I learned an interesting thing recently.
What does the word Sabr, mean to you?
Quite an apt time to talking about this subject, given we are all about to need immense amounts of it this upcoming month, going without food, water, sleep etc during the blessed days of Ramadan.
Mentioned some 90 times in the Qur’an, I have always understood the word ‘Sabr’ to mean patience. Other meanings include to stop, detain, refrain, withold. There are other meanings but I’m sure most of you would agree that the word patience has predominantly been the most common used to encapsulate the meaning of Sabr.
But what I actually learned is that the word patience really does not do the word Sabr justice, at all. It’s yet another example of an English translation butchering and diluting the richness and depth of what the original meaning intended.
Historically, in terms of where the root of the word Sabr comes from – it is derived from the Aloe Vera plant shoot, (known as sabbar) which grows natively in the desert. What the aloe plant is known for, other than its healing qualities, is its ability to sustain drought and heat in the harsh climate of the desert. In particular, the way it withstands these harsh conditions to force its way to grow tall and strong against the odds, whether in heat or cold, in sand or through hard ground, it will always find a way to grow and needs very little maintenance and watering. And when it does grow and is used for its purpose, it has an absolute abundance of beneficial functions. For example, it can cool burns, help with allergies, condition hair, it can protect skin and detoxify the body, it has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties and can heal wounds, stimulate cell regeneration and be used as toothpaste or mouthwash. What’s more, it can even promote blood circulation and lower cholestorol when drunk as a juice.
As such, with the aloe plant in mind, the word sabr is more accurately defined as PERSEVERANCE – a dogged will to survive and thrive and to achieve its purpose (to give massive value, healing and benefit) – no matter how bad the conditions around it are.
Subhan’allah, I thought that was profound. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a parent or a student, there’s something to ponder there for all of us.
Perseverance is ACTIVE, whilst patience is passive. Perseverance is POSITIVE, whilst withholding, refraining et al are NEGATIVE. Exactly as we as Muslims should be. Always positive, always active, and always persevering no matter the situation, so we can achieve our purpose and give constant benefit to others around us.
Much of this article is actually a lesson to myself, as it has been a pretty difficult and challenging 12 months overall, with lots of change. It’s easy sometimes to withdraw, lick your wounds, and hide away, all in the name of patience. That is fine for a period of time – just as long as you don’t forget who you are and what you offer the world.
Life will always be hard. Conditions will never be perfect. In fact it may only get more difficult. But the only relevant questions you need to ask yourself are what is your purpose and what value are you providing? Remember that practising Sabr will always result in growth, even if it doesn’t feel like it. And if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Lots may have changed in life and things may be unstable right now but the lesson to take away is that when times are hard, we must remember to practice the right kind of sabr. Sabr and Shukr (gratitude) are the only two states a believer should ever be in, after all.
Inspired by the aloe vera plant – we must always persevere, fight and stand tall, in an active and positive way, in order to achieve our purpose of serving and always always always providing value to others.
Let us all ingrain within us, the ability to persevere insha’allah, Ameen.
A lifelong learner, avid reader and passionate writer, I am the founder of KNOW and a serial entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in personal development and am also the co-founder of Muslim CEO.