Patience in Adversity

Trials such as the death of a loved one, sickness, loss of wealth etc, fall into two types: adversity beyond one’s control, and adversity caused by the actions of another human being, such as slander, physical abuse etc. In facing situations like this that are beyond our control, we may have one of the following reactions:

1. Feeling helpless and discontented, panicking and complaining.

2. Responding with patience, either for the sake of Allah or as a sign of human strength.

3. Accepting and being contented with the situation. This is actually of a higher status than patience.

4. Accepting the situation with thanks and gratitude. This is even higher than acceptance, because in this case a person sees adversity as a blessing and thanks Allah for putting them through it.

Adversity and problems that befall a person at the hands of others may be faced in any of the following ways:

1. One may choose to forgive and forget.

2. One may decide not to take revenge.

3. One may accept the decree (qada’ wa qadr), whilst recognising that the one who harmed him was a wrong-doer, yet the One who decreed that this harm should reach him at the hands of another is not a wrong-doer.

4. One may proceed to treat well the person who treated them badly. This attitude has many advantages and benefits, which nobody can know in their entirety except Allah.

We should realise that the harm caused by people is like the heat and the cold: there is no way to prevent it happening and the one who complains about heat and cold betrays a lack of wisdom. Everything happens by the decree of Allah, and we should show patience in dealing with adversity in order to receive the reward of Allah.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Strange is the affair of the believer. Verily, all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks Allah and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the believer.” (Recorded in Muslim)

Extracted from Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim Pages 40-41

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