Never give up; never say die; never lose your drive – with these reminders from the Holy Quran.
In the world of fairy tales, the classic story on the virtue of perseverance is pretty straightforward: The slow and steady tortoise wins the race over the faster yet haughty hare.
In reality, however, perseverance is much more complex and exhausting. The challenges of the real world present us with enemies much more formidable than fast, furry mammals. We have our personal shortcomings and fears to contend with. Our racetrack is seldom clearly defined; sometimes we even have to blaze our own trails in the dark. And perhaps most of all, in the course of toiling for success, we have to learn to deal with the pain of failures, rejections and disappointments – the kinds of pain that even a tortoise shell cannot protect against.
There are many references in the Quran and tradition that tell us of the highly valuable merits of being proactive and persistent. A good intention put into action, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is worth much more than doing nothing. This was metaphorically described in a traditional saying where the Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘If the Hour is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.’
The message behind this traditional saying is that we shouldn’t worry about the outcome after making an effort towards something positive, for every good intention we undertake will surely be rewarded by the Almighty. An added advantage of avoiding worry is that we save an enormous amount of energy by not stressing out. When we leave our destiny in the hands of God, we release the pent-up stress that makes us unproductive, letting us instead focus on refining and improving our work. Doing our best with the time and opportunity given is a mark of an efficient, persevering Muslim.
Let us also remember that the Quran underscores the significance of steadfastness – an integral and inseparable component of perseverance. This Al-Anfal verse, for example, shows us that the steadfast are much more capable people:
“O Prophet, urge the believers to battle. If there are among you twenty [who are] steadfast, they will overcome two hundred. And if there are among you one hundred [who are] steadfast, they will overcome a thousand of those who have disbelieved because they are a people who do not understand.” (Al-‘Anfal 8:65)
Try and try again
Take comfort in the knowledge that the Quran promises multifold and eternal rewards for those who are steadfast and patient:
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.’ Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” (Al-Baqarah 2:155-157)
The Quran also acknowledges patience as an unparalleled virtue: “Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.” (Al- Zumar 39:10)
Difficulties sometimes make it hard for us to continue with the practice of doing things properly. So we must seek help not only in prayer, but in aspiring to be of the patient and when your hard work seems to produce zero results and your days appear to be moving more slowly than a tortoise, take comfort and draw your strength from the Quran.
Take heart in the knowledge that if we stay patient and positive, God with His Most Meritocratic Reward System will one day surely reward our perseverance with a sweet, sweet gift.