Allah (SWT) has never instructed us to do something without providing us with help and support to do it, and ways and means of achieving it. Even so, patience is difficult, but it is not impossible to attain. If a person does not naturally possess the characteristic of patience, he can attain this characteristic by acting as if he does possess it, until it eventually becomes his second nature. This is what the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has told us in the hadith:
“Whoever tries to be patient, then Allah will help him to be patient.” (Al-Bukhari 6470)
Steps in strengthening patience
As patience is Fardh (obligatory), Allah has provided us with ways and means of obtaining and strengthening the quality of patience, for Patience consists of two elements: knowledge and action, and from these two elements are derived the remedies for all spiritual and physical troubles. Knowledge and action, combined are always essential.
Knowledge here means the knowledge of the benefits, happiness and fulfillment that accrues from following the commands of Allah and the harm, imperfection and evil that stems from disobedience. With this beneficial knowledge, it becomes easier to exercise patience.
Prophet Ya’qub (Peace be upon him) demonstrated great patience at the loss of his sons. He said:
“So (for me) patience is most fitting. And it is Allah (Alone) Whose Help can be sought.” [Yusuf (12):18]
Even when his sorrow became heightened, his knowledge still moderated his reaction:
“He said: “I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah, and I know from Allah that which you know not.” [Yusuf (12):86]
When the fruits of his patience became ripe and his sons were reunited with him, he said of his knowledge:
“Then, when the bearer of the glad tidings arrived, he cast it (the shirt) over his face, and he became clear-sighted. He said: “Did I not say to you, I know from Allah that which you know not.” [Yusuf (12):96]
So, when a man combines knowledge with a strong will-power, then it becomes easy for him to attain the quality of patience. The bitterness of patience will become sweet and the pain of patience will become joy.
As we have already seen, patience is a constant battle between the motives of reason and religion on the one hand, and the motive of whims and desires on the other. If a person wants reason and religion to overcome whims and desires, then he has to strengthen the former and weaken the latter, just like promoting good health and reducing the risk of illness.
For example, a person who has a strong desire to commit adultery can take steps to combat it. He may have such strong sexual urge that he cannot stop committing adultery; or he may not commit the act itself, but is unable to stop looking at women; or he may be able to stop looking at women but he cannot stop thinking of sex, to the extent that all his thoughts are devoted to this subject, and he never gives any thought to things which could benefit him in this life and in hereafter.
If he is really serious about finding a cure for this disease, then the following steps are recommended:
1. He can find out what types of food increase sexual desire, then he can reduce his intake of them, or avoid them altogether. If this does not work, then he can fast, as fasting reduces sexual desire, especially if the food eaten when he breaks his fast is moderate. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“He who cannot afford to marry is advised to fast, as fasting will diminish his sexual power.” (Al-Bukhari 5065)
2. He should lower his gaze and avoid looking at women, as looking at women may provoke sexual desire.
3. He should enjoy permissible sex (i.e. within marriage), because any natural desire that Allah has created in us has a permissible outlet. This is the best cure, as the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has indicated.
4. He should think of the harm and damage that may befall him in this world as a consequence of his fulfilling his sexual desire in a prohibited way. Even if there were no Paradise or Hell, the harm that could be caused in this world by such an action should be enough to stop him from doing it.
5. He should think of the ugliness of the person who is tempting him to commit adultery with her, especially if she is known to have other partners. He should feel too proud to drink from the same place as dogs and wolves!