Good Patience and Bad Patience

Good patience consists of two types – patience for the sake of Allah and patience by the help of Allah. Allah said:

“Now await in patience the command of your Lord: for verily you are in Our eyes…” (Surah at-Tur [52]:48)

It is impossible to have patience for the sake of Allah without the help of Allah, as the following ayah demonstrates:

“And be patient, for your patience is but by Allah…” (Surah an-Nahl [16]:127)

The help of Allah is bestowed upon the believer and the wrong-doer alike, both of whom receive blessings and rizq. But the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, described to us a further blessing that is available only to the pious believer – Allah’s companionship:

“…My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties that I have imposed upon him; and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works such that I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me, I would surely give him; and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari)

This hadith details the blessing that the believer can achieve through having patience in performing obligatory and supererogatory (nafl) deeds. Allah is offering nothing less than His love and companionship. Who could ask for anything more than this? Whoever strives and reaches this state of patience has achieved patience for the sake of Allah and can endure severe hardships to please Him. As our degree of patience diminishes, so does our share of Allah’s companionship and love.

“… for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.” (Surah al-Baqarah [2]:153)

Bad patience is that which keeps us away from Allah and His love and His will, because this prevents us from reaching our full potential of attaining perfection and doing what we were created for. This is the worst type of patience. No-one is as careless as the one who willfully keeps away from their Creator and has no interest in the Hereafter.

No contradiction between patience and complaining to Allah

Crying out and complaining to Allah does no mean that a person has no patience. In the Qur’an, we find Ya’qub, peace be upon him, saying, “My course is comely patience (sabrun jamil)” (Surah Yusuf [12]:83), but his love and longing for his lost son Yusuf made him say, “How great is my grief for Yusuf” (Surah Yusuf [12]:83). Sabrun jamil refers to patience with no complaint to other people. Complaining to Allah does not cancel out patience, as Ya’qub, peace be upon him said, “I only complain of my distraction and anguish to Allah.” (Surah Yusuf [12]:86). Allah also enjoined sabrun jamil on the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and he obeyed, and would pray, “O Allah, I complain to You of my weakness and helplessness.”

Extracted from Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim Pages 25-29

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