Have Beautiful Patience


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“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”

Alan Watts

 

It feels like there has been so much chaos lately, and I haven’t had much good sleep. I’ve had a lot of dreams of Palestine, and I would wake up in the middle of the night. When I went back to sleep, I’d dream again.

In some of those dreams I was standing in the danger zone, just watching the Palestinians get mercilessly slaughtered by the Zionist army. And in some of those dreams, I was in their shoes, running for my life.

Though a ceasefire was announced today, it’s merely a short-term relief. It’s far from enough to end decades of oppression and violent apartheid, or the United States’ military funding of Israel’s acts of terrorism. 

And right at home, there’s a lot to worry about the surge in COVID-19 cases. The pandemic fatigue is kicking in, and I’ve started to truly wonder if or when this crazy cycle of highs and lows, of loosening and tightening movement restrictions will ever come to an end.

In the Malay language, we use the word musibah to describe tragedy. Though musibah is directly borrowed from the Arabic language, the interesting thing is that its meaning in Arabic is totally different. Rather than being connoted with tragedy, it comes from the root word asabah, which implies “right on target” or something that is specially, meticulously and purposefully planned for you.

As I think of all the musibah that has been going on, I find a lot of comfort in reading Suraah Al-Kahf in the Qur’an, particularly the story of Musa (pbuh). It’s a suraah that we’re encouraged to read regularly (especially on Friday) — meaning that it’s the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) way of telling us that there are very important lessons in it for us to constantly remember.

In the story, Musa is asked by Allah to meet Khidr (though he isn’t mentioned by name in the Qur’an), with the purpose of learning wisdom from him — even though Musa was already considered the most learned man of his time.

Upon meeting, Khidr tells Musa upfront that Musa wouldn’t have the patience to bear with him during their journey ahead. Musa would have to stay quiet during the whole journey and not question any of Khidr’s actions until they are explained. Yet, Musa gives his word that he would indeed be patient.

As they set out on their journey, they encountered a ship. Khidr tore the ship open, as if to drown all of its crew. Aghast at his action, Musa snapped and questioned him. 

“Did I not tell you that you wouldn’t have patience?,” Khidr responded.

“Forgive me for forgetting; don’t be so hard on me,” said Musa. 

They continued with their journey, and they met a young boy, whom Khidr proceeded to kill. Again, Musa snapped at Khidr for murdering an innocent child. 

“Did I not tell you that you wouldn’t have patience?,” Khidr again responded.

“If I ever question you again, don’t keep me in your company. I would have given you enough of an excuse by then,” said Musa.

They traveled further and stopped by a town. The people there were rude, and refused to show them any hospitality. Yet, when they found a wall that was about to collapse, Khidr fixed it. 

“Why bother to fix the wall when people here have been so horrible to us?,” said Musa. “You could have at least asked to get paid for this.”

“This is where we part ways,” Khidr told Musa. Khidr then explained all of the incidents that Musa had gotten so worked up about.

As for the ship that Khidr destroyed, it belonged to some poor folks who worked at sea. Having that defect would save them their ship, as they would soon encounter a tyrannical king who would confiscate ships that were in good condition.

As for the young boy whom Khidr murdered — though his parents were good people, he would grow up to be oppressive to them. So, dying while he was still a child would grant him Heaven, as well as protect his parents. 

And as for the wall that Khidr fixed, it belonged to two orphans in the town, and underneath it was a treasure that was left by their father. Allah willed that the orphans would reach maturity and retrieve their treasure in the future. 

This story reminds us that ultimately, there are a lot of silver linings in life that we don’t know — and perhaps might never get to know. When chaos strikes us, we only see what is immediately in front of us — whereas Allah sees it from all sides.

And that’s why we need to have beautiful patience, or sabrun jameel, as Allah mentions in Suraah Yusuf. 

But why beautiful patience? Is there such a thing as patience that isn’t beautiful? — Of course there is. You can be patient and still be complaining or resentful. 

Beautiful patience is when you place your complete trust in Allah, no matter how hard things get. Beautiful patience is when you don’t even have to wait until the end of a hardship so that you can look back and think, “there was good in everything that happened”. Rather, you have that belief right now, because you know that Allah wants only the best for you, that He loves you and understands you more than anyone can.

It’s important to remember though, that having beautiful patience doesn’t mean that we don’t get overwhelmed or depressed. If even a person as wise as Musa (pbuh) was repeatedly caught off guard by Khidr’s acts, who are we to not feel the same way about the chaos in our own lives?

If even Yaakub (pbuh), the best example of patience, was still deeply depressed many years after losing his son Yusuf (pbuh), to the point where he lost his eyesight from crying so much, who are we, right? 

It’s just about having beautiful patience and being hopeful in spite of how horrible we feel, or how gloomy things might seem. And whatever happens, we have Allah to vent to. He never grows tired of listening to us pour our heart out, and He always provides the best sense of comfort.

Let’s do our best to have beautiful patience throughout it all, and to view our musibah as something that ultimately comes from Allah, instead of a tragedy  — and since it comes from Allah, it has to be good for us. 

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