The Patience of the Faithful
And be steadfast. Allah does not let the wage of good-doers go to waste.(Surah Hud, 115)
As we have seen, there are very significant differences between the believers' patience and that of a large section of society. The faithful regard patience as a method of drawing closer to Allah and live it as a form of worship ordered by the Qur'an. The Qur'an details this fine moral characteristic of the faithful, as follows:
Their patience is founded on trusting Allah
Most people show patience at times of severe misfortune when nothing else can be done. However, this type of patience has nothing to do with true patience. They can endure only when faced with misfortune, and do so only because they do not consider everything as a test from Allah, a test in which are concealed divine blessings or benefits. They make their spiritual state obvious by complaining about the problem and making various facial expressions. Until the situation ends, they cannot be rescued from their negative spiritual state.
The believers' true patience, however, is very different from mere endurance. They are aware that Allah creates whatever happens to them for a reason, and that therefore it contains some hidden benefit. Knowing that Allah has determined the best possible destiny for them, they meet everything with pleasure and an open heart. Allah tells the faithful to adopt this attitude in the following verse: "Those who are steadfast and put their trust in their Lord" (Surat al-'Ankabut, 59).
No matter what the circumstances, the faithful do not complain or whine. In addition, Allah points out that His creation of difficulty together with ease is His immutable law: "For truly with hardship comes ease; truly with hardship comes ease" (Surat al-Inshirah, 5-6).
Allah reminds His servants of another important fact: "Allah does not impose on any self any more than it can bear" (Surat al-Baqara, 286). Allah tests everybody through the difficulties with which they can cope. Thus, if people experience problems, it is a certain truth that Allah has given them the strength to endure patiently.
Aware of such verses, the faithful do not regard patience as "suffering through a misfortune." They know that even if their troubles never end, these are concealed blessings and that the patient will be granted the finest returns in the afterlife. Thus, they are never overcome by troubles; rather, they pray to Allah to lighten their load in the knowledge that only Allah can overcome a problem, for He is the One Who sent it in the first place. They take refuge in Him and seek His help:
"Our Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord, do not place on us a load like the one You placed on those before us. Our Lord, do not place on us a load that we have not the strength to bear. Pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our Master, so help us against the unbelievers." (Surat al-Baqara, 286)
Their patience is lasting
"But, in your Lord's sight, right actions that are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope." (Surat al-Kahf, 46)
People who practice the non-Qur'anic version of patience cannot experience patience as a continual and stable element of morality. One day they may show patience, but the next day they may show impatience.
But the faithful, who experience patience as an instruction of Allah and a requirement of their religion, never deviate from it. They strive to live their entire lives in a manner that pleases Allah and earns His approval as a result of their steadfast morality. Clearly, the behavior most pleasing to Allah is that of patience and steadfastness in all circumstances, because He tells us in the Qur'an that "right actions that are lasting" are more blessed.
In another verse, Allah gives the faithful the following instruction:
"Restrain yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, desiring His face." (Surat al-Kahf, 28)
Thus by conforming to this verse, the faithful display unceasing patience to earn Allah's approval.
They are patient for Allah's approval
Those who do not live by the Qur'anic morality hope that they will be rewarded for their temporary display of patience. When this does not happen, in their own words "their patience runs out," because they are patient only for worldly benefits. They forget about earning Allah's approval and that they will be held accountable for their actions on the Day of Judgment. Allah informs His servants of this secret: "Or did you imagine that you were going to enter the Garden without Allah knowing those among you who had struggled and knowing the steadfast?" (Surah Al 'Imran, 142). Those who are patient in order to win Allah's approval will enter Paradise, whereas those who are patient only in hopes of worldly benefit will be deprived of this fine reward that Allah promises.
Believers, who are guided by the Qur'an and thus are aware of this fact, show patience only to earn Allah's approval. They expect no material reward. This attribute is stressed in one verse, as follows:
Those who are steadfast in seeking the face of their Lord. (Surat ar-Ra'd, 22)
Their patience is joyful, willing, and wholehearted
The faithful display great patience when facing any difficulty, when carrying out fully the Qur'an's teachings, and by demonstrating the most steadfast morality under all circumstances. One reason why they can display this moral excellence at all times is because they understand that their most important task is to carry out Allah's commands. Thus they adhere joyfully and willingly to the Qur'an's morality. And, as a result, the knowledge that they will gain Allah's love, mercy, and assistance ensures that they will easily overcome any difficulty and will show patience at all times.
In one verse, Allah invites His servants to patience with the expression "be patient for your Lord." This ensures that they will adhere to His morality willingly no matter what may occur. Another reason for their display of wholehearted patience is that Allah informs us of His "love of the patient" (Surah Al 'Imran, 146).
Moreover, Allah has revealed "Peace be upon you because of your steadfastness! How wonderful is the Ultimate Abode!" (Surat ar-Ra'd, 24) to let the patient know that they will receive a fine reward on the Day of Judgment.
All of these blessings ensure that the faithful will live in patience with great joy and desire.
Their patience is never shaken
People whose fear and consciousness of Allah, as well as their faith in Him, are weak may modify their behavior according to other people or their surroundings or circumstances. They may behave well toward other people from whom they think they can benefit while displaying exactly the opposite behavior toward those whom they do not know or look down upon. For example, in societies that are far from religion, a shopkeeper who shows an exaggerated respect and interest toward a wealthy customer is a quite common sight. If such a customer causes difficulties or is capricious or condescending, the shopkeeper tolerates it all. But this same shopkeeper might not act as tolerantly when faced with even a justified request from a customer who might have only limited means. Moreover, such people who behave well toward others when life is good may change character completely when they are facing hardship. So long as a friend entertains them or provides them with opportunities, they behave very well. However, if that person falls on hard times and cannot help or entertain them as before, they may then become impatient.
This fickleness is due to their decision, conscious or otherwise, to build their moral values not upon the Qur'an's conception of morality but upon their own primitive understanding and benefits. In contrast, the faithful live out the Qur'an's morality, which is based on a fundamental faith solely to earn Allah's approval. Thus nothing in this world can cause them to lose their patience, which is one facet of their noble character. In contrast to other people, the faithful maintain their outstanding patience even in times of difficulty and hardship.
The Qur'an draws attention to this superior morality, as follows:
It is not devoutness to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, those with true devoutness are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the Prophets; who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives, orphans, the very poor, travellers, beggars, and to free slaves; and who establish prayer and pay alms; those who honour their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true. They are the people who guard against evil. (Surat al-Baqara, 177)
As this verse shows, Allah states that patience during hard times is a condition of true virtue. The faithful conform to this teaching and exhibit patience whenever they are confronted with hardship.
Their patience opens the way to superior morality
Since the faithful regard patience as a form of worship, their patience gives them several other fine characteristics, as follows:
The steadfast, the truthful, the obedient, the givers, and those who seek forgiveness before dawn. (Surah Al 'Imran, 17)
In another verse, Allah defines the faithful as "Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people" (Surah Al 'Imran, 134). All of these characteristics can be experienced only through a heartfelt acceptance of the Qur'anic concept of true patience.
Overcoming anger and remaining calm over a long period of time is possible only by exercising patience. Those who help people even when they themselves are experiencing hardship can do so only because they are patient for the sake of Allah. They behave this way because they know that helping others at such times will help them earn Allah's approval. The ability of a just person to pardon an unjust one also is a characteristic of true patience.
In the same way, lifelong obedience to Allah's commands and prohibitions is possible only through patience. The faithful display decisiveness in self-sacrifice, goodwill, modesty, forgiveness, honesty, loyalty, and affection, and live out these moral characteristics through patience.
As we have seen, patience opens the road for the faithful to a superior morality of which Allah approves. For the faithful, living this morality earns His endless blessing and a place in Paradise. There can be no finer salvation.
Their patience is an intelligent patience
It would be a serious mistake to think that the believers' patience is only a matter of waiting to remove obstacles and overcome difficulties without making any effort. On the contrary, Allah instructs them to make every effort to secure the people's tranquility and comfort by making full use of their minds, consciences, and opportunities. For this reason, they maintain a heartfelt patience in the face of troubles, and yet strive with all their might to remove the source(s) of the problem.
For example, finishing an urgent task may give rise to incorrect behavior in impatient people. In particular, many people become very angry at the prospect of losing a large expected profit through human error, for they do not consider the possibility that this could be a hidden blessing. Believers, in contrast, trust Allah no matter how great the loss may be, and continue to be serene and at ease. However, they also take all of the precautions they can to prevent this from happening again. They warn the person(s) who made the mistake, turn it over to a more qualified person, or take even more precautions.
People who are unaware of the Qur'an's concept of patience regard patience as a matter of simply waiting without making any effort. In fact, they consider such helpless behavior as extremely virtuous. Allah, in contrast, encourages people to overcome their difficulties by exhibiting patience and using their minds, consciences, and material resources. Several verses draw our attention to such facts, such as in the case of those who migrated from Makka to Madina, as follows:
But to those who emigrated after they were persecuted and then strove and remained steadfast, to them your Lord is All-Compassionate, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nahl, 110)
In addition to this, while taking active measures in the face of difficulties, believers also continue to pray to Allah for assistance, for this is what the Qur'an tells them to do, as follows:
When they came out against Talut and his troops, they said: "Our Lord, pour down steadfastness upon us, make our feet firm, and help us against this unbelieving people." (Surat al-Baqara, 250)
As can be seen, the patience of the faithful is an intelligent patience. Such behavior will receive the finest reward in Allah's presence.
In patience, the faithful know no limits and compete with one another
As stated in "No indeed! Truly man is unbridled, seeing himself as self-sufficient" (Surat al-'Alaq, 6-7), the faithful know that regarding themselves as competent in any field leads to excess and conceit. Thus they do not consider themselves competent even if they perform some tasks perfectly. Throughout their lives, they strive to develop themselves and achieve a finer, better behavior.
Behind these sincere efforts lies their attachment to and love of our Lord, and their fear and consciousness of Him. Since their greatest aim is to achieve His love and approval, they try to live according to the spirit and the letter of the Qur'an's teachings. Aware that they can never be adequate in such a task, they always strive to put even more effort into adhering to His teachings in this life.
They know that the amount of effort they make will earn a commensurate reward in Allah's presence and that, to this extent, they can easily be united with His blessings. With the words, "Race each other to forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden [i.e., Paradise] as wide as the heavens and the Earth, prepared for the people who guard against evil." (Surah Al 'Imran, 133), Allah urges the faithful to compete in good with each other in order to gain His approval and a place in Paradise. One of these matters is patience, as we read: "O you who believe, be steadfast; be supreme in steadfastness" (Surah Al 'Imran, 200). In such cases, the faithful know that they will earn Allah's love and closeness to Him, and so compete with one another to display their best behavior. The believers are patient regardless of their circumstances and, trusting in our Lord, show their determination through their consistent behavior. Even when confronted with totally unexpected developments, such as being forced to live in the streets or a shelter because their houses have burned down, they do not complain or think "if only it had not happened." They understand that Allah has sent a hidden blessing to them, and so live in the tranquility that this understanding brings. They continue this behavior even if faced with another event that makes their situation even worse. In short, no matter what terrible difficulties they may face, they race each other to patience, as Allah has ordered.
They encourage one another to be patient
In the verse: "Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success" (Surah Al 'Imran: 104), Allah instructs the faithful to divert one another from evil by advising what is good and guiding one another toward positive behavior. In line with this, the faithful spend their lives calling upon one another to follow the Qur'an in full and to avoid all that Allah has forbidden. In particular, they encourage patience, because they know that those who adhere to the morality that Allah loves will reach Paradise, while others will be condemned to the torment of Hell. Therefore, they want all who are faithful to earn the right to enter Paradise as much as they desire their own salvation. For this reason, they call on the faithful to be patient in all their acts of worship and while going about their daily lives. The Qur'an gives the example of this when our Prophet (saas) and his companion were in the cave on their way to Madina:
If you do not help him, Allah helped him when the unbelievers drove him out and there were two of them in the cave. He said to his companion, "Do not be despondent, for Allah is with us." Then Allah sent down His serenity upon him. (Surat at-Tawba, 40)
Even while hiding under extremely difficult conditions from people who might have killed him, the Prophet (saas) reminded his companion of Allah's assistance. All Muslims should learn from and follow this example. Guiding one another toward patience by mentioning the strength and assistance of Allah whatever the circumstances may be indicates superior morality.
The Qur'an refers to such people as "the Companions of the Right":
[Have We not] shown him the two highways? But he has not braved the steep ascent. What will convey to you what the steep ascent is? It is freeing a slave or feeding on a day of hunger, an orphaned relative or a poor man in the dust; then to be one of those who believes and urge each other to steadfastness and compassion. Those are the Companions of the Right. (Surat al-Balad, 10-18)