Quranic Reflection No. 397. Ayat 13:24 – Understanding Patience

سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ
Salāmun ‘alaykum bimā sabartum
Peace be to you, for your patience
(Sūrat al-Ra‘d, No.13, Āyat 24)

When believers enter Heaven, along with their families, they will be greeted by angels who come to them from the different doors of Heaven. These angels will welcome them into Heaven, greeting them respectfully. Different verses of the Quran tell us what these angels will say:
Peace be to you, for your patience (Q 13:24).
Enter it in peace and safety (Q 15:46).
Peace be to you! You are welcome! Enter it to abide therein (Q 39:73).
Enter it in peace! This is the day of immortality (Q 50:34).

These greetings show respect for the believers and an acknowledgement of what they have achieved. The transient life of the world, with all its trails and difficulties, is now over. The home they are now being welcomed into is one that is peaceful and joyous and will last forever.

In the verse above the angels specify the reason behind the victory of the believers. It is interesting to note that in the verses before this one (verses 13: 20-22) Allah subhānahu wata‘āla mentions eight different qualities of the believers that make them ulul-albāb, i.e. the people of understanding. Out of these the quality of patience is singled out by the angels. It is as though it is the crown of all the qualities, a gem that makes the person worthy of Heaven.

Tafsīr Namūne explains why this one quality is mentioned by the angels:
1. Patience is an automatic result of true faith. Imam Ali ‘alayhis salām says: You should practice endurance, because endurance is for belief what the head is for the body. Just as there is no good in a body without the head there is no good in belief without endurance (Nahjul Balāgha, Saying 82).
2. The foundation of growth and perfection, both in the individual and society, is patience. No program of growth can take place without some challenges that must be faced and overcome.
3. Every other quality depends on some degree of patience. Fulfilling Allah’s covenant, establishing prayer, repelling evil with good, all require self-control. This control stems from patience.

Patience has earned a bad rap in modern society. It conjures up images of weakness, of surrendering and accepting, albeit resentfully. Impatience is glorified as a sign of privilege and power. What we have failed to understand is that patience is actually strength. It shows self-control, very difficult to achieve. It is so much easier to let go of yourself – a fact very evident in today’s world. Patience is to hope for something better. To give up immediate gratification for an anticipated joy.  It shows vision, wisdom and maturity.

It is important to understand that patience does not mean waiting miserably. A good understanding of patience can be found in Jāmiʿ al-saʿādāt- a book on theoretical and practical ethics in Arabic written by Mulla Muhammad Mahdī al-Naraqī (d. 1795) a philosopher and jurist of the eighteenth century. It is an excellent book on the practical aspects of ethics. In it the author explains that patience is the calmness of the soul and the lack of turbulence during difficult times such that the soul does not shift far from its former state of inner peace and good spirits. To maintain that former state, or to go back to it quickly, shows real patience.

Let this verse remind you of the glory of patience. Of self-control and a large inner capacity that signifies ascent into higher realms. Where the angels wait to greet you.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh