'Sabr' is an Arabic word which comes from a root meaning to detain, refrain and stop.
There is an expression in Arabic, “so-and-so was killed sabran,” which means that he
was captured and detained until he died. In the spiritual sense, patience means to stop
ourselves from despairing and panicking, to stop our tongues from complaining, and to
stop our hands from striking our faces and tearing our clothes at times of grief and stress.
What scholars have said about patience
Some scholars have defined patience as a good human characteristic or a positive
psychological attitude, by virtue of which we refrain from doing that which is not good.
Human beings cannot live a proper, healthy life without patience.
Abû ‘Uthmân said: “the one who has patience is the one who trained himself to handle
difficulties.” ‘Amr ibn ‘Uthmân al-Makkî said: “Patience means to keep close to Allâh
and to accept calmly the trials He sends, without complaining or feeling sad.” Al-
Khawwas said: “Patience means to adhere to the rules of the Qur’ân and Sunnah.”
Another scholar said: “Patience means to refrain from complaining.” ‘Alî ibn Abî Tâlib
said: “Patience means to seek Allâh’s help.”
Is it better to have patience at the time of difficulty, or to be in a situation which does not
Abû Muhammad al-Harirî said: “Patience means not seeing any difference between times
of ease and times of hardship, and being content at all times.” I (Ibn Qayyim) say: This is
too difficult, and we are not instructed to be like this. Allâh has created us in such a way
that we feel the difference between times of ease and times of hardship, and all that we
can do is refrain from panicking at times of stress. Patience does not mean feeling the
same at both easy and difficult times. That is beyond us, and is not part of our nature.
Having an easy time is better for us than having a difficult time. As the Prophet (SAAS)
said in his well known du‘â: “If You are not angry with me, then I do not care what
happens to me, but still I would rather have your blessings and your favour.” This does
not contradict the hadîth which says, “No-one has ever been given a better gift than
patience,” because that refers to after a test or trial has befallen a person. But ease is still
Extract from 'Patience & Guidance' by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah