Quranic Reflection No 650. Āyat 3: 200 – Stages of Patience

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اصْبِرُوا وَصَابِرُوا وَرَابِطُوا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

O you who believe! Be patient, stand firm, and close [your] ranks, and be God conscious so that you may be successful.
(Surat Āli ‘Imrān, No.3, Āyat 200)

This verse describes patience and endurance in the way of Allah ‘azza wajall. There are three commands given in this verse:
1) Be patient (isbirū) – In the face of unpleasantness and difficulties, be steadfast and do not be overcome by them. This refers to the response to personal issues and lowly desires which need to be countered. Having patience and enduring personal difficulties with a positive spirit is one of the keys to all forms of material and spiritual success. As Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) says: you should practise 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 Balāghah, Saying 82)

2) Stand firm with others (sābirū) – The second step moves from the personal to the social. Be patient and firm against those who are firm and patient in their stance against you. Be patient with one another in this goal and co-operate with them for a common cause. Encourage others to be patient. All these meanings can be encompassed in this word.

3) Close your ranks (rābitū) – Join forces with others closely to counter falsehood. The word ‘rabata’ means to tie something to a place. A heart that if firm and closely connected to Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā is one that is ‘rabt’. It does not fluctuate from its place. This step means that the believers are firmly tied and connected to the struggles that require endurance. They are never far from the field. According to Hadith, this quality is derived from the daily prayer. The connection a believer acquires from prayer makes the heart firm and stable.

This verse shows the steps a believer can take to become part of a community that has endurance and resists falsehood. The first stage is patience in personal life. This internal resistance strengthens the heart. Without that it is not possible to join hands with others to face external pressures. The second step is to work with others towards a collective endurance, in the face of the endurance of the opposite side. Success in the first step enables success in the second step. Often, failure in facing external threats and pressures is a result of failure to overcome internal enemies. The third step is to be firmly connected in the path of endurance. Islam is a religion of firm connections. There is the connection to Allah, to the Holy Prophet (s) and his Ahlul Bayt (a) and to other believers. Each step in this ladder of patience must be mounted to get on to the next one. With the final step of God consciousness or taqwā, true success is achieved.

Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir (a) says about this verse: Be patient on the obligations commanded by Allah, stand firm against the enemies of Allah, and close your ranks for the Imam of the time (a). (Bihār al-Anwār, 24:219).

Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (a) also says: Be patient on the obligations commanded by Allah, stand firm against difficulties, and close your ranks for the Divinely chosen leaders. (Al-Kāfī, 2:81).

May the Almighty help us apply these commands in our lives to enable us to climb the ladder of patience towards success.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh
https://www.almubin.com/commentary/3:200; http://alvahy.com.