WITHOUT PATIENCE ???
I am sitting on my comfortable orange reclining chair, in front of my computer
screen, which is situated in my room. The desk that holds the computer is
covered with books, and all the luxuries one can ask for. As a coffee mug
continues to occupy a section of my desk for the past few days, it stares at me
as I begin to write this article about struggling and the pain of such struggle.
The irony is evident. But sometimes irony is the best way to realize the
importance of something.
We live in the age of popular culture, the age where being ‘cool’ or being a
‘geek’ are both in. Even though the two sorts of people are totally
contradictory, they both hold the status of being ‘in’. The culture of immediate
gratification, and immediate desire. Almost anything material, we want, can be
gained through the touch of a button. When we wish for entertainment we can go
to any screen, be it of a television or a computer, and be satisfied. When we
desire information, we can click our ‘mouse’ and receive the information in a
few seconds. If the information takes more than a few seconds, then we
immediately get angry at the speed of the computer, and we go buy a new one.
Books are becoming obsolete, because they follow a certain sequence. We do not
like anything that will take time, and sequences and the methodical ‘turning of
a page’ takes too much time. So we turn to images and nice pictures for our
information. We are consumers. When we want something we get it, by going to the
nearest shopping mall. The shops in the mall never seem to run out of the
product that we so desire and yearn for.
I have dragged on the introduction just to test your patience. Patience is just
my point. Above I have shown how we live in the culture of the immediate. The
immediate is the opposite to patience. There is no place for patience in the
times we live in. Everything is an ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ event. The present is
everything. The future is only tomorrow’s present, nothing else. Thus, patience
as a virtue has been totally eliminated by our culture.
Information is gained immediately, and that is why its called information. If
information could be gained any faster, it would be called ‘data’. If it was
gained through patience, with effort, and struggle, then it would be called
knowledge. This is the knowledge of our Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam),
the Sahaabah (Companions) of the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) and our
Ulamaa of Islam. They had to struggle for knowledge. The highest level of such
struggle for knowledge is when you practice that knowledge, this level is called
wisdom. This is the hardest stage, for it is the level that requires the most
patience, simply because it is the level with the most tests and difficulties.
But the results of this level are tremendous and the most beautiful. It is this
level that makes a man and a woman. It is this level that makes a true believer,
and it is this stage where ideal possibilities are made real and actual. Thus
did the Prophet Hadhrat Ibrahim asked Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa):
“Our Lord! send among them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Thy
signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and sanctify them: For
Thou are the Exalted in might and The Wise.” (al-Baqarah 2:129)
Imam Shaafi’i says that the scripture mentioned in this verse is referred to the
Quraan and the Wisdom is reference to the Prophet Mohammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe
WaSallam)’s actions, sayings, struggles, methods, i.e. his Sunnah.
Further, computers can never gain knowledge and wisdom, but can only posses
and/or process information and data. So there should be no real worry, just
because the world chess champion, Kasparov, has lost against IBM’s “Deeper
Blue”, a super-computer that is able to compute two hundred million chess moves
a second. Or should we be worried? I am stubborn at times, and this is one of
those times. I will answer by saying that there is still no need to be worried.
For, the computer is not able to struggle and be caused any suffering and pain.
What makes the human being great is that it is capable of taking on burdens that
promise suffering and difficulties. Any rational agent, or creature, even a
computer that one day is able to ‘think’, would avoid suffering at all costs.
But the Muslim is special, he or she is much beyond such lowly notions of
existence. The Muslim has a secret, he knows that with suffering and pain for
the sake of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) bring success and the True happiness,
with a capi
tal ‘T’. Thus did the Prophet (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) say that those who
suffer the most are the Prophets, and next to them are those who are a degree
lower than they, and so on. Although, it should be noted, that I do not mean we
should run out and suffer for the sake of suffering. No! What I mean is that we
should expect it when we work for the sake of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).
These sorts of things are only to test us. And there are two keys that guarantee
our success in these tests. These are our trust in Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa),
and our patience. Whatever Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) does for us or puts in
our way, is always for the best. This is beautifully expressed in the story of
Prophet Hadhrat Moosaa (Moses) in the Soorah al-Kahf (The Cave) of the Quraan.
In this story we find Hadhrat Moosaa being tried by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa
Ta’aalaa) through a Wise man. The Wise man does things that seem immediately
irrational. That is, if one were to look at the things the man did, like kil
l a young boy, put a hole in a boat that they were in, and so on, when taken in
the immediate, look foolish. That is why Hadhrat Moosaa kept asking for reasons
for the Wise man’s actions, but only found the reply:
“Did I not tell you that you cannot have any patience with me?” (al-Kahf 18:72)
But when these events are taken in an eternal and holistic fashion, one will see
that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) was justified in such cases, and that the
only way to see this would be to be patient and have trust in Allah (Subhaanahu
Wa Ta’aalaa). So we should not be stuck in the immediate. Rather, we should look
beyond, where we will find that things that happen to us may seem bad at the
moment, but they are ultimately always for the best. That is why the Prophet
Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) was always in total amazement of
the believer, because when pricked by a thorn, he would always say “Praise be to
Allah”, and when put in a happy state of affairs, he still would cry “Praise be
We have in the Islamic history, many examples of those who have suffered for the
sake of Allah. We have the previous Prophets and the last Prophet Hadhrat
Mohammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam), we have many Sahaabah who were tortured,
but never flinched. We have the many scholars and leaders, like Imam Ahmed ibne
Hanbal. They suffered for Truth either physically, psychologically,
intellectually, spiritually, collectively and so on. This is nothing to shy away
from, but it must be faced with patience and courage, for it is the only true
mold for our service and servitude to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). It is what
makes us believers and amongst the righteous. This finite pain will be our
sacrifice to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), for a happiness and joy that is
eternal and infinite.
In addition, upon further thought, we find that immediacy in gratification of
low desires has no meaning and no purpose. The meaning is lost when the
immediate is expressed for its own sake. When the ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ are the only
things on people’s minds, they do not care for meaning, because meaning can only
be found over time, and the passage of time requires some patience. That is why
now we find people trying to find meaning, but find none, and end up giving
meaning to the meaningless. Also purpose is lost in actions and thoughts.
Purpose is found only in consideration of the future. But when future is only an
immediate present waiting to happen ‘now’, then there is no purpose, but only
randomness and chaotic action and thought. This amounts to nothing but an
illusion. And that is exactly what the immediate is, an illusion, as the Quraan
“... for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception.”
And it continues in the next Aayah (Verse):
“You shall be certainly be tried and tested, in your possessions and in your
personal selves; and you shall hear much that will grieve you, from those who
received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if you
persevere patiently and guard against evil, then that will be a determining
factor in all affairs.” (Aale Imraan 3:185-186)
Hence, we must sacrifice the immediate gratification of our desires, and find
our abode in patience. Once we take on the garb of patience, then we must become
prepared for trial. Trials, when passed, only increase your faith, your
knowledge, your humanity, your love, your infinite desires, your closeness to
Reality, and it is what brings us closer to perfection. Again the irony is in my
writing, but the irony is tragic, and from the tragic one always builds and
learns. Thus the beauty.