Developing your patience means developing your character – creating calm, inner peace, control and foresight. As we remove what prevents our desire from ruling us by exercising self control through patience, we create a soul that is not rushed by here and now, but that feels the calm of timelessness.
What is the meaning of Patience (Sabr)? As a child we are taught to be patient so that we can arrive at something we want. We reinforce this training by telling our own children when we don’t want to buy something they want straight away “soon, soon, be patient and you will get it soon.” I’ve heard myself say this to my Son several times. Children are smart and after only a few times of hearing this response he would reply: “Patience, patience, when is the end of patience!”
This brings us to the essential quality of Patience – timelessness. Patience has no boundaries, no limits. It is the refinement of the human soul, because our souls are trapped in our very limited bodies. Patience is a connection with our eternal soul and a true realization of its place in the grand scheme of God. This timeless quality is connected in the Quran with the eternity of the gardens of paradise:
“Peace be upon you for that you preserved in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!” (Quran 13:24)
The practical meaning of this is that a person cannot expect the result he/she desires at a certain point. Patience does not have an end and therefore the end that we desire (and are patiently awaiting) must be put aside. In essence the person must trust in God and have faith that whatever is occurring (or is not) is better that way in a plan of God.
We cannot at some point declare that we have been patient enough and become frustrated with God. This is the ultimate failure. If God places a person in a position of need, He opens the door of opportunity for the person to obtain Paradise, something much greater than whatever that person must be hoping for, for paradise contain the vision of God.
If we are to go on being patient without expecting an end, then the question arises as to how to we control the anticipation while we are patiently waiting. So that a person does not break his/hear fast of patience, he/she needs to exercise self-control. Just like fasting, where a person prevents himself from going to the fridge, no matter how thirsty he/she feels, the patient person holds his anger, desperation, fear, anticipation, eagerness or excitation with himself. This containment is linked intricately with self-control, something built up by fasting. The Prophet (SA) said: “Fasting is half of patience.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat – 86), proving this link and teaching us how to develop our patience, something emphasized in the Quran.
So in order to achieve the self-restraint required, the goal, whether it be our next meal or our next luxury car, should be placed out of the part of us that desires the now and into the part of us that is satisfied with the decree of God and knows that the thing desired will come, either in this life or the next, if we but trust in Him.
Developing your patience means developing your character – creating calm, inner peace, control and foresight. As we remove what prevents our desire by ruling us by exercising self-control through patience, we create a soul that is not rushed by here and now, but that feels the calm of timelessness. Whereas it is hard to appreciate what you already have, patience can tell you to appreciate what you don’t have, that we need not worry about things beyond our control and that we can achieve peace by leaving these decisions and concerns to God. This is why Islam (Submission to God) is linked so closely to Salam (peace). By trusting God and being Patient he nears himself to you:
“Those of faith! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer: for God is definitely with those of patience.” (Quran 2:153)
Patience is something we can share with each other. As mentioned above being patience leads to calmness and tranquility in our character and these are infectious qualities, just as anger and frustration are infectious. If you have ever seen someone with true light (nur) on their face, you will realize that it is difficult for your own soul not to feel this immediately as well. In fact, we should try and outdo each other in our patience:
“O you who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; compete in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and revere God; that you may truly succeed.” (Quran 3:200)
Never forget, no matter how patient you become, to make thanks to God for the gift of patience that He has given you. God commands the Prophet to be Patience: “And be patience, for your patience if from God.” (Quran 16:126) The verse indicates that any other course (other than patience) if not from Him.
When facing an immense challenge and impossible odds, David and his soldiers prayed:
“Our Lord! Pour patience over us, make our steps firm (with resolution) and aid us (in the struggle against) those that reject faith.” (Quran 2:250)
May God answer this prayer for us and make us among those that never swerve from patience. Amin!