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Sabr (Arabic: صْبِرْ ṣabr‎) is the Islamic virtue of "patience" or "endurance".[1] Sabr is characterized as being one of the two parts of faith (the other being shukr).[2] Its practice challenges, and to remain spiritually steadfast.



Arabic lexicographers suggest that the root ṣ-b-r, of which ṣabr is the nomen actionis, means to bind or restrain. The word sabr has a special technical application in the expression yamīnu ṣabr, which is an oath imposed by the public authorities.[1]


In the Qur'an, words that are derived from the root ṣ-b-r occur frequently, with the general meaning of being patient. For example, Muhammad is told to be patient like the Apostles of God before him [3] The Qur'an promises the patient with double the reward.[4] The concept is also in jihad,[5] where it is translated as "endurance" or "tenacity". It is also used when God commands Muslims to serve Him: XIX, 66, "Serve him and persevere in his service."[6] Sometimes sabr is associated with the salāt.[7] According to the Qur'an commentators, sabr in these passages is synonymous with fasting, as the month of Ramadan was given the name s̲h̲ahr ṣabr (meaning month of patience).[1]

The word is found with the meaning resignation, for example in the sūra of Joseph, [8] Jacob, on hearing of the death of his son, says "[My best course is] fitting resignation", where resignation is the most appropriate translation for sabar. The Qur'an also uses the adjective ṣabbār.[9] This concept is related to s̲h̲ukr (meaning gratitude).[1]

In Qur'an there is usually a close connection between being patient and expecting relief or deliverance from God (tawakkul). Thus Muhammad is told to be "patient till your Lord decides, for you are in Our sight."[10][11]

  • "Seek God (Allah)'s help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble." (2:45)
  • "Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere." (2:153)
  • "Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives, and the fruits of your toil.
  • "But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Those who say, when afflicted with calamity, 'To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.' They are those on whom descend blessings from their Lord, and mercy. They are the ones who receive guidance." (2:155-157)
  • "Oh you who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy. Vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other, and be pious, that you may prosper." (3:200)
  • "And be steadfast in patience, for verily Allah will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish." (11:115)
  • "Be patient, for your patience is with the help of Allah." (16:127)
  • "Patiently, then, persevere - for the Promise of Allah is true, and ask forgiveness for your faults, and celebrate the praises of your Lord in the evening and in the morning." (40:55)
  • "No one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of the greatest good fortune." (41:35)
  • "Verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual enjoining of truth, and of patience and constancy." (103:2-3)
  • "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West. But it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, And the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; To spend of your substance, out of love for Him, For your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; To be steadfast in prayer And give in charity; To fulfill the contracts which you have made; And to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity And throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. Qur'an 2:177
  • Through every difficulty there is relief. Verily, through every difficulty there is relief. Qur'an 94:5-6


The virtue of sabr can also be found in traditions attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The hadith talk of God's sabr, which is considered one of the beautiful names of God, indicating the high value laid upon this concept. One example God's sabr is His patience towards those who deny Him. The hadith also say that he/she who practices sabr will be granted sabr for sabr is the greatest charisma.[12]

The story of the epileptic woman is significant in this and other respects. The woman came to Muhammad and asked him for his du'a. He replied to her that, if she refrained from her request and exercised sabr, then paradise would be her given to her.[13]

Toshihiko Izutsu writes that the concept of sabr was present in Muhammad's Arabian background, but he transformed it. Previously it was the concept of having steadfastness by being arrogantly confident in one's own superiority. Muhammad, however, changed it to the seeking of patience by believing in God's ultimate justice.[14]


Many Muslim scholars have tried to classify and give examples of sabr. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam sabr is of two kinds:[1]

  1. physical, like the endurance of physical troubles, whether active (such as performing difficult tasks) or passive (such as suffering illnesses), and
  2. the spiritual, such as renunciation in face of natural impulses.

Fakh̲r al-Dīn al-Rāzī distinguishes four kinds:[15]

  1. intellectual endurance (for example in disputed points in religious dogma),
  2. endurance in completing tasks one is bound or recommended to do by Islamic law (such as fasting),
  3. being steadfast in refraining from forbidden activities, and
  4. resignation in times of calamity.

He also gives an application of the concept, Muṣābara, in which ones refrains from taking revenge from one's fellow-creature (like neighbors, People of the Book).[15]

Al-Ghazali said that sabr consisted of three parts: maʿrifa (the tree), ḥāl (branches) and ʿamal (the fruits).[1]


Those that possess sabr to a certain extent are called sābirūn. Out of the three classes of beings (animal and plant life, angels, and mankind), man alone may possess sabr. This is because the animals are entirely governed by their desires and impulses; and the angels are completely occupied by their longing for God, so they have desires thus need no sabr to overcome it. In man, however, the two impulses (that of desire and that of religion) are fighting, where the former is kindled by Satan and the latter by the angels.[1]

This in humans, there are the pious, who have attained sabr by overcoming their animal extincts, called siddiqūn, while some still struggle in this task. Sābirūn are to remain steadfast not only in health and prosperity (where their sabr is to be used as gratitude to God) but also in the performance of religious obligations, in refraining from forbidden things and in the event of uncontrollable calamities.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ṣabr," Encyclopaedia of Islam
  2. ^ "S̲h̲ukr," Encyclopaedia of Islam.
  3. ^ [Qur'an 38:16]; [Qur'an 46:34]
  4. ^ [Qur'an 33:113], [Qur'an 28:54])
  5. ^ [Qur'an 3:140]
  6. ^ [Qur'an 19:66]
  7. ^ [Qur'an 2:42], [Qur'an 2:148])
  8. ^ [Qur'an 7:18]
  9. ^ [Qur'an 14:5]
  10. ^ [Qur'an 52:88]. Quoted by Watt, p. 12
  11. ^ Watt, p. 5-19
  12. ^ Buk̲h̲ārī, Zakāt, bāb 50. Quoted in "Ṣabr," Encyclopaedia of Islam
  13. ^ Buk̲h̲ārī, Marḍā, bāb 6. Quoted in "Ṣabr," Encyclopaedia of Islam
  14. ^ Nemoy, p. 70
  15. ^ a b Fak̲h̲r al-Dīn al-Rāzī. Mafātīḥ al-g̲h̲ayb, Cairo 1278, on III, 200. Quoted in "Sabr", Encyclopaedia of Islam


  • Giese, Alma; Reinhart, A.K. "S̲h̲ukr." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online. 29 April 2008
  • Nemoy, Leon (July 1969). "Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'ān by Toshihiko Izutsu". The Jewish Quarterly Review (University of Pennsylvania Press) 60 (1): 70–72. doi:10.2307/1453525.  
  • Watt, William Montgomery. "Suffering in Sunnite Islam." Studia Islamica, no. 50 (1979), p. 5-19.
  • Wensinck, A.J. "Ṣabr." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online. 29 April 2008

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