‘Physiology’ of faith – Part 1
Perhaps, I should have talked about the cytology of belief. But these do not matter. These do not count. What counts and should be counted is the content, not necessarily the structure. Whenever you refer to yourself as a believer, exactly what do you mean to say? What are the elements that constitute faith in your world, in your belief?
Love? Yes. But not only love. Prayer? Yes. But something is precedent to that in Islamic weltanschauung. She just whispered to herself saying ‘courage’. Yes! Courage has been described by someone as the greatest virtue in the world. But I say yes and no. I say yes because every believer needs courage to outstay the forces of unbelief that constantly buffet our world every passing day. But I equally say “No” because courage is nothing in the absence of patience; courage is a virtue only when foregrounded in patience.
In other words, whereas courage is an important element that humans must possess for them to be successful on earth, for them to be able to do the seemingly impossible, it is the ability to stay on the path of courage, the ability to be patient in times of adversity that probably holds the ace of earthly success and achievements. Such is the lesson that these times teach.
But exactly what do I mean by these times? These are times ambitions and hopes are realized; and dashed. These are times one plus one has become for some people one million and for others minus zero. These are times frustration which result from failed goals and pursuits are weighing heavily on people’s thoughts and lives. These are times of despair for some; for those who have competed continuously for the prize, the only prize in the academy and polity yet, the ‘cup’ has been given to someone else. These are times when that compatriot of mine feels as if he is alone, down there in the abyss of life with no helper or rescuer or comforter in sight. These are times when, once again, Shaytan ministers into her heart that the game is up, that it is finished, that there can be no light at the end of the tunnel again, and forever. These are times when the most important quality life demands of a Muslim is the temerity and courage to be patient with He in whose hands lies the key of the heavens and earth.
The last time I looked it up, I discovered that reference to patience, in various linguistic formulations and permutations occurs in not less than a hundred and two times in the last testament, the Glorious Quran. Sister, the last time I checked, I can confirm this to you that one of the attributes of the Almighty is Al-Sabur. And here the challenge becomes doubled for me and you. If indeed He refers to Himself as al-Sabur, the ever-patient, the ever-forbearing, of what implication is that then for the faithful subject, for he who turns his face to the Qiblah at dusk and dawn and says “He is the Greatest?” Is it not the case that without this quality then, the Islamicity of the Muslim becomes questionable? Is it not the case then that the architectonics of Islamic history is circumscribed by tribulations that are outstayed and outflanked by faith and patience? Is it not the case indeed that patience is precedent to prayers; that it is she who is patient that could pray, that should pray. It is the prayer of the patient that enjoys the possibility of acceptability (Quran 2: 153). Ali says patience in the ‘physiology’ of faith is like the head in human physiology.
Thus patience in Islamic weltanschauung is like a horse that never gets tired, an army that can never be defeated and a strong fortress that can never be breached. History teaches us that in the unceasing war between the monastery of the faithful and the cathedral of the faithless, it is the patient that wears the crown. This is because victory comes with patience, relief comes with distress and ease comes with hardship. Patience with the Almighty, life has taught me, does one other thing, it frees you from servitude to man and redirects your soul to worship and faith in Him, the Almighty.
Reference to patience can be appropriated in at least two different locales of our lives- patience in and while doing that which He includes, enjoins and prescribes and patience in avoiding that which He forbids and excludes. Patience then becomes the compass with which we can navigate the multifarious and multifaceted dark recesses of life. The believer who knows that delay is not denial camps his tent with that authority that grants the sun the permission to rise at dawn and set at dusk. Among other subjects in the Quranic epistemology, the patient are those who enjoy the love of the Almighty; they enjoy that uncommon privilege simply because they know that there can be no end to a journey of patience with the Almighty.
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