PATIENCE is that trait of character,which only gets invoked in adversity. Since true character emerges only in contradiction, therefore, it is of essence, that only those can claim to possession of this virtue, who when faced with difficulties or opposing point of view, are able to contain negativism and absorb pain, without complaints. It, therefore, also follows that patience is silent. Loud and vulgar claims of being “patient” are in conflict of the virtue. Patience needs no verbal expression. It is exercised without self-recognition, since it is an intrinsic and integral part of character and self. The Holy Quran is replete with verses exhorting mankind to exercise patience in suffering, as it’s stated in one of the Ayat; “InAllahaa Maa-as-Sabireen” (God is with those who are patient).
The prophetic traditions alluring to patience as a major facet of one’s character are a plenty. He was truly a paragon and ultimate standard of being a patient individual. He withstood, with bravery, laced with hitherto unknown quality of patience to the Meccans, their persecution and insult. If the call of Islam would have been devoid of patience as its essential article of faith, the religion would not have spread from the shores of Atlantic to archipelagoes of the Pacific. We often confuse and use interchangeably the concept of patience and tolerance. They are not the same. These virtues are distinct and mutually exclusive. Patience is a quality that can be exercised by both the powerful and the powerless; while tolerance in contradiction means that whilst possessing power to respond or retaliate, the individual exercises restraint or in other words refuses to use either dejure authority or defacto power. Khalil Gibran, the noted Lebanese writer (he was not a Muslim) beautifully crafted this sentence, which reads, “…I have planted my pain, in the fields of patience….” If ‘suffering’ and ‘enduring’ were not solid tools of chiseling character, then, Allah Subhanahu Taala, who is the most Merciful, would not have chosen to test, His apostles with pain and torture, caused to them by their own communities. Jonah’s oft repeated prayer of patience delivered him from the belly of the fish. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was both patient and tolerant, to the woman who used to throw garbage on him. Almost all prophets underwent severe hardships, but because they were blessed with boundless reservoir of patience, they all passed through it and came out of their typical circumstances basking victoriously in the glow of the quality of their patience.
Patience or ‘Sabr’ is the quality of being steadfast in the face of adversity and torture. It is that unyielding faith one must harbor in the Creator, that, He shall protect his people from any ill designs laid out. The Quran defines patience as one of the paths that lead people from darkness to light and as an attribute of morality that is superior to, wide ranging and very different from the daily behavior of many people. True patience is a moral characteristic displayed in the face of difficulty and in every moment of life. Moreover it requires the demonstration of determination and consistency during times of ease and hardship, and is a lifelong endeavor that never goes astray. Allah gives the most striking examples of patience in the lives of the prophets, because they exercise patience while teaching Allah’s religion and leading a moral life. They never deviated from their devotion to Almighty and were patient people who sought only His approval. The Quran tells us that Allah loves those who trust Him and show patience in all circumstances.
“How many of the prophets fought (in God’s way) and with them (fought) large bands of Godly men? But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in God’s way, nor did they weaken (in will) or give in. and Allah loves those who are firm and steadfast. (Chp 3, verse 146) Allah reminds us that all people will be tried and tested in life, and calls upon Muslims to bear these trials with “patient perseverance and prayer.” Indeed, Allah reminds us that many people before us have suffered and had their faith tested; so too will we be tried and tested in this life. “No one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of the greatest good fortune.” (41:35) Patience, as well as being a practical solution to the problems faced in the outside world, is also a means of positive character building. One who fails to exercise patience, gives free rein to negative thoughts and feelings, develops a personality which is likewise negative while one who remains patient is so morally bolstered by his own positive thoughts and feelings that he develops a positive personality. It is narrated that during the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet’s incisor was broken. His lower lip was ruptured, and he had a bleeding wound on his forehead. He was constantly drying up the blood to keep it from falling upon the ground, saying, “If any of this blood falls on the ground, Divine Punishment would descend upon them [the Quraysh].” The situation weighed on the Companions, and they implored, “Why do you not pray against them?” He replied, “I have not been sent to damn people. I have been sent as a caller and a mercy. O, God! Forgive my people for they know no better.” Such is the character of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) where nobility and patience are the hallmark of his persona.
It indeed offers a great lesson for the Muslim Ummah to follow, a virtue which is much extolled and repeated in the Holy Quran and in the teachings of all the prophets, that in order to partake of the blessings of Allah one must submit oneself to His will with utmost patience. We must purge ourselves of grudges, vengeance, envy for each other. The tendency to lose one’s calm at the slightest of provocation must be reigned in. As Muslims we have flawless examples to follow in the shape of the invincible chain of prophets. Although difficult, to emulate them in character, but we must strive to raise ourselves close to their characters. This world is but a temporary abode and feeding into the vices against each other will not offer us any eternal peace or reward. As true followers of Holy Prophet (PBUH) we must conquer our mortal weaknesses and serve as examples to the rest of the world.
— The writer is a senior banker with interest in Religion.