Three Kinds of Perseverance

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is an excerpt from The Purification of the Soul, compiled from the works of Imam ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (r.a.), Imam ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (r.a.) and Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (r.a.).

There are three kinds of perseverance, depending on the intention behind it: perseverance in completing acts of ‘ibadah and being obedient; perseverance in refraining from forbidden actions and being disobedient; and perseverance in the face of destiny so that the servant does not become angry in times of adversity.

It has been said about these different types, “A servant must have a command to obey, prohibitions to avoid, and adversity to endure.”

There is another way of categorising endurance and perseverance, namely, perseverance where there is a choice and perseverance where there is no choice.  The former is better and has greater significance than the latter, for perseverance where there is no choice is the kind which is common to all people; it is exercised by all those who do not display perseverance by choice.  For this reason the perseverance of the Yusuf (a.s.) in refusing the advances of the wife of al-‘Aziz is more significant than his enduring what his brothers inflicted on him when they threw him in the well.

Man can never do without perseverance.  He fluctuates between a command that he must obey and fulfill, prohibitions he must avoid and do without, destiny which must run its course, and blessings for which he must thank the Provider.  As the human situation never changes, man has to persevere until the day he dies.

Everything that the servant meets in this life is one of two kinds: one kind matches his desires and accords with his wishes, while the other does not.  He needs to have patience for both kinds, but the first kind - such as having health, wealth and power - requires more patience from him in several respects. First, he should not place his confidence in them; nor should he be arrogant and bad mannered because of them; nor should they be the cause of his being ungrateful; nor should he celebrate with them in ways of which Allah (s.w.t.) does not approve.  Second, he should not become preoccupied with acquiring them. Third, he must persevere in fulfilling what is due to Allah (s.w.t.) in them.  Fourth, he must persist in his efforts not to expend them in making haram profits.

It has been said, “Both the mu’min and the kafir are able to persevere in times of hardship, but only the truly faithful are capable of persevering in times of ease.”

‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn ‘Awf (r.a.) said, “We were afflicted with hardship, and we persevered and endured, but when we enjoyed times of ease, we were unable to persevere.”  That is why Allah (s.w.t.) warns His servants against becoming engrossed or preoccupied with money, spouses and children.  He Says:

O ye who believe!  Let not your riches or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah.  If any act thus, the loss is their own. (Surah al-Munafiqun:9)


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