Patience and Gratitude

In seeking a way to calm my heart in recent times due to a noticeable increase in my anxiety, I stumbled upon this book: Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim. The methodology discussed therein has been of great advantage to me. I am positive you stand to gain from them too.Below is an introduction to the book. You can download the book here:

We live in an era of overwhelming Western influence where two major ideas are upheld and promoted. One of these is the expectation of instant gratification, whereby few people are prepared to wait, or work hard, or suffer temporary hardship, to get results. People see a world of wealth and power, depicted on TV and in the movies, and they want it, now. Immediate satisfaction is expected in this world, so how much harder must it be for such people in terms of preparing themselves for the Hereafter!

The other major idea promoted by Western influences is the cult of the superman. Here, too, TV and movies must take much of the blame for filling people’s minds with the notion that the stronger and wealthier you are, the freer you are to do what you like, regardless of the consequences. The idea of the “survival of the fittest” is used to justify destroying the weak. In their quest for independence and superiority, the godless are turning this world into a living hell where competition and conflict prevail. Crime is on the increase, as religion and morality are no longer deterrent forces, and a sense of fear and insecurity is spreading in its wake. Mental illness and psychological disorders are further symptoms of the malaise caused by negative Western influences.

The Islamic way is in sharp contrast to the current trends of the West. Our Creator knows best the make-up of the human psyche, and the guidance of the Qur’ân and Sunnah is in perfect harmony with human nature. Not for nothing is Islam known as dîn al-fitrah (the life transaction of the natural state of man). Muslim scholars and scientists developed an extensive and deep knowledge of human behaviour and psychology, which was firmly rooted in the guidance of the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Centuries ago, scholars developed Islamic concepts by which any person who is seeking strength of willpower, and perfection may be guided. Instead of struggling alone, for no other reason than self-gratification, Islam channels us into seeking perfection for the sake of Allâh, and teaches us to seek His help in doing so. Thus we have important Islâmic ideals such as:

  • ‘ubûdiyyah (being a true slave of Allah), which puts a person in touch with the highest Power in the universe, the Power of Allâh;
  • tawakkul (putting one’s trust in Allâh), concerning which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) advised, “Whoever wishes to be the strongest among men, let him put his complete trust in Allâh”; and
  • sabr (patience, forbearance, fortitude), which enables a man to face hardship with dignity and to accept times of ease without becoming arrogant.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (1292-1350 CE) was one of these scholars. His full name was Muhammad ibn Abî Bakr ibn Ayyûb ibn Sa’d az-Zar’î and his kunya was Abû Abdullâh Shams al-Dîn, but he is better-known as Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah. Born in Damascus, Syria, he was the son of the attendant (qayyim) of the school of al-Jawziyyah. He lived in a period of great turmoil in the Muslim world, which was still reeling from the Mongol onslaughts. At the same time, his was an era of remarkable scholarship. He studied under the great scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, and was also a contemporary of Ibn Kathîr and others.

This post includes a link to a PDF book that is an abridged translation of Ibn al-Qayyim’s famous work, ‘Uddat asSâbirîn wa Dhâkhirat ash-Shâkirîn (literally, The Equipment of the Patient and the Investment of the Grateful). The work deals with the closely-related topics of patience and gratitude. Although often translated as “patience”, the Arabic word sabr has a broader and deeper meaning than the English. Depending on the context, it may mean fortitude, patience, equanimity, forbearance, patient endurance, etc. Shukr may be translated as “gratitude” or “thankfulness”. As is shown in the book, patience and gratitude are two sides of the same coin, closely-related attitudes which the Muslim should seek to foster in every aspect of his or her life.

This kind of spiritual advice is something that today’s Muslims so desperately need. Far from being a set of empty rituals and nit-picking legal technicalities, or a set of words to be repeated or chanted ad nauseam, Islâm is a holistic way of life: if it is applied only partially, imbalance will result. A most important aspect of Islâm, which must always accompany the formal “rituals” and the recitation of du‘âs and dhikr, is constant remembrance of Allâh and constant contact with the Divine. Developing a truly Islâmic attitude of patience will enable us to do this.

Although the works were written over six centuries ago, Ibn al-Qayyim has much to offer the modern reader. Caught as we are between the tempting influences of the West and the hidebound superstitions of some of our Muslim communities, Ibn al-Qayyim’s levelheaded and above all practical advice will point us back towards a purer Islâmic way, insha’Allâh.

It is my firm belief that Islâm has the answer to many of the psychological problems that trouble mankind today, such as anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, addictions, etc. In direct contrast to the Western focus on the “self,” Islâm tells us to look beyond ourselves and focus on Allâh. By doing so, we will move towards fulfilling the purpose for which we were created, and thus attain peace with our Creator and within ourselves.

Download: Patience and Gratitude, [Written by Ibn al-Qayyim, Translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab]