Sabr and Salaah

17th October 2020

"Patience" is a very weak translation of the Arabic word Sabr, which has three connotations: (a) bearing pain and misfortune patiently (b) restraining oneself from sin (c) being steadfast in obeying Allah.

Now, patience, in this wide sense, is the perfect remedy for the love of money. For, money cannot be an end in itself, but is sought only as a means of satisfying one's appetites; when a man has made a firm resolve not to follow his appetites like a slave, he will no longer need much money, nor will the love of money blind him to the distinction between his gain and loss. Similarly, Salah is the remedy for ambition and the love of power. For, outwardly and inwardly both, Salaah involves the exercise of humility; naturally, the more one tries to perform it in the proper manner, the more it purifies him of the love of money and power, and of ambition and pride. These being the real substance of all spiritual disorder in man, once they are brought under control, it becomes easy for one to accept Islam and to be steadfast in one's faith.

Let us add that while patience (Sabr) requires only the restraining or giving up of excessive appetites and unnecessary desires, Salaah, in addition to all this, further requires the performance of certain actions, and also a temporary renunciation of perfectly lawful desires and of many human needs which the Shariah allows one to fulfill, e.g., eating, drinking, speaking, walking etc. - and, at that, making such a renunciation five times during the day and the night regularly at fixed hours. Thus, Salaah means performing certain prescribed actions and restraining oneself from all lawful or unlawful activities at fixed hours.

Once a man has decided to give up unnecessary desires, the instinctive urge itself loses its intensity in a few days. So, the exercise of patience is not, after all, so difficult. But offering Salaah entails submitting oneself to the conditions laid down by the Shariah, observing the fixed hours, and giving up the basic human activities and desires, all of which is quite exacting for the instinctive disposition of man. So, one may very well raise an objection here: for the purpose of making it easy for a man to accept Islam and to be steadfast in his faith, the Holy Qur'an prescribes Sabr and Salaah, but to use this remedy is in itself a difficult thing, specially the Salaah and its restriction - now, how can this difficulty be overcome? The Holy Qur'aan admits that performing Salaah regularly and steadfastly is, no doubt, exacting, and proceeds to show the way out of this impasse - Salaah is not a burden to the humble in heart.

To know the effectiveness of the remedy, we must know the disease, and find out why Salaah should be so burdensome. The human heart loves to roam about freely in the vast spaces of thought and fancy; all the organs of the human body being subservient to the heart, it requires them to be equally free. On the other hand, Salaah demands the renunciation of such freedom, - and prohibits eating, drinking, walking, talking etc. - a restriction which annoys the heart and is also painful for the human organs governed by it.

In short, Salaah is burdensome because the heart enjoys to keep the faculties of thought and imagination in a continuous motion. Motion being the disease, it can only be remedied by its opposite - restfulness. Hence, the Holy Qur'an prescribes Khushu' a word which we have rendered into English by the phrase "humbleness in heart", but which actually signifies "the restfulness of the heart."

Now, the question arises as to how one can acquire this restfulness of the heart. Everyone knows through his own experience that, if one deliberately tries to empty one's heart of all kinds of thoughts and fancies, the effort rarely succeeds. The only way to achieve it is that since the human mind cannot move in two directions simultaneously, one should make it absorb itself in one thought alone so that all other thoughts may disappear by themselves without any effort on one's part. So, having prescribed "the restfulness of the heart", the Holy Qur'aan also prescribes a particular thought which will, if one absorbs oneself in it, drive away all other thoughts: once the movement of thought and fancy has been reduced to the restfulness of the heart, the performance of Salaah becomes easy; regularity in offering the ordained prayers gradually cures the disease of pride and ambition, and thus the way to the perfecting of one's faith grows smooth. Such is the well-ordered and beautifully integrated art of spiritual medicine that the Holy Qur'an has given us!

Now, the thought in which one should immerse oneself in order to acquire "the restfulness of the heart" has been explained by the Holy Qur'an in describing "the humble in heart" - they are the people who bear in mind that they are to meet their Lord, when they shall receive the reward for their obedience, and also bear in mind that they are to return to Him, when they shall be required to present an account of their deeds. These twin thoughts produce hope and fear in the heart, and hope and fear are the best agents for inducing a man to devote himself to good deeds.

(Maariful Quraan 2:43-46)
posted by habeeba on 17th October 2020 - 0 comments


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