God’s Name As-Sabour (The Most Patient)

By Dr. Muhammad Ratib An-Nabulsi

[God’s infinite divine mercy embraces all things in this present world and the Hereafter]

Allah is “As-Sabour” (The Most Patient), who does not hasten His punishment to those who disobey Him; always gives respite, but He never neglects:

“And if Allah were to punish men for that which they earned, He would not leave a moving living creature on the surface of it (the earth); but He gives them respite to an appointed term; and when their term comes, then verily, Allah is Ever All-Seer of His slaves.” (Fatir 35; 45)

God’s name As-Sabour is not literally mentioned in the Quran, but was actually mentioned in prophetic Hadith in which Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, speaks about Allah’s beautiful Divine names and attributes. However, there are a lot of indications and references to this name in the Quran.

In the peace-treaty of Al-Hudaybiyah, between Muslims and the disbelievers of Quraish, for instance, Allah knew that among the disbelievers of Quraish, there were some believers who had secretly converted to Islam, and who were, therefore, known neither to Muslims nor to the disbelievers of Quraish. Due His mercy upon those unknown Muslims, who secretly converted to Islam, and also upon disbelievers themselves, God caused delay of the conquest of Makkah by Muslims. This event manifests clearly Allah’s name “As-Sabour” (The Most Patient).

How God is Sabour (Most-Patient)?

1- God says: “And had it not been for a Word that went forth before, from your Lord, and a term determined, (their punishment) must necessarily have come (in this present world).”
(Ta-Ha 20; 129)

When he has power over other fellow humans, man is usually inclined to punish severely those who arouse his anger. But God is ever most patient as delay of punishment, as in this verse, means.

This shows clearly that severe punishment and complete destruction for the disobedient and deviant must have come in this present world unless a Word had gone before from the Lord, Allah, to delay punishment. But what was that Word? It is: “My Mercy overrides My Anger”.

2- In consistence with His name “Ar-Rahman” (The Most Gracious) God’s name “As-Sabour” (The Most Patient) denotes that God’s infinite divine mercy embraces all things in this present world and the Hereafter because God has created mankind in order to have mercy on them: “And your Lord is All-Forgiving, Owner of Mercy. Were He to call them to account for what they have earned, then surely, He would hasten their punishment. But they have their appointed time, from which they shall find no escape.” (Al-Kahf 18; 58)

3- So long as man seeks forgiveness from His Lord, the Lord’s mercy is near to him; and the Lord’s divine mercy is infinite, which is meant to give man a chance so that he may repent and reform, and consequently achieve happiness. It is meant as a mercy for him. In other words, if Allah were to punish people for their sins and misdeeds, if He were to inflict a severe or destructive punishment on man as soon as he commits a sinful deed, He would not leave any human being on the surface of the earth alive:

“And indeed (many) Messengers before you were mocked at, but I granted respite to those who disbelieved, and finally I punished them. Then, how (terrible) was My Punishment!”
(Ar-Ra’d 13; 32)

In that sense, this divine name meets with "before you were mocked at, but I granted respite to those who disbelieved”

Allah’s name “As-Sabour” (The Most Patient), in this sense, meets with His Divine name “Al-‘Afou” (the All-Pardoning)

4- In order to unveil man’s reality, God gives man respite and provides him with power, affluence, strength, authority, might, high social rank, prestige, …etc: “And many a township did I give respite while it was tyrannical. Then, (in the end) I seized it (with punishment). And to Me is the Final Return.” (Al-Hajj 22; 48)

Someone may sometimes lose his balance when he sees that a strong powerful affluent wealthy disbeliever is being made even stronger, more powerful, more affluent, and wealthier.
So long as man seeks forgiveness from His Lord, the Lord’s mercy is near to him; and the Lord’s divine mercy is infinite, which is meant to give man a chance so that he may repent and reform.

To that goes God’s saying: “So, when they forgot that (warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened for them the gates of all (pleasant) things, until, while they were enjoying that which they had been given, We took them (in punishment) all of a sudden, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows.” (Al-An’am 6; 44)

“Consider not that Allah is unaware of that which the wrong-doers do, but He gives them respite up to a Day when the eyes will stare in horror.” (Ibrahim 14; 42)

5- Due to His infinite divine mercy, He delays punishment for them and gives respite so that they may repent and reform.

That is why Allah says: “And Allah would not punish them while you (O Muhammad) are amongst them, nor will He punish them while they seek (Allah’s) Forgiveness.” (Al-Anfal 8; 33)

6- Scientifically speaking, the Arabic word “mateen” has to do with resistance against forces of pull. Religiously speaking, when Allah says “And I respite them; certainly My Plan is mateen (strong)”, He means that no human being could ever escape from His divine power and control. It is as if Allah’s plan were an infinitely strong rope that could embrace all things and could never be broken. Here is another verse that shows clearly that how God is ever Most Patient:

“And those who reject Our Signs, We shall gradually seize them with punishment in ways they perceive not. And I respite them; certainly My Plan is mateen (strong).” (Al-A’raf 7; 182-183)

The Patient Believer

1- Allah is most patient; and therefore He bids us to be patient. To this effect He says:

“Therefore, be patient (O Muhammad), as did the Messengers of strong will, and be in no haste about them (disbelievers). It shall be as if, on the Day they see that they are promised they had not tarried but for an hour of a single day. (Such is) a Message to be delivered! But shall any be destroyed except the people who are disobedient.” (Al-Ahqaf 46; 35)

2- Sometimes, a person fancies that he can be patient, but in certain situations, he fails to be as such. He imagines that he can be patient, but suddenly he bursts in anger. How can we solve this problem? Allah’s Words do:

“And endure patiently (O Muhammad): your patience is but from Allah; and grieve not over them and be not distressed because of that which they plot.” (An-Nahl 16; 127)

This means that you can never be patient unless God helps you to be so.

3- By joining together such great merits as firm belief in Allah and His messenger, worship, performance of good righteous work, and mutual recommendation to the truth and patience all help increase patience to the utmost. To this effect, Allah declares that human beings are great losers:

“except those who believe, do righteous good deeds, recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.” (Al-‘Asr 103; 3)

God therefore is with those who are patient in the sense that He supports them with victory, power, success and protection.

Patience therefore is associated with such great things as worship, prosperity, good reward, and the truth:

“O you who believe! Be patient, and vie you in patience; be steadfast; and fear Allah – haply so you will prosper.” (Al-‘Imran 3; 200)

4- We have not only to be patient but also to help one another to become patient. In other words, if you help your fellow human, show him the right way, console him in case of distress, and provide him with financial assistance, you help him to be patient. In this context, Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, addressed his people:

“Seek help from Allah, and be patient. Verily, the earth belongs to Allah. He gives it as a heritage to whom He wills of His slaves; and the good end is for the pious (and dutiful).” (Al-A’raf 7; 128)

5- In this regard, patience provides great comfort to the hearts of true believers: “And certainly, We shall try you with some fear, hunger, and loss of wealth, lives and fruits. And give glad tidings to the patient, who, when afflicted with calamity, say:

‘Truly! To Allah we belong, and truly, to Him we shall return.’ Such are those on whom are the Blessings from their Lord; and such are those who are the rightly guided ones.”
(Al-Baqarah 2; 155-157)

6- “Say (O Muhammad) to My slaves who believe: ‘be afraid of your Lord and keep your duty to Him. Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this present world; and Allah’s earth is spacious! Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning.”
(Az-Zumar; 39:10)

God therefore is with those who are patient in the sense that He supports them with victory, power, success and protection: “And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you should lose courage and your strength departs. And be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are patient.” (Al-Anfal 8; 46)

Thus, being patient for the sake of God is the way to His support; otherwise you shall not be well rewarded: “And those who remain patient, seeking their Lord’s Countenance, perform prayer and spend out of that which We have bestowed on them, secretly and openly, and repel evil with good, for such there is a good end, the Gardens of Eden, which they enter: they and those who acted righteously from among their fathers, wives, and offspring; and angels shall enter unto them from every gate, (saying): “peace be upon you, for you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is such final home.’” (Ar-Ra’d 13; 22-24)
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