As patience is fard (obligatory), Allah has provided us with ways and means of obtaining and strengthening the quality of patience, for He has never instructed us to do anything without providing us with help and support to do it. Even so, patience is difficult, but not impossible to obtain. It consists of two elements: knowledge and action, and from those two elements are derived the remedies for all spiritual and physical troubles. Knowledge and action combined are always essential.
Knowledge is necessary in order to realise the benefits of following the commands of Allah and the happiness that can obtained from this, and what it is in the forbidden things that causes harm. When a person realises these things, and they have a desire for spiritual achievement and strong willpower, they will be able to attain a quality of patience. The bitterness of patience will become sweet and the pain of patience will become joy.
Patience is a constant battle between the motives of reason and religion on the one hand, and whims and desires on the other. If a person wants reason and religion to overcome whims and desires, then they must strengthen the former and weaken the latter, just like promoting good health and reducing the chance of illness. For example, if a person has a strong desire to commit adultery they could: fast; lower their gaze; seek marital relations; and think of the harm and punishment that may come as a result of that action etc.
Strengthening the Motive of Reason and Religion
In the battle between reason/religion and whims/desires, we have a number of ‘weapons’at our disposal:
1. We should try to remember the greatness of Allah, and feel that He is too great to be sinned against as He is All-Seeing and All-Hearing. Whoever thinks of the greatness of Allah will never be at ease committing wrong actions.
2. If we claim to love Allah, the we should not disobey Him, because of that love. A person should be obedient to the One they claim to love. Those who refrain from wrong action out of love for Him, have the highest status with Allah, as are those who worship Him out of love for Him. There is a great difference between the one who obeys Allah and abstains from wrong action out of love, and the one who does so out of fear of punishment.
3. We should think of the blessings and the favour of Allah. A righteous person would never act against the One who loves them.
4. We should think of the wrath and punishment of Allah, as He will be angry at the person who persists in committing wrong action.
5. We should think of what we have to lose, both in this life and the next.
6. We should relish the idea of defeating Shaytan, for verily, he is our enemy, may Allah curse him.
7. We should remember the reward and compensation that Allah promises to those who control their desires.
8. We should think of the special companionship of Allah, as He promises us: “Allah is with those who patiently persevere” (Surah al-Baqarah :153)
9. We should be ever mindful of death, which could come upon us at any time and without warning.
10. We should stop thinking of falsehood and bad ideas.
11. We should strengthen our religious motive is fighting whims and desires, this will increase our willpower.
12. We should contemplate the signs of Allah, which will help us to shun the whisperings of Shaytan.
13. We should remember how short our stay on this earth is, and what we want to achieve with our time here, we don’t want to make it a source of regret.
14. We should know that Allah has created us to live an eternal life, without death, one of ease with no humiliation, one of security without fear, richness without poverty, joy without pain and perfection without flaws. Allah is testing us in this life with a life that will end in death, where there is degradation, humiliation, pain, fear, poverty and pain. Many people want ease in this life, but most never manage to achieve it, and those who do find that it eventually vanishes. The Prophet, peace be upon him, called people to an eternal life of plenty, and whoever answers the call will have the best of this life and the best of the Hereafter.
Just knowing the facts outlined above is not enough. We must do our utmost to strive to reach this level of perfection. The best way to do so is to put a stop to the habits that control our lives, because they are just obstacles in our path. We should avoid places of fitnah and temptation, and remember that one of the favourite tricks of Shaytan, is to show a person some goodness in a wrong thing and call him towards what seems to be good, but when they get there, they fall into his trap! Strengthen yourself with sound knowledge and follow this up with sound action.
Extracted from Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim Pages 32-36