Sabr (Arabic: صَبْرٌ ṣabr) is the Islamic virtue of "patience" or "endurance" or more accurately "perseverance" and "persistence". Ṣabr is characterized as being one of the two parts of faith (the other being shukr). It teaches to remain spiritually steadfast, and to keep doing good actions in the personal and collective domain, specifically when facing opposition or encountering problems, setbacks, or unexpected and unwanted results.
Arabic lexicographers suggest that the root ṣ-b-r, of which ṣabr is the nomen actionis, means to bind or restrain. The word ṣabr has a special technical application in the expression yamīn aṣ-ṣabr (يمين الصبر), which is a term used to describe perjury.
In the Quran
In the Quran, words that are derived from the root ṣ-b-r occur frequently, with the general meaning of persisting on the right path when under adverse circumstance, whether internal or external, personal or collective. For example, Muhammad is told to be patient like the Apostles of God before him (38:16); (46:34). The Qur'an promises those who face difficulty and yet persist on the right path, a double reward (33:113, 28:54). The concept is also in jihad, (3:140) where it is translated as "endurance" or "tenacity". It is also used when God commands Muslims to serve Him: XIX, 66, "Serve him and persevere in his service." (19:66). Sometimes ṣabr is associated with the salāt (2:42, 2:148). According to the Qur'an commentators, ṣabr in these passages is synonymous with fasting, as the month of Ramadan was given the name s̲h̲ahr ṣabr (meaning month of patience).
The word is found with the meaning resignation(acceptance), for example in the sura of Yusuf, Yaqub (Jacob), on hearing of the death of his son, says "[My best course is] fitting resignation(acceptance)", where resignation(acceptance) is the most appropriate translation for sabar. The Quran also uses the adjective ṣabbār. This concept is related to shukr (meaning gratitude).
In Quran there is usually a close connection between being patiently persisting in doing right and expecting relief or deliverance from God (tawakkul). Thus Muhammad is told to be "patient till your Lord decides, for you are in Our sight".
- "Seek God (Allah)'s help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble." (2:45)
- "O you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere." (2:153)
- "Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives, and the fruits of your toil."
- "But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Those who say, when afflicted with calamity, 'To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.' They are those on whom descend blessings from their Lord, and mercy. They are the ones who receive guidance." (2:155–157)
- "O you who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy. Vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other, and be pious, that you may prosper." (3:200)
- "And be steadfast in patience, for verily Allah will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish." (11:115)
- "Be patient, for your patience is with the help of Allah." (16:127)
- "Patiently, then, persevere—for the Promise of Allah is true, and ask forgiveness for your faults, and celebrate the praises of your Lord in the evening and in the morning." (40:55)
- "No one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of the greatest good fortune." (41:35)
- "Verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual enjoining of truth, and of patience (perseverance on good) and constancy." (103:2–3)
- "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West. But it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, And the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; To spend of your substance, out of love for Him, For your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; To be steadfast in prayer And give in charity; To fulfill the contracts which you have made; And to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity And throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing." Qur'an 2:177
- "Through every difficulty there is relief. Verily, through every difficulty there is relief." Qur'an 94:5–6
The virtue of ṣabr can also be found in traditions attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The hadith talk of God's ṣabr, which is considered one of the beautiful names of God, indicating the high value laid upon this concept. One example God's ṣabr is His patience towards those who deny Him. The hadith also say that he/she who practices ṣabr will be granted ṣabr for ṣabr is the greatest charisma.
The story of the epileptic woman is significant in this and other respects. The woman came to Muhammad and asked him for his du'a. He replied to her that, if she refrained from her request and exercised ṣabr, then paradise would be given to her.
A hadith on significance of ṣabr
Abu Yahya Suhaib b. Sinan said that the Prophet Muhammad said: "Wondrous are the believer's affairs. For him there is good in all his affairs, and this is so only for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is grateful, and that is good for him; and when something displeasing happens to him, he is enduring (ṣabr), and that is good for him." ( Muslim )
Abu Musa al-Ashari reported that the Prophet Muhammad said, "When a son of a servant of Allah dies, Allah Says to the angels, 'Have you taken the son of My servant?' They say, 'Yes.' Then Allah Says, 'Have you taken the fruit of his heart?' They say, 'Yes.' Allah Says, 'What has My servant said?' They say, 'He has praised You and said, ʾinnā li-llāhi wa-ʾinnā ʾilaihi rājiʿūn (To Allah we belong and to Him is our return). Then Allah Says, 'Build a house for My servant in Paradise and call it the house of praise.'" From Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad and ibn Habban.
Quotes pertaining to ṣabr
Umar bin Khattab said, "We considered the best part of our lives to be that in which there was ṣabr." Related by al-Bukhārī (1 l/303) in taʿlīq form, and it has been related in connected form by Imām Ahmad in az-Zuhd with a Ṣaḥīḥ ʾisnād – as al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Hajar mentioned in Fatḥ al-Bārīʾ (11/303).
Ali said, "Indeed ṣabr is from ʾīmān (faith). Its position is like that of the head with respect to the rest of the body." Then he raised his voice and said, "Verily, there is no ʾīmān (faith) for the one who has no ṣabr." Related by Hibat Allāh ibn al-Ḥasan al-Lālakāʾī in Sharḥ ʾuṣūl ʾiʿtiqād ʾahl as-sunnah wa-al-jamāʿah (no. 1659), al-Bayhaqī in Shuʿūb al-ʾīmān and Abī Shaybān in Kitāb al-ʾīmān (no. 130), with a slightly different wording.
- physical, like the endurance of physical troubles, whether active (such as performing difficult tasks) or passive (such as suffering illnesses), and
- the spiritual, such as renunciation in face of natural impulses.
Fakh̲r al-Dīn al-Rāzī distinguishes four kinds:
- intellectual endurance (for example in disputed points in religious dogma),
- endurance in completing tasks one is bound or recommended to do by Islamic law (such as fasting),
- being steadfast in refraining from forbidden activities, and
- resignation in times of calamity.
Those who possess ṣabr to a certain extent are called ṣābirūn. Out of the three classes of beings (jinn, angels, and mankind), man alone may possess ṣabr. This is because the animals are entirely governed by their desires and impulses; and the angels are completely occupied by their longing for God, so they have no desires and thus need no ṣabr to overcome them. In man, however, the two impulses (that of desire and that of spirituality) are fighting, where the former is kindled by Satan and the latter by the angels.
Among mankind, there are the pious, who have attained ṣabr by overcoming their animal instincts, called siddiqūn, while some still struggle in this task. Sābirūn are to remain steadfast not only in health and prosperity (where their ṣabr is to be used as gratitude to God) but also in the performance of religious obligations, in refraining from forbidden things and in the event of uncontrollable calamities.
- "Ṣabr", Encyclopaedia of Islam
- "Shukr", Encyclopaedia of Islam.
- Hans Wehr, p. 1299 see also باب كفارة الايمان al-shia.org
- [Quran 12:18]
- [Quran 14:5]
- [Quran 52:88]. Quoted by Watt, p. 12
- Watt, p. 5–19
- Buk̲h̲ārī, Zakāt, bāb 50. Quoted in "Ṣabr", Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Buk̲h̲ārī, Marḍā, bāb 6. Quoted in "Ṣabr", Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Fak̲h̲r al-Dīn al-Rāzī. Mafātīḥ al-g̲h̲ayb, Cairo 1278, on III, 200. Quoted in "Sabr", Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Giese, Alma; Reinhart, A.K. "S̲h̲ukr". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online. 29 April 2008
- Nemoy, Leon; Izutsu, Toshihiko (July 1969). "Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'ān by Toshihiko Izutsu". The Jewish Quarterly Review (University of Pennsylvania Press) 60 (1): 70–72. doi:10.2307/1453525. JSTOR 1453525.
- Watt, William Montgomery. "Suffering in Sunnite Islam". Studia Islamica, no. 50 (1979), p. 5-19.
- Wensinck, A.J. "Ṣabr". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online. 29 April 2008