Even though the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a person of high morals – the Qur’an testifies to this very fact, “And you are truly a man of outstanding character”, Allah advised him, and by extension, all the believers, over and over again to be patient.
The examples are many, such as “So be patient with your Lord’s decree, and do not be like the Man of the Whale (Jonah), who cried out (to Allah) in total distress. [68:48], “So endure with beautiful patience.” [70:5], “Be patient ˹O Prophet˺ with what they say, and depart from them courteously.” [73:10], “And be patient for the sake of your Lord.” [74:7], “they are rewarded with a garden and garments of silk for their patience.” [76:12], “So be patient with your Lord’s decree, and do not yield to any evildoer or staunch disbeliever from among them.” [76:24], or “…Surely in this are signs for whoever is much patient, grateful.” [31:31]
These Quranic verses which talk about patience require deep reflection about the reason why Allah emphasized it. The Qur’an gives the context of what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was facing when he proclaimed that he was receiving revelation from God, whose message was to glorify Allah alone and submit to Him and His judgement fully and genuinely. As a result, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was rejected by the political elite, insulted, ridiculed, mocked publicly, accused of being insane, a poet, a magician, a fortune-teller, was boycotted, his companions were persecuted and executed in front of him, tortured, detained, and eventually his enemies plotted to assassinate him in order to prevent him from immigrating to Madinah.
Definitely, God did not want to punish the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), for he was the best of humans and upon great moral values. However, Allah taught us through him that in order to know Him, accept His judgment and live our lives according to His will, one must get rid of pride, arrogance, delusion, and fake self-sufficiency. Knowing God is a process, and the essence of that process is through patience.
Public rejection and humiliation, hunger, oppression, fear of ill treatment and persecution, loss of wealth and people, and boycott make one get rid of any form of arrogance or delusion, and only then one can know God and fully submit to Him and His judgement, but this cannot be realized without patience.
Humiliation, for example, is not a goal in and of itself, but a means of getting rid of arrogance and pride, which are the biggest barriers to knowing God and accepting the Truth, or even the scientific truth for that matter. So, being patience is part and parcel of the process of transformation through trials and tribulations. It is not merely a good deed for which one is rewarded. That’s why scholars, such as Ibn al-Qayyim considers patience as half of the belief while the other half is gratitude.