Asalaamu Alaikum (peace be unto you),
What exactly does the term “sabr” mean? Sabr, by many, is defined as “patience.” However, I believe to get to the level of the as-Saabireen (the patient ones), you have to understand what it means to have endurance and perseverance. But then I wonder, how do you get endurance and perseverance? Attaining patience is MUCH easier said than done…especially when your hardships are long-term. I’ve realized through my personal experiences that there are different levels you have to go through to fully grasp the concept of sabr. Let me try and break it down for you. Think of sabr as a video game. You have to pass certain levels to win, right? And you can’t pass these levels without understanding what you have to do in that specific level, correct? Likewise, you have to understand each level of patience to attain it entirely.
Level One: Coping With Your Hardship
Imagine yourself in your favorite video game again. Even though you want to win, it’s frustrating when you’re stuck on a level and simply can’t understand why, right? This is how I felt at this level. This is such a confusing level, honestly. You have to force yourself to understand that this is YOUR hardship and this was MEANT to happen to you. And the most difficult thing to grasp is that there is nothing you can do to change that.
Different people cope with hardships differently. I’ll be honest, I get sad. And sometimes I even cry. There would be times, at this level, that I would begin to question, “Is Allah mad at me?” or “Was there something I did wrong to deserve this punishment?” I’ll elaborate more on this later. Now, I know what you’re going to say: “Deena, you shouldn’t think like that ever.” But there was a positive side to this questioning, I swear! At this level is where I began to create a list of things I had to do to fix myself as a Muslim.
Level Two: Becoming Patient
At this level is where you begin to tell yourself that you must change & learn to become patient. Like I said before, there was a positive side to my questioning. I started making myself stick to the list that I made. This is the beginning of the cleansing process of your soul. Having trouble waking up for Fajr? Be annoying and make 10 different alarms for that time. Once you do it for a full couple of weeks, it’ll become second nature to you. One of the things I did was I began reading and understanding the Seerah (life) of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. What better way to understand our beautiful religion than to learn from the best of mankind? Every night after praying Isha, I read a few pages of the book, Revelation: The Story of Muhammad. I definitely recommend it to any of you who are interested!
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in la la land at this level. It’s like the famous saying, “Patience is like its name — bitter in taste, yet its outcomes are sweeter than honey.” At this level, your anger over your hardship has not fully gone away, but you learn to control it. How do you do that exactly? By letting your iman (faith) grow and bear it. And you do that by sticking to your list and gradually growing it out as well.
Level Three: Learning to Appreciate Your Hardship
One of the biggest things that got me through certain hardships was getting to the point of not just learning to accept them, but being thankful that they happened. Remember when I told you guys when I would question Allah (SWT) back in Level One? It was at this level that I learned that Allah (SWT) wasn’t testing me because He was angry with me, but actually the total opposite! We’re all so lucky, alhumdullilah (all praises & thanks be to Allah), to know a religion so pure and beautiful. I was worthy enough to have my faith be tested by Him. I was worthy enough to have my soul cleansed by Him. I was worthy enough to have been guided by Him after being lost.
“If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him/her with trails.” -Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
In lack of better terms, be positive. Our prophets, their families, their companions…had very difficult lives. Be patient and think of how Allah (SWT) intends to bless you through your hardship, and this way, even the most difficult situation can be a gift from Allah (SWT) if you have the right attitude.
Level Four: Having Tawakkul
As humans, we tend to seek comfort in other people. I sometimes do the same. When I go through certain hardships, I turn to my best friends for comfort, ease, or advice. Every little thing, I would go to them for help. But after awhile, no matter how much someone cares for you, they’ll run out of things to say to you to make it better. At this point is where I began to understand the concept of tawakkul (trust in God). Allah (SWT) is the only One with all the answers. Through my personal experience, the more you seek answers through other people, the more confused and frustrated you’ll become. Why? Because, at the end of the day, your friends can’t change your problems. They can help talk you through it, but they can’t physically do anything to help you — that’s Allah’s job.
Don’t get me wrong, talking your feelings out is good! But to a certain point. And trust me, there is no better feeling than putting the tears you would’ve wept on someone else’s shoulder, on your prayer mat. When I stopped myself from depending on others and started depending fully on Allah (SWT), my life immediately took a turn for the better. I became physically and mentally less anxious about what was going to happen and started trusting the process that things will be okay.
The best thing about these levels is that they encircle one another. For example, to have tawakkul (level four), I had to begin focusing on my prayer (level 1 & 2). Just by learning about this one concept, my religion became so much more beautiful to me, and I hope these words encourage you to do the same. I’ll leave you guys with this last passage clarifying my thoughts on the concept of sabr perfectly:
You will be tested in so many different ways, in ways you will never ever be able to imagine. You will go through trials and hardships, it will be the hardest thing you will ever face. You will feel weak, you will want to give up. You will feel betrayed and hurt, you will sometimes see no way out. Sabr is one of the most important things you will learn to have, even for those who don’t have it. It will grow within you and you have to let it grow to its full potential, you will come to learn that Sabr is something you will have to attain, without it you will fall into pieces. Every trial you go through will sometimes get harder than the last one, but when I tell you this. I say it with all my heart: every hardship will be worth it, having Sabr is one of the best things you will ever learn to keep close to your heart. You will guard yourself, even on the days you will feel like you have nothing, you have everything, having Sabr is more than enough to get through this dunya.”
DISCLAIMER: Dose of Deen(a) is a personal blog feature and is in no way a religious or legal reference. For any matters involving Islamic law, please contact your local Imam.