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Steps to Develop Sabr

September 23, 2013

*extract from the article Can Patience Boost Productivity? by Yacoob Manjoo

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Patience, or Sabr, has many benefits, but we all know it may not always be easy to be patient. Find out how you can develop this virtue and its impact on both your worldly and spiritual productivity.

The Arabic term sabr is often translated as ‘patience’, ‘perseverance’, or ‘steadfastness’. We all know the virtues and importance of sabr – because Allah tells us in the Qur’an that He is with the patient (Surah Baqarah, verse 153); and religious lectures, books, and wise people often exhort us to this quality. We also have amazing, real-life examples of sabr – where our greatest role models bore sabr and received incredible rewards for it, both in this life and the next. Think especially of prophets Yusuf and Ayyub (peace be upon the both).

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There are many ways, but one which may be very effective is to enforce ‘practice periods’.

  1. Firstly, make niyyah (intention) to become more patient in specific areas, and make dua asking Allah (glorified and exalted be He) to grant you more patience in those areas. After all, Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allāh be pleased with him) reportedly said: “Patience means to seek Allah’s help” (Patience and Gratitude Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah p.12).
  2. Next, consider an area of life you know you’re impatient in – for example, one that impedes your productivity.
  3. List the triggers that cause negative results in those situations. (Negative results could include procrastination, working slowly, getting angry, or displaying irritation and impatience.)
  4. The next time you hit that situation, tell yourself that you’ll try to endure it with sabr for just five minutes. For those five minutes, you won’t react in those normal, negative ways. You’ll bear it with sabr, and will try to get through it in the most productive way.
  5. From now on, when you’re in this situation, try to do the same thing: force yourself to bear sabr for those few minutes, and take note of whether it’s getting easier and easier. (If not, change your strategy – do something different to try to get through those few minutes patiently.)
  6. With regular, consistent practice over time, insha Allah it’ll get easier. And when that happens, you can incrementally raise the time of these periods – maybe to ten minutes, then twenty, and so on – until it becomes so easy and routine that sabr is your natural habit in such situations.

Even those who aren’t Muslim know that ‘patience is a virtue’. But, knowing all we do about it – both in the worldly and spiritual senses – shouldn’t we be the best of those who truly live this great virtue?

By doing so, we not only earn tremendous reward, but we also gain in this world via greater productivity and ultimately, greater success.

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