The Prophet said: “ Patience is a light.” (Muslim)
In the intricate paths of life when difficulties and hardships confront a man, and the darkness of adversities an suffering becomes long, it is patience only that acts like a light for a Muslim, that keeps him safe from wandering here and there, and saves him from the muddy mire of disappointment, desperation and frustration.
Patience is such a basic quality that a Muslim needs it to shape his life in this world and in the next. On this basis only he should attend to all his work. He should make it a torchlight for guiding his way, else he will be defeated in the field of life. He should prepare his self to tolerate the hardships and difficulties, and should not holler or raise hell. He should not sit waiting for the results, however late that may take. He should not run away from responsibilities, whatever they may be.
No doubts and misgivings, no hardship of trouble should prompt his intellect to indulge in violence. He should have plenty of self-confidence. He should not be frightened by the dark clouds appearing on the horizon of life, even if they may be appearing continually, nay, he should be fully sure that these clouds of adversities and hardships will disappear, and the clear and bright atmosphere of success and glory will appear again.
Therefore, the demand of wisdom and farsightedness is that its coming should be awaited with patience, peace and conviction.
The Almighty God has stressed this point sufficiently that no man can escape tests and trials, so that man may be alert and ready at the time when these hardship and difficulties descend on him, and he should not be frightened by these heavenly and earthly tribulations, and need not be disappointed and disheartened.
And verily We shall try you ill till We know those of you who still hard (in the cause of Allah) and the steadfast, and till We test your record. (Muhammad 47:31)
The poet has expressed the same idea in these words:
“We had anticipated the hardships of the night before their coming. So when they descended, there was no addition to our knowledge.”
Undoubtedly if accidents and debacles are faced with a clear sight and full preparations, it will prove advantageous for man and this will help in stabilizing and consolidating his position.
The Two Pillars of Patience
Patience relies on two important realities. The first reality is concerned with the nature of this worldly life. Its details are: Allah has not made this world a house of peace and satisfaction or of rewards and recompense, but He has made it a house of trials.
The time that a man spends in this world is really a time for unending experiences. He comes out of one trial in order to undergo another trial which is harder and different from the one through which he has already passed, that is man is tested once by one thing and again by its opposite, as iron is first heated in the fire and then it is put in the water. Similarly man is tested by favorable as well as opposing means.
When Allah blessed Prophet Sulayman (Solomon) with a grand and magnificent empire, he knew about these natural laws of the world. He had said:
This is of the bounty of my Lord, that He may try me whether I give thanks or I am ungrateful. Whoever gives thanks, he only gives thanks for (the good of) his Own soul,’ and whoever is ungrateful (is ungrateful only to his own soul’s hurt). For surely, my Lord is Absolute in independence, Bountiful. (An-Nahl 16:40)
The causes of trial through sadness and hardships are vague and unfixed. However, we can understand them properly by the example of the soldiers fighting in the battlefield. In the battlefield some groups are made to fight till they have to lose their valuable lives, so that the lives of other groups may be saved. The security of other sections is dependent on the remaining groups being made to fight in new battles.
This strategy is followed in the wider interest of the country and for- greater advantages, by the great leadership of the army In this fighting the life of a man has no importance, because the problem is much wider.
Same is the position of luck or fate. A certain man is put to different kinds of trials, till he falls down defeated, as there is no other way for him, except that he should greet the hardship that has arrived with patience and submission. Since this life is a testing ground, we should strive hard for success in it.
What is the trial or examination of life? It is not words that they can be written, or talks to which attention may be paid.
The questions of the examination are these hardships and difficulties which confront a man, and which open before him the path of fright, terror, and frustration. Examination is the name of the anti-reality defects which prompt a man to be jealous and nourisher of rancor against his sincere friend; examination is the name of the tyrannies for which a nation occupies the place of god and the other people offer their blood as sacrifice for retrieving their usurped rights.
The history of life on this earth from the first day tin today is very sorrowful. The right thing is that man should himself make his own way in this life, and he should be sure that the way to his destination is fun of thorns and filth.
The second reality is concerned with the nature and temperament of faith.
Faith is the name of the relationship between man and his Lord. As in the relationship of men, the true friendship and sincerity can only be judged when it is confronted with unfavorable and bitter conditions, when they have to deal with the hardships brought about by the vagaries of time, and when they are surrounded by various kinds of problems.
At such a time a man’s real worth and sincerity is known. Exactly similar is the case of faith. To find out the truth and sincerity about faith it is necessary that a Muslim be tried, he should be put in the crucible of fire to see whether he comes out glowing like the gold or whether he will be burnt away with the impurities.
Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction?
Verily, We tested those who were before you. Thus Allah knows those who are sincere, and knows those who feign. (Al-`Ankabut 29:2,3)
Undoubtedly, Allah’s knowledge covers all manifest and concealed matters, and from this examination there will be no addition to His knowledge, because He knows all the conditions from the beginning till the end.
The Divine knowledge cannot be made a basis for man’s reckoning. His reckoning will be on the basis of his own personal deeds. If some criminals deny their crimes, then on the Day of Judgment in what way proof can be brought against them except by putting them to trial in this world and man’s own parts of the body may give evidence against him?
About such people the Qur’an has to say this:
And on the Day We gather them together.. We shall say to those who ascribed partners (to Allah).. Where are (now) those partners of your make-believe ? Then they will have no contention except that they will say.. By Allah, our Lord, we never were idolaters. See how they lie against themselves, and (how) the thing which they devised has failed them. (Al-An`am 6:22-24)
How can the reckoning of such criminals be taken in the light of the Divine knowledge? Their justifiable retribution will be proper only when all their misdeeds are placed before them. Their efforts and striving to create corruption and mischief among others and all their misdeeds will be repeated before them.
On these two bases the foundation of patience has been kept. And for this reason religion demands it, but he who shuts his eyes from realities by force of his nature is dumbfounded when he has to face hardships and his hands and feet become inactive when he has to fight difficulties. His rashness dislikes waiting and patience and he is unable to tolerate it.
Therefore, when anything untoward happens, or he has to suffer some kind of failure, or when he meets with an accident, the earth with all its great vastness becomes narrow for him, and the conditions become exasperating for him.
He wants to come out of these conditions in the twinkling of an eye, but it is obvious that in this effort he will not ; be successful for it is against the temperament of the world and the religion, It is proper for a Muslim to learn to be patient and to wait and to wait for long.
Man is made of haste. I shall show’ you my signs, but ask Me not to hasten. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:31)
The article is excerpted from the book “Muslim Character” , an American-English translation of Muhammad Al-Ghazali’s Khuluq Al-Muslim published by Islam Presentation Committee (IPC), Kuwait.