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Patience & Gratitude: Man Cannot Do Without Patience

Monday, June 18th, 2007 in Sabr/Patience, Books

Patience and GratitudeBy Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah

An abridgement of his original work entitled, “Uddat as-Sâbireen wa Dhâkirat ash-Shâkireen” © 1997 TA-HA

Chapter 7: Man cannot do without patience
· Patience at a time of adversity is easier than at a time of ease
· Patience in worship
· Patience in abstaining from committing wrong actions
· Patience in adversity and in situations beyond man’s control
· Patience in situations which are started by choice, but whose consequences get out of hand

At any given moment, a person is in a situation where he has to obey a command of Allâh, or he has to stay away from something which Allâh has prohibited, or he has to accept a decree of Allâh, or he has to give thanks (show gratitude) for a blessing which he has received from Allâh. All of these situations demand patience, so up until the time of death, no-one can do without patience. Whatever happens to us in life is either in accordance with our wishes and desires, or against them. In both cases, patience is required.

If a person enjoys good health, security, power, wealth and fulfillment of his physical desires, he should not assume that this time of ease will last forever, and he should not let his good fortune make him arrogant, extravagant or careless in a way that Allâh does not like. He should not devote all his time, money and energy to the pursuit of physical pleasure, because too much pleasure results pain. He should take care to pay what is due to Allâh in the way of zakât and sadaqah, otherwise Allâh might take away His blessing. He should also abstain from spending money in a harâm way, and be careful to avoid spending it in a makrűh way. All of this takes patience, and nobody can exercise patience at a time of ease except people of very strong faith (as-siddiqűn).

Patience at the time of adversity is easier than at the time of ease

One of the salaf said: “Believers and unbelievers alike may have patience at a time of adversity, but only people of strong faith can have patience at a time of ease.” Therefore Allâh warned against the fitnah of wealth, wives and children: “O you who believe! Let not your riches or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allâh. If any act thus, the loss is their own.” (al-Munâfiqűn 63:9) “O you who believe! Truly, among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves: so beware of them!” (at-Taghâbűn 64:14) The enmity referred to in these âyât is not that which results from hatred and conflict, but that which results from love and care, that might prevent parents from religious duties such as hijrah, jihâd, seeking knowledge and giving sadaqah.

At-Tirmidhî narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that a man asked him (Ibn ‘Abbas) about the ayah quoted above (at-Taghâbűn 64:14). Ibn ‘Abbas told him that this ayah refers to some men of Makkah who embraced Islâm, but when they wanted to migrate to join the Prophet (SAAS) in Madînah, their wives and children prevented them from doing so. Later on, when they eventually joined the Prophet (SAAS) and saw that others had already learned a great deal about Islâm, they wanted to punish their wives and children. So Allâh revealed this ayah: “O you who believe! Truly, among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves: so beware of them!” (at-Taghâbűn 64:14). At-Tirmidhî said that this report is hasan sahîh.

The hadîth, “Children are the cause of cowardliness and stinginess” reflects how much a man may be held back in his pursuit of perfection and success by his wife and children. Once, when the Prophet (SAAS) was delivering a khutbah, he saw Hasan and Husayn walking and stumbling, so he interrupted his speech and went to pick them up, and said: “Indeed, Allâh has spoken the truth when He said: ‘…among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves.’ I saw these two little boys stumbling and I did not have the patience to continue my khutbah, so I stopped and picked them up.” The Prophet (SAAS) did so because of his love for children, and in this way he set an example for his Ummah to show mercy and kindness towards children.

The reason why it is so difficult to exercise patience at a time of ease is because we have a choice regarding how to behave. A hungry person has better patience when he has no access to food, and when food becomes available, his patience weakens. Similarly, it is easier to control one’s sexual desire when no women are around.

Patience in worship

We human beings have a natural aversion to carrying out acts of worship, like salâh, because of our inherent laziness. If a man is hardhearted and commits many wrong actions, thinking too much of physical pleasure and mixing with people who do not remember Allâh, then he can hardly perform his prayers, and if he does not pray he does so absent-mindedly and hurriedly.

Every step of the way, man needs patience in carrying out an act of worship. Before he starts to do it, he must make sure that his intentions are correct. He should check his sincerity, and seek to avoid showing off in performing any act of worship. Whilst he is performing any act of worship, he must try to perfect it, to keep his intentions pure and his mind focused on the purpose of performing that act of worship, namely that it is to please Allâh. After completing an act of worship, he must abstain from doing anything that could corrupt his worship. Allâh has told us: “O you who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or injury” (al-Baqarah 2:264). He should exercise patience in refraining from admitting and feeling proud of his performance, as this is more damaging than committing many other, more visible, wrong actions. Similarly, he should always be discreet and refrain from telling others about his acts of worship.

Patience in abstaining from committing wrong actions

The best way to help oneself abstain from wrong action is to break all bad habits, and forsake all those who encourage one to commit wrong actions. Habits have a strong hold over man’s behaviour, and if habit is accompanied by desires, this means that there are two soldiers of Shaytân fighting the motives of reason and religion, which cannot then withstand them.

Patience in adversity and in situations beyond man’s control

Trials such as the death of a beloved one, sickness, loss of wealth, etc., fall into two types: adversity beyond one’s control, and adversity caused by the actions of another human being, such as slander, beating, etc.

In facing situations that are beyond one’s control, people may have any of the following reactions:

1. feeling helpless and discontented, panicking and complaining.
2. responding with patience, either for the sake of Allâh or as a sign of human strength.
3. accepting and being contented with the situation. This is actually of a higher status than patience.
4. accepting the situation with thanks and gratitude. This is even higher than acceptance, because in this case a person see the adversity as a blessing and thanks Allâh for putting him through it.

Problems and adversity that befall a person at the hands of others may be faced with any of the following reactions:

1. he may choose to forgive and forget.
2. he may decide not to take revenge.
3. he may accept the decree (qadâ’ wa qadr), whilst recognizing that the person who harmed him was a wrongdoer, yet the One Who decreed that this harm should reach him at the hands of the wrongdoer is not a wrongdoer. The harm caused by people is like heat and cold: there is no way to prevent it happening and the one who complains about heat and cold betrays a lack of wisdom. Everything that happens, happens through the decree (qadâ’ wa qadr), even though there are many different ways and means for it to happen.
4. he may treat well the person who mistreated him. This attitude has many advantages and benefits, which nobody can know in their entirety except Allâh.

Patience in situations which are started by choice, but whose consequences get out of hand

For example, love, the start of which may be by choice but the final consequences of which are beyond a person’s control. Similarly, one may expose oneself to the causes of illness and pain (for example, by smoking or taking drugs), after which it is difficult to stop the consequences, and after taking a large amount of intoxicants it is difficult to stop drunkenness. Man should exercise patience and abstain in the first place.



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