By Nikhat Sattar
January 29th, 2016
“BY time! Surely man is in loss, except
those who believe and do good, and exhort one another to truth, and exhort one
another to patience” (103:1-3).
The quality of Sabr is one that the Quran
has emphasised again and again, along with Iman and Shukr. It is difficult to grasp
the full meaning of the Arabic Sabr by its English synonym, patience or even
It means not only restraint or control over
oneself, but also restraining from sinful activities and never giving up hope
and belief in God and His support.
‘Sabr’ is the opposite of despair and
This is why whenever the Prophet (PBUH) was
faced with difficulties from his enemies, God instructed him to pray and
continue his efforts with perseverance. In other words, Sabr is the opposite of
despair and hopelessness, for this would mean a denial of the presence of God,
who listens to His servants, provided they are sincere in their prayers.
The term Sabr has been cited in the Quran
90 times, in various places and different contexts.
It is mentioned that those who believe and
are patient would enter paradise without being held to account: “Say, “O My
servants who have believed, fear your Lord. For those who do good in this world
is good, and the earth of Allah is spacious. Indeed, the patient will be given
their reward without account” (39:10).
Sabr is not only mentioned as a
characteristic that must be inculcated to deal with pain and suffering in life.
It is also referred to when encountering enemies who have harmed one severely.
Although it is allowed to give them similar treatment, Muslims have been told
that it is better to exercise Sabr. They have been told that it is a measure of
their courage and determination and that those who develop it are eligible for
Perseverance and gratitude are often
mentioned in the Quran together. If one is grateful to one’s Creator and gives
thanks for every blessing and every suffering, one is also recognising that
whatever one has is by God’s will.
One must act in the way one has been
instructed, i.e. be humble if blessed, and handle one’s misfortunes as best as
one can, leaving the result to God.
Perseverance does not mean accepting wrongs
committed by others and not taking any action to improve one’s lot. God
requires humankind to take action and rise to the challenges of life. At the
same time, people must neither become arrogant if they succeed, nor give up if
Sabr is also the key to controlling one’s
desires which, if they get out of hand, can cause great moral, social and
economic damage. It means preventing oneself from taking hasty actions. Haste,
without due deliberation, can be devastating.
Sabr and Shukr are weapons for life, both
emboldened by Salah (prayer). The three provide the strength to meet the trials
and tribulations faced by each one of us in this world.
The first two do not come naturally; they
are deepened in one’s soul through continuous practice and self-accountability.
There will always be instances when one will utter words of pain, sighs of
suffering, even despair. But as long as these periods are short-lived and one
asks God for forgiveness and support, one is bound to recover and be able to
face the world with renewed strength.
People who will be given their accounts in
their right hand (and hence will be eligible to enter paradise) will be those
who demonstrated Sabr and compassion.
then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and
advised one another to compassion. Those are the companions of the right”
(90:17-18) Here, God has combined the qualities of Sabr and compassion, because
how is it possible that those who control their anger, rage and other negative
feelings, not show kindness and love for others, however much they might have
How would one develop these qualities? They
are not developed overnight, nor are they a miracle that could happen to only a
We can all become more patient, grateful
and humble and face our troubles by constantly remembering God, reading and
trying to understand His book, being vigilant with our prayers and keeping away
from depressing thoughts.
A positive attitude and accepting the fact
that while we must take responsibility for our actions and our lives, we must
also place our full faith and confidence in God is the key.
We are unhappy about many things in our
lives, but it is God’s wisdom which we, as mortals, cannot grasp. In the long
run, God will do what is best for us. And there will be rewards and blessings
for us if we bow to His knowledge and His mercy. n
Nikhat Sattar is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.