Chapter 6: The Advantages and Effects of Patience
In the end, it would be necessary to mention about the advantages and constructive effects of patience. Although in our earlier discussions, the topic has been covered to a certain extent, but in order to provide more detailed information regarding the individual and social effects of patience, further discussion is necessary.
It should be mentioned that, here we are not looking into the advantages of patience in the next world, i.e. the rewards which will be awarded in the Hereafter to a person for being patient in this life. But at the same time, it should not be forgotten that those rewards cannot be separated with some of the advantages of patience in the life of this world.
At present, however, we are looking into rewards and advantages of patience for a patient person, or a society and groups of patients, as a ready cash, on account of their being steadfast and patient, right here at this stage of worldly life. It is really difficult to start and to select a certain advantage out of unlimited advantages of patience.
One could say in nutshell, that everything, this world as well as the next world; the higher noble human ideals as well as the lowest mischievous plots, and in summary, each goal or aim, desired by any one, are all directly tied to their being steadfast and patient. If it is required to produce a logical reasoning to support the above statement, and if the vast experiences gained by mankind throughout history are not sufficient enough for convincing, then let us present this definite and explicit formula:
Accomplishment of a goal requires action, and action requires patience and endurance.
Everyone must have, at least a couple of times in his lifespan, examined the correctness of the above formula.
The Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s.) in the following quotation, which is full of wisdom said:
"A steadfast patient person would never be denied success, however it may materialise after a long time."1
In another quotation from him, the same theme has been described in other words as follows:
"Whoever mounts the horse of patience would definitely find his path to the field of victory."2
During the battle of Siffin, in an inspiring sermon for boosting the morale of his forces, the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a.s.) said:
"Make your supports upon righteousness and patience (stability); because it is only after patience (stability) that victory shall be bestowed upon you."3
Is it really true, that patience and endurance will enable a person to achieve his goal? If this is a overall law or regulation, which is always applicable, then why all along the history, we encounter many groups, who in spite of their best efforts at endurance and steadfastness could not accomplish their desired goals, and could not witness the victory. During the early period of Islam, there are incidents like Ashura, the uprising of the 'Tawwabin' 4, of Zaid bin Ali 5, and similar incidents during later periods.
Of course many people are interested to know the answer to the above questions, but if we ponder a little bit, the answer will become explicitly clear. In our opinion, those who consider these historical apparently unsuccessful and inconclusive events, such as Ashura, and martyrdom of Hazrat Zaid, as a violation of the overall law (after patience comes victory), have not recognised the aims and objects, which were incorporated in each of these incidents, and whose attainment meant achieving success and victory for these movements. Now let us ask this question: What were the aims of these historical events? If this question could be answered correctly, it would become quite apparent that under no circumstances they were defeated or disappointed in their endeavours and efforts toward achieving the cherished goals.
Incidentally, it should be reminded, that aims and objectives, as regards to being long term or short term, differ from each other. Some of the aims could be accomplished in short time, while some others could only be materialised after a lengthy period. To plant a sapling, nurture it and make all other necessary arrangements, are preliminary requirements, in order to utilise the fruits of that tree. If all these preliminary requirements were, without the least negligence, fulfilled timely, and if precautions were taken to make it resist the negative factors responsible for unproductiveness and decay, certainly this plant will bear fruits, but a uniform and fixed period for all places does not exist.
Sometimes the fruits under consideration will be obtained, say after a period of one year. But occasionally the type of the tree, the fruits under consideration, and the natural circumstances are such that one cannot hope to have fruits at least before 10 years. Certainly, the ultimate goal for taking care of this sapling, which will be achieved after 10 years, is to have the desired fruits of this tree.
But during all these long waiting years, the aim behind each year's efforts is to move the sapling one step closer to the date when it will bear fruits. After passing of each progressive year, the gardener becomes happy and satisfied, that his efforts during the past years have produced results i.e. the sapling has grown through one stage, getting on a year closer to its fruit-bearing date.
Now, if an observer, aware of the efforts and endeavours of this hardworking and patient gardener all along the year, does not see any fruits on the tree after passing of a year, and wrings his hands in hopelessness and looses his confidence in the famous notion: "It is only after patience, victory would have a chance," and out of immaturity and inexperience were to criticise the gardener, then such an observer would obviously be termed a narrow minded and impatient person by everyone and would be reminded that he should not expect that the efforts and endeavours of one year will produce a result equivalent to 10 years of efforts.
The movement of Ashura, and all other later movements having the same orientation and same direction, without exception succeeded in achieving their desired aims and goals. Each of these movements were giant strides for the destruction of power of tyrants ruling in the name of Islam, and for the establishment of ideal Islamic society.
Without any doubt following these pioneering giant steps, if the courage of later generations would have encouraged them, to take the next steps, the ultimate result would have been certainly achieved. Therefore, to expect that ultimate result, which could only be obtained through the organised and continuous efforts and involvement of a few generations, or few persons, or some people of a single Generation, is certainly wrong, resulting from ignorance and over-expectation.
In the above example, it should be said to that impatient and inexperienced observer, that those who had accepted the hardships of gardening and discharged their duties understood well that the work done by them, each day and each hour, had instantaneously produced desired results, even before the passing of that hour and day, and they achieved the result of their patience practised at each passing instant. Two years of hard work of this gardener brings the fruit-bearing date closer to two years. If his efforts were not there, the fruits of this sapling would have been delayed by two years or perhaps two years of fruit-bearing time would have been wasted. Is reality other than this?
Parallel to this reality, there exists another reality too. If, after an obstacle which prevented the sincere gardener from continuing his job, another gardener does not pursue the duties of his predecessor, by undertaking the planned activities for the third, fourth years, obviously this tree will never bear fruits.
Let us consider the example of a certain load, supposed to be carried to a place, say ten steps ahead. Now, suppose it has moved by two steps, one could say the load has reached close to its final destination by two steps. If the first person, responsible for its delivery, is in a position to undertake the remaining steps, he would do so, if not his substitute will take the remaining steps to carry the load to its final destination. But if this responsibility, i.e. moving the load past the remaining eight steps was not discharged by the first person or by his substitute, then obviously the load will never be delivered to its final destination. However, there is no doubt, that the result of patience in taking the first two pioneering steps has been achieved, because the load has moved by two steps.
To uproot a deep rooted tree, and to remove a huge rock without having proper equipment like drill, chain saw, nr powerful and strong hands, is of course not possible, but having all of them, but not having patience will not produce any result. If the first person having strong hands and patience, after making a headway was forced to discontinue his efforts, then the others who were supposed to take his place, are responsible to carry on the job by one more step ahead, and another stage closer to success.
Likewise, the uprising of Zaid bin Ali, because of an unexpected tragedy -- an arrow struck him on his forehead and he fell down instantly -- could not accomplish the final victory, but the result of this pioneering step (i.e. to arise) was achieved immediately by him. His uprising was a heavy blow to the huge rock of the usurper Omayyad regime.
A heavy rock, which required repeated and continuous blows, to be destroyed completely. If the initial blows would have been accompanied by later blows, this black boulder of Omayyad rule, which was a heavy burden upon the Islamic Ummah, and a source of oppression, would have splintered into pieces. Certainly, without the initial severe blow being struck, the later blows would not have achieved that desired result, or may be, no one would have dared to strike those later blows.
There are narrations - refer to Bihar-ul-Anwar - which consider the martyrdom of the Lord of Martyrs, Imam Husayn (a.s.), as the key factor for the collapse of Sufyani rule and the martyrdom of Zaid bin Ali for the downfall of the Marwanids6.
Apart from the constructive social advantages of patience such as gaining victory and fulfilment of aims and goals, this characteristic is also responsible for the positive and very important influences upon the mentality and spirit of the patient person.
It is because of this miraculous awareness, that most of the historical human sacrifices, and specially the supreme sacrifices of the martyrs of Karbala, i.e. the companions and relatives of the Lord of Martyrs "Imam Husayn (a.s.)", whose memories we are celebrating during these nights7 will become easy to comprehend.
What we mean with the spiritual mentality, are the influences left by the patient person upon his soul and mind, that before accomplishing the external and definite results of his struggle, he instantaneously obtains the personal result.
The foremost positive and constructive effect of patience is to produce a strong and invincible personality. Like a good physical exercise programme makes a person strong and healthy to enable him to offer better physical resistance. Secondly, it produces all the required elements for achieving success in accomplishment of aims, fulfilment of desires, be material or ideological, among the patient individuals.
The defeats and failures suffered during the social, religious, and ideological struggle has had a devastative moral effect, a blow, inflicted by the vincible and week mentality upon the determination to carry on the struggle, whose damage and devastation is many times severe than the losses inflicted by trained professional armed forces and their armament.
The soldier8, who decided to run away from the battlefield turning his back to the enemy has indeed first suffered a moral defeat, before giving up his physical strength. Until this psychological defeat is not inflicted upon him, it is impossible that a soldier will be able to turn his back and run away from the battlefield.
The historic behaviour of Tariq bin Ziyad -The commander of the Muslim army -- the brave Muslim commander and victor of a portion of Spain in the year 94 Hijri (711 AD.), who after crossing the Mediterranean Sea and stepping upon enemy land, ordered the burning of all his ships, is an example of this invincible spirit. The prime quality of patience is to produce such an invincible spirit in a patient person.
Those individuals, who while facing routine events of day-to-day life, such as financial losses, sickness, frustration, hatred, and death etc., do not offer resistance and endurance, and very soon become dejected, aggrieved, annoyed, and helpless, when confronted with obstacles in their path, and thereby leave the scene of struggle and are suspectable to instant defeat. Contrary to these individuals of weak mentality there are those, who in confronting every event in their life use patience as their ultimate winning weapon, and offer resistance in the best possible manner, achieving an invincible morale and strong will power to face the problems of life.
An impatient person could be compared to a soldier in the battlefield who is fighting virtually naked without armour. Such an ill-equipped soldier is most likely to be killed and disappear from the scene during the very first encounter. With the same analogy a patient person could be compared to a soldier who is clad in a coat of mail from head to toes, and is fully equipped with all the required armaments. Obviously to defeat such a well-equipped soldier by the enemy is relatively a difficult task.
The one, who would never be defeated in the battlefield of life, is the one who had already made all the necessary arrangements, by putting on the armour of patience. Such a person, never gets defeated easily, and when faced with problems and unpleasant events, which abound at every step on the road of perfection and prosperity, never flinches his eyebrows, and his legs and heart remain firm and stable without showing the least signs of trembling.
The following narration from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) throws ample light about the depth of this divinely inspired Islamic characteristic:
"Anyone who has not prepared for himself logistics of patience to meet every tragedy will find himself in a state of despair and helplessness"9
It means that the one who has not planned in advance, how to face the problems and unexpected tragedies of life, and has not developed within himself a spirit of resistance, would soon find himself in a state of despair and helplessness. The opposite of this is, if someone for confrontation with tragedies has equipped himself with the logistics of patience shall never face disappointment and defeat.
The secret of steadfastness and permanence of great builders of the history of mankind, and the foremost amongst them, the divine Prophets and other pious statesmen, who in spite of being inflicted with the most severe pains and tortures at the very beginning of their invitation, remained relatively active and stable, lies in the same point.
With an accurate foresight regarding the bitterness and unpleasantness of this path, and with their properly being equipped with the logistics of patience, they were able to completely eliminate the possibilities of their psychological defeat and with the result converted themselves into robust and invincible creatures.
Their opponents and enemies that in many instances were equipped with all kinds of resources became tired and helpless, but these great men in spite of being deprived of proper resources diligently continued their heroic invincible resistance.
How someone like Imam Hadi 12 (a.s.), who has spent most of the period of his leadership under the intense pressure of the ruling regime of caliph Mutawakkil, was in a position to put the powerful caliph in a state of annoyance. When one among the two combatant adversaries is weak as regards to the outwardly resources, but in spite of being faced with imprisonment, deprivations, being away from the comfortable and secured environment, does not get harassed, pressures and hardships does not break his iron will, and in spite of all these obstacles on the path of his cherished goals, continues his long term march. It is obvious that his adversary who, in spite of having equipped with better material resources lacks the commitment and strong spiritual faith and therefore becomes easily harassed and defeated.
Certainly, an impatient wayfarer cannot without first getting himself tired, at the same time, would be able to make his adversary tired undoubtedly he is going to loose and be defeated. This is the strange characteristic of patience which makes a person invincible.
The people before testing, cannot evaluate themselves, and very often are unaware about the hidden energy in their existence. Let us consider the example of a strong person, who is possessed with plenty of natural physical strength without doing any special practice or physical exercise. Let us imagine that he has never participated in a weight lifting or any other physical competition, such a person is certainly not aware regarding the amount of physical strength in his body. We could only discover the Allah-given energy in our existence, when we are challenged to participate in a certain competition which requires the utilisation of that particular energy.
The second important effect of patience is, that a patient person after offering resistance in different fields of life and against the events and obstacles, discovers about the amount of energy, its particulars, and the noble and higher sublime virtues hidden within his existence, which were never discovered by him earlier, during a routine life without any headache.
Those who have suffered the pressures and harshness of life, and for the sake of their cherished noble aims and ideals, were subjected to severe tragedies and hardships appreciate the above meanings. Such individuals with an irreversible decree of determination, in their confrontation with great dangers, and severe pressures, while a strange naive observer would have considered them defeated and destroyed completely, because of their patience and endurance, were able to achieve a sense of relief and victory, an unprecedented power and surprising grandeur; within their existence, which was something completely new for them and was never realised by them before.
Therefore, it is because of patience, that a patient person could better recognise his self, as well as could better identify the positive points within his existence, and could discover the energy which was never identified throughout his life before.
The third constructive quality of patience is that whatever stage or extent a patient person may be, it helps him to bring relatively closer and more reliant upon Allah. Now, some people may consider that reliance upon Allah does not get along with the reliance upon self, and therefore according to their logic, anyone who is dependent upon Allah, could not rely upon his self.
When it is said: 'Rely upon Allah', such people complain: Let people rely upon themselves, and let their eyes and hopes look towards themselves, as if the one who invites the people to rely upon Allah, wants them not to be relied upon themselves. While in reality for a person committed to Allah, reliance upon self is complimentary and inseparable with each other, even to the extent that reliance upon self is regarded as one of the parameter of the patience, which in effect is a means for reliance upon Allah as well as. Because impatience against bitter tragedies of life, and fear against optional calamities, which are reflections of lack of self-reliance, also means forgetting Allah.
When a person is inflicted with the severe tragedies of life, and the millstone representing the testing of life is grinding him with intense pressure, if he does not become impatient, aggrieved, and annoyed, the channels of his communication with Allah would become wider and independent, and his heart and soul would be enlightened with the Light of Allah.
And on the contrary, his becoming weak and annoyed, makes him ignorant, stranger and disconnected from his own self as well as from Allah.
This sentence speaks about a reality fully explicit with clear reasoning and tested with the experience of those, who in their confrontation with the adverse conditions were able to utilise patience as their winning weapon, and believe and acknowledge this matter with certainty.
"Our Lord! Bestow on us endurance, make our foothold sure and give us help against the disbelieving folk." (The Holy Qur’an, 2:250)
- 1. Nahj-ul-Balagha
- 2. Nahj-ul-Balagha
- 3. Tarikh Kamil ibn Athir
- 4. Tawwabin or penitents, as they are called in history books, were mostly people of Kufa and Iraq, who rose up against the Omayyad rule in 64 A.H. (683 AD.), three years after the tragedy of Karbala to avenge the blood of Imam Husayn (a.s.) and the Prophet's Household. Led by the Prophet's ageing companion Sulayman ibn gurad al-Khazaei, who was one of the leading Islamic generals in the conquest of Transoxiana, their sole aim in battle, was either to kill the ungodly Omayyads or to achieve martyrdom in the process. For almost two years, they fought the caliphal forces, killing a great number of those troops who had fought against Imam Husayn (a.s.) at Karbala.(Ed)
- 5. Zaid was the son of the fourth Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn (the survivor of Karbala). Fed up with Omayyad tyranny, he started an uprising in Iraq and was tragically martyred and his body was burned by the caliphal forces in 124 A.H. (740 AD.). His movement like other Alid uprisings, aroused people's conscience against the libertine and ungodly rule of the Omayyads, who were swept into the dustbin of history ten years later in 132 A.H. (749 AD.). (Ed)
- 6. The Omayyuds who usurped power of the Islamic State in 41 A.H., when Muawiya the son of Abu Sufyan, forced Imam Hassan (a.s.) to abdicate, were divided into two branches; the Sufyanids whose rule terminated with the death of Muawiya ibn Yazid in 64 A.H. (683 AD.) and the Marwanids, whose rule started with Marwan ibn Hakam and ended with Marwan ibn Muhammad al-Hemar in 132 A.H. (749 AD.), when a new dynasty the Abbasids usurped power. (Ed)
- 7. These speeches were delivered during Muharram of 1394 Hijri at Masjid-e-Karamat in Mashhad. (Tr.)
- 8. General George C. Marshall, a great soldier had stated that "you can have all the material in the world, but without morale it is largely ineffective". He also said: "it is not enough to fight, it is the spirit which we bring to the fight which decides the issue. It is morale that wins the victory." (Tr.)
- 9. Tuhaf-al-Aqool
- 10. Mutawakkil is one of the Abbasid caliphs who was specially hostile to the Ahl-ul-Bait and their followers, ruled from 232/847 to 247/861 (Tr.)
- 11. After Imam al-Ridha’ (a.s.) the 8th Imam, three successive Imams till the 11th Imam and some other prominent descendants of the 8th Imam, during that period were called "Ibn al-Ridha’". In the above sentence the reference is to Imam Hadi (a.s.) the 10th Imam
- 12. The important point in this narration is the importance of predicting dangers in advance, while making preparations for struggle. Perhaps, those who without considering the potential dangers, conducted a dangerous operation, do not have the strength to confront the danger and therefore as soon as they face the signs of potential danger, became disappointed, ashamed and helpless.