19) Habituate yourself to patient endurance in afflictions

19. Habituate yourself to patient endurance in afflictions; the best of moral traits is to constrain yourself to patience in the (path of) truth.

وعود نفسك التصبّر على المكروه ونعم الخُلق التصبر في الحَقِّ

The factor which protects man in confronting hardships or against desires contrary to the religion is called perseverance. It has different shapes which are dealt with in the following tradition:

"الصَبرُ ثَلاثَة: صَبْرٌ عِندَ المُصِيبَةِ، وَصَبرُ عَلى الطَّاعَةِ وَصَبرٌ عَن المَعصِيَةِ"

"Patience is of three kinds; patience during calamities, patience in obeying Allah and patience in refraining from sins”.1

The important point in patience is that practice in it will broaden our capacity to stand firm in the face of hardships. On the contrary, those people who lack this asset will lose their resistance in time of difficulties. For this reason, in Islam, worship and prayer are adopted as somewhat hard, such as prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, holy wars and the like with the practice of which man becomes strong. The Holy Qur’an, which mentions the word patience more than seventy times, relates a lot of good to it. The Holy Qur’an, talking about appointing an Imam for the Israelites and fulfilling God's promises of their victory over their enemies, puts patience as the criterion for their prosperity:

"وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُوا"

"And We made of them imams to guide by our command when they were patient"2

Elsewhere, the Qur’an says:

"وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَبِّكَ الْحُسْنَى عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا"

"And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled in the children of Israel because they bore up sufferings patiently"3

In another connection, where the Qur’an mentions divine help for the holy war fighters, the issue of patience once more is raised:

"بَلَى إِنْ تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا وَيَأْتُوكُمْ مِنْ فَوْرِهِمْ هَذَا يُمْدِدْكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ بِخَمْسَةِ آلَافٍ مِنْ الْمَلَائِكَةِ مُسَوِّمِينَ"

"Yea! If you remain patient and are on your guard, and they come upon you in a headlong manner, your Lord will assist you with five thousand of the havoc-making angels".4

The Qur’an in one occasion praises the truth-seekers and believers and mentions that these people's success is due to the fact they were patient:

"أُوْلَئِكَ يُؤْتَوْنَ أَجْرَهُمْ مَرَّتَيْنِ بِمَا صَبَرُوا وَيَدْرَءُونَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ السَّيِّئَةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ"

"These shall be granted their reward twice, because they are steadfast and they repel evil with good and spend out of what we have given them".5

In the Surah al-Furqan, after describing the day and night schedule of the believers and after praising their behavior with God and with the people, God comes to the conclusion that

أُوْلَئِكَ يُجْزَوْنَ الْغُرْفَةَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا "

"These shall be rewarded with high places [in the paradise] because they were patient, and shall be met therein with greetings and salutations".6

And in the Surah al-Insan [Man], the Qur’an describes many virtues for the Prophet’s Household and concludes that they have got these rewards because of their patience:

"َفوَقَاهُمْ اللَّهُ شَرَّ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ وَلَقَّاهُمْ نَضْرَةً وَسُرُورًا وَجَزَاهُمْ بِمَا صَبَرُوا جَنَّةً وَحَرِيرًا"

"Therefore, Allah will guard them from the evil of that day and cause them to meet with ease and happiness; and reward them, because they were patient, with garden and silk".7

And in the Surah al-Ra’d [Thunder], after enumerating eight adjectives for the men of understanding [Ulu’l albab], the Qur’an mentions that God let them and their parents and their spouses and their children enter paradise and the angels enter upon them from every gate and send peace upon them telling them they attained this because of their patience:

"جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا وَمَنْ صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ يَدْخُلُونَ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ بَابٍ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ فَنِعْمَ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ"

"The gardens of perpetual abode which they will enter along with those who do good from among their parents and their spouses and their offspring; and the angels will enter in upon them from every gate: Peace be upon you because you were constant, how excellent, is then, the issue of the abode."8

Thus, we see that all this prosperity is due to patience. This indicates that the base for all human traits is patience. None of these traits flourishes except with patience.9

In the Islamic traditions, emphasis is put on the constructive role of patience. Some of these traditions are mentioned here:

Imam ‘Ali has said:

"اِنَّ الصَبرَ مِنَ الاِيمانِ كَالرَأسِ مِنَ الجَسَدِ وَلا خَيرَ في جَسَدٍ لا رَأسَ مَعَهُ وَلا في اِيمَانٍَ لا صَبرَ مَعَهُ"

"Patience in relation to faith is like the head to the body; there is no good in a body without a head, or in faith without patience."10

Imam Baqir has said:

"الجَنَّةُ مَحفُوفَةٌ بِالمَكارِهِ وَالصَبْرُ، فَمَن صَبَرَ على المَكارِهِ في الدُّنيا دَخَلَ الجَنَّةَ، وَجَهَنَّمُ مَحفُوفَةٌ بِالَّلذّاتِ وَالشَهَواتِ، فَمَن اعطى نَفسَهُ لَذَّتَها وَشَهْوَتَها دَخَلَ النّارَ"

"Paradise is encircled with afflictions and patience; so whoever patiently endures misfortunes in this world enters paradise. Hell is encircled with pleasures and desires. Therefore, whoever grants his self its pleasures and desires enters the Fire.”11

Abu Basir says that he has heard Imam as-Sadiq saying:

"اِنَّ الحُرَّ حُرٌّ على جَمِيعِ اَحوَالِهِ، اِن نَابَتهُ نَائِبَةٌ صَبَرَ لَها وَاِن تَداكَّت عَلَيهِ المَصائِبُ لَم تَكسِرهُ وَاِن اُسِر وقُهِر وَاستَبدَلَ بِاليُسرِ عُسْراً كَما كَانَ يُوسُف الصِدِّيقُ الاَمِينُ صَلَواتُ الله عَلَيهِ لَم يُضْرِر حُرِّيَتَه اِن استُعبِدَ وقُهِرَ واُسِرَ وَلَم يُضرِرهُ ظُلمَةُ الجُبِّ وَوَحشَتُه وَمَا نَالهَ اِن مَنّ الله عَلَيهِ فَجَعَلَ الجبَّارَ العَاتِي لَهُ عَبداً بَعدَ اِذ كَانَ لَهُ مَالِكاً فَارسَلَهُ وَرَحِمَ بِهِ اُمَّة وَكذلِكَ الصَبْرُ يَعقِبُ خَيراً، فَاصْبِرُوا وَوَطِّنُوا اَنفَسَكُم عَلى الصَبْرِ تُؤجَرُوا"

"A free person is free in all conditions. If an affliction befalls him, he is patient, and if misfortunes press upon him they do not break him even if he is taken captive and oppressed, and his ease is substituted with hardship - as in the case of Yusuf, the veracious and trustworthy, Allah’s blessings on him. His freedom was not harmed when he was enslaved, oppressed and taken captive, and the darkness and loneliness of the well did not harm him when God favoured him and made the insolent tyrant, who had been his king, into his slave. God sent him as a Prophet and had mercy on a nation through him. Thus, patience has good results, therefore be patient, and accustom yourselves to patience and you will be rewarded."12

It is because of this constructive role of patience that Imam ‘Ali orders his son "Habituate yourself to patient endurance in afflictions; the best of moral traits is to constrain yourself to patience".

The poet says:
Patience is bitter, but later
Will give you the fruit of importance.
In this nature, any nation will be miser,
Which gets used to the act of pleasure-taking.
In his letter to ‘Uthman b. Hunayf, Imam ‘Ali emphasizes this fact:

"اَلا وَاِنَّ الشَجَرَةَ البَرِّيَةَ اَصلَبُ عُوداً وَالرَوائِعَ الخَضِرَةُ اَرَقُّ جُلُوداً وَالنَبَاتَاتُ البَدَويَّةُ اَقوَى وَقُوداً وَابطَأ خُمُودا"

"Be aware that the trees of the desert have harder wood, and the green trees on the river have more delicate barks. Desert vegetation burns more fiercely and its embers die down more slowly".13

  • 1. . Al-Mahjjah al-Bayda’, Fayd al-Kashani, vol.7, p.126.
  • 2. . Qur’an 32:24.
  • 3. . Qur’an 7:137.
  • 4. . Qur’an 3:125.
  • 5. . Qur’an 28:54.
  • 6. . Qur’an 25:75.
  • 7. . Qur’an 76:11-12.
  • 8. . Qur’an 13:23-24.
  • 9. . Tafsir Namunah, vol.10, p.193.
  • 10. . Nahj al-Balaghah, Hikmah 82.
  • 11. . Usul al-Kafi, vol.2, p.89.
  • 12. . Al-Kafi, vol..2, p.89.
  • 13. . Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter No 45.