“Allah tests those whom He loves.”
It takes faith and a good amount of inner work to understand what this really means. We all have those moments, when tough times seem impossible to escape, work through or recover from. I wonder if that’s just because we lost our sense of what patience truly is, from the natural inclination we had as children. Learning to walk, practicing swinging on monkey bars, falling off a bike, over and over again until we learned and even still we will fall again, sometimes just as hard or harder. A man who learned to bike marathons could get swept away in a gust of wind, hitting the pavement or worse, and through no error of his own. And it may have been his error, perhaps when some evil he engaged in came back his way.
More likely however, he needs that time in the hospital, as a test from Allah to prove himself as a faithful servant who would never abandon hope for Allah’s Mercy. The way Allah designed reality is that no reward can be had without opportunity to earn it. You can’t expect reward for claiming to choose patience. Truthfully, you only know you are patient when you need to be — and you are, and you only get to seek reward for a calamity if you are given the calamity — and you live in patience and perseverance. The Prophet went through some of the greatest trials, in fear for his life, in starvation, and in loss. But his gain was in trusting Allah, in being aware of the good that came from these experiences, as subtle as they were.
And actually, it’s the subtle things that make the biggest difference. The sensations and gifts we don’t notice right away are seeds for stronger foundations. That which comes and fades has little equilibrium and cannot be trusted to last as a support. When we learn a lesson about patience through a post like this, it is a good reminder, but it is nowhere near the level of going through test after test and staying well and patient to the best of one’s ability.
There’s really nothing like it.
Patience that is Dreaming in the Face of Fear
There is another, more nuanced idea about patience that is vital to grasp, and while we may not recognize it, we all grapple with it every day.
The man who fell off his bike was overworking himself at the office. With life-threatening injuries after getting hit by a car, he was awakened and began to ponder his current mission in life. Coping wasn’t about being patient in the conventionally understood way, he realized. It was purely about the perspective that his patience gave him, patience that Allah gave him to inherently possess, if he would only take heed and listen.
Allah wanted him to believe, but to believe is the bottom line, and deep down none of us enjoy settling for that.
Patience manifests itself even in how we pursue joy in our vocation of choice. It takes effort and courage to acknowledge that the choices we made to set up our lives when seeking Allah’s provision (think of the famous “tie your camel, and trust in Allah, both” hadith), aren’t satisfying. To look at your wife and say that you need to move away near a place where you can restart, when there is no need except an overwhelming drive to find and pursue what Allah created you to do, is unfathomable for most. Some people are blessed with spouses, parents and other family that support them in whatever they do, and this is a generous bounty from Allah ‘azza wa jal.
No one knows what is coming next. Tomorrow, you could return to God. You might be diagnosed with a debilitating disease, or with a brain tumor, wa-Allahu Musta’aan. It could be the loss of a loved one who was providing financial support in a time of need.
How can you, O forgetful human being, come to think that all you had to do was hope things would get better, go the extra mile briefly just to get by and think you would be happy? The worst I fear most for myself and my readers, is that we come to believe that Allah is not on our side.
Allah wants for you what you think you don’t want for yourself.
What does this have to do with patience? Allah may give what we think is bad for us due to the pain we experience. And yet, there are dreams we don’t pursue because we assume we wouldn’t find the heartache of failure before success to be worth it. Only because that is what we have done all our lives. As the saying goes, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to try.
I know you’re scared. I know you have a lot on your plate. But give yourself that importance. Do you truly believe that you matter and that your existence was not purposeless? Join the few who have meant what they said when they looked in the mirror and silently said it. Join those who found Paradise here in the dunya, who found inner bliss and calm. And not only that, but adventure and the gift of having something to contribute.
To say that it is not possible to even consider dreaming big because of your circumstances, and that you are okay with that is simply lethargic and not true. And most definitely, it is not patience; rather, it is the height of dishonesty with oneself and shows that fear is taking over. We all have things we aspire to, goals we want to reach. But we put ourselves down, and the greatest critic that drags our Fitrah with it pulling at the ground, trying to hold on with its face in the dust, is ourselves, and we put it there.
It is a tragedy to lose one’s value for their own fulfillment. What good can come of stagnancy, when all our souls want to do is soar past what we have allowed to bound us, chained to our inhibitions–what greater cause for grief? Patience is chasing your dreams, but being okay with knowing it doesn’t happen overnight.
Patience is believing that if tomorrow comes, it brings light to guide a second, hundredth, or even thousandth chance at success. It is also believing that there is no way you will live to complete their mission, so you must never give up, and never tire of dreaming big, but planning small.
Whatever comes our way, there is in it what can be used to facilitate our way to Jannah.
It is our choice. A tortured existence without ever knowing why we feel so rotten, only because we gave up too easily — and only because failed to dream that we could succeed, or experience inner paradise.
I stay in the path of my fears
I ventured forth
A barrier to my every chance’s door
I came to a pond in the field
Dreamed that inside I would go
Wet my feet and purify
Feeling the water; delight
And yet I
Worried my mother would find the mud stains
But I always sat frozen in that hail and rain
Knowing where I wanted to be
Caring for all but me
Abandoning my right to be free
To feel the grass under my feet
The birds are friends I used to meet
Oh! A child I used to be
Now look what maturity has done to me
I am aimless, wandering, how uncanny
They told me I’d be a doctor and that would make me happy
Nature continues to beckon me
But I chain myself to this chair.