What does it mean to have sabr/ patience in Islam?
Sheikh Ata Bin Khalil Abu Al-Rashtah mentions about the benefits of having patience (sabr) in Islam in his Tafseer of Surah al Baqarah. We need to stop, pause and think about the subject of patience in Islam in order to remove the confusion some Muslims have about its reality and meaning.
Some people think they should cocoon themselves and isolate themselves from the people and leave the evil (munkar), and leave those who commit it and watch our sanctities being violated, the Hudud of Allah (penal code) suspended and Jihad abolished. They do not take a stand on these things. They stay away from them and abandon the duty of forbidding the evil and this is what some people think is patience.
Yet others think patience in Islam means to keep away from harm and avoid the risk of being exposed to it in case the enemies of Allah pursue them. They do not dare to speak the truth or undertake the actions that are pleasing to Allah. Instead, they remain silent, crouching in a corner somewhere and saying to themselves that they are patient.
This is not the patience for which Allah سبحانه وتعالى has prepared His Gardens of Bliss for the patient,
إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى الصَّابِرُونَ أَجْرَهُمْ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ
“Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.” [Az-Zumar: 10]
This is nothing but weakness from which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to seek refuge from in his Du’a:
أعـوذ بالله من العجـز والكسل والجبن والبخل والهم والحزن وغلبة الدين وقهر الرجال
“O Allah, I seek refuge with You from incapacity, laziness, cowardice, miserliness, worry, sadness, overwhelming debt, and being overpowering by (other) men.” [Bukhari 5894, Muslim 4908]
Patience in Islam means you speak and act upon the Truth and bear the hardship that results in the path of Allah without deviation, weakness or giving in.
Indeed, patience in Islam is that which results from the Taqwa (fear of Allah) as in the following Ayah,
إِنَّهُ مَنْ يَتَّقِ وَيَصْبِرْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“Indeed, he who fears Allah and is patient, then indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.” [Yusuf: 90]
This indeed is the patience that Allah سبحانه وتعالى connected with those Mujahideen who fight in the way of Allah
سبحانه وتعالى, وَكَأَيِّنْ مِنْ نَبِيٍّ قَاتَلَ مَعَهُ رِبِّيُّونَ كَثِيرٌ فَمَا وَهَنُوا لِمَا أَصَابَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَمَا ضَعُفُوا وَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الصَّابِرِينَ
“And how many a prophet [fought and] with him fought many religious scholars. But they never lost assurance due to what afflicted them in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or submit. And Allah loves the steadfast.” [Surah Aali Imran 3:146].
It is the patience over affliction and the divine decree (qadr), which leads one to be steadfast and firm and not be shaken. It leads a person to hold onto the Qur’an and not neglect it under the pretext of patience. It brings the servant closer to his Lord and does not distance him from Him
فَنَادَى فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنْ الظَّالِمِينَ
“And he called out within the darknesses, There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” [Al-Anbiyyah: 87]
Examples of Patience in Islam
It is the kind of patience, which strengthens the resolve and brings the path to Jannah closer. It is the patience of Bilal, Khabbab and the family of Yaasir:
صبرا آل ياسر إن موعدكم الجنة
“Patience O family of Yasir, your rendezvous is Jannah.” [Al-Mustadrak 3/383, Al-Mutaalib al-Aaliyah 4.34, Al-Huliyah 1/140]
It is the patience of Khubayb and Zayd: “By Allah I would not want to be safe and secure among my family while even a thorn hurts Muhammad.” [Seerah by Ibn Hisham 3/181]
It is the patience of those who restrain the hand of the tyrant without fearing any for the sake of Allah:
«كلا والله لتأخذن على يد الظالم ولتأطرنه على الحق أطرا ولتقصرنه على الحق قصرا أو ليضربن الله قلوب بعضكم ببعض وليلعنكم كما لعن بني إسرائيل»
“Nay, by Allah, you must seize hold of the hand of the oppressor and conform him to act justly and stick to the truth, or, Allah will involve the hearts of some of you with the hearts of others and will curse you as He had cursed the Children of Israel.” [Tirmidhi 2974, Abu Dawud 3774, Ibn Maajah 3996]
It is the patience of the distinguished companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, the honest and trustworthy… The patience of the people of the Saheefah and those boycotted in the Shi’b (of ‘Abd al-Muttalib), the migrants to Abyssinia (Habasha) and those punished for other than reason than saying our Lord is Allah.’
It is the patience of the Muhajireen and Ansaar in their struggle against the polytheists, Persians and the Romans… It is the patience of those taken prisoners from the troops of ‘Abdullah b. Abu Huzaafah… It is the patience of the believing and honest Mujahideen.
It is the patience of the one who enjoins the good and forbids the evil and does not become weak due to the hardships in the path of Allah.
It is the patience, which says you should be a soldier in the Muslim army advancing to fight the enemy of Allah.
It is the patience where one confirms the saying of Allah سبحانه وتعالى,
لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنْفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنْ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنْ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا وَإِنْ تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الأُمُورِ
“You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves, and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians) and from those who ascribe partners to Allah, but if you persevere patiently, and become Al-Muttaqun (the pious) then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs, and that is from the great matters.” [Ali’- Imraan: 186]