The Virtues of Patience.
Abdul Rahman Hassan.
In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allāh, May Allāh blessings and peace be upon His Messenger.
The Meaning of Patience.
The word sabar is derived from sabara, to be patient and to persevere, and it indicates to holding back and restraining oneself. In the Syari’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.
Ibn al-Qayyim (d.750H) categorized sabar (patient and perseverance) into three:
1. Sabar whilst fulfilling the orders of Allāh Almighty;
2. Sabar whilst abandoning and keeping away from the prohibitions of Allāh; and
3. Sabar with the Decree of Allāh Almighty with respect to afflictions and difficulties.
Guidance for the Hearts.
Allāh Almighty says: “And whosoever believes in Allāh, He guides his heart right. And Allāh has full knowledge over everything.” [Surah at-Taghabun 64:11]
"No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah". [Surah al-Hadid 57:22]
Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallāhu`anhu) said: “By the command of Allāh - meaning: by His Will and His Power.” Therefore, the meaning of this ayat is: No affliction occurs except by His Mashiyyah (Will), His Iradah (Desire) and His Hikmah (Wisdom).
Allāh says: “Give glad-tidings to those who have sabr. Those who insured an affliction - say: Indeed, we belong to Allâh and to Him shall we return. They are those on who are the blessings from their Lord and His mercy. They are the ones who are guided.” [Al- Baqārah, 2:155-157]
When Allāh’s says: “And whosoever believes in Allāh, He guides his heart right.” means: “Whosoever - when afflicted knows it is by the Decree of Allāh and His Power, and thus patiently submits to it, then Allāh rewards such a person by guiding their heart aright. Hence, it would be the basis that cause of all happiness, and the foundation of excellence in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allāh promises such a person a reward for what He has taken from them.”
[Tasfîr Qur‘ānul-’Adzim [8/163]]
And Allāh’s says: “And Allāh has full knowledge over everything.” is a reminder that such a affliction is by His Knowledge which necessitates His Wisdom, which obligates sabar and being contented with His Decree. So “It is the man who - when afflicted with an affliction - knows it is from Allāh, so he is pleased with it and submits to it.”
[Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani]
In the above narration is a proof that actions are a part of iman (faith). Sa’id ibn Jubayr [d.104H] said about: “And whosoever believes in Allāh, He guides his heart aright.” He said: “That [at the time of an affliction] a person says: Indeed, to Allāh we belong and to Him shall we return.”
In the above ayat is an explanation that having sabr is the cause for the heart’s guidance; this being the reward for the sābir (the one having patience).
Complaining Against the Decree of Allāh
The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “Two characteristics of the people are from disbelief: attack on one’s genealogy and bewailing the deceased.” [Muslim from Abu Hurairah]
These two characteristics are actions of kufur (disbelief), since these are actions of jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance), which continue to remain in people. In addition, no one will remain safe from them, except for the one to whom Allāh grants safety, and the one to whom Allāh grants knowledge and iman (faith). However - it should be known - that whosoever has within him a branch of kufur (disbelief) , then it does not cause the person to become a kafir (disbeliever) with absolute kufr; just as a person who has within him a branch of iman (faith), is not called a mu‘min (believer) with absolute iman .
Indeed, there is a difference between the word kufur having the definite article attached to it i.e. al-kufur and the word kufur without the definite article - as occurs in the hadith of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): “There is nothing between a servant and between al-kufr and ash-shirik, except abandoning the Prayer.” [Muslim, Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidzi]
The saying of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): “Attack on one’s genealogy,” 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 Allāh and is against having sabar - such as the saying of the one bewailing: “He was my close friend,” or “he was my aid and supporter.” So in the above hadith is a proof for the obligation of having sabr, and a proof that there is a type of kufur (disbelief) which does not cause its doer to become a kafir.
Tender Hearts and Compassionate Tears.
The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “He is not one of us who strikes the cheeks, tears the clothes and calls with the call of jahiliyyah [pre-Islamic ignorance].” [Bukhāri and Muslim]
This is one of those textual threats related in the Revelation. It is related from Sufyan ath-Thawri and Imam 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 iman (faith). Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar [d.852H] whilst explaining the saying “Whosoever strikes the cheeks,” said:“The cheeks have been particularized since that is the most common place of striking. However, striking any other part of the face is just the same.” [Fathul-Bari of Ibn Hajar]
The saying of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): “Tearing the clothes,” implies: tearing open the clothes from the chest. This was the practice of the people of jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance) as an expression of grieving for the deceased. Ibn Taimiyyah [d.728H] said about: “And calls with the call of jahiliyyah.”: “It means to wail over the deceased.”
Ibn al-Qayyim said: “Included in calling with the call of jâhiliyyah is calling to tribalism, partisanship and party-spirit; being zealous and bigoted towards one’s mazhab (school of thought), party, or Shaikh; 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 jahiliyyah.”
Abu Umamah relates the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) objected the woman who strikes her face, tears her clothes and wails over the deceased. [Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibbân]
Therefore, this is a proof that these matters are from the major sins. In addition, whosoever laments lightly-without being impatient with Allāh’s Decree, nor complaining against it, and says only that which is true - then such lamenting is acceptable. Just like the lamenting of Abu Bakar [Related by Ahmad, from ’Aishah] and Fatimah [Bukhāri and Ibn Majah] when the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) died. There is a text also from Imām Ahmad concerning this. [As az-Zarkashi mentions in Sharh Mukhtasarul-Kharqi.] However, this is not a proof for the prohibition of crying, since there occurs in an authentic narration: That when the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) came to know about the death of his son Ibrahim, he (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “The eyes shed tears, the heart grieves, but we do not say except that which pleases our Lord. O Ibrahim! It is because of you that we are grieving.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
In the two Sahihs Usamah bin Zaid relates that the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu '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’s eyes. So Sa’ad said: O Messenger of Allāh! What is this? So he (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) replied: “This is mercy which Allāh puts into the hearts of His servants. And Allāh is merciful to those of His servants that show mercy to others.” [Bukhāri and Muslim.]
Trials Faced by the Believers
The Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam)said: “Whenever Allāh intends to do good to a servant, He hastens to punish him in this world. And whenever Allāh intends evil for a servant, He postpones the punishment until the Day of Judgement.” [Tirmidzi]
His saying: “Whenever Allāh 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.
Ibn Taimiyyah said: “The occurrence of afflictions is actually a form of blessing, since they are expiation for sins committed and they call for a person to have sabar, or which he is duly rewarded. Likewise, they cause the person to turn to Allāh 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.
Wiping Away the Sins.
Those afflictions, which befall a person, are actually the cause of Allāh 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 Din. Indeed, there are people when afflicted with a trial or an 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 Deen. 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 Allāh, the Mighty and Majestic which necessitates praising Him.
Therefore, whosoever is afflicted with a calamity and is provided with sabar, and then this sabar 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 Allâh says: “They are those on whom are the blessings and praises from their Lord and His mercy. They are the ones who are guided.” [Al-Baqarah 2:155-157]. 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 sabar.
The saying of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): “Whenever Allāh 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-‘Azizi [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.” [Al-‘Azizi.]
In the above hadīth are a lesson and a reminder that one must have good expectations in Allāh and a good opinion about Him with regard to what He has decreed for a person, as Allāh, 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. Allāh knows and you do not know.” [Al-Baqarah 2:216]
Rewards are Proportional to Afflictions.
The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam)said: “Reward is directly proportional to the affliction. If Allāh loves a people, He inflicts them with a calamity. Whoever accepts it, Allāh is pleased with them, and whoever resents it, Allāh is displeased with them.” [Tirmidzi and Ibn Mājah]
Likewise, the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whenever Allāh 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.” [Ahmad]
The meaning of the first hadīth is: the greater the affliction, the greater the reward. In addition, it is said: Indeed, afflictions bring about a reward as well as expiating sins. This was the preferred saying of Ibn al-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 sabar, contentment with the Decree of Allāh, repenting to Allāh 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 hadith is: Indeed, the reward is proportional to the affliction, providing there is sabr and expectation of reward. Similarly, in the hadith of Sa’ad: The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) was asked: Who from mankind suffers the greatest afflictions? He (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) replied: “The Prophets, then those most like them, then those most like them. A person is afflicted with calamities in comparisons to his Deen, so if he is firm in his Deen, then his afflictions are strong and if he is weak in his Deen, 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.” [Ahmad, at-Tirmidzi and Ibn Majah]
This hadith and its like are from the proofs for Tawhid. Since if a person knew that the Prophets and the awliya (the friends of Allāh) are themselves afflicted with calamities and that none can remove these afflictions from them except Allāh, 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 Allāh alone, the One who is able to accomplish this.
Ar-Redha (the pleasure of Allāh) which occurs in the saying of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): “So whosoever is pleased, then Allāh is pleased with him.” is one of the Attributes that Allāh 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. Allāh is well pleased with them, as they are with Him.” [Al-Bayyinah 98:8]
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 Allāh has affirmed for Himself, or which have been affirmed by His Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam)’ in a way which befits His Majesty and Greatness, without tamthil (likening Allāh to any of His creation), and without ta’til (divesting Allāh of His Attributes). Therefore, when Allāh is pleased with any one, then such a person has acquired all good and excellence and is safe from all evils. Ar-Redha is: a servant is surrendering his affairs to Allāh, whilst having a good opinion about Him and expecting His reward. Such a person will then experience tranquility and joy, love of Allâh and reliance upon Him.
Ibn Mas’ud said: “Indeed Allāh from His justice and fairness, provide a delight and tranquility the fits of yaqin [certainty] and ridha [pleasure]. And He made grief, anxiety and worries the result of doubt and resentment.” [Ibn Abt Dunya and al-Bayhaqî]
The meaning of resentment being: “A dislike for something, with the absence of pleasure.” [Ibn al-Athir]
Thus, whosoever resents what Allāh has decreed, then Allāh will resent that person; and this is sufficient as a punishment from Allāh. In addition, from the above hadith, some Scholars have deduced that redha [contentment and pleasure] with the Decree of Allāh is obligatory, this being the view of Ibn ’Aqil. However, al-Qadi Abu Ya’la did not consider it to be obligatory [but rather preferable], and this was the preferred view of Ibn Taimiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim. Ibn Taimiyyah said: “Just as there is a specific command attached to having sabar (patience), there is, however, no such command for having redhâ (contentment and pleasure). Rather, there is praise and an excellence for those who have redhâ with the Decree of Allāh.” He further said: “The narration: ‘Whosoever does not have sabar with My afflictions, nor have redha with My Decree, has taken a Lord other than Me.’
Ibn Taimiyyah also said: “Indeed, there is a station higher than [both sabar and] redha and that is to show shukur (gratitude) to Allāh for the affliction, since this is the cause of receiving excellence and bounties.”