In this article, Chaimaa addresses the concept of Sabr and how, as Muslims, we should work to implement this within our lives. By providing an explanation of what ‘sabr’ means, she continues with a beautiful reminder of how we should remain hopeful during moments of despair.
“Whoever persists in being patient, God will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.” (Al-Bukhari)
Sabr is an Arabic word which translates as “Patience”. But Sabr means much more than just patience. Sabr is endurance, forbearance, steadfastness, perseverance. Sabr is something we often ask Allah for, especially when we face hardships in life. We’re frequently reminded, in the Quran of the virtues and beauty of sabr. Of “صبر جميل” a beautiful patience.
But is patience really beautiful? How can patience be beautiful when the very essence of patience entails enduring tough times?
The beauty of patience lies within enduring calamities whilst striving to normalise your life and carry on as if things are okay. To live life whilst being beautifully patient is a treasure. It’s a characteristic embodied by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions. It’s a characteristic that all the prophets had held very closely. Had it not been for their beautiful patience, they would never have been victorious.
‘How can patience be beautiful when the very essence of patience entails enduring tough times?’
Let’s start off with this fact. Sabr and beautiful patience does NOT mean suffering in silence. Enduring whilst failing to try and seek help for your situation is not what beautiful patience is. We often hear of people in living horrible circumstances being told to simply ‘have sabr and carry on’. To be patient and carry on asking Allah for a way out. And whilst we must never stop asking Allah for guidance, He (swt) has gifted us with the ability to act. Islam is not a passive religion. God does not want us to be passive people. ‘He (swt) does not change a condition of people without effort from the people first’. I was once speaking to a sister who mentioned that she was enduring an abusive marriage and seeking help from her community who in turn were telling her to “have sabr”. But I cannot stress how wrong that is. No one should have to suffer in silence and we as fellow human beings should try our best to facilitate aid in any way shape or form to fellow brothers and sisters in Islam. There’s a beautiful Hadith narrated by Muslim whereby our beloved Prophet Mohammed (swt) told his people:
“Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”
Now, back to the beauty of Sabr. Sabr is when, regardless of how harsh life gets, you remember wholeheartedly that Allah has beautiful things in store for you. Sabr is when, regardless of how horrible you feel internally, you never inflict or let this affect how you treat others. The final verses of Surah Al-Baqarah state:
“God does not burden a soul with more than it can endure”
This which may be questioned by us when we’re tested. We may feel that nothing is as traumatic or difficult as our situation, or that nothing can compare to it. But God truly tests His servants according to what they can endure. As a friend once put it, “He always gives the right pressure”. For example, someone enduring cancer may have never been able to endure losing a loved one in a car accident. Likewise, someone battling the horrible consequences of losing their loved one in an accident may have never been able to endure dealing with a terminal illness. Both of these trials are equally as difficult, tough and extremely testing, but God knows the exact limits of each and every one of you and will only give you what you can take. After all, ‘He is closer to us than our very own jugular vein.’
And remember, most of our lives are not ones of pure bliss. After all, this is the Dunya, right? Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, told us that the ‘dunya is a prison to the believer‘. May our trials and tribulations be a source through which we can exercise sabr and pave the way for the expiation of our sins.
‘It’s not easy to wake up every day thinking positively.’
Sabr is tough. Even the prophets cried out “when is the help of Allah coming down”, even the prophets got tired of their afflictions, to which Allah replied to them “help is near”. The truth is, I won’t sugar coat sabr. It’s not easy to wake up every day thinking positively. Again, a beautiful Hadith that is one of my favourites states that « الدُعاء مُخ العِبادة” which translates as “Dua is the essence of worship”. “مُخٌ” literally refers to the brain, in Arabic. And as we know, the brain forms a vital part of our body, just like dua should be forming a core part of our worship.
‘We give up on the power of dua. Never let your hearts harden.’
Sometimes, and I speak from experience, we truly give up on the power of dua. Or we hastily make a dua and it’s merely being said but not from the heart. This can happen when one endures a trial for a lengthy period of time, and it feels like nothing will ever ameliorate their situation. Or that they’ll have to endure it for the rest of their life.
My advice would be to never let your hearts harden. Never give up on God, never let go of His rope. In fact, even writing this piece comes as a reminder to myself first and foremost. Never lose hope that one day, your pain will be alleviated. One of Shaytan’s beloved tricks is to remind you that Allah swt is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers and of course his intention is to make you internalise this and eventually give up on prayers.
‘It’s okay to break, truly.’
But isn’t there so much tranquility and beauty in making dua? In begging Him for relief, for redemption, in asking Him to take away our pain. We’ve all felt the sweetness of being truly present in the moment when making dua to Allah, and it’s a very uplifting one. May it come back, May we feel it again.
Sabr is to keep on going. To keep on enduring, to know that being strong is the only option. Sabr is to drag yourself to your prayers even when you truly can’t be bothered to pray. Sabr is to think well of Allah during hardships. Sabr is to try to ignore that terrible thought from Shaytan that tells you that nothing will ever help your situation, that your life will always be at a negative standstill. That your sick child won’t get better, that your mother will remain unwell forever, that you’ll never find a job you love, that you’ll never find true happiness, that you’ll never get over a trauma in your life. These are all some examples of trials that people have to deal with at one point of their lives. And no one is perfect. It’s okay to break, truly.
‘Once you fall, you have no choice but to pick yourself right back again. ‘
But know this. Once you fall, you have no choice but to pick yourself right back again. And trust me, you will fall, many times. You will fall in your everyday life from dealing with your job to your family to health, it’s never ending. But I tell you to keep going, not because it doesn’t hurt but because you have no other choice. To stop going is to die.
In the end, God tells us that Sabr is beautiful because Sabr is worth all the good that comes with it. And remember, Sabr is to always be kinder than how your feel. That’s when you’ll truly embody beautiful patience.
Chaimaa is a Graduate in Arabic & Middle Eastern Studies from SOAS. She enjoys writing and can usually be found below: