When it comes to having patience, clichés aren’t in short supply.
“Patience is a virtue.”
“Good things come to those who wait.”
In fact, there’s no shortage of quotes proclaiming the benefits of being a patient person, particularly when going through hard times or facing adversity. The familiar sayings advocate practicing patience, even over long periods of time, urging us to be persistent in our waiting and sure in the fact that things will eventually get better. But what does Islam say about the importance of patience in the face of sadness and worry, which are inevitable parts of the human experience?
As it turns out, God mentions patience more than 90 times in the Quran, the Islamic holy book. Often patience is mentioned in stories of the prophets like Job and Jacob, who suffered sickness, loss of wealth and even the death of loved ones. In the Quran, God tells us how these messengers repeatedly turned to Him in repentance and for relief from their troubles. They were persistent in their patience and their belief in His love. In other words, they fully trusted God, even at the lowest point of their lives, and their faith and patience eventually brought them through and on to success.
“And [mention] Ishmael and Idrees and Dhul-Kifl; all were of the patient. And We admitted them into Our mercy. Indeed, they were of the righteous.” [Noble Quran 21:85-86]
So how exactly do we practice patience, and what are some of the practical and spiritual benefits of doing so?
1. Surrender and Submit to God’s Will
In Islam, it’s important to understand and admit that God is in total control of our affairs. We are weak, but we are strengthened by fully submitting to His will and empowered when we believe in Him.
2. Understand God Has a Purpose for Your Life and Knows What’s Best for You
Focus on these truths when you feel the unwelcome stirrings of stress, anxiety and even misery, no matter what is happening in your life to cause it. Focus on worshiping God alone, with no partners, and cling to this so that you can earn His pleasure and your place in Heaven. God said,
“…and it may be that you dislike a thing that is good for you and that you like a thing that is bad for you. God knows but you do not know.” [Noble Quran 2:216]
Isn’t that comforting? To be certain that no matter what befalls you, God is in control and understands perfectly what you need in your life. Realizing this, you’ll be better able to push negative feelings aside, which in turn makes being a patient person much easier.
3. Recognize That Impatience Affects Your Relationships
Impatience often results in having a difficult time looking past character flaws in friends, loved ones, and neighbors. This is a recipe for hurt feelings and broken bonds. Instead, focus on how being a patient person can open you up to showing those in your life mercy, forgiveness and compassion, thereby strengthening your connections.
4. Know God Wants to Hear Your Troubles
He loves you, after all, and wants you to look to Him for relief from your sadness and suffering. Just like Prophet Jacob did when he didn’t know if he’d ever see his sons again.
“He said: ‘I only complain of my grief and sorrow to God, and I know from God that which you know not.’ ” [Noble Quran 12:86]
This is a wonderful example for us to follow.
5. Seek Solace in Prayer
When your troubles start to overwhelm you, your patience may wane and your frustrations rise. When this happens, use prayer as a tool to calm your emotions. One of the great aspects of prayer is it forces you to slow down, refocus your gratitude, and connect with your Creator. Muslims are required to pray five times a day. But offering frequent and spontaneous prayers to God is something you can do when you feel you can’t handle your challenges alone.
6. Reclaim Your Passion and Productivity
When you’re frustrated about your troubles or impatient for your life to go the way you want it to, you’re likely not focusing on your work, your spiritual life, or anything that makes you happy. This will only increase your anxiety and will likely lead to sadness. Though God wants you to turn to Him in these moments, He also wants you to be accountable for your responsibilities in life. Your job, taking care of your home, and caring for your children, parents, or anyone under your guardianship. If you fail to meet these obligations and instead wallow impatiently in distress, you’ll sink further into depression. Once in this state, it’s even more difficult to trust in God that the wrongs in your life will right themselves and you may drift ever farther and farther from God.
7. When Adversity Strikes, Pause Then Ponder
Once you’ve settled down, think of all the things in your life you’re grateful for and thank God for these blessings. Reacquainting yourself with all that’s good will afford you the clarity to practice patience and pray to God for what you need. It will also humble you, making it easier for you to seek God’s forgiveness.
8. Understand Even Tribulations Come From God, Not Just Blessings
Whatever befalls you – both good and bad – is from God. These things are meant to be a test. For example, being blessed with wealth and tested on how you spend it. Are you helping others or only thinking of yourself? Conversely, when you face hardship, you are being tested. Will you remember God during these trials, or will you turn away?
Remember, being patient isn’t easy. God affirms this in the Quran when he said,
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].” [Noble Quran 2:45]
So take heart if being patient, focusing on prayer and turning to God seems nearly impossible, especially during hard times. God knows exactly how much you’re struggling, and He’ll know just how hard you worked to turn your face to Him, in patience, while seeking His help.
Look for God’s guidance for improving your patience in the Quran, or in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad. If you feel like you need support, visit a local mosque and seek educated people who can counsel you. Or simply turn to friends who will encourage you and pray with you. There is always help when you look for it.