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What is the meaning of patience (sabr)?


Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

Patience (sabr) means perseverance while facing difficulties. There are two types of patience; patience in obeying Allah’s command while keeping away from the prohibited acts and patience in accepting Allah’s fate. Among those, the best level of patience is the first one (patience in obeying Allah’s command while keeping away from the prohibited acts) as it is harder to apply rather than in accepting Allah’s fate.

Patience is one of the level in worshipping Allah according to Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaah, and in fact the highest of them. Allah mentions the word ‘patience’ more than 90 times in many different verses in the Quran. Sometimes, He praises the attribute of patience itself. Sometimes, He praises those who have patience while granting a special place for them. In Islam, patience itself has three levels:

  • Patience in doing ibadah (worship)
  • Patience in refraining self from ma’siah (sin)
  • Patience in accepting Allah’s fate

The highest level of patience is patience in doing ibadah. It is considered as the highest level because when you start doing ibadah, then you have to have patience in doing it as well as be consistent with it. It is so that the ibadah will be done in the most perfect form wholeheartedly while observing the pillars.

Patience in refraining oneself from ma’siah is when your heart tells you to do bad deeds and drag you towards the path of sin, but you persevere, having faith in Allah with firm belief that there are rewards for those who keep away from the path of sins.

Meanwhile, patience in accepting the fate of Allah means believe that there is always a wisdom behind what is fated in one’s life and those are meant to either elevate you into a higher position in the eyes of Allah, or to forgive all of your sins.

When all of these are understood, we can see that one of the attributes of a true worshipper of Allah is to remain patient while strengthening their faith in Him. Syeikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah once was asked: “In what way does leaders acquire their power according to Islam?” He answered: “By patience and strong believe in Allah. Have you heard of this verse?”

وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُوا ۖوَكَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ

“And We made from among them leaders guiding by Our command when they were patient and [when] they were certain of Our signs.”

Surah al-Sajdah (24)

The righteous servants of Allah will be tested with all sorts of tribulations. Some are tested with loss of property, some with loss of one’s rationality and intellect. Some lose their physical body functions. Some are even tested with the loss of their child; being kidnapped or pass away or gone missing and never return. Some are tested with insults or slander that threaten their dignity and self-worth when they are accused with wrong accusations. However, they persevere with patience and believe that rewards are kept in the Hereafter and only Allah will grant them with such. Allah tells the stories of those who have strong patience and faith in Allah and His rewards. Allah praises them saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ

“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.”

Surah al-Baqarah (153)

May Allah grant us the true understanding in religion.