Acceptance, Patience and Perseverance
By: Second Martyr, Sheikh Zayn ad-Din Ali ibn Muhammad al-Jabil Amili
Translated from the Arabic by Yasin T. al-Jibouri
The station of acceptance is much higher than that of patience. Rather, the ratio of patience compared to acceptance among the people who know the truth is the same as disobedience compared to obedience: Love requires finding pleasure in affliction because one yearns for the company of the one whom he loves much more when he is afflicted than when he is not; so he desires his presence and company. Patience requires hating affliction and finding it hard till patience forces one to accept it. Hating something is the opposite of feeling at ease with it; thus, patience and love are antitheses of each other.
Also, patience is a demonstration of perseverance which, in the tradition of love, is the most contemptible of all and the worst indication of hostility as a poet has said: He is good at demonstrating perseverance to the foes while finding incapacitation with the loved ones to be quite ugly.
From this onset, people who know the truth have said that patience is the most difficult station for people in general, the most undesirable along the path of love and the most uncommon along the path of Tawhid (oneness of Allah).
It is the hardest for the people in general because one is not trained on taming himself, nor is he palated with patience when afflicted, nor is he accustomed to self-control, so he cannot tolerate affliction, and he cannot be among the people of love so he may find pleasure in affliction.
If the Truthful One, praise to Him, tests him with affliction, he cannot tolerate it and is overwhelmed by impatience, finding it hard to suppress himself from showing it because he does not feel comfortable with it.
It is the most undesirable along the path of love because love requires feeling comfortable in the presence of the loved one, finding pleasure in affliction because this means the presence of the one because of whom there is an affliction while preferring what the loved one wants, whereas patience requires hating affliction as indicated above, so there is a clash here.
It is most uncommon when it comes to Tawhid because one who perseveres claims the strength of firmness, the claim of steadfastness and the strength to withstand recklessness of the nafs. Tawhid requires the fusing of the nafs; so, it [patience] becomes the most uncommon because proving one’s self in the path of Tawhid is the ugliest of abominations.
Rather, surrender, despite its great station and loftiness among people who examine Tawhid is [only] among the first of its venues. This is so because their conduct is to fuse themselves into Tawhid. Surrender is the annihilation of one’s will in order to submit to the will of the Truthful One, the most High, to truly stand with whatever Allah Almighty wants.
The distant stations between patience and acceptance have already been made clear to you: distant stations and tough paths.
Acceptance has three degrees arranged in strength the same way as they are in wording as follows:
First Degree: One looks at the position of affliction, the action that necessitates acceptance, so he realizes its impact and feels its pain, yet he accepts it, even desires it, seeking it with his intellect even if his nature dislikes it. Such folks seek rewards of Allah Almighty for it, hoping for an increase in his nearness with Him and for winning Paradise the expanse of which is like that of the heavens and the earth, the one prepared for the pious.
This section of acceptance is relevant to the pious.
An example for it is one seeking bloodletting and cupping from a doctor who is familiar with the details of his illnesses and what is required to heal him: He realizes that there is pain in this action, yet he accepts it, desires it, feeling greatly appreciative of the one who performs the bloodletting or cupping.
Also similar to it is one who travels seeking material gain: He realizes the hardship of travel, but his love for the fruit of his trip placates for him the hardship of traveling, accepting it. No matter what a calamity from Allah Almighty befalls him, being convinced that the reward stored for him by far exceeds his extreme expectations, he accepts it, desires it, loves it and thanks Allah Almighty for it.
Second Degree: One also realizes the pain, yet he loves it because it is desired by the one whom he loves. One who is overpowered by love seeks and loves whatever pleases the one whom he loves. This exists as we see how people love each other. Such love has been described by those who express it in their poetry and prose. It only means noticing the outward picture with the eyes.
But this beauty is only skin on bones and love filled with filth and dirt: It starts from a contemptible drop of sperms, and it ends with a filthy stink, while one between this status and that keeps carrying his feces [wherever he goes].
One who looks at his lowly beauty does so with lowly eyes that err quite often about what they see: They see what is small as big and what is big as small, what is distant as near and what is ugly as beautiful.
If one imagines being controlled by this love, how could it be impossible for him to love the eternal perpetual beauty the perfection of which cannot be realized with one’s foresight where erring is not possible, where death does not end such beauty but remains alive with Allah after one dies happy and pleased with whatever Allah sustained him, benefiting by death with more awareness and discovery.
This is obvious when one contemplates on it, and it is supported by a host of religious literary legacy about the conditions and statements of those who love. Some of this legacy will, God willing, be quoted. This is the status of those who are near to Allah.
Third Degree: One invalidates his sense of pain to the extent that what is painful happens to him yet he does not feel it, and he is wounded yet he does not realize it.
An example for it is a warrior: When he is angry or afraid, a wound may afflict him but he does not feel it till he sees blood gushing out, so he sees it as evidence that he was wounded. When someone runs because he has committed something dubious so a thorn pierces through his foot, he does not feel the pain because his heart is occupied by something else. One who goes through cupping or shaves his head with something which causes pain does not feel the pain even after the person performing the cupping or the shaving finishes.
All this is due to the fact that when the heart (mind) is occupied with something, it does not realize or sense anything else besides it.
Similarities to it exist in the concerns of people of this life, in being busy with it, in coveting it, so much so that they do not feel the pain, the hunger, the thirst and the fatigue. There are many examples which one can see with his eyes: The one who is passionately in love and who is deeply immersed in looking at the one whom he/she loves.
He may be afflicted by something which causes pain or grief, but due to his passion, he does not realize it because extreme love is taking control of his heart. All this is so when such pain or grief comes from someone else other than the one whom he/she loves; so, imagine if it comes from the one whom he/she loves!
The heart’s preoccupation with love and passion is one of the strongest mental occupations. If you imagine this about light pain, imagine it about a great pain regarding a great love: Love, too, can be imagined as doubling many times in power just as pain can be imagined.
When love for beautiful pictures can be strongly felt with the sense of vision, love for beautiful pictures can likewise be mentally visualized through the noor (celestial light) of Divinely-bestowed vision. Their greatness cannot be compared with any other greatness. One for whom a glimpse of it is revealed may be dazzled, so much so that he is stunned and he enters into a swoon, not feeling what happens to him.
It is narrated that a woman stumbled, so her nail was removed. She smiled. She was asked, “Do you not feel the pain?” She said, “The pleasure of its reward has removed from my heart the bitterness of its pain.”
Someone treated someone else of an illness which afflicted him. But he did not treat himself. He was asked about it, so he said, “Whatever pain is received because of the one you love is not painful at all.”
Reference to a Group of Ancestors Whose Acceptance of Destiny is Transmitted by Scholars in Addition to the Above
Be informed that what we have stated in the chapter about patience from a group of prominent ones includes acceptance of destiny with regard to the death of sons and the like. Let us here mention general matters: When the pain of [Prophet] Job, peace be with him, intensified, his wife said to him, “Why do you not supplicate to your Lord so He may remove your affliction?”
He said to her, “Wife! I lived in power and prosperity for seventy years; so, I want now to live the same period in affliction, perhaps thus I will have thanked Allah for what He has blessed me, so patience is most befitting me for what He has tested me.”
It is also reported that Jonah (Prophet Unus), peace be with him, said once to Gabriel, peace be with him, “Take me to the one who adores [his Maker] the most from among the people of the earth.” He took him to a man whose hands and legs were cut off due to leprosy, and both his vision and hearing had gone, too, yet he kept saying, “Lord! You permitted me to enjoy them as long as You willed, and You have taken away whatever You will, keeping for me my hope in You, O most Kind, the One Who is the most connected with His servants!”
It has also been narrated that Jesus, peace be with him, passed once by a man who was blind, leukodermic, handicapped, both his sides hit with hemiplegia and his flesh scattered around him because of leprosy, yet the man kept saying, “Praise to Allah Who has healed me from what He has afflicted many from among His creation.” Jesus, peace be with him, said to him, “Man! What affliction can I see that it has been kept away from you?!”
The man said, “O Spirit of Allah! My condition is better than those in whose heart Allah did not place knowledge of Him which He has placed in mine.” Jesus (Ú) said to him, “You have said the truth. Stretch your hand to me.”
The man stretched his hand to Jesus and instantly he was turned into the most beautiful of all people, having the best form, Allah having removed all his suffering. The man accompanied Jesus (Ú) and worshipped with him.
Someone has narrated saying, “In my youth, I went to Abbadan and saw a blind man who was also leprous, mentally retarded and epileptic. Ants were eating of his flesh. I raised his head and placed it in my lap with the desire to learn and repeat what he was saying. He woke up and said, ‘Who is this busy-body who is intercepting my connection with my Lord? By Him do I swear that if He cuts me to pieces, I will never increase in anything but in more love for Him.’
Due to extreme itch, someone’s leg was severed from the knee down. He said, “Praise be to Allah Who took away from me one (limb), leaving three. By Your Dignity! If you took away, you have kept. If you afflict, you heal.” He did not miss a single act of adoration that night.
Someone said, “I have won from every station a position save acceptance of destiny. I have nothing of it except its smell. Despite this, if He permits all creations to enter Paradise while lodging me in hell, I will still be pleased with Him.”
One Gnostic was told once, “You have earned the extreme end of acceptance.” He said, “No, I have not won the extreme end of acceptance but a status of acceptance; had Allah made me a bridge over hell on which all creations pass to Paradise, then He filled hell with me, I would still love His wisdom and accept His allotment for me.”
This is the speech of one who knows that love has consumed his concern, preventing him from feeling the pain of fire. Such a status taking control of one's soul is not impossible, but it is distant with regard to weak conditions during this time, and a deprived weakling should not renounce the condition of the strong, thinking that what he is incapable of doing is also not doable by others.
Imran ibn Haseen, may Allah be pleased with him, suffered once from a stomach pain. He remained lying on his back for thirty years unable to stand up or even sit. A hole was made in his bed through which he would relieve himself as a toilet. His brother al-Alaa visited him and kept weeping for his condition. He said to his brother, "What are you weeping about?"
He said, "I weep for seeing you in such an awful condition." He said, "Do not weep; if Allah loves it for me, I, too, love it." Then he said to his brother, "Let me tell you something perhaps Allah will make it beneficial for you, but I want you to keep it confidential till I die: The angels visit me, and I feel very comfortable with them. They greet me and I hear their greeting. Thus, I know that this affliction is not a penalty; it is the reason behind this great bliss. If one sees this [sight of the angels] in his affliction, why should he not be pleased with it?"
Some people have said, "We visited Suwaid ibn Shu'bah. We found a shirt thrown, but we did not think that there was anything underneath it till he removed it. His wife said to him, 'May your wife be sacrificed for your sake! Should we provide you with food or drink?' He said, 'My lying down has over-extended, the hipbones have become exhausted and worn out. I have not been eating or drinking since—and he stated the number of days—yet it does not please me for this status to disappear as much as a piece of clipped nail.'"
It has been narrated about someone who suffered acutely of sickness for sixty years. When his condition worsened, his sons visited him and said, "Do you wish to die so you may rest from your condition?" He said, "No." They said, "What do you, then, want?" He said, "I want nothing; I am only a slave, and only the Master has a will over His slave and the judgment."
It has also been said that the sickness of Fath al-Musilli intensified. Besides his sickness, he was afflicted with poverty and exhaustion. He said, "My Lord and Master! You afflicted me with ailment and poverty; such are Your deeds with the prophets and messengers; so, how can I thank You for the blessing which You have bestowed on me?"
Be informed that supplication repels affliction. The removal of ailment and the safeguarding of sons do not clash with accepting destiny. Allah, Glory belongs to Him, has ordered us to worship Him with supplication, urging and encouraging us to plead to Him and regarding the abandoning of supplication as a sign of haughtiness while doing it is an act of adoration, promising us to answer our pleas. He called on His Prophets and the Imams, peace be with them, to do likewise and to enjoin others to supplicate. Citations from their statements are innumerable. Allah Almighty has praised those among His servants who plead to Him saying: "They used to call upon Us with love and fear (love for rewards and fear of punishment)" (Qur'an, 21:90).
Among the obligations of the pleading person is that he, during his supplication, must be obedient to the command of his Lord, Blessed and Exalted is He, by pleading for what He has ordered him to plead. Had He not ordered him to plead for it, and had He not commanded him and permitted him to plead, he would not have dared to oppose His decree. In fact, this is a sort of acceptance for those who accept, those who discipline themselves, those who perform the obligations associated with supplication.
One of its marks of acceptance is that if his plea is not answered, he does not feel any pain because of that, for it is quite possible one pleads for something which, if granted, would bring him harm with which only Allah Almighty is familiar.
It is also recorded that one may keep pleading to Allah Almighty for something to the extent that the angels sympathize with him, so they would say, "Lord! Have mercy on Your believing servant and answer his plea!" Allah Almighty will then say, "How shall I rid him of something with which I have mercy on him?"
Yes, if one feels apprehensive about the possibility that Allah Almighty did not answer his plea because he is distant from Him, something which brings about disappointment, presentiment, expulsion and exclusion, there is no harm in it, for a believer's perfection lies in his holding his nafs in contempt, looking at it as a low thing even if his plea is answered: He does not think that such an answer is due to his high status with Allah Almighty and his nearness to Him.
Rather, this may be due to the contempt and hatred of Allah Almighty of his voice, from the angels being harmed by his stink, so they plead to Allah Almighty to speed up answering his plea so these angels may be relieved.
Also, the reason behind delaying answering the plea is due to Allah Almighty and His angels loving his voice, enjoying the pleasure of his silent pleas, so the angels ask Allah Almighty to delay answering it. Also, as reports have narrated, a believer is always between anticipation and apprehension: It is through them that good deeds stand, wrongdoings are avoided, and deeds that please the Almighty are desired.