What Exactly Is Patience?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam’aleykum,

For years I have been facing severe difficulties especially since my brother passed away. Things always seemed to come my way. But now, I think I am right in saying that I am on the verge of total ruin.

The required response is patience. But what exactly is patience? Should I just do nothing and let everything drift? Is that what patience is?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

Patience is remaining steadfast on what will be pleasing to Allah.

Sayyid Sharif al-Jurjani said that patience is leaving objection— and this is the inward state of the patient. [Jurjani, Ta`rifat] [see: The Qur’an on Patience, Steadfastness, Resolve, Mindfulness, and Success – 3.200]

Allah Most High says, “You who believe, seek help through steadfastness and prayer, for God is with the steadfast.” [2.153] And “You who believe, be steadfast, more steadfast than others; be ready; always be mindful of God, so that you may prosper.” [3.200]

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Patience is illumination.” [Muslim]

Thus patience isn’t passiveness. Rather, there is work, and the believer strives. ​Patience​ comes from having a sense of contentment with the Divine Decree​: realising that t​his is what Allah has destined. Contentment, as Ibn `Ajiba explained, “is to face even destruction with a smiling face” [Ibn `Ajiba, Mi`raj al-Tashawwuf]. Knowing what hit was never going to miss, and what missed was never going to hit. When the servant realises this, his matter becomes easier.

The famous master of the Spiritual Path, Ibn `Ata’illah al-Iskandari, said in one of his aphorisms, “No task is arduous if you seek to fulfil it through your Lord, and no task is facilitated if you seek to fulfil it through yourself.” [Ibn `Ata’illah, al-Hikam]

Tribulations are opportunities of seeking the Divine. By recognising our neediness to Allah, doors open. We are in utter need of Allah at every single moment, and when we forget, oftentimes Allah sends us something to remind us. Seek ​His assistance at every moment, and ask Him for your every need. Follow the Qur’anic advice, and pray the prayer of need nightly. [see: How Does One Perform The Prayer Of Need (salat al-haja)?]

With all of this, strive to increase in remembrance and gratitude. Allah Most High said, “Work thankfully, family of David, for few of my servants are truly thankful.” [34.13]

See also: A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

And Allah alone gives success.


Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Poem: Seeking Knowledge – Novid Shaid

Seeking Knowledge

By Novid Shaid, 1997

All knowledge worth seeking
is like a never-ending dining table
covered with wholesome food.
Some stand gobbling wantonly
Wanting everything at once
While others only nibble
Their taste buds hardly aroused.
Pray let us sit at the table
With attention to manners and grace
Then let us dine with peace and patience
So we can enjoy the full measure of the taste.

SeekersHub Answers on Coping with Stress and Anxiety

Guidance of the Prophet Muhammad on the Virtues of Patience (and Thankfulness) in Tribulation and Hardship

muhammed_arabicThese are a few hadiths of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) on the great honor that trials, hardships, and tribulations can represent for a true believer, and how these are opportunities to exhibit one’s patience, trust, reliance, contentment, and thankfulness to Allah Most High.

34. Anas said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘Allah the Mighty and Exalted says, ‘When I test My slave regarding the two things he loves and he shows fortitude, I repay him for them with the Garden.'” He meant his eyes. [al-Bukhari]

35. ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah said, “Ibn ‘Abbas said to me, ‘Shall I show you a woman who is one of the people of the Garden?’ I replied, ‘Please do.’ He said, ‘This black woman came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, “I have fits during which I expose myself. Pray to Allah Almighty for me.” He said, “If you wish, you can show fortitude and you will receive the Garden, and if you wish, I will pray to Allah Almighty to heal you.” She said, “I will show fortitude.” She said, “I expose myself so pray to Allah that I do not expose myself.” So he prayed for her.'” [Agreed upon]

36. Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud said, “It is as if I could still see the Messenger of Allah talking about one of the Prophets, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon them, whose people beat him, making his blood flow. While he was wiping the blood from his face, he said, ‘O Allah, forgive my people. They do not know.'” [Agreed upon]

37. Abu Sa’id and Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his mistakes by it.” [Agreed upon]

38. Ibn Mas’ud said, “I visited the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when he had a fever. I said, “Messenger of Allah, you have a very high fever!’ He replied, ‘Yes. I have the fever of two of you.’ I asked, ‘Is that because you will have two rewards?’ He said, ‘Yes, it is like that. No Muslim is afflicted by harm, whether it is a thorn or something worse, without Allah expiating his evil deeds on that account and his sins fall away from him like leaves from a tree.'” [Agreed upon]

39. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “When Allah desires good for someone, He afflicts him.” [Al-Bukhari]

Source: Chapter on Steadfastness (sabr) from Imam Nawawi’s Gardens of the Righteous (tr. Ayesha Bewley)