Different Perspectives on Patience

Patience may be of two types, either psychological or physical, and both types may either be by choice, or without choice, as follows:

1. Physical patience by choice, such as doing hard labour willingly.

2. Physical patience without choice, such a patiently bearing illness, beatings and extreemes of heat and cold.

3. Psychological patience by choice, such as refraining from things which both the Shariah and common sense say are wrong.

4. Psychological patience without choice, such as patiently bearing an enforced separation  from one whom you love.

Different degrees of patience

Patience by choice is of a higher degree than patience without choice. The patience of the Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, in disobeying the wife of Al-Aziz, and his patience in bearing the resulting punishment, is of higher status that his patience in response to his brothers’ actions, when they threw him down the well, because one type of patience was through choice, and the other was not. This superior voluntary patience is the patience of the Propehts, of Inrahim, Musa, Nuh, Isa and Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them all.

The patience of men and the patience of animals

These four types of patience apply only to human beings. Animals share the two types of patience in which there is no choice. Only man is distinguished by having the type of patience in which there is choice, yet some men have only the type of patience of the animals, that without choice.

The patience of the jinn

Jinn also share the quality of patience as they are responsible for their actions just like humans. They need patience to fulfill their responsibilities to Allah just like we do. We might ask: are they responsible in the same way as us or in a different way? The answer is  that with regard to matters of emotion and feelings they are responsible in the same way that we are, and share the obligation to love and hate for the sake of Allah, to believe and have faith, to take believers as friends and unbelievers as enemies etc. But as far as physical matters are concerned such as ghuslwudu, washing after relieving oneself and circumcision are concerned, they are not the same as us. Their duties as in regard to the way in which they were created.

The patience of angels

We might also ask: Do angels have patience? They are not tested with whims and desires that contradict their reason and knowledge. For them, worshipping and obeying Allah are like breathing is for us. Therefore the angels do not need patience, although they may possess it in a way that befits them and enables them to do what they are created for.

The patience of man

If a man’s patience is stronger than his whims and desires, then he is like an angel, but if his whims and desires are stronger than his patience, the he is like a devil. If his desire for food, drink and sex are stronger than his patience then he is no better than an animal. Qatadah said, “Allah created angels with reason and no desires, animals with desires and no reason, and man with both reason and desires.”

Extracted from Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim Pages 17-19

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