Chapter 8: What is the most difficult type of patience?


The degree of difficulty in abstaining from some things depends on the strength of ones motive and ones ability to do the action in question. Whoever has no motive to kill, or steal, or drink alcohol, or whatever, and at the same time in not able to do it, will find it very easy to exercise patience in abstaining from those things. Whoever has a strong motive to commit a wrong action and has the means to do so, will face great difficulty in exercising enough patience to abstain. There it is very difficult for a ruler to refrain from committing injustice and oppression (dhulm), and it is difficult for a young man to refrain from fornication, and it is difficult for a rich man to refrain from pursuing physical desires and pleasures.  

The Prophet (SAAS) is reported to have said: Allh will commend a young man who never behaved in an ignorant way (Ahmad). In another hadth, he referred to those who will be shaded in the shade of Allhs throne for their perfect patience such as the patience of an absolute ruler in being just in all situations, regardless of his own feelings, and the patience of a young man in worshipping and obeying Allh and suppressing his own whims and desires, and the patience of the man who gives sadaqah in keeping his sadaqah secret, and the patience of a man who resists the temptation of a woman of beauty and high status, and the patience of two men who meet for the sake of Allh and part for the sake of Allh, in keeping their relationship for the sake of Allh, and the patience of one who weeps out of fear of Allh, in keeping that secret and not telling others about it. All of these are among the most difficult types of patience. Therefore the punishment of an old man who commits adultery, a king who tells lies and a poor man who is arrogant is more severe, because it is easy for them to keep away from such wrong actions, and does not require much in the way of patience. Their attitude indicates that they are willfully rebelling against Allh.


Patience in abstaining from wrong actions of speech and sexual wrong actions

Amongst the most difficult types of patience is patience in refraining from committing wrong actions of speech and sexual wrong actions. Wrong actions of speech such as backbiting and slander, telling lies to create trouble between people, and praising oneself explicitly or implicitly, and insulting people one does not like and praising those whom one does like are all entertaining and enjoyable. There is a strong motive to commit these wrong actions, and it is so easy to move ones tongue and speak, so the patience required to abstain from them is particularly difficult. Therefore the Prophet (SAAS) told Mudh, Control your tongue. Mudh asked, Are we accountable for what we say? The Prophet (SAAS) answered, Is there anything other than the wrong actions of speech that cause people to be thrown in Hell on their faces?

Once the wrong actions of speech have become a habit, patience becomes even more difficult. So you might see a man who stays up all night praying, fasts all day, and would refrain from touching a pillow if it were made of silk, yet he gives his tongue free rein in backbiting, slandering and causing trouble between people.

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