Patience in Misfortune

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ImagePatience is not so much something to be acquired as something to be practiced; it is a daily active choice for a positive outlook.

Misfortune should not faze a believer

Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) once said, "A free human being is free in all circumstances. Should a misfortune befall him, he bears it with patience (Sabr). If calamities strike him, they don't shatter him. If taken captive and subdued, he turns hardship into ease, as was the case of Yusuf (peace be upon him), the truthful and trustworthy."

Perhaps one of the greatest blessings that can be acquired by a believer is that of patience. Many people look on patience as a "cross to bear", a visible burden of tolerating difficulties while internally bearing the weight of them. And this may be a beginning to patience, but as Imam Hussain said, a truly patient person is free from burden regardless of the circumstances of his life.

The accomplished scholar Shaikh al-Tusi said about patience: "Sabr restrains the inner being from anguish, the tongue from complaint, and the bodily members from untoward movements."

Patience is not so much something to be acquired as something to be practiced; it is a daily active choice for a positive outlook. A person does not become patient by going through hardship, but rather by changing every hardship in his heart and mind into blessing and opportunity.

Imam Khomeini wrote that, "…the inward being of the impatient person is full of anxiety and alarm. His heart is full of tremors and shaky, and this is itself the greatest calamity that can befall a human being and deprive him of peace."

So when we are facing horrible traffic and feel the urgings of road rage within us, if we are patient we will instead take the turn of events as something meant to be, feel empathy for whatever unfortunate person might have had an accident to cause the traffic jam, and find pleasure and joy in the baby foxes emerging from the den on the side of the road that we now have the opportunity to watch.

Every person faces trials in life. They are necessary parts of our worldly experience, necessary for our development. We cannot control or eliminate all difficulties, and even if we could, it would not be good for us, because then we would become stagnant and fail to grow and thrive. So why should we not realize that this altruism is not valid only in the abstract, but that whatever difficulty we face at any given moment is really an opportunity for a positive development, a forward progress? If we really take this to heart, then we can look at our difficulties as clues to a new opportunity.

Prophet Yusuf was betrayed by his brothers, abandoned in a well, and then taken as a slave. However, his misfortune was really no misfortune at all, but the transition to a much greater existence. You can decide to see your misfortunes as not being misfortunes but rather as transitions or opportunities.

The holy month of Ramadan is a great time to quash negativity. Don't think about how bad things are, therefore the Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance) just has to come soon, but rather think how much growth you can make in preparing for him, and how much you can do, even in small gestures, to make this world a better place right now. Don't think about how tired you are of hypocrisy in the Masjid, but rather choose to see the good and beauty in people and find a way to magnify it. Don't look at your sins as proof of how hopeless it is for you to become pious, but instead wake up each day considering it as a fresh start, a new chance to make progress. Don't lash out at your family when they disappoint you somehow another time, but instead decide to be forgiving and make yourself free from needing whatever they have failed to provide you. Remember that God is the provider, that all comes from Him. There is an opportunity for you either to see you don't need what you thought you did, or to find it a better way, or to replace it with something better.

One of the keys to patience is an open mind. If you are open to seeing things in a new way, to changing your direction based on guidance, to forming a new opinion of someone, then there will always be an open door in front of you no matter how many doors close, and you will believe that a closed door only closed because God protected you from something behind it that would have been bad for you. In the words of Imam Hussain, calamities do not shatter a patient person. So do not walk through life like a brittle piece of glass, but rather like a bendable blade of grass.

May Allah grant us all joyous hearts filled with optimism and Sabr during this holy month.

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