One quality that the truly great people in the history of the world have in common is patience. It seems that Allah tries and tests His anointed with tribulations to build this quality in them as some kind of vaccination in preparation for the vicissitudes of their missions in life. In the Quran, Allah narrates to us what He describes as “the best of stories” in Surah Yusuf. The equivalent of this in the Bible is the story of Joseph. This narrative is laden with many qualities and lessons essential for authentic and lasting success; in this essay I focus on one: PATIENCE.
In verse 18 of this Surah Jacob reacts to the news of his son Joseph’s death: “They stained his shirt with false blood. He said: “Nay, but your minds have made up a tale (that may pass) with you, (for me) patience is most fitting: Against that which ye assert, it is Allah (alone) Whose help can be sought”.
Here is Jacob looking at his children with a stained shirt telling him that his beloved child had been devoured by a wolf when from the get-go he knew they were up to no good. How would you have reacted if you were in Jacob’s shoes? Jacob chose to be patient with decorum. Indeed it is true that “patience is not about how long you wait, but how well one behaves while waiting.”
The curse of mankind is that patience is the one commodity in short supply in our lives. Knowing us well, Allah said it in Surah Al-Ma’arij verse 19 “Verily, man (disbeliever) was created very impatient;” why do we fret and make anxiety our hallmark even when Allah told us in no uncertain terms in Surah Baqara verse 155, “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,” What is the cause of the tragedy that is daily unfolding in the waters of the Mediterranean these days but man’s impatience; and it is this same lack of patience that spurs the greed and hostility causing man’s cruelty to his fellow man: The immigrants are impatient so they rush to the greedy human traffickers whose impatience in the acquisition of material wealth makes them put thousands of lives at risk; and then the host Europeans in their impatience towards the seekers of their comfortable shores fail to take adequate action to prevent the tragedy of wasting young lives.
Show me a person who is impatient and impulsive and I will show you one on course to certain drowning in the turbulent waves of this fallen world. Look at the history of any great person from Jesus to Muhammad to Gandhi to Martin Luther King Junior to Barack Obama and you will see a track of patience. Indeed the adage is true “patience may hurt you but it is still a virtue.”
Zinedine Zidane is one of the greatest players to ever play football; he lost his cool because of a fool and then his exit from the game was not at all cool. Beware the traps of the agent provocateurs.
As I write these thoughts, an issue of importance to me is being processed. It has taken some time now but just when I thought it would materialize today; I get a text message to say that the whole process is stalled once again. My first reaction was anger and the urge to yell at those in charge of this process; but upon second thought, I asked myself: Is Allah trying to teach me some more lessons in patience? I will strive to remain patient while taking concerted pragmatic steps towards the solution of this problem. I am not the most patient guy in town but I know my weakness and I am trying to develop this quality of the truly great.
And now how can we discuss patience without remembering the icon of this virtue, Prophet Job, of whom Allah said in Surah Anbiyaa verses 83-84: And [mention] Job, when he called to his Lord, “Indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” So We responded to him and removed what afflicted him of adversity. And We gave him [back] his family and the like thereof with them as mercy from Us and a reminder for the worshippers [of Allah ].
I agree that patience is not the easiest virtue to acquire or maintain. It is indeed easier to talk about patience than to live it especially during your trying moments. But of the many rewards that Allah has promised the righteous, it is this one virtue for which He promises He will be there with those who exercise it. Be patient; be persistent in taking righteous decisive steps toward your goals. It is Allah who said in Surah Baqarah “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient”. And as He asserts elsewhere in Surah Ali Imran “Allah loves those who are steadfast in patience”!