Sabr is not Suffering in Silence #1
Sabr is not Suffering in Silence Part 1
I want to begin by speaking about a concept that is oftentimes misunderstood; Sabr (patience). In the context of abuse or oppression it is extremely important to understand the meaning of the word ‘Sabr’, when it applies and when it does not apply.
On Patience & Perseverance
– Patience, Perseverance and Fortitude
– Tariq Ramadan: How to Empower Yourself
– Muslims’ Duty Toward the Oppressed
– Al-Qaradawi: Jihad against Local Injustice and Corruption
– Islamic Balance between This Life & the Hereafter
Sabr is a concept that we are taught, it is one of the greatest virtues believers were told to have, and when Allah, exalted is He, speaks about Sabr He encourages the believers to have it.
In defining Sabr, like the case in many other Arabic words, we need a number, maybe ten English words to describe it. Sabr is a good example of that; it is translated as patience, perseverance, constancy, persistence. It’s also being able to withstand hardships, being able to be patient, and also being able to respond when needed and not respond when needed. So patience, and Sabr, does not actually mean the same thing as being passive.
Sabr does not mean that you don’t take any action to end the oppression.
When we are told by Allah (SWT) to have Sabr, to have patience, it does not mean that we are passive about what’s going on in our lives, but rather there are times when we need to stand firm. So we need to think about Sabr in this way.
One of the meanings of Sabr is standing firm. For example, in the very last ayah of Surah Al-Imran, where Allah (SWT) tells the believers to have Sabr:
“O you who believe! Endure, outdo all others in endurance, be ready, and observe your duty to Allah, in order that ye may succeed.” (Al-Imran 3; 200
So this ayah goes and explains many different derivations of the same concept of Sabr. Even when Allah uses it in this context, one of the meanings for example is standing firm when the enemy is about to approach. So here we see how Sabr fits in the context of oppression. For one, Sabr does not mean that you don’t take any action to end the oppression.
In fact in order to take action and to be successful, in order to be firm in that action that you are taking, you need Sabr. You need to be able to stand firm and persevere if you are going to stand up against oppression. So in fact the concept of Sabr in the context of oppression or abuse is quite the opposite to that we usually think of the Sabr.
A lot of times women are told, or a woman believes that if they are being mistreated or being abused they just have to be patient. And this concept of being patient against oppression is something that is not in Islam in fact. In fact the Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us when we see something wrong that we should try to change it. He doesn’t say that when you see something wrong be patient and stay quiet about it, but rather
“If you see something wrong, try to change it with your hand. If you cannot, speak out against it. And if you cannot, then at the very least feel that in your heart and this is the weakest level of Iman (faith).”
In this Hadith we are taught how we should respond when we see something wrong, when we see oppression, when we see abuse or when it’s happening to us. We should try to change it. It should not be something that we just accept and that means we are being good Muslims. In fact the Prophet has advised the opposite with regards to something wrong, with injustice or oppression.
In another Hadith the Prophet, peace be upon him, told his companions:
“Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or whether he is being oppressed.”
So in this Hadith the companions, like us, basically understood this Hadith and said we can understand how we help our brother when he is being oppressed- that’s very clear; we try to save his from that oppression. But, they asked, how do we help our brother when he is the oppressor? The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: by stopping him from oppressing.
So you see we learn from that Hadith that you are actually helping your brother, whether they are your husband, your wife, your father or your mother or anyone in your life who is being oppressive, who is being abusive by stopping that person. In this way you are actually helping them, and this is what the Prophet, peace be upon him, explains: by stopping your brother-stopping him or her, from oppressing. This should be seen as something that one does for the sake of Allah. Not that one allows oppression to continue, not that one allows another person to be oppressive upon them or upon their children or upon any one, and say that this is patience (Sabr).
if someone is mistreating us or our body they are mistreating something that belongs to God; mistreating a trust that Allah has given us
If you were to see for example while crossing the street someone beating up another person, and you walk right by and say my religion teaches me to be patient, and I’m just going to allow this to happen and do nothing about that. This is absolutely not the concept of patience or the meaning of patience as the Prophet told us concerning seeing something wrong. You are supposed to change it using different means. You are not supposed to justify the action; rather you are supposed to be aware that there’s something wrong with that action. It’s not an acceptable action. And you at least should hide it in your heart and that is the weakest of faith. But the stronger level of faith is the action where you are in fact trying to stop it, trying to change it.
Thus Sabr never means being passive against oppression, being passive against abuse. Allah has also said that He does not approve of injustice. In a Hadith Qudsi we are told that Allah is telling the believers to not oppress one another. Allah does not approve of oppression. This is so important because when we think that it is more holy or that Allah would be more pleased if we approve of oppression, that’s not true because Allah does not love or approve of oppression, and this is also something we should not love or approve of, and we should not allow it to happen by any means we can take to take action against it.
So, again it does not make you sinful if you take action against somebody doing something wrong. And for sure the abuse of a family member is something that is despised and is very wrong. In fact it is a sin upon that person abusing another human being and you should do everything in your power to actually not only not to allow yourself to be oppressed but also, beyond that, actually helping the oppressor by stopping their oppression.
One other thing to keep in mind is this every single thing Allah gives us an amanah (a trust). That includes our bodies, our health, our eyes, our ears and everything that He gives us. So if someone is coming and basically harming any of that trust that Allah, exalted is He, gave us it is upon us to take care of that trust. It is upon us to take care of what Allah has blessed us with as an amanah.
Our body belongs to Allah. It does not belong to ourselves and most definitely does not belong to another person. So if someone is mistreating us or our body they are mistreating something that belongs to God. They are mistreating a trust that Allah has given us. And so it is upon us to take care of it…