There are two sides to patience. The first of these is for a person to show restraint in his pursuits, so that he only engages in what will benefit him in either his worldly or religious life. The second is for a person to show restraint in the matters that he avoids, so that he shows aversion only to what harms him.
Patience is not something to be exercised only during times of crisis and misfortune. Patience is an attitude and a way of life. It needs to be exercised at all times and under all circumstances.
Patience is especially required where one person has to interact with another, even a friend or a spouse. Allah says: “And keep yourself patient along with those who call on their Lord, morning and evening, seeking His countenance.” [Sûrah al-Kahf: 28]
Let us look at the following dialogue between Khidr and Moses (peace be upon him) that Allah relates to us in the Qur’ân.
Moses requests from Khidr: “May I follow you on the footing that you teach me something of that which you have been taught?” [Sûrah al-Kahf: 66]
Khidr replies: “Truly you will not be able to have patience with me. And how can you have patience about matters of which you do not have complete understanding?” [Sûrah al-Kahf: 67-68]
Moses says: “You will find me – Allah willing – patient and I shall not disobey you in anything.” [Sûrah al-Kahf: 69]
This story shows us the importance of patience for a student of knowledge.
Patience is also very important for us when we engage in worship. Allah says: “Enjoin prayer on your people and be patient therein. We ask not of you to provide sustenance. We provide it for you; and (the rewards of) the Hereafter is for righteousness.” [Sûrah TâHâ: 132]
We must have patience in calling others to the truth. Allah relates to us that Luqmân told his son: “O my son! Establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and bear with patience what befalls you. This is of the most rigorous of affairs.” [Sûrah Luqmân: 17]
Patience is needed when standing in defense against an aggressive enemy. Allah says: “O you who believe! When you meet a force, be firm and remember Allah often so that perchance you may be successful.” [Sûrah al-Anfâl: 45]
It is, of course, required in times of hardship. Allah says: “Seek Allah’s help with patience and prayer. It is indeed difficult except to those who possess humility.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 45]
How can a young man or woman be patient in the face of the temptations and trials that inflame their desires when unlawful gratification is within their easy reach? The best way for such a person to fortify his or her patience is as follows:
1. He should contemplate the greatness of Allah and think that Allah sees him when he is disobedient. Nothing that we do escapes His attention. He sees and hears all things. This is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) meant when he said: “A fornicator is not a believer at the time that he is committing fornication, an imbiber is not a believer while he is engaged in drinking, a thief is not a believer while he is in the act of stealing.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (2475) and Sahîh Muslim (57)] this is because a person who is conscious of Allah watching over him will feel ashamed to do the things that Allah has prohibited or to neglect his duties towards Allah. Consider a man who is naked or engaged in some vulgar deed and discovers that someone is looking at him through a crack in the door. Will he not be ashamed and embarrassed? Will he not be able to look that person in the eye?
2. He should cultivate his love for Allah, for Allah commanded his Prophet (peace be upon him) to say: “If you love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive you your sins and Allah is most forgiving and merciful.” [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 31]
3. He should consider the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon him. We are constantly in receipt of myriad blessings. When we disobey our Lord, we do so with the limbs that he provided us with and which He empowered us to use. We are using His very blessings upon us to disobey Him.
4. We should fear Allah becoming angry with us. Allah says: “Do those who concoct evil deeds feel secure that He will not cause the Earth to swallow them up or that punishment will not visit them from whence they cannot perceive? Or that He may not seize them in their goings to and fro without a chance of their escape? Or that He may take them with a gradual loss, for Allah is full of pity and mercy?” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 45-47] This anger could be delayed until the Day of Judgment when our Lord will be angry as He had never been angry before.
5. He should keep in mind that Allah could take his soul at any time. A person could die while he is drunk. A car might overturn, killing all of its occupants, including a young man and woman engaged in unlawful pleasures out of the sight of their parents.
6. He should think about Allah’s reward and His munificence. He should know that if he leaves off something for the Allah’s sake, then Allah will give him something better. Sufyân al-Thawrî said: “When a person lowers his gaze form unlawful sights, Allah bestows upon him such faith that pleases his heart. What Allah has to offer is better and more enduring.”
7. He should think about the transience of this worldly existence. He should think about his very body, how it first grows and reaches full, robust maturity and strength, only to return decrepit and bent with old age.
8. He should think about Allah’s mercy and the blessings it provides. He should fear that if he persists in wrongdoing and does not yield to Allah’s greatness, he might be cut off from that mercy.
9. He should realize that he must break his bad habits. Many people who drink, abuse drugs, or engage in voyeurism do so out of force of habit. They need to resolve themselves to submit to Allah alone and not submit to anything or anything else.
10. He should consider the immediate as well as spiritual benefits of abstaining from the unlawful. Allah does not prohibit something without that thing being harmful or at least bringing about more harm than good. Likewise, Allah does not command us to do something unless that thing is beneficial or at least brings about more good than harm. Obedience to Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) is always better and more enduring in virtue than any benefit that can be secured through disobedience.
Allah says: “By time! Surely the human being is at loss. Except for those who have faith and do righteous deeds and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience.” [Sûrah al-`Asr]
The great jurist, al-Shâfî`î said about these verses: “If people would contemplate on the meaning of this chapter of the Qur’ân, it would surely suffice them.”