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Ethics

Jaza (Restlessness)

Jaza leads to screaming, beating one's face, tearing clothes, and raising a clamour when faced with some misfortune or calamity. Jaza is one of the vices of the Power of Anger. Its opposite is sabr (forbearance), which is one of the noblest virtues. In any case, jaza is one of the vices which leads to man's fall, since it is essentially a complaint against God and rejection of His decrees.

Sabr, on the contrary, consists of preserving one's calm under all circumstances and doing one's duty in all conditions. Sabr has a different function in different situations; for example, sabr on the field of battle lies in perseverance in performing one's duty; in other words, it is a form of courage. Sabr in the state of anger is self-control and synonymous with hilm (gentleness). Sabr in face of desires and lusts is iffah (chastity). Sabr with respect to luxurious and opulent living is zuhd (abstinence). To sum up, sabr is a virtue related to all of the four Powers.

Sabr has been much praised in Islamic traditions, and the Holy Quran extols this virtue, its merits and its rewards in seventy different places. For example, it says:

... Yet give glad tidings to the steadfast who, when an affliction visits them, say: Surely we belong to God and to Him we return;' upon those rest blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those-they are the truly guided. (2:155-157)

And the Prophet (S) has said:

The relationship of sabr to faith ('iman) is like that of the head to the body; just as the body cannot live without the head, so also faith cannot survive without sabr.

There are five kinds of sabr in relation to the Islamic Shari'ah: wajib (obligatory), haram (forbidden), mustahabb (desirable), makruh (reprehensible), and mubah (permitted). An example of obligatory sabr' is abstinence from forbidden pleasures and desires. An example of forbidden sabr' is patience in face of injustice such as oppression or cruelty. Desirable sabr' is steadfastness in doing things which are desirable (mustahabb), while reprehensible sabr' is related to toleration of situations which are reprehensible. Finally, mubah or permitted sabr is related to permitted things.

It follows, then, that sabr is not always a worthy trait, and its worth, or the lack of it, depends on its object. In general, the criterion by which the various kinds of sabr are judged is the same by which all other deeds and traits are judged, i.e. all those actions which facilitate man's spiritual development are considered worthy and laudable, while all other actions and traits are considered bad and harmful.

Adapted from: "Jami' al-Sa'adat" by: "Muhammad Mahdi al-Naraqi"