There are some people who do not gain patience without a struggle and overcoming many difficulties, but others are able to gain patience more easily. The first type of person is like a man who wrestles with a stronger man, and cannot bear him without the utmost effort. The second is like a man who wrestles with a weak man and beats him easily. Such is the war between the soldiers of Ar-Rahman and the soldiers of Shatytan. Whoever defeats the soldiers of Shaytan, can defeat Shaytan himself.
Ibn Abi’d-Dunya narrated from the some of the salaf that one shaytan met another and asked him why he was so thin. He replied, “Because I am with a man who mentions the name of Allah when he eats, so I cannot eat with him, and he mentions the name of Allah when he drinks, so I cannot drink with him. When he enters his home he mentions the name of Allah, so I stay outside.” The first shaytan said, “I am with a man who does not mention the name of Allah when he eats, so I eat with him, and he does not mention the name of Allah when he drinks, so I drink with him. When he enters his home he does not mention the name of Allah, so I enter with him.”
Whoever develops the habit of patience is feared by his enemies, and whoever finds patience difficult is in danger, as his enemy will readily dare to attack him and try to overcome him.
When Patience is Needed
Patience is required in the following areas of life:
1. In worshipping Allah and following His commands;
2. In abstaining from wrong actions;
3. In accepting Allah’s decree and ruling (qada’ wa qadr). This si the advice given by Luqman when he told his son:
“O my son! Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patient constancy whatever befalls you; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs.” (Surah Luqman :17)
Enjoining what is good means doing good oneself, and forbidding what is wrong includes abstaining from wrong action oneself.
Patience in Worshipping Allah
Patience in worshipping Allah and carrying out his instructions means that you perform the prescribed acts of worship regularly, and do so sincerely and with knowledge. Worship that is not performed regularly is of no value. Even if one is successful in performing acts of worship regularly, there are two dangers. Firstly, there is risk of losing sincerity, if the motive for performing prayers id not to please Allah alone and draw closer to Him. So to protect our worship, we must ensure that we are sincere. Secondly, we must be sure not to deviate from the way of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, so that we can be sure that our worship is in accordance with Sunnah.
Patience in Abstaining from Wrong Action
This type of patience can be achieved through the fear of the punishment which follows wrong action, or through a feeling of haya’ (shyness or shame) before Allah for using His blessing in wrong actions. This feeling of haya’ can be strengthened by learning more about Allah and His Names and Attributes.
Haya‘ is a characteristic of people who are noble and posses good qualities, so the person who refrains from wrong action because of haya’ is better than the one who refrains from it because of fear. Haya’ indicates that a person is mindful of Allah and His might, rather than focussed on themselves and fear and punishment. Both people have attained the status of imaan, but they ‘shy’ one has attained ihsaan, a higher status of imaan, in which they conduct themselves as if they can see Allah, so their heart is filled with haya’.
The reason why it is important for the believer to abstain from wrong action is because it protects their imaan, because wrong action decreases imaan or extinguishes it.
Patience at Times of Trial and Adversity
Patience during difficult times may be achieved by:
1. Thinking of the good reward that lies ahead. The more you believe in the rewards of what is to come the easier it is to have patience. Our human nature loves instant gratification but wisdom tells us to take a longer term view which helps us to strengthen our patience and endure what faces us;
2. Expecting and hoping for a time of ease. This hope in itself offers a measure of immediate relief;
3. Thinking of Allah’s countless blessings. When we realise that we cannot enumerate the blessings of Allah, it becomes easier for us exercise patience in facing the current adversity. Our present troubles are like a raindrop compared to the cast ocean of Allah’s blessings;
4. Thinking of Allah’s previous blessings. This will remind us of Allah’s care, and strengthen our hopes and expectations of a time of ease to come.
Extracted from Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim Pages 21-24