By Sheikh Abu-Baker Kayiwa.
These days Muslims are being tested, from being mocked at to intrusions of surveillance, the threat of expulsion, and even vile remarks towards Allah SWT, The Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. In these tough times, it is faith in Allah SWT, sabr (patience and perseverance) and tawakkul (trust in and reliance on Him SWT) that bring about calmness amidst the chaos and turmoil, bestowing peace and tranquility to the hearts. Moreover, sabr provides illumination – light, guidance, and clarity – in moments of darkness, as Rasoolullah (peace be upon him) said, “… patience is illumination.”
The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind becomes quiet, it becomes straight again.
Often sabr is translated as patience or withstanding with patience whatever difficulty has befallen a person. One may think that it is a passive state of accepting the tests and trials of this dunya, including those inflicting injustice or oppression. But another meaning of sabr is “tasabbur” or perseverance. This is the ability to continue on in spite of difficulties, with steadfastness and unwavering purpose. So sabr is not fatalistic resignation, a passive acquiescence to a situation or circumstances.
Both aspects of sabr, patience and perseverance, are required when going through trials and tribulations. And let us be reminded that Allah SWT is with those who have sabr: “And be patient and persevering, for Allah is with those who patiently persevere” (Quran 8:46). For sure, Allah SWT tests the believers throughout their lives, from childhood to old age. Our status in this life can change instantly, from richness to poverty, ease to hardship, joy to sadness, health to sickness, security to fear – life has ups and downs and phases of good or ill fortune.
He SWT tested each and every one of the Prophets and He likewise tests each one of us. He tests us as individuals, as families, as communities, and as nations. And certainly He SWT tests the Muslim ummah. As He SWT says in the Quran: “…Do people think that they will be left alone because they say, ‘We believe,’ and will not be tested.” More importantly, in each of these tests the believers are measured as to how truthful they are to their belief. Allah SWT says in the very next verse: “And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make known those who are true, and will certainly make known those who are liars” (Quran 29:1-3).
Rasoolullah (pbuh) endured all that persecution with sabr and tawakkul in Allah SWT, with grace, tolerance, forbearance, self-control, and absolute resolve. He never gave up.
So these difficult times we are enduring are part of the test. Rather than shaving one’s beard or taking off the hijab, Muslims should feel honored to visibly represent Islam, a declaration that fear will not extinguish faith! When the genocide took place in Bosnia two decades ago, many Bosnians did not even know how to perform wudhu; but when they were threatened with oppression or even slaughter just because they had a Muslim name, they stood fortified in their faith, proud to be Muslim.
Indeed, we must never think that anyone will enter Jannah without being tested. Allah SWT says: “Or do you think that you will enter Paradise without such [trials] as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, ‘When [will come] the Help of Allah?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allah is near!” (Quran 2:214).