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SABR (Patience)

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There are numerous examples in the Quran and Sunnah that emphasise the importance of sabr – but few bring it home clearly than the following Surah (113:1-30):
“By the token of time through the ages, verily man is in loss, except such as have faith and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy.’

In the context of its usage in the Quran the word sabr has numerous implications, for example, it implies thoroughness without being hasty; patient perseverance; firmness of purpose; and a cheerful attitude of resignation and understanding in sorrow, defeat or suffering. The aforementioned implications are those which are applicable in the context of this article.
Thus sabr would mean to have patient perseverance when wishing to achieve something; to strive your best in your endeavours; and accepting situations when such achievement is not possible.

In the well-known Surah above, Allah vows that if people seek the material things in life, they will not be successful. Their existence will only show success if they lead a good life and contribute to the well-being of others, and by encouraging others to be patient and truthful. People must not live in isolation from their fellow beings, but must be a good influence on others by teaching the virtues of patience and truthfulness.
In the world we live today, especially within a typical western culture, a high premium is placed on the speed with which something can be achieved. One does not have to look much further than speed food outlets, or the average supermarket or even speedy divorces. Modes of transport are becoming faster, children are maturing at an earlier age and business transactions are occurring in terms of seconds rather than minutes. There is general trend toward doing things speedier and quicker and this assisted in developing a culture of impatience.
It does not, of course, mean that all things done speedier is necessarily wrong. Where it has had a negative effect is that people view all transactions in terms of speedier achievement.

In Surah 2 verse 45, Allah says:
“Nay, seek God’s help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit.”

The Shari’ah explains that having sabr is a form of piety, and that it also does not necessarily mean that events must occur at a slower pace. What it means is an inner acceptance that certain things take a while longer to happen than others, and further, that certain things may never happen. And that for those events which by its nature takes longer, people have to sabr. In order to explain this concept in practical terms a few examples will be discussed.

“O ye who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer: for God is with those who patiently persevere.” [2:153]

With the trend of children and young adults today purchasing expensive name brands and designer clothing, many parents are placed under financial pressure in order to satisfy these desires. Many parents are often put in the position where they overextend themselves financially, instead of developing a culture that children and young adults must wait until there is sufficient money to purchase such items. That is, after other essential items have been provided for. Both parents and their children must accept that in such, and similar situations, there must be sabr. Children and young adults must also be taught to understand that it is not possible to give them everything they desire. There will be many things in life that they will desire, but will never attain. Muslims often wonder why non-Muslims are financially successful, but it is Allah who decides on whom He bestows favours. The verses hereunder explain this phenomenon.

“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many Gods. But if ye persevere patiently and guard against evil – then that will be a determining factor in all affairs.” [3:186]

“O ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear God, that ye may prosper.” [3:200]

There are many children who do not develop as fast as others in terms of education. Parents often aspire for their children that which is not within the children’s mental capabilities. Sabr must be exercised by both parents and children in attaining their highest educational levels. Parents must encourage and support their children in achieving the best they can give. But, on the other hand, parents must also accept that all children have different limitations. Some will excel academically. Others will be better in a practical and technical manner, whilst others may be artistic. Talent must be recognised and nurtured. Not all children will become doctors or lawyers, but whatever profession or trade they follow, it is not less important. One must be gracious in accepting that you will not achieve everything in life that you desire.

“Follow thou the inspiration sent unto thee, and be patient and constant, till God do decide: for He is the Best to decide.” [10:109].

Many young adults who complete their schooling or tertiary education yearn for jobs that will yield high salaries. However, it is unlikely that such goals are achievable in the short term. It is important that they must exercise sabr and realise that such goals are more easily achieved in the long term. Skill to do a job is not synonymous with qualifications – the fact that a person is qualified does not necessarily mean that that person is also skilled to do the job. It takes time to learn a skill. By building up experience people become more marketable and capable of earning higher remuneration.

“And be steadfast in patience; for verily God will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish.” [11:115].

It is not common for newly married couples to wish to acquire their own house and when they do so, to furnish it fully. This often results in building debt for items that are not always essential. Couples in the early years of their marriage must prioritise their needs and purchase those items that are necessary and affordable. They must exercise sabr and realise that they have a lifetime to acquire the assets they think they need.

“Patiently then persevere: for the promise of God is true: and ask forgiveness of thy fault, and celebrate the praises of thy Lord in the evening and in the morning.” [40:55]

When married people experience problems in their marriage, as most marriages at some point in its existence does, they hasten to talaaq. Most problems can be solved if there is the will to do so, and couples experiencing marital problems must seek help from outside. There are many sources of help, ranging from welfare workers and religious leaders to specialised organisations. Couples in such situations must have sabr and try to resolve their problems instead of restoring to drastic measures, like talaaq. Talaaq must only be the last resort.

”Therefore do thou hold patience – a patience of beautiful contentment.” [70:5]

There are, of course, many other appropriate examples too numerous to mention.

“Therefore patiently persevere, as did all the Apostles of inflexible purpose; and be in no haste about the believers. On the day that they see the punishment promised them it will be as if they not tarried more than an hour in a single day. Thine is but to proclaim the message; but shall any be destroyed except those who transgress.”[46:35].

In conclusion, Muslims should see the practice of sabr as an integral part of their deen. It is prescribed in the Shari’ah and should be part of the make-up of a Muslim. Failing to have sabr will eventually result in frustrations, and adverse consequences resulting from poor decisions. Parents must inculcate the essence of sabr in the rearing of their children, as it will make them both better individuals and better Muslims. Success in all spheres of life can only be attained if there is sabr.

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