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Patience Against Unpleasant Events (Tragedies)

The human life is always accompanied by events and unpleasant calamities, and there is no escape from such happenings. The human structure has been created in such a way, that it has to deal with these imposed situations, i.e. always encountering unpleasant events and calamities during the entire span of our lives. The following famous sentence of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (A.S.) describes the above theme as follows:

"The world is like a house which has been encircled with temptations and calamaties."

Sickness, physical handicaps, financial losses, death of loved ones and deprivations are some of the few examples of the inevitable happenings from which there is no escape. Even the most prosperous class of people are not immune against these types of occurences. When such calamities befall, naturally, without any choice or intention of our own, in our lives, usually there arc two types of reactions shown by the people, as follows:

1. Some people, on account of the calamity give up their resistance completely and therefore become spiritually handicapped.

2. The other group of people, bear with patience considering it a natural thing of this worldly life, and come out of it intact and with dignity.

According to the famous Persian poet Roudaki1 the merit, greatness, and leadership of a man is tested during his encounter with calamity. Grief, crying, and lamentation which are the ways of weak, timid-hearted and impatient individuals, in itself is a strong natural passion. Which imposes a violent emotional force upon the human structure, whereby all the body parts are employed to perform a particular function. The eyes shed tears, the tongue complains, the throat groans, and the hands, feet, and head, are all involved in performing special actions and movements.

Patience, against calamities means not to surrender to these violent emotional outbursts. A patient human being, while facing such tragedies does not give up his morale and maintains his composure and control. These tragedies do not make him depressed and discouraged, and do not stop him from making efforts and endeavours for accomplishing the main goals in the real life. Therefore this type of patience (against calamities) is also important, and has been termed as fair and charming in the narration quoted earlier.

Now, let us consider the case of a wayfarer who starts his journey in a certain direction so that he could reach the final desired destination. If upon encountering each unpleasant accident, and after receiving a small injury, he gives up his morale and looses his composure, then it is obvious that such a person will never complete this journey and will never reach the final destination. Resistance, offered against these motives of depression, while facing these tragedies is a key factor, which not only secures the high morale, but moreover, this endurance in itself, is an excercise, which is beneficial for building up the determination and strong iron-will among human beings, which are the pre-requisites for continuation of the difficult journey.

Therefore patience against natural tragedies which befall human beings, without any option or choice, consists of the following two important advantages:

Firstly, it secures and maintains the high morale, which is responsible for all constructive involvement, and further acts as an obstacle to prevent it from getting lost or being destroyed completely.

Secondly, it builds up the human determination or will power, which is an important means for all positive actions, and further it provides the required endurance to face the optional tragedies.

The special encouragement and excitement shown by the religious guardians about this type of patience, clearly demonstrates its constructive and miraculous role. In the following two narrations the deep philosophy of this branch of patience could be clearly demonstrated.

First Narration :

"Whoever has not equipped himself with the weapon of patience, during hardships and calamities of the time, will be subjected to a state of weakness and helplessness". (al-Kafi vol. 2, p. 93)

Second Narration :

"For a believer, if a position and rank, has been taken into consideration by Allah, which could never be accomplished by deeds alone, he is inflicted with physical sickness, or loss of wealth, or tragedies to his loved ones, and in case, he remains patient, he is awarded by Allah (the assigned position and rank)" (Safinatul Bihar vol. 2, p. 5)

In the above narration the constructive and exalted role of patience has been demonstrated explicitly.

Othman bin Maz'oon, who was an experienced Muslim and had migrated to Ethopia and Madina, during the early period of Islam, lost his young son at Madina. This tragedy was so devastative that he decided to spend all his remaining life inside his house in prayers, and suddenly stopped all his social involvement completely. His depression after the death of his young son was so intense, that he wished never to face the pleasures of life again. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) after hearing about his state of affairs, paid him a courtesy visit and advised him to change his decision. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said that Islam does not allow monastic life (renunciation of world), sitting in an isolated corner, engrossed prayers. The renunciation of the world by Islamic Ummah means, participation in Jihad for the sake of Allah.

Therefore, patience against unforeseen tragedies, for which we have no choice, means to be able to tolerate the injury caused by the calamity without giving up the morale, and to be able to continue the routine normal involvement of the real life, and eventually forgetting the tragedy with the passage of time.

1 Ja'far bin Mohammad 'Roudaki', regarded as the father of Persian poetry, flourished in the Samanid Court at Bukhara in the 9th-10th century A.D. (Ed.)

Adapted from the book: "Discourse on Patience" by: "Seyyed Ali Khamenei'i"

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