Spiritual Activism Riad Saloojee

13 – With the Patience of a Saint

Yet another Divine Name representing Divine beauty is al-Sabur, the Patient.  To emphasize the magnitude of the quality of patience at the Divine level, the name is formed on an intensive Arabic morphological scale: the Divine is al-Sabur and not merely al-Sabir.

In relation to the Divine, this name informs us that Allah chooses not to react immediately in meeting out consequences when His norms of justice and equity have been transgressed and violated.  If He did, Divine justice would obliterate us all.  The Qur’an states: If Allah punished humankind for their injustice, He would not have left any creature on earth (16:61).

The Divine grants respite but does not forget.

As human beings, we are meant to adorn our characters with this attribute of Divine beauty. Indeed, patience is one of the most exhorted and repeated virtues in the Qur’an, mentioned over 90 times. 

Why this tremendous emphasis? Well, as we have learned, the purpose of Islamic spirituality is the reformation and purification of the lower self (nafs) to free the heart (qalb) and allow it to experience, desire and strive for the Divine – to find its true liberation and happiness.

Patience is an essential virtue in this quest. To struggle against the inclinations of the lower self (nafs), demands patience, as does the acquisition of every other virtuous characteristic.  There is no truthfulness, generosity, forbearance, justice and wisdom, for example, without patience.

In summary then, one could define patience as our struggle in enduring what the lower self (nafs) finds displeasing and difficult. 

There are three types of patience: patience in performing the prescribed and beneficial; in refraining from the prohibited and harmful; and in accepting the Divine decrees of trials and tribulations. And this encompasses all of life itself.  Perhaps this is why the reward of patience is so momentous: It is a secret, unseen worship of the heart.  The Divine states that the patient will have their reward without measure (39:10).

Without patience, we will never realize our purpose of existence, the vicegerency (khilafa) of the Divine. We will be unable to inculcate the Divine Names and Attributes at our human level and project those in our dealings with creation.   To the degree that I lack patience is the degree to which I will fall short in being a true representative of the Divine.

The implications of the presence of patience or its deficiency in the field of activism are clear and rational.  How can I remain true to my values and principles, enjoining what is virtuous and beneficial without practicing patience? How can I summon the internal strength to remain distant from that which is injurious and unethical without patience? And how can I respond to the numerous pressures, externally and internally, with elegance and grace without patience?  I can’t and won’t.

Without patience, I am reactionary, hasty, haphazard; preferring my petty politics over principle, preferring what is immediate and short-sighted; and giving priority to the sympathies and antipathies  of my lower self (nafs) over the unity and stability of the collective good. 

How often is my impatient activism really simply a tantrum to realize the childish demands of my lower self (nafs) – now, now, now.


There is no inherent disconnect or contradiction between Islamic Spirituality and social or political activism.  In fact, Islamic spirituality is not only relevant but essential to all forms of activism.  This podcast with Shaykh Riad Saloojee will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism where activism achieves what it was always meant to be: a vehicle for nearness to the Divine through genuine individual and social ethical change.  

This series will comprise of seven discussions that will explore 1. The foundations of Islamic spirituality; 2. The spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism; 3. The ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality; 4. The laws that govern activism; 5. The importance of “inner,” spiritual activism for beneficial “outer” activism; 6. Vignettes from Prophetic activism; and 7. An application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.


For more podcasts by SeekersGuidance, visit SeekersGuidance.org/podcasts.