In today’s fast paced world we are becoming ever more impatient. Today we have high speed fibre optic broadband, apps that can almost do anything for us, and we can send a message across the globe in a second to name but a few. Alhamdulilah, these things can be real time savers for us, making things a lot easier and more convenient for us, but it is contributing to nation of people that no longer have the patience to wait for anything.For example, how many times have you become frustrated when your internet runs at dial-up speed? We get so frustrated if we don’t receive immediate results creating a huge intolerance for anything that requires time and patience, even when it comes to nurturing our family relationships! People have a hard time these days investing this time anymore because they just don’t have the patience anymore, resorting in the use of impatient, maladaptive coping skills when in times of crisis.
Values/Virtues of Patience in Islam
It’s time for us to take a step back and really embrace the values of Islam; values and practises that really nurture the development of patience and realise that there is no room for impatience in our lives if we are to live according to Islamic principles and apply these important skills more widely into our way of life. Patience is an aspect of sabr and is mentioned in over 50 times in the Quran, really highlighting the importance of it in Islam.
‘O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient’ 1
‘And the angels will enter upon them from every gate, [saying], “Peace be upon you for what you patiently endured.”’ 2
‘And [He] will reward them for what they patiently endured [with] a garden [in Paradise] and silk [garments].’ 3
Alhamdulilah, the practises of Islam have patience ingrained in them and with the season of Ramadan upon us we can really focus upon using this time to cultivate patience. Ramadan is sometimes termed ‘the month of patience’ so is a time that we can really focus on using it to maximum effect to increase our relationship with Allah, and seek the rewards not only from Allah but from improved relationships with others also. Furthermore, it said that “fasting constitutes half the patience.” 4. This is possibly because it requires the 3 types of patience that constitute sabr:
- patience in the obedience of Allah (by fulfilling our obligation to fast)
- patience in not disobeying Allah (by refraining from eating, drinking..etc..)
- patience with Allah’s decree in the afflictions that come with fasting (such as hunger and weakness)
Training ourselves in this way over the month of Ramadan to avoid certain troubles that come out of acts of impatience (such as backbiting and lying) more widely creates a patient attitude towards life that is more conducive to the lifestyle of a Muslim as ordained to us by Allah, combining both a passive patience in enduring the difficulties encountered as result of fasting and active patience in terms of being actively involved in the worship of Allah.
Psychological Benefits of Patience
Beyond the solely Islamic aspect of fasting, there is a huge amount of psychological literature that highlights the psychological benefits of patience. Allah has really blessed us by making it an obligation upon us, not only by rewarding us for doing so, but by obliging us to complete an act that nurtures characteristics like patience that we can apply more widely in our daily lives. This will also subsequently build positive characteristics that are highly compatible with living our lives committed to our Deen.
Psychological research has shown positive links between patience and self-control,and character strengths, negative affect and depression, 5, better grades, less psychopathology, higher self-esteem, and less shame in students 6. Furthermore, long term psychological research has shown that aspects of patience such as self-discipline exhibited in childhood predict positive outcomes in both physical and psychological wellbeing in adulthood (Terrie Moffitt) as well as improved life outcomes, from higher test scores, better social skills, and less substance misuse (Walter Mischel). Conversely, evidence has also shown that impatience can lead to negative consequences both emotionally in terms of guilt and embarrassment, as well as physically in terms of chronic stress, high blood pressure and heart disease, not to mention the negative effects and impact on the people around the impatient one, which further highlights the need to improve patience.
Application beyond Ramadan
So as we can see, having patience can have long term psychological benefits. Patience puts us in the state of mind to remain calm in adversity and approach life with a more rational and adaptive perspective to react to a given situation in the most appropriate way.
It is also argued that nurturing patience from a young age can have wider societal benefits too, including lowered costs for crime control due to reduction in aggressive behaviour, lowered costs in health care due to the self-discipline to resist unhealthy foods that are so readily available in today’s age, as well as being more active in staying physically healthy in today’s technological age where we spend a lot of our times sitting down in sedentary activity. Furthermore, in an age where people are so quick to file for divorce, being patient in marriage and having the patience and willpower to sustain relationships can improve marital relations (Terrie Moffitt).
“You will surely be tested in your wealth and in your lives and you will surely hear from the People of the Book and the Polytheists that which gives you great pain. But if you patiently persevere and keep your duty to Allah (with Taqwa), then that will be the most decisive of affairs.” 7
Alhamdulillah, Allah has given us the solution to this and the chance, through obligation, to help us to develop this useful and noble characteristic that can help us to approach the inevitable trials in life enhanced with a month long training in patience during Ramadan.
Applying sabr in our lives beyond Ramadan gives us the skills to conquer frustration, giving a sense of emotional freedom and choice in how we manage stressful situations. Having that control in our lives will contribute further to psychological wellbeing too. There are many things we don’t have a choice over, but we do have the choice to be patient in managing adverse situations in our life with a rational and thoughtful approach according to the teaching of Islam, which will ultimately result in an improved lives on many levels.
We know patience holds a very high place in Allah’s eyes so we should be actively working on it, not just giving up, and Ramadan gives us this chance to prove ourselves worthy of the rewards of patience. Allah made it obligatory because he loves us and wants us to have this reward. Alhamdulillah.
Tips for Nurturing Patience during Ramadan
- Keep busy. Occupied time feels shorter, which is especially useful for those of us in regions where Ramadan currently falls during the longest days of the year.
- Exercise gratitude. In the moments where you do become distracted by thoughts of the things you are restraining from, remember those that have to live like this everyday with little food and water to sustain them.
- Don’t keep looking at the clock more than necessary. This will only lead to increased frustration.
- Study the blessings of patience. Patience is mentioned so many times in the Quran, there is so much to learn. Remind yourself of the many blessings of remaining patient.
- Ask Allah to give you patience. “Whoever turns to Allah to get ṣabr, Allah will give him that ṣabr.”
- Positive self-talk. Remember, you’ve done it before, so you can do it again, insha Allah.
- Remember you’re a role model to those around you. Show your endurance and patience in a positive way that the children will desire to emulate.
- Know your triggers. Avoid situations that will likely trigger outbursts of impatience. Frustration and impatience will only make the day feel longer. Ramadan will help us to increase our tolerance in frustrating situations.
- Have compassion for yourself and your situation. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, take a few deep breaths (do a short relaxation or mindfulness exercise), accept the situation, and turn to a useful activity like listening to/reading the Quran or engaging in dhikr.
- Planning. For example, plan what you’re cooking in advance. This way you’ll know how long you need and what ingredients you need and won’t get frustrated that you won’t be finished on time or that you don’t have everything that you need to hand. Have a realistic plan of what you want to achieve in Ramadan (e.g. how many surahs you want to read, how many ayats per day, etc…). Plan how you will manage any difficult moments of impatience (e.g. you will take space and engage in something productive, take a 10 minute walk, return and read Qur’an for 10 minutes).
So I urge you to actively engage in this month of training in patience, enduring the various aspects of patience such as self restraint, self discipline, gratitude and perseverance. Embrace the blessing that Allah has obliged us to engage in and reap the benefits and rewards of cultivating the skills that we can apply even beyond Ramadan. Skills that will nurture a more adaptive approach to life in line with the way Allah has ordained us to.