Be Patience

Three people killed in the safety of their homes. Vandalism towards an Islamic school. The mysterious murder of a young man in Canada. Atheism secretly spoken of amongst our children. Sexual abuse allegations against leaders. As the headlines, tweets and posts swirl around and around and around, we are dizzy and sad and scared.

‘What to do?’ we ask. ‘What about our children?’ We discuss in elevators, chat apps and FB posts. We don’t admit to the deeper fears, ‘Can I move forward?’ ‘Am I going to be ok?’ ‘Can I hold on to my faith?’

At times of great confusion and difficulty, the believer calls on the virtue of ‘ṣabr’ to help her move forward, benefit from the time of trial, and grow from it. The virtue of ‘ṣabr’ is often translated as patience, which is not incorrect, but rather, misleading. The word patience carries the connotation of ‘waiting’. Western culture begins to teach the concept of patience in elementary school. Kindergarteners are taught to ‘Be patient and wait your turn.’ ‘Be patient and stand in line.’ And while this is indeed an aspect of the concept of patience, it does not begin to express the term ‘ṣabr’.

‘Ṣabr’ is not waiting. It is not ignoring a problem. It is not pretending something does not exist – conveniently compartmentalizing it and focusing on the ‘rest of our lives.’

‘Ṣabr’ is facing our issues. It is doggedness, tenacity and grim persistence. ‘Ṣabr’ is doing the right thing and enduring the consequences. ‘Ṣabr’ is not a simple ‘be patient’ as an action, rather it is Be Patience as a virtue.

It is not easy to choose ‘ṣabr’ over distress, but the reward is well worth the effort. Allah ﷻ says {… “Indeed, the patient (al-ṣābirūn) will be given their reward without account.} (39:10) and Ibn Kathīr quotes a hadith related to this concept that on the Day of Judgment people will hear a call, ‘Where are the ṣābirūn?’ and those who demonstrated ‘ṣabr’ during their lives will stand and enter heaven without being held to account for their deeds. Choosing patience (‘ṣabr’) means choosing janna.

In practical terms, we must Be Patience in five ways:

1. Do not allow the climate of fear and despair to influence hard-won personal and religious accomplishments. If you put on hijab for the love of Allah, do not now take it off for fear of being labeled as one who loves Allah ﷻ.
2. Be pro-active in your personal life. Learn Arabic, Quran, and Islamic studies. We must move forward as a literate and educated umma.
3. Be pro-active in your community. Get involved, volunteer, give up your leisure time to reach out to your Muslim community and your non-Muslim community.
4. Choose worship. Wake up for tahajjud (join a tahajjud thread by emailing Decide that in 2015 you will not miss a single farḍ prayer. Be ready for Ramadan having completed your fasts from previous years.
5. Choose joy. Belief and faith are the roots of love and joy. Choose to be grateful, optimistic and joyful.

Let us not allow panic or fear to take over our lives. Let us walk strongly forward, honoring those who went before us and building a legacy for those who will follow us.

Let us #BePatience.

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