Sabr or Shukr – The Worry Stops Here
by Muhammad Alshareef
Aasiyah, the wife of Fir'own, had eman in Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala that thrived under the shadow of someone who said, "I am your Lord, Most High!" When news reached Fir'own of his wife's eman, he beat her and commanded his guards to beat her. They took her out in the scalding noon heat, tied her hands and feet, and beat her perpetually. Who did she turn to? She turned to Allah! She prayed, "My lord, build for me a home with You in Paradise and save me from Fir'own and his deeds and save me from the transgressive people."
It was narrated that when she said this, the sky opened for her and she saw her home in Paradise and she smiled. The guards watched in astonishment as she was being tortured but yet smiling. Frustrated, Fir'own commanded a boulder to be brought and dropped on Aasiyah, to crush her to death. But Allah took her soul before the boulder was brought and she became an example for all the believing men and women until the end of time:
And Allah has set forth an example for those who believe – the wife of Fir'own – when she said, "My Lord, build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Fir'own and his deeds, and save me from the transgressive, disbelieving people” (At-Tahreem 66/11).
In the hadith of Jibraeel, when he came to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and asked him about Islam, eman, and ihsaan, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said about eman:
"Eman is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Final Day, and the divine decree – the good and the bad thereof."
Today I shall focus on the last article of eman – to believe in the divine decree, the good and the bad thereof.
As you and I travel though life, we find ourselves in one of two situations. Either something good is happening in our lives, in which case as Muslims our role is to thank Allah for the blessing, or something bad or something we dislike is happening to us, and our role then is to be patient. This is the formula for a happy life, a life cruising towards the pleasure of Allah. Sabr (patience) or shukr (gratitude), the worry stops here.
The Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said:
"Strange is the affair of the mu'min (the believer). Verily, all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks (Allah) and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient (saabir) and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the mu'min."
Ibn Al-Jowzee said, "If this dunya was not a station of tests it would not be filled with sicknesses and filth. If life were not about hardship, then the prophets and the pious would have lived the most comfortable of lives. Nay, Adam suffered test after test until he left the dunya. Nuh cried for 300 years. Ibrahim was thrown into a pit of fire and later told to slaughter his son. Ya'qub cried until he became blind. Musa challenged Fir'own and was tested by his people. Eesa had no provision except the morsels his disciples provided him with. And Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam met poverty with patience as his uncle, one of the most beloved relatives to him, was slain and mutilated and his people disbelieved in him ... and the list of prophets and the pious goes on and on."
What happens to us happens by the will of Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala. It is an article of our eman that we believe in qada' and qadr and that we are pleased with Allah’s choice. Good or seemingly bad, it is all the test of this dunya. How can we imagine that we shall not be tested when those who were better than us suffered what they suffered? They, however, came away with the pleasure of Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala.
Al Hasan ibn Arafah narrated that he visited Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal after he was whipped and tortured. He said to him, "O Abu Abdillah, you have reached the station of the Prophets!"
He said, "Keep quiet. Verily, I saw nothing more than people selling their deen and I saw scholars that were with me sell their faith. So I said to myself, 'Who am I, what am I? What am I going to say to Allah tomorrow when I stand in front of Him and He asks me, 'Did you sell your deen like the others did?'"
He continued, "So I looked at the whip and the sword and chose them. And I said, 'If I die, I shall return to Allah and say that I was told to say that one of Your Characteristics was something created but I did not. ' After that, it will be up to Him - either to punish me or be Merciful to me."
Al-Hasan ibn Arafah then asked, "Did you feel pain when they whipped you?"
He said, "Yes, I felt the pain up to 20 lashes then I lost all feeling (They whipped him over eighty times). After it was over I felt no pain and that day I prayed Dhuhr standing."
Al-Hasan ibn Arafah started weeping when he heard what had happened. Imam Ahmad questioned him, "Why are you crying? I did not lose my eman. After that why should I care if I lose my life?"
These people were better than us, but this was how they were tested.
There some facts about the tests of life, the good and the bad that befalls us:
1. Much of what befalls us is the direct result of our own sins. Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala says:
And whatever misfortune befalls you it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much Ash-Shura 42/30).
Muhammad ibn Seereen used to say when his debts piled up and he felt sad, "I know that the cause of this sadness is a sin I committed over 40 years ago."
2. People understand that when something bad happens it is a test from Allah ‘azza wa jall. But dear brothers and sisters, the good things that happen to us are also a test. Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala says:
And we tested them with good (blessings) and evil (calamities) in order that they might turn back (Al-A’raf 7/168).
Abd alMalik ibn Ishaq said, "There is no one that is not tested with health and prosperity to measure how thankful he is."
And the Companion AbdurRahman ibn 'Awf radi Allahu anhu said, "We
were tested with hardship and were patient. And then we were tested with prosperity and we were not patient. Because of this Allah states:
O ye who believe! Let not your wealth or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. And whosoever does that, then they are the losers (Al-Munafiqun 63/9).
3. Patience must happen from the beginning, not three days later or one day later, but rather at the first news of the calamity. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, "Verily patience (is only sabr when practiced) at the first hit (of news)."
4. There are things that contradict sabr. Tearing ones shirt, for example, slapping ones face, slapping hands, shaving ones head, and cursing and wailing. Umm Salamah radi Allahu anha narrates that she heard the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam say:
"Any Muslim who says when a calamity befalls him that which Allah commanded him: ‘To Allah we belong and to him we return. O Allah reward me in this calamity and give me better then it’ - Allah will grant him better than (that which he lost) (Muslim)."
5. These tests and hardships wash away our sins. Aisha radi Allahu anha said, "Verily, fever sheds sins like a tree sheds leaves."
6. The hardships that befall us distinguish the believers from the insincere. Shumayt ibn Ajlaan said, "The pious and the ungrateful are hidden by health. Yet when calamities befall, the two men are separated (by how they react)."
Allah ‘azza wa jall says in the Quran:
Alif laam meem. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say, "We believe," and will not be tested? Indeed We tested those who (lived) before them (Al-Ankaboot 29/1-3).
PART II: Towards Sabr
Ali radi Allahu anhu said, "Verily sabr is to eman what the head is to the body. When the head is cut off, the body falls. (He then raised his voice) Verily there is no eman for he who has no sabr (patience)."
There are three types of sabr that the Muslim must have:
1. Sabr in the obedience of Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala. For example, one must be patient and perform their Fajr salah at it's appointed time.
2. Sabr in not disobeying Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala. For example, someone might be upset at another person and think, "I just have to insult him." No, rather we are commanded by He who gave us our tongues not to follow the whispers of Shaytaan. We must have sabr in not disobeying Allah.
3. Sabr in what Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala decrees on us. For example, if our child was to pass away we should be patient and seek the reward of Allah in our patience and say only that which is pleasing to Allah.
There are two keys which, if we understand them, we shall open the door to sabr
in our lives:
The first key: know that our souls, families and wealth do not belong to us, they belong to Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala. He gave them to us as a loan to see what we would do with them. When he takes them back, He is taking back what belongs to Him. We had nothing before the blessing and we'll have nothing after it. We did not create the blessing from nothing, so how can we claim that it belongs to us?
The second key: We are on a journey and the destination is the Hereafter - Paradise or Hell. We shall be leaving the dunya behind us and we will return back to Allah by ourselves. This is what needs our focus. If Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala is pleased with us then no worry. If He is not pleased with us then all worry.
Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala revealed:
Guard strictly the (five obligatory) prayers, especially the middle salah and stand before Allah in obedience (Al-Baqarah 2/238).
The verses before this aayah deal with divorce. The verses after it deal with divorce. So why was this verse placed in the middle?
The ‘ulama have suggested, wa Allahu ta‘aala ‘alim, that in the hard times that a person goes through (especially in a divorce) he should not forget the remembrance of Allah, the salah. It is that salah, coupled with sabr, that will pull him through the difficulty.
O you who believe! Seek help in patience and salah. Truly, Allah is with those that are patient (Al-Baqarah 2/153).
In conclusion, Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala gives the following good news:
And give good news to the patient / who, when afflicted with calamity say, "Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return." / They are those on whom the salawat (i.e. the blessing and forgiveness) of their Lord is upon them, and who shall receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones (Al-Baqarah 2/155-157).
Allah promises anyone who wants to work on his or her patience three things: forgiveness, mercy, and guidance. Who could ask for more?