When The Faithful Show Patience?
Except for those who are steadfast and do right actions. They will receive forgiveness and a large reward. (Surah Hud, , 11)
So far, we have described the Qur'anic understanding of patience and have highlighted how it differs from the understanding held by those who are far from religion. In this section, we will explain what believers are patient with by comparing their behavior with the impatience of the unbelievers.
However, before going into detail on this matter, we should be aware of the fact that Allah tests His servants by sending troubles to them at a time of His choosing. This may be a momentary or a long-term test, but one thing is certain: In the afterlife, regardless of what they faced while in this world, the finest life is the one lived by those who are faithful to Allah. Allah announces this in the following verse:
Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and recompense them according to the best of what they did. (Surat an-Nahl, 97)
The faithful are patient when Allah tests them and, as a result, receive His help in their effort to overcome these problems. He eases the believers' tasks and helps them, as follows:
Allah will certainly help those who help Him—Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj, 40)
In the coming pages, we will analyze the principal circumstances during which the faithful, with Allah's support, exhibit patience.
Following their consciences
Allah created each person with a conscience to let him or her know what is right and wrong in all situations. This conscience calls upon people to think in the manner that pleases Allah and behave in the manner that will earn His approval. Every person also has a lower self that urges them to follow their whims and desires. However, believers always display a sure determination to ignore their lower selves by listening only to their consciences, even if their lower self calls them to something that appears more attractive and more appealing.
Throughout their lives, the faithful make this judgment call and then select the most correct attitude. In daily life, this can mean ignoring the lower self's urging to behave selfishly by following the conscience's advice to be self-sacrificing. In the case of finishing an important task or when faced with many things at the same time, it may require a person to assist somebody who needs even more help at that specific time. Or it may require the faithful to share something that they need with someone who needs it even more, or even to give it to that person. Those who obey their conscience exhibits good behavior without hesitation. In other words, they do whatever they can to help others who need assistance. The Qur'an gives an example of this morality, as follows:
Those who were already settled in the abode and in faith, before they came, love those who emigrated to them. They do not find in their hearts any need for what they have been given, and prefer them [the emigrants] to themselves, even if they themselves are needy. Those people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves are successful. (Surat al-Hashr, 9)
This behavior of the faithful, as depicted in the Qur'an, is the result of the extreme patience they display while following their consciences.
Ignoring Satan's wiles
When Allah created Prophet Adam (as), He required all angels to prostrate to him. However, Iblis rebelled against Allah's order and refused to do so.
Faced with Satan's rebellion, Allah cast him out of Paradise and declared him cursed until the end of time. But Satan demanded that Allah allow him to tempt people to loose themselves in the allures of this world until the Day of Judgment, when they would be resurrected. Allah granted this, but also declared that Satan would have no power over His faithful servants:
He [Satan] said: "My Lord, because You misled me, I will make things on Earth seem good to them, and I will mislead them all, every one of them, except those of Your servants among them who are sincere." He [Allah] said: "This is a Straight Path to Me. You have no authority over any of My servants, except for the misguided who follow you." (Surat al-Hijr, 39-42)
As can be seen, after Adam (as) was created, Satan began working to tempt people to stray from Allah's path. Thus, the faithful are responsible for showing patience by their continual awareness of the traps that Satan sets for them and their refusal to yield to his whispering.
Satan approaches all people with a variety of illusions and deceits. People may encounter his plots quite often in their daily lives, for Satan meets them in unexpected places. He provides them with false hopes and fears, all of which are designed to lead people into heedlessness, idleness, and postponing good works. For example, those who are trying to help the poor for Allah's approval may face such suggestions as: "If you spend what you have, later on you will have problems." Or, Satan may try to make people forget a task that will benefit Islam and the Muslims. However, they must not forget that "Satan's scheming is always feeble." (Surat an-Nisa', 76).
Satan cannot influence those who display patience in maintaining their faith in our Lord, because Allah has declared that Satan can deceive and divert only those who rebel against Allah, as he himself did. In "If an evil impulse from Satan provokes you, seek refuge in Allah. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing" (Surat al-A'raf, 200), Allah calls on the faithful to take refuge in Him from Satan's wiles and deceptions.
The faithful who follow this advice spend their lives fighting Satan's games and tricks, for they understand that just as Satan's whispering is a full-time job designed to lead people to Hell, it is their full-time job to resist his whispering. If they feel any hesitation or slackness about doing something that will bring good, they take refuge in Allah and concentrate on the task with great enthusiasm. Such an understanding is mentioned in the following verse:
As for those who believe, when they are bothered by visitors from Satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-A'raf, 201)
Heeding Allah's advice, "O you who believe, seek help in steadfastness and prayer. Allah is with the steadfast" (Surat al-Baqara, 153), in order to guard themselves against Satan, they ask for our Lord's help and set their faces against Satan's deceptions, saying:
Say: "My Lord, I seek refuge with You from the goadings of the devils, and I seek refuge with You, my Lord, from their presence." (Surat al-Mu'minun, 97-98)
Unceasing adherence to a steadfast morality
Allah has placed upon everybody the responsibility for heeding the Qur'an and living out its superior morality. Thus, on the Day of Judgment people will be asked if they have followed the Qur'an's morality or not. Everyone who has ever lived, and who will ever live, has been advised of this truth and invited to conform to the morality that pleases Allah. But the only people who heed this call are those who have faith.
In those communities that are far from religion, some people may live out certain aspects of the Qur'an's morality, such as being self-sacrificing, kindhearted, merciful, just, and benevolent. But no matter how moral they claim to be, there will be moments when they display impatience. For example, a person may be late for an important business meeting for a variety of reasons, and then get caught in a traffic jam while trying to reach the meeting place. He might not be able to call his office in time to let them know that he will be late, and he might have missed the meeting by the time he finally arrives. Thus he might respond angrily or just glare and remain silent if someone else asks him a question at that very time. Even though the person in question might consider himself helpful and understanding, in such circumstances he shows that this is not the case all the time by saying that "his patience has run out."
People who do not live the Qur'an's morality are often plunged into unnecessary anger when confronted with certain events. For example, a secretary may forget to send a very important message, a child may break the most valuable object in the house, a wife may have an accident with the car that her husband has been making payments on for years, or a relative may visit at an inconvenient time, and so on. These are common occurrences, and those who do not display the Qur'an's morality might slip into rather unpleasant behavior. The reason for such behavior is their inability to show patience in living by the values that Allah prescribed.
Only those who possess the superior morality portrayed in the Qur'an can always display true patience. Their most important characteristic is the unchanging nature of their behavior. For example, one might have a very strong temper, but upon learning that Allah refers to believers as "those who control their rage and pardon other people" (Surah Al 'Imran, 134), he or she exhibits forgiving behavior even when faced with an event that normally might cause them to become angry. Whatever may happen, believers continue to speak pleasantly, remain tolerant, control their anger, and show other fine moral characteristics taught by the Qur'an.
In short, what makes the believers' character superior is their consistency and patience at all times, both of which enable them to live by their high morality. The faithful try to display consistency as long as they are alive not only in pardoning other people but also in displaying self-sacrifice, humility, compassion, kindheartedness, tolerance, justice, love, and respect, and by exercising their free will, because Allah tells the faithful to be consistent in their worship: "He is Lord of the heavens and Earth and everything in between them, so worship Him and persevere in His worship" (Surah Maryam, 65).
Another command of Allah is to answer evil with good. The Qur'an tells the faithful to distance themselves from evil as best they can by remaining patient, as follows:
A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend. None will obtain it but those who are truly steadfast. None will obtain it but those who have great good fortune. (Surah Fussilat, 34-35)
As a result of this patience and determination shown by the faithful, Allah gives them the finest reward for what they have done, and allows them to enter Paradise. He gives this news in the following verse:
What is with you runs out, but what is with Allah goes on forever. Those who were steadfast will be recompensed according to the best of what they did. (Surat an-Nahl, 96)
Fearing nothing but Allah
People who have not grasped Allah's power and greatness are vulnerable to innumerable fears, among them the fear of other people, the dark, or certain numbers or colors, believing that they have an independent power of their own.
Meanwhile, the faithful know that only Allah has power and that nobody can harm or help anybody else without His permission. They are aware of the fact that no people or creatures can have power that is independent of Allah, and that everything owes its existence to Him. If they encounter some harm, they believe wholeheartedly that only our Lord can remove it. Allah tells the faithful to fear nothing but Him, as follows:
It was only Satan frightening you through his friends. But do not fear them—fear Me, if you are believers. (Surah Al 'Imran, 175)
Due to their firm belief and trust in Him, the faithful experience no sadness or depression when confronted with frightening or intimidating events. Oppression or limitations do not cause them to swerve in their devotion to Him and their striving to earn His approval. The Qur'an explains this attribute, as follows:
Those to whom people said: "The people have gathered against you, so fear them." But that merely increased their faith, and they said: "Allah is enough for us, and [He is] the Best of Guardians." (Surah Al 'Imran, 173)
As this verse indicates, even if the faithful are faced with pressure, they fear only Allah and show their patience by not abandoning their faith. Allah has declared that He will test His servants with fear to separate the true believers from those who have weak—or no—faith. In exchange for this, He gives the following good news to those who remain patient in their faith:
We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger and the loss of wealth, life, and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast. (Surat al-Baqara, 155)
When faced with property damage
Allah has decorated the life of this world with many beautiful things and has created an environment from which people can derive pleasure. They are required to use the blessings showered on them in the best possible way, without becoming passionately attached to them. They realize that whatever people acquire here will remain here, and that they will have to account for their use of these blessings in our Lord's presence on the Day of Judgment. Those who understand that everything is a gift from Allah and show gratitude to Him will be rewarded, while those who forget the Day of Judgment, and so try to seize these blessings for themselves with greed, will suffer disappointment.
In the Qur'an, Allah lists some of the many blessings that He has granted to people, as follows:
To mankind, the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colors: women and children, heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, horses with fine markings, and livestock and fertile farmland. All that is merely the enjoyment of the life of this world. The best homecoming is in the presence of Allah. (Surah Al 'Imran, 14)
The faithful use these blessings in the best possible way, but at no time become addicted to them. They know that, as with everything else in the world, possessions and goods are part of the environment created to test them. Knowing that the blessings of this world are transient and that the home of the real blessings, none of which will ever be lost, is the afterlife, they have no worldly ambitions.
Since they feel neither ambition nor passion for worldly goods, they show patience whether times are good or bad. When they lose their property or it is damaged, they do not sink into sorrow or worry. If they obtain a large amount of property by working for years and then lose it all in a day, they know that Allah is testing their faith and patience. Therefore, they do not become distraught if their houses, orchards, or gardens are destroyed, or if their businesses end up going bankrupt. Despite all of these trials, they live in the comfort provided by the knowledge that Allah will ease their burdens, clear their way, conclude matters to their benefit, and reward their patience with better things in the afterlife.
People who are passionately attached to this life cannot stand it when their hard-earned property suffers any loss or damage, and so display rebellious behavior. Forgetting that Allah is the true owner of all property and that He can give more than He has taken away, if He so wills, they cannot see any good in such an event and so cannot show any patience.
As Allah tells us in "We will test you loss of wealth and life" (Surah Al 'Imran: 186), such tests reveal the difference between the faithful who show patience for the sake of Allah and those who pursue property and forget about the afterlife. The faithful do not grieve when they lose their property, for their only intention is to use everything they possess physically and spiritually to earn Allah's approval. In other words, they have already devoted these possessions to Allah. In return for their devotion, they receive the following reward:
Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their wealth in return for the Garden . . .
. . . Rejoice, then, in the bargain you have made. That is the great victory. (Surat at-Tawba, 111)
Facing hunger or poverty
In addition to testing people with fear, a loss of property or their business, or illness and other things, Allah may also test them with poverty and hunger.
However, it should be realized that Allah creates a different test for every person. For this reason, not everyone will face all of these tests in the same way and under the same conditions. In fact, Allah creates the secret of the test by sending the same test to people in a wide variety of forms and in unexpected ways. Those who have true faith and devotion are prepared to face these difficulties in all of their forms by relying on the power of their faith and their submission to Allah.
In such situations, the unbelievers' behavior is far from resignation. They forget that only Allah gives the countless blessings that they encounter in this world, and so they show Him no gratitude. In fact, if even one blessing is removed, they rebel against Allah and show ingratitude. In communities that are far from religion, one can find such examples on a regular basis. Rich people who become poor lose many blessings that Allah has bestowed upon them in the past. Ignoring the fact that their houses, cars, clothes, foods, and drinks were Allah's gifts to them, they believe that all such things belonged to them alone. Unable to learn the intended lesson and ask Allah to grant new blessings, they do not put their trust in Allah and thus turn a beneficial test against themselves.
On the other hand, those who are aware of these truths and show steadfast patience, who remain pleased with our Lord when rich or poor, hungry or fed, will be rewarded with Allah's mercy. Allah proclaims the good news that those faithful people who are grateful to Him will have their blessings increased: "And when your Lord announced: 'If you are grateful, I will certainly give you increase. But if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe'" (Surah Ibrahim, 7).
The Qur'an also informs the faithful who are tested by hunger and poverty, as follows:
Or did you suppose that you would enter Paradise without facing the same as those who came before you? Poverty and illness afflicted them, and they were shaken to the point that the Messenger and those who believed with him said: "When is Allah's help coming?" Be assured that Allah's help is very near. (Surat al-Baqara, 214)
Allah tells us that these people were afflicted with poverty and illness and sought refuge in His help. We must always remember that He gives the good news that for those who are patient and meet such a test with good behavior, whatever the circumstances, His help is very near at hand. We know this because He promises that while testing the faithful, He will ease their burden. This situation, as proclaimed in "For truly with hardship comes ease" (Surat al-Inshirah, 5), ensures that the faithful are pleased with what Allah has given, and that they will continue to show patience even in their darkest hours.
In the following hadith, our Prophet (saas) advises believers to be patient and trust Allah:
"Be mindful of Allah, [for] you will find Him before you. Get to know Allah in prosperity, and He will know you in adversity. Know that what has passed you by was not going to befall you, and that what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship." (Tirmidhi)
We can see some of the finest examples of such behavior among the Prophet's (saas) Companions. In order to win Allah's approval, they remained patient on His path despite thirst, poverty, and intolerable hunger, and continued to struggle along with our Prophet (saas). Allah mentions the reward that they would receive in exchange for their superior morality, which they displayed by remaining patient in the face of exhaustion, as well as the hunger and thirst they experienced in their sweltering desert surroundings, as follows:
It was not for people of Madina, and the desert Arabs around them, to remain behind the Messenger of Allah or to prefer themselves to him. That is because no thirst or weariness or hunger will afflict them in the Way of Allah, nor will they take a single step to infuriate the unbelievers, nor to secure any gain from the enemy, without a right action being written down for them because of it. Allah does not let the wage of the good-doers go to waste. (Surat at-Tawba, 120)
As we can see, Allah announces that the patience displayed by the faithful who are being tested will be rewarded, and that none of their good acts will be overlooked, on the Day of Judgment. He also proclaims His mercy toward the faithful by describing them as those "who [He] has preserved them from hunger and secured them from fear" (Surah Quraysh, 4).
When struck with illness
In societies characterized by the lack of Qur'anic morality, it is considered quite normal that people's behavior will change according to circumstances. They will exhibit good behavior when they can meet all of their physical and spiritual needs easily and ensure their own comfort, but will change completely when faced with any problem that may endanger their comfort. They cannot meet even a temporary affliction with patience. This becomes very clear in the case of illness.
How people behave during times of illness, hunger, exhaustion, and similar events are clear indications as to whether they do—or do not—possess sound morality. Given this fact, difficult times are very valuable opportunities for people to prove their faith in, devotion to, and trust in our Lord. Allah states that among the conditions for true morality and true goodness is showing correct behavior by being patient in times of trouble and sickness (Surat al-Baqara, 177).
When faced with such a problem as illness, what enables the faithful to behave steadfastly and with patience is their deep attachment to and faith in Allah. Prophet Ibrahim (as) expressed this truth by saying "and when I am ill, He heals me" (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 80).
Like Prophet Ibrahim (as), believers also know that Allah creates both the illness and the cure, and so they are not seized with despair when they fall ill. On the contrary, they are grateful to our Lord for those years in which He allowed them to live in health. Understanding that a healthy life is only one of Allah's many gifts to them, they continue to behave gratefully even when they are ill.
They also continue to be extremely grateful and steadfast in cases of accident and injury. They hope that after they enter Paradise, Allah will re-create them in such a fine form that it cannot be compared with their worldly bodies. This is their hoped-for reward for their steadfast patience when confronted with various difficulties. For this reason they do not forget that whatever they have suffered here will entitle them to a great recompense in the afterlife.
Those who are precluded from having faith, due to their attachment to the world, cannot show patience in the face of such events and so sink into great hopelessness and grief. For example, those with crippled limbs say that they would rather die than live with such a body; some even try to commit suicide. Believing that this life is the only one that they have, they think that living with certain defects and deficiencies makes life meaningless. Even if they do not try to commit suicide, they develop a very unpleasant personality and try to create problems for those around them. Whether they accept their situation or not, there is no way that they can avert such an event. If they put their trust in Allah, however, they may hope that He will allow them to be reborn in Paradise with a brand new body that is flawless, imperishable, and cannot be damaged. But if they do not trust in Allah, their present life and their future life in the Hereafter will be destroyed, for their ignorance will cause them to rebel against Allah and be "rewarded" with Hell.
The behavior of those who live the Qur'an's morality is completely different. When they are injured, lose an organ, or experience a similar disaster, their behavior does not change. Knowing that they are being tested and that the end result will be positive, they remain patient and do their best to earn Allah's approval. Even if they can no longer make any physical effort to realize this goal, they try to develop ideas that can benefit people and remind them of the Hereafter.
Those who turn away from Allah when they become ill or when they are injured are not aware of their great error, for only Allah can heal them or rescue them from their illness. Doctors, medicines, and treatments can be provided only with Allah's permission. Understanding this, the faithful face their illness with patience and patiently ask Him for a cure. They also make the best possible use of doctors, medicines, and treatments, and always remember that these will be of benefit only if Allah wills it.
The Qur'an gives the example of Prophet Ayyub (as), who always sought refuge in Allah when faced with illness. Allah praises his morality, as follows: "We found him steadfast. What an excellent servant! He truly turned to his Lord" (Surah Sad, 44). His patience and devotion to Allah are described, as follows:
And Ayyub, when he called out to his Lord, [said]: "Great harm has afflicted me, and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful." We responded to him and removed from him the harm that was afflicting him, restored his family to him and the same again with them, as a mercy direct from Us and a Reminder to all worshippers. (Surat al-Anbiya', 83-84)
The superior morality shown by Prophet Ayyub (as) when he was faced with this situation can be understood from his sincere prayer to Allah. When he was in trouble and sick, he turned to Allah with steadfastness and patience, knowing that only He can achieve anything and without forgetting that he is subject to Allah's mercy and compassion.
As we can see in these and all other cases, Allah helps those who are patient. One verse expresses this assistance, as follows:
And be steadfast. Allah is with the steadfast. (Surat al-Anfal, 46)
When facing injustice
Those who do not follow the Qur'an's morality cannot exercise true justice, because they do not consider that they will have to account for all of their actions in the afterlife, and so feel no need to be scrupulous in this matter. Since they follow their earthly desires rather than their consciences, they make impulsive, instead of rational, decisions. When they become angry, they immediately succumb to their anger and seek revenge. When a situation threatens their advantages, they do not hesitate to behave unjustly to protect their own interests. Such acts fill the newspapers and the television newscasts. Someone attacks his boss when he is fired, slanders somebody who has interfered with her business, spreads malicious gossip about his fiancée who broke up with him, or responds to a person who threatens her with even worse threats. We meet such people all the time. They respond to a bad act or an injustice in the same manner and violate the morality called for by the Qur'an. Indeed, sometimes people may even try to kill those who have interfered with their interests.
The faithful may be subjected to the unjust behavior of such people as part of their lifelong test. Unlike those given as examples above, they do not respond to injustice with injustice or to wrongdoing with more wrongdoing. But this does not mean that they stand by idly and do nothing to fight such injustice. However, rather than making rash decisions and jumping to conclusions, they act at all times in a well-balanced manner that comes from their trust in Allah.
Their patience and steadfastness in such cases springs from their awareness that Allah controls everything and possesses eternal justice. Allah tells us that on the Day of Judgment, everybody will have to account for what they did while in this world, and that no injustice will be done to them. Hence, those who committed injustice thoughtlessly or behaved in an unfair manner will receive their "reward" on that day. Allah's eternal justice is described, as follows:
We will set up the Just Balance on the Day of Rising, and no one will be wronged in any way. Even if it is no more than the weight of a grain of a mustard-seed, We will produce it. We are sufficient as a Reckoner. (Surat al-Anbiya', 47)
There are only grounds against those who wrong people and act as tyrants in the land without any right to do so. Such people will have a painful punishment. (Surat ash-Shura, 42)
Have fear of a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every self will be paid in full for what it earned. They will not be wronged. (Surat al-Baqara, 281)
Thus the faithful who know this law of Allah are patient in the face of injustice, thanks to the serenity that they have inside themselves. In the following verse, Allah promises that in exchange for this patience, He will bring help:
Allah will certainly help those who help Him—Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj, 40)
The Qur'an relates that Prophet Yusuf (as) faced many injustices throughout his life, but that because of his devotion and patience, Allah helped him and gave him strength. All that happened to him from his childhood onward was designed to test his patience and that of his father, Prophet Ya`qub (as). First, Prophet Yusuf (as) was thrown into a well by his jealous brothers. After this, a passing caravan found him and took him to Egypt, were he was sold as a slave. The Qur'an speaks of Prophet Ya`qub's (as) patience when confronted with this event, and of his request to Allah for help against this plot:
They then produced his shirt with false blood on it. He [Ya`qub] said: "It is merely that your lower selves have suggested something to you which you did, but beauty lies in showing steadfastness. Allah alone is my Help in the face of the event you describe." (Surah Yusuf, 18)
In addition to this, Prophet Yusuf (as) was slandered by the wife of his master, the Egyptian vizier. Even though his innocence was perfectly clear, Prophet Yusuf (as) was thrown into prison, where he remained unjustly imprisoned for many years. However, he never forgot that Allah was testing him and so took refuge in Him, asked for His help, and exhibited outstanding patience. He did not forget that Allah will eventually confound the schemes of the unbelievers and that the faithful will be successful. In return for his steadfast devotion and patience, Allah gave him blessings that would please him both in this world and in the afterlife:
The king said: "Bring him to me straight away, so that I may draw him very close to me." When he had spoken with him, he [the king] declared: "Today you are trusted, established in our sight." He [Yusuf] said: "Entrust the treasures of the land to me, for in truth I am a knowing guardian." Thus We established Yusuf in the land so that he could live in any place he pleased. We grant Our grace to anyone We will, and do not allow to go to waste the wage of any people who do good. But the wages of the Hereafter are the best for people who believe and have done their duty. (Surah Yusuf, 54-57)
Years after these events, Allah brought Prophet Yusuf (as) face-to-face with his treacherous brothers. He stated his faith in Allah, despite the injustice that he had suffered, and the compassion that Allah showed him, as follows:
They asked: "Are you Yusuf?" He said: "I am indeed Yusuf, and this here is my brother. Allah has acted graciously to us. As for those who do their duty and are steadfast, Allah does not allow to go to waste the wage of any people who do good." (Surah Yusuf, 90)
All of this material related in the Qur'an about Prophet Yusuf (as) is an important example of the ultimate hidden causes that can be revealed by patience, because the help that Allah gave to him is equally available for those who are faithful. Allah thwarts the plots devised for the faithful and responds to the injustices committed against them.
Encountering slander and hurtful words
Allah says that among the tests believers may face are troubling statements made by the unbelievers, as follows:
You will hear many abusive words from those given the Book before you, and from those who are unbelievers. But if you are steadfast and guard against evil, that is the most resolute course to take. (Surah Al 'Imran, 186)
All Prophets throughout history have met with slander and accusations from the peoples to whom they were sent. In particular, the leaders of these people who deny faith take the lead in such behavior and try to incite the unbelievers against the believers. The most important reason for this is that the true religion offers a moral code that may deprive them of some worldly advantages that they obtained by unjust means. Since they hold a superior position in their communities in terms of wealth, rank, and status, they can easily exploit their people and convince them that injustice and wrongdoing are reasonable.
The Qur'an's morality requires people to be honest, just, and helpful toward the poor. Thus, because these leaders regard this characteristic of the faith as a danger to their worldly interests, they attempt to blacken the reputation of the faithful who attempt to spread religious morality and thereby make them unsuccessful.
We can see one of the clearest examples of this in the behavior of Pharaoh, who enslaved and abused the children of Israel. Allah sent Prophet Musa (as) as a savior to these people, who were exploited and forced to work in very arduous conditions. Pharaoh, observing that the true religion instructed him to behave justly, mercifully, and with a good conscience toward the children of Israel, tried to discredit Prophet Musa (as) and his followers in the people's eyes. By doing this, he thought that nobody would respect the religion preached by Prophet Musa (as) and that a danger to his own interests would thereby be averted. He also hoped that such slander would destroy the believers' morale and that they might abandon their efforts to spread the faith. The Qur'an relates some of these slanders, as follows:
We sent Musa with Our Signs and clear authority to Pharaoh, Haman, and Qarun. But they said: "A lying magician." (Surat al-Mu'min, 23-24)
But he turned away with his forces, saying: "A magician or a madman!" (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 39)
What Pharaoh and his circle said to Prophet Musa (as) was not unique to them, for all Prophets and Messengers whom Allah sent to teach His religion face the same accusations of lying and sorcery, being madmen or poets, or seeking profit for themselves. The fact that the faithful always have the same insulting words thrown at them, regardless of time or place, is not coincidental. On the contrary, these are tests that Allah created to observe their patience and steadfastness.
The Qur'an tells us of such situations, as follows:
Equally, no Messenger came to those before them without their saying: "A magician or a madman!" (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 52)
Allah tells us that such insults were hurled at Prophet Muhammad (saas) and his Companions:
When they are told: "Believe in the way that the people believe," they exclaim: "What! Are we to believe in the way that fools believe?" No indeed! They are the fools, but they do not know it. (Surat al-Baqara, 13)
The ruling circle of those of his people who did not believe said: "We do not see you as anything but a human being like ourselves. We do not see anyone following you but the lowest of us, unthinkingly. We do not see you as superior to us. On the contrary, we consider you to be liars." (Surah Hud, 27)
They say: "You, to whom the Reminder [the Qur'an] has been sent down, are clearly mad." (Surat al-Hijr, 6)
They are surprised that a warner should come to them from among themselves. The unbelievers say: "This is a lying magician." (Surah Sad, 4)
When they were told, "There is no god but Allah," they were arrogant. They said, "Are we to forsake our gods for a mad poet?" (Surat as-Saffat, 35-36)
Faced with all of these slanders, Allah's Prophets and pious servants behaved with outstanding patience, took refuge in Him, and asked for His help. The Qur'an gives the following example of this:
Say: "Lord, judge with truth! Our Lord is the All-Merciful, the One Whose help is sought in the face of what you describe." (Surat al-Anbiya', 112)
In the Qur'an, Allah responds to the behavior of the unbelievers who seek to abuse the Prophets, as follows:
Remind them then! For, by the blessing of your Lord, you are neither a soothsayer nor a madman. (Surat at-Tur, 29)
Do not obey the unbelievers and hypocrites, and disregard their abuse of you. Put your trust in Allah. Allah suffices as a Protector. (Surat al-Ahzab, 48)
As stated above, Allah points out that He expects the faithful to live by the Qur'an's morality regardless of what difficulties they may encounter, and to keep advising and reminding people about the faith. Thus, the faithful ignore all such behavior and move forward with devotion, patience, and true knowledge. In fact, without knowing it, the unbelievers' behavior only strengthens the believers' faith and increases the joy and excitement they feel about their religion.
Proclaiming their religion
In the Qur'an, Allah informs us of the Prophets' life-long patience in order to show us how to live a life of superior morality. This is a great blessing for those who believe and seek the road to Him.
During their lives, the Prophets informed their household members and relatives, as well as the people at large, about Allah's religion. While inviting people to the true faith, every Prophet gained a number of enemies and suffered from their verbal and physical assaults. But such assaults could not weaken them; rather, they passed their whole lives showing patience and determination in preaching Allah's religion.
One of these Messengers was Prophet Ibrahim (as). Throughout his life, he was tested by various incidents that demanded patience. Despite all of the unfavorable incidents that Allah set before him, he always displayed devotion, submission, and great patience. For example, his people, who worshipped stone idols, tried to burn him alive for inviting them to the true faith and Allah, the One. The Qur'an recounts this test, as follows:
They said: "We heard a young man mentioning them. They call him Ibrahim." They said: "Bring him before the people's eyes so they can be witnesses." (Surat al-Anbiya', 60-61)
They said: "Build a pyre for him and fling him into the blaze!" They tried to outwit him, but We made them the lowest. He said: "I am going toward my Lord; He will be my guide." (Surat as-Saffat, 97-99)
As stated above, Prophet Ibrahim's (as) tribe wanted to cast him into the fire. However, in exchange for his display of patience and devotion, Allah protected him by ordering the fire to become "coolness and peace for him," as follows:
We said: "Fire, be coolness and peace for Ibrahim!" They desired to trap him, but We made them the losers. (Surat al-Anbiya', 69-70)
This incident is a help to Allah's servants who are patient and steadfast for Him, and it is one of the finest examples of what great blessings our Lord can grant to Muslims in return for their patience.
Prophet Ibrahim's (as) life story contains many other examples of patience and devotion, for he continued to announce Allah's existence and invite people to embrace the true faith until the end of his life. Even though no member of his tribe responded to his call, Prophet Ibrahim (as) never abandoned his mission and thereby showed great patience. He obeyed Allah's instructions in this matter and, while showing great effort and determination, continued to summon people to the faith. We can see his sincerity in the following verse:
Remember when he said to his father: "Father, why do you worship that which can neither hear nor see and is of no use to you at all? Father, knowledge that never reached you has come to me, so follow me and I will guide you to the right path. Father, do not worship Satan. Satan was disobedient to the All-Merciful. Father, I am afraid that a punishment from the All-Merciful will afflict you, and turn you into a comrade of Satan." He said: "Do you forsake my gods, Ibrahim? If you do not stop, I will stone you. Keep away from me for a good long time." (Surah Maryam, 42-46)
Another Prophet who made a patient and determined effort to explain Allah's religion to his people was Prophet Nuh (as). He approached his people in many different ways, but could not make them believe. Even though his people rejected him and put a great deal of pressure on him to make him stop preaching Allah's religion, all of their efforts failed, for he remained patient and put all of his trust in Allah. The Qur'an proclaims his outstanding patience while communicating Allah's religion, as follows:
Before them, the people of Nuh denied the truth. They denied Our servant, saying: "He is madman," and he was driven away with jeers. (Surat al-Qamar, 9)
He said: "My Lord, I have called my people night and day, but my calling has only made them more evasive. Indeed, every time I called them to Your forgiveness, they put their fingers in their ears, wrapped themselves up in their clothes, and were overweeningly arrogant. Then I called them openly. Then I addressed them publicly and privately." (Surah Nuh, 5-9)
Certainly these examples can teach a lesson to all Muslims today. By sending the Qur'an to inform us of these events, Allah instructs us never to abandon our patience and always to follow the Prophets' examples of patience.
So be steadfast as the Messengers, with firm resolve, were also steadfast. (Surat al-Ahqaf, 35)
Just as among the tribes of old, it is possible that now and in the future believers will encounter similar situations and people who know nothing of religion, deny the faith, and have only a limited ability to comprehend it. In every age there may be people who deny Allah's existence and the afterlife. Muslims are required to explain to all people His existence and the truth of creation without becoming tired of doing so. They may encounter people who say: "I'm an atheist and so reject Allah's existence," feigning ignorance of all of the truths or scientific proofs that have been explained to them. Or some people may be unable to save themselves from the negative effects of the surrounding ignorant society and thus find it hard to understand the truths that are explained to them. In such a situation, being steadfast in preaching religion by trying every method, like Prophet Nuh (as), and taking all kinds of risks, like Prophet Ibrahim (as), are very important forms of worship, because strong patience in explaining the faith may help some people see the light and be saved in the afterlife.
Believers undertake this important service with the sole intention of helping to improve the afterlife of those around them, and they carry it out with great patience and no expectation of reward in this world. Of course, Muslims will not go unrewarded for this sincere effort in this world or the next, which they undertake regardless of the real or potential obstacles. Even if their efforts do not cause one person to embrace the faith, Allah will give them beauty and serenity in this world and great rewards in the afterlife.