Cultivating the Quality of Forbearance

  • Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
Allah is Forbearing. One of Allah’s names is al-Halīm (The Forbearing One). It follows, therefore, that Allah loves the quality of forbearance. He calls upon us to exhibit this trait and blesses us when we do so. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to Ashajj b. Qays: “You possess two qualities that Allah loves: forbearance and patience.” [Sahīh Muslim (17-18)]

Since Allah loves this trait so much, this is why we find that the majority of the Prophets showed almost superhuman levels of forbearance to their people.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the best example of forbearance anyone could hope to find. He was abused incessantly while spreading Allah’s Message to the people.

Once, he was forcibly driven out of a town by the idolaters at the threat of death. They cursed him and reviled him. They sneered and said things like: “Couldn’t Allah find anyone better than you to be His Messenger?” and: “I will personally rip the cloth of the Ka`bah to shreds if Allah sent you to us.”

The angel of the mountains approached the Prophet (peace be upon him), saying: “Allah hears the things your people are saying, and your Lord has sent me to do your bidding. If you wish, I will make these two mountains fall upon them.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) who was in physical pain and deed emotional stress due to the abuse he had received while being driven out, said: “No. I hope that Allah will bring forth from their children those who will worship Him alone.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (3231) and Sahīh Muslim (1795)]

We should consider the reason why Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on this ocasion showed forbearance to the people who were abusing him. He did so out of compassion for them, certainly, but also for the sake of their descendants who were not yet born. We can also see his concern for the children, that they live in security and peace, and not witness instability and destruction. Many of the children of that locale would grow up to accept Islam. As for those who were not yet born at the time of the incident, they were born as Muslims and became some of Islam’s preeminent historical figures.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was faced with ignorant or abusive behavior, he became all the more forbearing. On one occasion, a desert dweller came up to the Prophet (peace be upon him), yanked at his cloak, and said: “Appoint for me some of the wealth that you have.” On another, someone complained that he was unjust in distributing wealth, saying: “This way of distributing wealth is not for the sake of Allah!” This is in spite of the fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never kept anything for himself. At the time of his death, he did not have any worldly possessions.

If we wish for Allah to show us His forbearance, we should be forbearing to others, including our spouses, our children, those who are under our authority at work, and those who are in our employ. We should not be quick to act on anger. We should hold our tongues.

Abū al-Dardā’, the eminent Companion, advised: “Knowledge comes through learning and forbearance comes through practicing forbearance.” This means that we can become more forbearing, regardless of what kind of temper we presently have. Forbearance and self-restraint can be learned and cultivated through practice.

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