaan and Abee Shaybaan in Kitaabul-Eemaan (no. 130), with a slightly different wording.
[7] Madaarijus-Saalikeen (2/156) of Ibnul-Qayyim.
[8] Sooratut-Taghaabun [64:11]
[9] Tasfeer Qur’aanul-‘Adheem (2/164) of Ibn Katheer
[10] Sooratul-Hadeed [57:22]
[11] Sooratul-Baqarah [2:155-157]
[12] Tasfeer Qur’aanul-‘Adheem (8/163)
[13] Related by Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree in Jaami’ul-Bayaan ‘an Ta’weelil-Qur’aan (28/123), ‘Abdur-Razzaaq in his Tafseer (3/95) and also as-Suyootee in ad-Durrul-Manthoor (8/183). Its like is also related by al-Bukhaaree in ta’leeq form (8/652) from Ibn Mas’ood.
[14] Tahdheebut-Tahdbeeb (7/276) of Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalaanee
[15] Related by Muslim (no. 67) and Ahmad (2/377), from Aboo Hurayrah (radiyallaahu ‘anhu).
[16] Related by Muslim (no. 82), Aboo Daawood (no. 4679) and at-Tirmidhee (no. 2621), from Jaabir Ibn ‘Abdullaah (radiyallaahu ‘anhu).
[17] Related by al-Bukhaaree (no. 1294) and Muslim (no. 103), from Ibn Mas’ood (radiyallaahu ‘anhu).
[18] Fathul-Baaree (3/164) of Ibn Hajar.
[19] Iqtidaa’us-Siraatil-Mustaqeem (l/204) of Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah.
[20] Saheeh: Related by Ibn Maajah (no. 1584) and also Ibn Hibbaan (no. 737). Al-Bawseeree authenticated it in Masaabeehuz-Zajaajah (1/521).
[21] Related by Ahmad (6/31), from ‘Aa’ishah (radiyallaahu ‘anhaa).
[22] Related by al-Bukhaaree (no. 4462) and Ibn Maajah (no. 1629-1630), from Anas (radiyallaahu ‘anhu).
[23] As az-Zarkashee mentions in Sharh Mukhtasarul-Kharqee (2/356).
[24] Related by al-Bukhaaree (no. 1303) and Muslim (no. 2315), from Anas and Asmaa’ Bint Yazeed (radiyallaahu ‘anhumaa).
[25] Related by al-Bukhaaree (no. 1283) and Muslim (no. 923).
[26] Saheeh: Related by at-Tirmidhee (no. 2398) and al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak (1/340), from Anas (radiyallaahu ‘anhu). It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no. 1220).
[27] Sooratul-Baqarah [2:155-157]
[28] Abridged from Majmoo’ul-Fataawaa (10/48) of Ibn Taymiyyah.
[29] as-Siraajul-Muneer (l/88) of al-‘Azeezee
[30] Sooratul-Baqarah [2:216]
[31] Hasan: Related by at-Tirmidhee (no. 2398) and Ibn Maajah (no. 4021), from Anas (radiyallaahu ‘anhu). It was authenticated by al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no. 146).
[32] Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (5/427), from Mahmood Ibn Lubayd (radiyallaahu ‘anhu). It was authenticated by al-Mundharee in at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (4/283), al-Haythamee Majma’uz-Zawaa’id (2/291) and Ibn Hajar in Fathul-Baaree (10/108).
[33] Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (l/172), at-Tirmidhee (no. 2398) and Ibn Maajah (no. 4023). It was authenticated by al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no.143).
[34] Sooratul-Bayyinah [98:8]
[35] Related by Ibn Abee Dunyaa in Kitaabur-Ridaa (no. 94) and also al-Bayhaqee in Shu’abul-Eemaan (no. 205).
[36] an-Nihaayah fee Ghareebil-Hadeeth (2/350) of Ibn al-Atheer
[37] Madaarijus-Saalikeen (2/171,184) of Ibnul-Qayyim.
[38] Da’eef Jiddan: Related by at-Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer (22/320), Ibn Hibbaan in al-Majrooheen (1/324) and al-Khateeb in at-Talkhees (39/2) all by way of Sa’eed Ibn Ziyaad. Al-Haythamee said in al-Majma’ (7/207), “In it is Sa’eed Ibn Ziyaad who is matrook (abandoned).” And al-Haafidh al-‘Iraaqee said in Takhreejul-Ihyaa’ (3/296), “Its isnaad is weak.” And al-Manaawee said, “Da’eef Jiddan (very weak)” as occurs in ad-Da’eefah (no. 505).
[39] Ibnul-Qayyim related this in Madaarijus-Saalikeen (2/171).
[40] Majmoo’ul-Fataawaa (11/260) of Ibn Taymiyyah