Sabr is an Arabic word which comes from a root meaning to detain, refrain and stop. There is an
expression in Arabic, “so-and-so was killed sabran,” which means that he was captured and detained
until he died. In the spiritual sense, patience means to stop ourselves from despairing and panicking, to
stop our tongues from complaining, and to stop our hands from striking our faces and tearing our
clothes at times of grief and stress.
What scholars have said about patience:
Some scholars have defined patience as a good human characteristic or a positive psychological
attitude, by virtue of which we refrain from doing that which is not good. Human beings cannot live a
proper, healthy life without patience.
Abû ‘Uthmân said: “the one who has patience is the one who trained himself to handle difficulties.” ‘Amr
ibn ‘Uthmân al-Makkî said: “Patience means to keep close to Allâh and to accept calmly the trials He
sends, without complaining or feeling sad.” Al- Khawwas said: “Patience means to adhere to the rules of
the Qur’ân and Sunnah.” Another scholar said: “Patience means to refrain from complaining.” ‘Alî ibn
Abî Tâlib said: “Patience means to seek Allâh’s help.”
Is it better to have patience at the time of difficulty, or to be in a situation which does not
Abû Muhammad al-Harirî said: “Patience means not seeing any difference between times of ease and
times of hardship, and being content at all times.” I (Ibn Qayyim) say: This is too difficult, and we are not
instructed to be like this. Allâh has created us in such a way that we feel the difference between times of
ease and times of hardship, and all that we can do is refrain from panicking at times of stress. Patience
does not mean feeling the same at both easy and difficult times. That is beyond us, and is not part of
our nature. Having an easy time is better for us than having a difficult time. As the Prophet (sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam) said in his well known du‘â: “If You are not angry with me, then I do not care what
happens to me, but still I would rather have your blessings and your favour.” This does not contradict
the hadîth which says, “No-one has ever been given a better gift than patience,” because that refers
to after a test or trial has befallen a person. But ease is still better.