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Debunking the myths about Sabr

It is a virtue but its application is never negative
01:50 AM Apr 19, 2024 IST | BISMA FAROOQ SHEIKH
debunking the myths about sabr

Sabr is one of the beautiful qualities to be aspired for, and to be appreciated, but it is often misused and misunderstood; we harbour myths about sabr and some of the myths have been beautifully demystified by Yasmin Mogahed in her book “ Healing the Emptiness”




Myth 1: Sabr means Praying passively and waiting for divine help



Some people sit passively, waiting to be saved. And believe this is sabr. But, what did Hajar wife of prophet Ibrahim do when she was alone in the desert with her baby Ismael crying bitterly due to hunger and thirst?


Did she kneel down and wait for water to fall from the skies? Did she passively pray and wait to be saved? No, she ran between two hills, Safaa and Marwah. And not once. Or twice, but seven times; she didn’t give up and she didn’t lose hope, although each time she found only empty hilltops. She kept going. She kept striving. She kept believing in the mercy of Allah. And only after seven times of her striving Almighty paid her off, and water miraculously came from the sand. What’s there to learn is that sabr means to keep striving and not to give up and to have a firm belief that Almighty will answer no matter how difficult the situation seems. Almighty Allah would have miraculously put forth spring for her the moment Ismail cried but he wants to convey a message to believers through Hajar that don’t wait passively for miracles to happen; and keep trying. “For everything there is a time prescribed” (Surah’ Ra’ad 13:38)




Myth 2: Sabr means ‘not crying’.

Many of us believe that shedding tears during pain/ grief is against sabr and it will cause loss in the rewards; as a result it is not uncommon to see people urging the the grief stricken family members to stop crying and have sabr. But it is very important to know that crying is just a part of being human; it is an expression of emotion and a key element in healing. It is not a weakness, nor it is an oversight in God’s design. As long as we don’t say anything against Allah or his decree with our tongue or heart; no matter how much we cry it still doesn’t contradict sabr. Even prophets used to cry during grief. Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), whose patience and faith knows no limits cried bitterly when his son Ibrahim passed away.

Anas bin Malik narrated: “The Prophet (pbuh) took Ibrahim and kissed him and smelled him and the eyes of the Prophet (pbuh) started shedding tears. Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle, even you are weeping!’ The Prophet (pbuh) replied,“Oh Ibn ‘Auf, this is mercy.” Then he (pbuh) wept more and said, ‘The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say anything except what pleases our Lord. O Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.”’ (Sahih al-Bukhari 1303).

Another example is of Prophet Yaqoob (AS) who was severely tested with the loss of his son, Yusuf(AS). He cried until he went blind. Yet, he is praised in the Quran for his “Sabrun Jameel” (beautiful patience). Therefore, we should know that shedding tears does not contradict sabr.


Myth 3: Sabr means silently bearing the flames of abuse

This is the most used statement to justify the abuse especially when it comes to domestic abuse or marital discords. Married people especially females are expected to bear everything that comes their way; be that disrespect, infidelity of spouse, or abuse, just to save the marriage and its called the Sabr. But we should know that prophet Muhammad (PBUH) always emphasised the voice against abuse and warns against bearing the abuse. Though as a last resort, but perhaps this is the reason Almighty has made divorce ‘Halal’; so that no male or female has to suffer under the misused label of Sabr.


Myth 4: We should always pray for Sabr

We are taught from childhood to always pray for Sabr; but we need to correct ourselves; we should pray for aafia first, and when a calamity befalls us or we anticipate any trouble, then we should ask Allah to grant us Sabr. It’s like Afia is prevention/protection and Sabr is cure; so prevention is always better than cure. There is a hadith also that a man came to prophet (PBUH) and asked, “What supplication/dua is best? The prophet answered, ‘ask for afia (well being) in this world and the next …...”(Tirmdhi, 3512).


Myth 5: Sabr means not complaining to Allah

This is the most prevalent myth that sabr means silently accepting everything that comes in the way and not complaining about it to Allah. But it is important to understand a thin line between complaining to Allah and complaining about Allah and there is no harm in complaining to Allah our troubles, weakness, pain and emotions.

Take Away: We should not fabricate the beauty and essence of sabr and must realise its true meaning in the light of Quran and sunnah and not to judge people with our incomplete understanding of Sabr. We should beware of misusing it to justify our weakness/incapability/unassertiveness. Sabr is a positive value and an energizer that mobilizes us towards best of our efforts and commitment. It is what gives us courage to stand and fight against all odds. It is the beacon of light in the darkness of night.