Alluding to patience as a virtue is a notorious cliché. The phrase is overused, and its meaning diluted as a consequence. Nevertheless, patience (Sabr) is a pivotal tenet within the Islamic faith. It has become a metaphor for enduring faith. The type of faith that persists in-spite of the plethora of trials and tribulations that are common to life. Contrary to the meaning attached to the word in everyday use, Islam redefines patience to encompass all the basic principles of the Islamic faith. It is expressed in all five the pillars of Islam. Devoid of patience one cannot fast, pray five times a day etc.
Consequently, it is a character trait that is described as one of the noblest qualities of the believers. It is identified as the single best character trait that a person can have. Allah is quoted as describing the best of people as “ …those who are patient seeking the countenance of their lord”.
Exercising patience is a clear indication of one’s relationship with God. What it portrays is the willingness of an individual to submit to Allah’s will, without squirming or complaining (Shakwah). Accepting the hardships and burdens that are inevitable in life, without annoyance. In a sense, it is the ultimate expression of faith, albeit passively.
“ And certainly, we shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to as the Saabireen ( the patient ones). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Inna Lillaahi wa Iinna ilaihi Raaji’un (Verily to Allah we belong and verily, to him we shall return). “ They are those on whom are the Salawaat (i.e who are blessed and will be forgiven ) from their lord, and (they are those who) receive his Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones.
Anger and frustration directed towards Allah for what has been decreed is forbidden in Islam. A Muslim is encouraged to accept his/her afflictions and still express gratitude towards the lord. This is the kind of attitude that Islam seeks to cultivate amongst its followers. Ultimately patience in Islam is an overarching principle, that entails acceptance, gratitude, submission and the type of faith that tenaciously endures each and every one of life’s afflictions.