It implies patience, forbearance, perseverance, determination, fortitude, constancy and steadfastness. Sabr assumes different dimensions depending upon which aspect of life is the point of reference:
Sabr in personal life
1. The first kind of Sabr is ‘patience’ as it is ordinarily understood.
It is the ability to hold back, remain calm, maintain one’s cool, restrain oneself and wait and see despite the urge to jump on, barge in, respond, and do something in the situations of heat, pressure, anxiety, curiosity, anger, confrontation, etc.
It also represents the patience exercised during the hardships people face in their lives such as illnesses and diseases, death of loved ones, natural calamities and disasters, and problems or setbacks emanating from the situations and circumstances beyond one’s control. Knowing that all these things are part of our test for which we have been put on the earth and knowing that our success lies in how well we react to and handle such situations helps a believer endure these hardships without panicking, complaining or being frustrated.
“A person who faces a physical or financial setback, keeps quiet about it and does not complain to people, has a right on Allaah to be forgiven.”
“A Muslim does not suffer any mental or physical anguish, or any distress, grief, pain or sorrow – even from the prick of a thorn – except that Allaah expiates his mistakes and sins.”
This Sabr is an extremely important virtue for a believer. The Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam, talking to some poor Muslims from Ansaar whom he had given whatever he had, said:
“Whoever practices Sabr, Allaah gives him Sabr. And no one can be given anything better or more far-reaching (comprehensive) than Sabr.”
In a letter of condolence dictated for Mu’aadz Ibn Jabal on the death of his son, the Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “May Allaah increase your reward and bestow you patience, and enable us and you to be thankful to Him. Our lives, our wealth and our families are blissful gifts that are trusts temporarily entrusted. Allaah gave you the opportunity to enjoy (your son gifted to you in trust) with happiness and pleasure, and then he took it from you in return for a big reward. May He bestow upon you blessings, mercy and guidance, if you restrain yourself in expectation for His reward. So, be patient and do not let wailing destroy your reward, to be sorry afterwards
Remember wailing neither brings back the dead, nor removes the grief. What had to happen has happened.”
However, tears or sadness is not against the spirit of the patience. When the son of the Prophet’s daughter, Zainab, was taking his last breath in the Prophet’s lap, tears came down from Prophet’s eyes. When Sa’d wondered, the Prophet explained, “This is an expression of mercy that Allaah has put in the hearts of people.”
This kind of patience is the lowest level of Sabr expected of the believers and is one of the qualities emanating from the Taqwaa in the heart. The test of the patience is at the initial shock. With time, everyone cools down. The patient person controls his/her reactions at the very outset. Reacting emotionally in the beginning and then cooling off is indicative of lack of patience.
The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam told a women crying over the grave of her husband, “Maintain Taqwa and be patient.” Later on he explained to her, “The real Sabr (patience) is that which is demonstrated at the initial shock.”
The Messenger of Allaah said, “Allaah Tabaaraka wa Ta`aala says: O son of Adam! If you remained patient restraining yourself and expecting my reward at the initial shock, I will not be happy without rewarding you with Jannah.”
The complementary quality for this Sabr is Shukr (gratitude) which means thanking Allaah for any good things, happy occasions, successes, health, profitability, good harvest and prosperity we enjoy in our life. Because all of these things depend, in addition to our hard work, on many favourable circumstances and conditions that are beyond our control, a believer thanks Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala for providing the ability to work hard and making our efforts fruitful through all those favourable circumstances and conditions.
This is what is alluded to in the following Ahaadeeth:
The Messenger of Allaah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Wondrous are the believer’s affairs. For him there is good in all his affairs, and this is true only for a believer. If he encounters something troubling, he remains steadfast with patience, and that is good for him. If he experiences something pleasing, he thanks Allaah, and that is good for him.”
The Messenger of Allaah said, “Allaah told Eesa (Jesus), `alayhissalaam: I will bring up an Ummah after you who will thank Allaah when they encounter what they like; and they will restrain themselves expecting reward from Allaah and will remain patient when they suffer something they dislike.”
Here is a brief review of the second dimension of Sabr in one’s personal life:
2. The second kind of Sabr is the forbearance exercised in the face of the ignorant behaviour shown by people around oneself. It is to endure verbal abuse, accusations, disrespect, slander, backbiting, false assumptions, name-calling, ridicule, maligning comments, etc. from people around us because of their jealousy, misgivings, maliciousness, difference of opinion or dislike for whatever reason.
A person will be within one’s right to defend himself from any misbehaviour. That is justice and everyone is entitled to it without being blamed for it. However, Ihsaan is that the believer takes all that in stride graciously and magnanimously without responding, fighting back, paying much attention or complaining. Ihsaan is the standard good Muslims are expected to strive for. The Holy Qur-aan states:
“The fair settlement for a wrong is equal retribution. However, whoever forgives and reconciles, his reward is due on Allaah, and Allaah does not like the unjust. And whoever avenges himself after being wronged, they are not to be blamed. The blame is on those who oppress people and wrongfully rebel in the land. For them, there will be a painful punishment. And indeed whoever practices Sabr and forgives, that is a highly resolute, top-notch behaviour.”
It is also indicated by the following episode:
Once, a person was verbally abusing Aboo Bakr, radhiallahu `anhu while the Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam was curiously watching with a smile. After taking much abuse quietly, Aboo Bakr responded to a few of his comments. At this, the Prophet exhibited his disapproval, got up and left. Aboo Bakr caught up with the Prophet and wondered, “O Messenger of Allaah, he was abusing me and you remained sitting. When I responded to him, you disapproved and got up.” The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam responded, “There was an angel with you responding to him. When you responded to him, Shaytaan took his place.” He then said, “O Aboo Bakr, there are three solid truths: If a person is wronged and he forbears (without seeking revenge) just for the sake of Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’alaa , Allaah will honour him and give him upper hand with His help; if a person opens a door of giving gifts for cementing relationships with relatives, Allaah will give him abundance; and, if a person opens a door of seeking charity for himself to increase his wealth, Allaah will further reduce his wealth.” (Reported from Aboo Hurairah in Mishkaah and Musnad Ahmad)
The prime example for practising Sabr, forbearing and then forgiving is the behaviour of Yousuf in response to his brothers’ wrongs. The Holy Qur-aan observes:
“Indeed, whoever maintains Taqwa and practices Sabr, Allaah does not let the reward of the Muhsineen be lost.”
(Attributed by Ibn ‘Abbaas to the Prophet sal-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam as reported in At-Tabaraani’s Al-Owsat).
(Bukhaaree and Muslim)
(Aboo S’eed Khudri in Bukhaaree and Muslim)
(Reported from Usamah Ibn Zaid in Bukhaaree and Muslim)
(Reported from Anas in Bukhaaree and Muslim)
(From Abee Umaamah in Ibn Maajah)
(Reported from Suhaib in the Muslim)
(Reported from Aboo-Ad-Dardaa by Baihiqi in Shu’abul-Eemaan)