[Chapter 16] Sabr

Dec 21, 2010


Chapter 16

Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology


Sounds hard, doesn’t it – all the stuff that I have outlined thus far? I couldn’t agree more. It is not easy being a Muslim. It is not easy training oneself to do things right all the time – and to strive to live up to the highest possible standards and expectations in everything. And then, after all this, be set upon by the world and be beaten up over the head for one reason or another.

It is not easy being a Muslim. It is not easy working for Allah.

That is why we need to cultivate Sabr. Sabr, you may say, is the ability to persevere. It is the ability to stay the course. It is the skill to face adversity with equanimity and fortitude. It is the strength to meet life’s challenges with patience, courage and grace.

Sabr means having the faith that the hour, no matter how trying and dark, will pass; the gloom will dispel; the darkness will vanish; and the seemingly hopeless present will give way to a brighter, a more blessed future. It is the undying vein of optimism that keeps pulsating through life and keeps it from changing into death.

Sabr is an unshakable belief in Allah’s most unambiguous double commitment in the Qur’an that declares, Surely with hardship comes ease; surely with hardship comes ease (94:5-6).

In practical terms, Sabr is focusing on the process – on the method and the procedures rather than on the product and the outcome. In terms of working for Allah – in terms of living our life in accordance with Allah’s commands and directives – Sabr is the conviction that, so long as we do things right, our efforts will be crowned with success – no matter how, no matter when.

In terms of sheer human survival and functioning, Sabr is a fail-proof panacea for the common human condition – suffering, failure, grief, fear, pain and such that strike everyone in some measure and form throughout life.

Only a week ago a colleague of mine walked into my office – he and his wife both teach at the university – and started to talk about his daughter and son-in-law – how wonderful their life was right here in the United States. Then he talked at some length about his son – 29 years old – who was doing such wonderful things – in Africa. The proud father – a fairly old man – went on and on and on.

I was busy working on my project. I was on the verge of excusing myself and getting on with my work when he suddenly said, very quietly, “He is dead now. He died two weeks ago.”

His son had died in a swimming accident in the ocean in South Africa. The parents were called in the middle of the night. Then eventually the news was confirmed – the boy was dead, and they never found his body.

I stopped working. My eyes were suddenly wide with shock and they were glued to his wrinkled, good looking Italian face. His eyes were down. He repeated almost without expression, “He died in a swimming accident.” There were no tears in his eyes.

What do you tell a man in that situation? He was a Christian, not a Muslim, yet a parent, a father, and an old man at that, all of a sudden being woken up in the middle of the night by a mysterious voice at the end of a telephone wire to be told that all his dreams in this world had suddenly ended. His grown and highly active and successful son was dead – thousands of miles away from home.

It was I who had tears in my eyes. It was my body that was beginning to shake ever so imperceptibly. Was it Sabr I saw on the wizened face of my Christian colleague at that moment? I leave it to you.

Sabr is not an easy thing to handle. Allah’s Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, who taught us to ask Allah to give us all sorts of good qualities, told us not to ask Allah for Sabr. For, Sabr is often the twin sister of trials and tribulations and hardships, and who among us dares to court trouble or disaster in our life?

Instead, our beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, taught us to ask Allah for the umbrella of his protection and well-being in all our affairs – Al-'Afiyah. Ask Allah for 'Afiyah instead, he said.

Allah himself teaches us in the Qur’an to beg him not to place upon us burdens that we may not be able to bear – read the last few Aayaat of Surah Al-Baqarah.

I don’t know about you, but if Islam had nothing else to offer but this little teaching about Sabr, it would have gotten my attention. I would find myself asking over and over if something like this can be a mere mortal flight of fancy, or if there was more to it – may be a kernel of divine reality – than meets the eye.

So, if we want this seminar to be a success, and if you want to make the most out of it, and if we want our lives to be truly transformed, and if we want to see the world around us transformed into a better place for all, then Sabr is a good thing to know and to have. The journey may be long and arduous when you work for Allah – and when you live your mortal life on earth – and Sabr is a good resource to take along.

May Allah grant me and you – and all those we love – Al-'Afiyah, Ameen!



Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional 
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] 
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.

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