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Patience: Solution for Life’s Sorrows

A lengthy excerpt from the tremendous work of Tawḥīd, Fat‘h al-Majīd by Imām ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Ḥasan. The author begins by giving a proper definition of patience in Islām from the speech of the Scholars. He then goes on to mention the three kinds of patience and the various benefits attained by those who have it.

And know that ṣabr (patient perseverance) is of three kinds: [i] ṣabr whilst (fulfilling) the orders of Allāh, [ii] ṣabr whilst (abandoning and keeping away) from the prohibitions of Allāh, and [iii] ṣabr with the Decree of Allāh with respect to afflictions and difficulties.

The Virtues of Patience

Imām Aḥmad (d.241H) said, “Allāh has mentioned ṣabr (patient perseverance) in over ninety places in His Book.”2

And there occurs in the authentic ḥadīth, “Sabr (patient perseverance) is light.”3 The Prophet (ﷺ) also said, “No one has been given anything more excellent and more comprehensive than ṣabr.”4

ʿUmar – raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu – said, “We considered the best part of our lives to be that in which there was ṣabr.”5

ʿAlī – raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu – said, “Indeed ṣabr is from īmān (faith). Its position is like that of the head with respect to the rest of the body.” Then he raised his voice and said, “Verily, there is no īmān (faith) for the one who has no ṣabr.”6

The Meaning of Patience

The word ṣabr (in the Arabic language) is from sabara – to be patient and to persevere, and it indicates to holding back and restraining oneself. (In the Shaee’ah sense) it implies: restraining the soul from being agitated; restraining the tongue from complaining and restraining the hands from slapping the cheeks, tearing the clothes and doing other similar actions. This has been mentioned by Ibn al-Qayyim (d.750H).7

And know that ṣabr (patient perseverance) is of three kinds: [i] ṣabr whilst (fulfilling) the orders of Allāh, [ii] ṣabr whilst (abandoning and keeping away) from the prohibitions of Allāh, and [iii] ṣabr with the Decree of Allāh with respect to afflictions and difficulties.

Guidance for the Hearts

Allāh – the Most High – says: “And whosoever believes in Allāh, He guides his heart aright. And Allāh has full knowledge over everything.”8

And this āyah begins with, “No affliction occurs, except by the permission of Allāh.” About this Ibn ʿAbbās said, “By the command of Allāh – meaning: by His Will and His Power.”9

So the meaning of this āyah is: No affliction occurs except by His Mashee‘ah (Will), His Irādah (Desire) and His Hikmah (Wisdom) – as Allāh says: “No affliction occurs upon the earth, nor in yourselves, except that it is written before We bring it into existence. Indeed, this is easy for Allāh.”10 And Allāh says, “Give glad-tidings to those who have ṣabr. Those who – when afflicted with an affliction – say: Indeed, we belong to Allāh and to Him shall we return. They are those on whom are the blessings from their Lord and His mercy. They are the ones who are guided.”11

And Allāh’s saying, “And whosoever believes in Allāh, He guides his heart aright.” Means, “Whosoever – when afflicted with an affliction – knows it is by the Decree of Allāh and His Power, and thus patiently submits to it, then Allāh rewards such a person by guiding their heart aright. So this is the root cause of all happiness and the foundation of excellence in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allāh promises such a person (a reward) for what He has taken from them.”12 And Allāh’s saying: “And Allāh has full knowledge over everything,” is a reminder that such an affliction is by His Knowledge which necessitates His Wisdom, which obligates ṣabr and being contented with His Decree.

Abū Dhibyān said: We were with ’Alqamah13 and this āyah was recited to him, “And whosoever believes in Allāh, He guides his heart aright.” So he said, “It is the man who – when afflicted with an affliction – knows it is from Allāh, so he is pleased with it and submits to it.”14

In the above narration is proof that actions are a part of īmān (faith).

Saʿīd Ibn Jubayr (d.104H) said about, “And whosoever believes in Allāh, He guides his heart aright.” He said, “That (at the time of an affliction) a person says: Indeed, to Allāh we belong and to Him shall we return.”

In the above āyah is an explanation that having ṣabr is the cause for the heart’s guidance; this being the reward for the sābir (the one having patience).

Complaining Against the Decree of Allāh

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Two characteristics of the people are from disbelief: attack on one’s genealogy and bewailing the deceased.”15 Meaning: that these two characteristics are actions of kufr (disbelief), since these are actions of jāhilīyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance) that continue to remain in people. And no one will remain safe from them, except for the one to whom Allāh grants safety and the one to whom Allāh grants knowledge and īmān (faith).

However – it should be known – that whosoever has within him a branch of kufr (disbelief), then it does not cause the person to become a kāfir (disbeliever) with absolute kufr; just as a person who has within him a branch of īmān (faith), is not called a mu‘min (believer) with absolute īmān. Indeed, there is a difference between the word kufr having the definite article attached to it (i.e. al-kufr) and the word kufr without the definite article – as occurs in the saying of the Prophet, “There is nothing between a servant and between al-kufr and ash-shirk, except abandoning the Prayer.”16

The saying of the Prophet (ﷺ), “Attack on one’s genealogy,” means: finding faults and defects. Entering into this also is a person’s false denial of another man’s genealogy by saying, “This is not the son of such and such,” and the person knew that this denial was false.

And his saying, “And bewailing the dead.” means: raising the voice in lamentation and wailing and in enumerating the virtues of the deceased. All of this is a form of complaining against the Decree of Allāh and is against having ṣabr – such as the saying of the one bewailing: “He was my close friend,” or “he was my aid and supporter.”

So the above ḥadīth is proof of the obligation of having ṣabr, and proof that there is a type of kufr (disbelief) that does not cause its doer to become a kāfir.

Tender Hearts and Compassionate Tears

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “He is not one of us who strikes the cheeks, tears the clothes and calls with the call of jāhilīyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance).” [17] This is one of those textual threats related to the Revelation. It is related to Sufyān al-Thawrī and Imām Aḥmad that they disliked explaining the meaning of such threats so that people would fear committing such actions and would remain far away from them. This narration is proof that the actions mentioned are against complete īmān (faith).

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar (d.852H) whilst explaining the saying, “Whosoever strikes the cheeks,” said, “The cheeks have been particularised since that is the most common place of striking. However, striking any other part of the face is just the same.”18

The saying of the Prophet, “Tearing the clothes,” implies: tearing open the clothes from the chest. This was the practice of the people of jāhilīyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance) as an expression of grieving for the deceased.

Ibn Taymīyyah (d.728H) said, “And calls with the call of jāhilīyyah,” “It means to wail over the deceased.”19

Ibn al-Qayyim – raḥimahullāh – said, “Included in calling with the call of jāhilīyyah is calling to tribalism, partisanship, and party-spirit; being zealous and bigoted towards one’s madh′hab (school of thought), party, or Shaykh; giving precedence to one over the other and calling to this, and forming alliances and enmity based upon this. All of this is from the calls of jāhilīyyah.”

Abū ’Umaamah relates the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) cursed the woman who strikes her face, tears her clothes, and wailed over the deceased.20

So this is proof that these matters are major sins. Also, whosoever laments lightly-without being impatient with Allāh’s Decree, nor complaining against it, and says only that which is true – then such lamenting is acceptable. Just like the lamenting of Abū Bakr21 and Fāṭimah22 (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhumā) when the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) died. There is a text also from Imām Aḥmad concerning this.23

However, this is not proof for the prohibition of crying, since there occurs in an authentic narration: When the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) came to know about the death of his son Ibrāhīm, he said, “The eyes shed tears, the heart grieves, but we do not say except that which pleases our Lord. O Ibrāhīm! It is because of you that we are grieving.”24

In the two Ṣaḥīḥs Usāmah Ibn Zayd relates: That the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) went to one of his daughters, who had with her a young child that was dying. So she raised the child and placed the child in his lap, who was gasping for air. On seeing this, tears rolled down the Prophet (ﷺ)’s eyes. So Sa’d said: O Messenger of Allāh! What is this? So he replied, “This is mercy which Allāh puts into the hearts of His servants. And Allāh is merciful to those of His servants that show mercy to others.”25

Trials Faced by the Believers

The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said, “Whenever Allāh intends to do good to a servant, He hastens to punish him in this world. And whenever Allāh intends evil for a servant, He postpones the punishment until the Day of Judgement.”26

His saying, “Whenever Allāh intends to do good to a servant, He hastens to punish him in this world.” means: that he is punished by being inflicted with afflictions and difficulties due to the sins he has committed, due to which he is cleansed from them all, and in the Hereafter, he has no sins to account for.

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah said, “The occurrence of afflictions are actually a form of blessing since they are an expiation for sins committed and they call for a person to have ṣabr – for which he is duly rewarded. Likewise, they cause the person to turn to Allāh in repentance, being humble and submissive before Him, whilst at the same time turning away from hoping in any of the creation. There are – besides these – other great advantages.

Thus, those afflictions which befall a person are actually the cause of Allāh wiping away his sins, and this is one of the greatest blessings. So the occurrence of afflictions are a source of mercy and bounty, providing such a person does not enter into that which is a cause for even greater disobedience than before. For this affliction will then become a cause of great evil to the person’s Religion. Indeed, there are people who – when afflicted with a trial or an affliction; such as poverty, illness or starvation – cause hypocrisy to sprout in them, or cause their hearts to become diseased, or it causes them to fall into ingratitude and disbelief, or to abandon certain obligations or commit certain prohibited acts – all of which is extremely harmful to one’s Religion. So to remain safe from, and to be protected against such afflictions and trials, is better for a person since the afflictions and trials – rather than being a source of blessings – become a source of great injury. However, if the person had ṣabr and remained obedient, then such an affliction would have been the cause of mercy and blessings from Allāh – the Mighty and Majestic -which necessitates praising Him.

So whosoever is afflicted with a calamity and is provided with ṣabr, then this ṣabr is a blessing for the person and mercy for him since his sins are expiated due to it. Likewise his Lord bestows upon him praises and prayers, as Allāh – the Majestic – says,

“They are those on whom are the blessings and praises from their Lord and His mercy. They are the ones who are guided.”27

Such a person is also forgiven by his Lord for his sins, and is raised to higher ranks – all of this is due to the one who has ṣabr.”28

The saying of the Prophet, “Whenever Allāh intends evil for a servant, He postpones the punishment until the Day of Judgement,” means: that such a person’s punishment is delayed until the Hereafter, where he will receive severe punishment.

Al-’ʿAzīzee (d.1070H) said, “Such a person is not punished in this world so that in the Hereafter he can be punished for his sins in a way that he fully deserved.”29

In the above ḥadīth is a lesson and a reminder that one must have good expectations in Allāh and a good opinion about Him with regard to what He has decreed for a person, as Allāh – the Most High – says,

“It is possible that you hate a thing and it is good for you, and love a thing and it is evil for you. Allāh knows and you do not know.”30

Reward are Proportional to Afflictions

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Reward is directly proportional to the affliction. If Allāh loves a people, He inflicts them with a calamity. Whoever accepts it, Allāh is pleased with them, and whoever resents it, Allāh is displeased with them.”31

Likewise, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whenever Allāh loves a people, He sends affliction upon them. So whoever is patient, is one of the patient-ones, and whoever resents it, is one of the resenters.”32

The meaning of the first ḥadīth is: the greater the affliction, the greater the reward. And it is said: Indeed, afflictions bring about a reward as well as expiating sins. This was the preferred saying of Ibn al-Qayyim that the one afflicted with a calamity is not only rewarded for it, but his sins are expiated as well. However, if this affliction was the cause of him doing certain righteous actions – such as having ṣabr, contentment with the Decree of Allāh, repenting to Allāh or asking for His forgiveness – then the person will be rewarded for such actions as well. Because of this it is said that the meaning of the ḥadīth is: Indeed, the reward is proportional to the affliction, providing there is ṣabr and expectation of reward.

Similarly, in the ḥadīth of Sa’d, ‘The Prophet (ﷺ) was asked, ‘Who from mankind suffers the greatest afflictions?’ He replied, ‘The Prophets, then those most like them, then those most like them. A person is afflicted with calamities in comparison to his Religion, so if he is firm in his Religion, then his afflictions are strong and if he is weak in his Religion, then his afflictions are lighter. A person is afflicted with calamities until he is left walking upon the face of this earth without any sins.”33

This ḥadīth and its like are from the proofs for Tawḥīd. Since if a person knew that the Prophets and the awliyāʾ (the friends of Allāh) are themselves afflicted with calamities and that none can remove these afflictions from them except Allāh, then it will be known that they can bring neither benefit nor ward of harm to themselves – so how can they ward off harm for others! Thus rather than turning to the Prophets and righteous people for the removal of harm, or relief from worries and grief, one should turn directly to Allāh alone – the One who is able to accomplish this.

Attaining Tranquility

And ar-Ridaa (the pleasure of Allāh) – which occurs in the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ), “So whosoever is pleased, then Allāh is pleased with him.” – is one of the Attributes that Allāh has described Himself with in various places in His Book, such as His saying,

“Their rewards are Gardens of Adan, beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever. Allāh is well pleased with them, as they are with Him.”34

The way of the Salaf (the Pious Predecessors) and those who follow them from Ahl al-Sunnah (the followers of the Sunnah) is to affirm those attributes which Allāh has affirmed for Himself, or which have been affirmed by His Messenger (ﷺ) – in a way which befits His Majesty and Greatness – without tamthīl (likening Allāh to any of His creation), and without ta’tīl (divesting Allāh of His Attributes). So when Allāh – the Most High – is pleased with any one, then such a person has acquired all good and excellence and is safe from all evils.

Ar-Ridā is: a servant surrendering his affairs to Allāh, whilst having a good opinion about Him and expecting His reward. Such a person will then experience tranquility and joy, love of Allāh, and reliance upon Him.

Ibn Masʿūd – (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) – said, “Indeed Allāh – from His Justice and Fairness – made delight and tranquility the fits of yaqīn (certainty) and ridā (pleasure). And He made grief, anxiety, and worry the result of doubt and resentment.”35

The meaning of resentment being: “A dislike for something, with the absence of pleasure.”36 Thus, whosoever resents what Allāh has decreed, then Allāh will resent that person, and this is sufficient as a punishment from Allāh. Also, from the above ḥadīth, some Scholars have deduced that ridā (contentment and pleasure) with the Decree of Allāh is obligatory – this being the view of Ibn ʿAqīl. However, al-Qaadee Abū Ya’lā did not consider it to be obligatory [but rather preferable], and this was the preferred view of Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim.37

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah said, “Just as there is a specific command attached to having ṣabr (patience), there is, however, no such command for having ridā (contentment and pleasure). Rather, there is a praise and excellence for those who have ridā with the Decree of Allāh.” He further said, “The narration: ‘Whosoever does not have ṣabr with My afflictions, nor have ridā with My Decree, has taken a Lord other than Me.’38 This narration is one of the Israa‘eeliyyaat and is not authentically related from the Prophet (ﷺ).”39

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah also said, “Indeed, there is a station higher than [both ṣabr and] ridā, and that is to show shukr (gratitude) to Allāh for the affliction since this is the cause of receiving excellence and bounties.”40


[1] Edited and adapted from Fat‘h al-Majīd li Sharḥ Kitāb al-Tawḥīd (2/603-615); Chapter: From īmān (faith) in Allāh is to have ṣabr (patience) with the Decree of Allāh.
[2] Related by Ibn al-Qayyim in Madārij al-Sālikīn (2/152).
[3] Related by Muslim (no. 223) and Aḥmad (5/343), from Abū Mālik al-Ashʿarī (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
[4] Related by al-Bukhārī (no. 1469) and Muslim (no. l053), from Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī (raḍīyallahu ʿanhu).
[5] Related by al-Bukhārī (1 l/303) in ta’leeq form, and it has been related in connected form by Imām Aḥmad in al-Zuhd with a Ṣaḥīḥ isnād – as al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar mentioned in Fat′h al-Bārī (11/303).
[6] Related by al-Lālikaa‘ee in Sharḥ Uṣūl Iʿtiqād Ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jamāʿah (no. 1659), al-Bayḥaqī in Shu’abul-Īmān and Abī Shaybaan in Kitāb al-Īmān (no. 130), with a slightly different wording.
[7] Madārij al-Sālikīn (2/156) of Ibn al-Qayyim.
[8] Sūrah al-Taghābun [64:11]
[9] Tasfīr Qurʾānul-’Adheem (2/164) of Ibn Kathīr
[10] Sūrah al-Ḥadīd [57:22]
[11] Sūrah al-Baqarah [2:155-157]
[12] Tasfīr Qurʾānul-’Adhīm (8/163)
[13] Related by Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī in Jāmiʿul-Bayān ’an Ta‘weelil-Qurʾān (28/123), ʿAbd al-Razzāq in his Tafsīr (3/95) and also as-Suyūtī in ad-Durrul-Manthoor (8/183). Its like is also related by al-Bukhārī in ta’leeq form (8/652) from Ibn Masʿūd.
[14] Tahdheebut-Tahdbeeb (7/276) of Ibn Ḥajar al-’Asqalānī
[15] Related by Muslim (no. 67) and Aḥmad (2/377), from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
[16] Related by Muslim (no. 82), Abū Dāwūd (no. 4679) and al-Tirmidhī (no. 2621), from Jābir Ibn ʿAbdullāh (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
[17] Related by al-Bukhārī (no. 1294) and Muslim (no. 103), from Ibn Masʿūd (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
[18] Fat′h al-Bārī (3/164) of Ibn Ḥajar.
[19] Iqtidaa‘us-Siraatil-Mustaqeem (l/204) of Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah.
[20] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Ibn Mājah (no. 1584) and also Ibn Hibbān (no. 737). Al-Bawseeree authenticated it in Masābīhuz-Zajājah (1/521).
[21] Related by Aḥmad (6/31), from ’Aa‘ishah (raḍī Allāhu ’anhā).
[22] Related by al-Bukhārī (no. 4462) and Ibn Mājah (no. 1629-1630), from Anas (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
[23] As az-Zarkashī mentions in Sharḥ Mukhtasarul-Kharqī (2/356).
[24] Related by al-Bukhārī (no. 1303) and Muslim (no. 2315), from Anas and Asmāʾa‘ ibnt Yazīd (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhumā).
[25] Related by al-Bukhārī (no. 1283) and Muslim (no. 923).
[26] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by al-Tirmidhī (no. 2398) and al-Ḥākim in al-Mustadrak (1/340), from Anas (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albānī in al-Ṣaḥihah (no. 1220).
[27] Sūrah al-Baqarah [2:155-157]
[28] Abridged from Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá (10/48) of Ibn Taymīyyah.
[29] as-Siraajul-Munīr (l/88) of al-ʿAzīzī
[30] Sūrah al-Baqarah [2:216]
[31] Ḥasan: Related by al-Tirmidhī (no. 2398) and Ibn Mājah (no. 4021), from Anas (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by al-Albānī in al-Ṣaḥihah (no. 146).
[32] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (5/427), from Maḥmūd Ibn Lubayd (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by al-Mundharī in al-Targhīb wa-al-Tarḥīb (4/283), al-Haythamī Majma’uz-Zawā‘id (2/291) and Ibn Ḥajar in Fat′h al-Bārī (10/108).
[33] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (l/172), al-Tirmidhī (no. 2398) and Ibn Mājah (no. 4023). It was authenticated by al-Albānī in al-Ṣaḥihah (no.143).
[34] Sūrah al-Bayyinah [98:8]
[35] Related by Ibn Abī Dunyā in Kitābur-Ridaa (no. 94) and also al-Bayḥaqī in Shu’abul-Īmān (no. 205).
[36] an-Nihāyah fī Ghareebil-Ḥadīth (2/350) of Ibn al-Atheer
[37] Madārij al-Sālikīn (2/171,184) of Ibn al-Qayyim.
[38] Da’eef Jiddan: Related by at-Ṭabarānī in al-Kabīr (22/320), Ibn Hibbān in al-Majrooheen (1/324) and al-Khaṭīb in at-Talkhees (39/2) all by way of Saʿīd Ibn Ziyād. Al-Haythamī said in al-Majma’ (7/207), “In it is Saʿīd Ibn Ziyād who is matrook (abandoned).” And al-Ḥāfiẓ al-’ʿIrāqee said in Takhreejul-Iḥyā‘ (3/296), “Its isnād is weak.” And al-Manaawee said, “Da’eef Jiddan (very weak)” as occurs in ad-Da’eefah (no. 505).
[39] Ibn al-Qayyim related this in Madārij al-Sālikīn (2/171).
[40] Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá (11/260) of Ibn Taymīyyah

Published: June 20, 2007
Edited: August 24, 2022

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