By Imam Fakhr-ud-Deen Raazi
And they brought his shirt, stained with false blood. He responded, “No! Your souls must have tempted you to do something ˹evil˺. So ˹I can only endure with˺ beautiful patience! And Allah is the One sought for help against that which you describe.” [Qur’an 12:18]
Patience in accepting Allah’s decree is obligatory. However, patience in the face of the oppression of wrongdoers and the schemes of schemers is not obligatory. Rather, it is necessary to remove it, especially in cases where harm is caused to others. In the case of the brothers of Prophet Yusuf, when their lies and betrayal were exposed, why did Ya’qub (Jacob) remain patient? Why did he not go to great lengths to search and strive to release Yusuf from the hardship and severity of his situation, if he was still alive and in need of rescue or seeking retribution for him if they had indeed killed him? Patience in such circumstances is blameworthy.
One of the reasons that strengthens this question is because Ya’qub knew that Yusuf was alive and well because he had said to Yusuf earlier: “Thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of dreams” [Qur’an 12:6]. It appears that Ya’qub only said this due to revelation because if he knew that Yusuf was still alive and well, then it was obligatory on him to seek him out. Additionally, Prophet Ya’qub was a man of great stature in himself and he came from a noble and honorable family. People of knowledge knew him, believed in him, and respected him. If he had gone to great lengths in his search and investigation, this would have become apparent, well-known, and the ambiguity would have been dispelled. So what is the reason that despite his intense desire to be reunited with Yusuf and his great love for him, he did not seek him out, even though his search was an obligation? Patience in such situations is condemned both intellectually and religiously.
The answer to this is to say that there is no answer to it except that it is said that Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, prohibited him from seeking Yusuf out as a way of intensifying the hardship upon him and making the matter more difficult for him. Additionally, perhaps Ya’qub knew from the circumstances that his sons were strong and that they would not allow him to seek and investigate, and if he had gone too far in his search, they may have harmed or killed him. Also, he may have known that Allah is protecting Yusuf from afflictions and hardships and that his affairs will be magnified in the end, so he did not want to violate the secrets of his children and did not want to expose them to people’s tongues. This is because if one of the two sons wrongs the other, the father will suffer severe punishment regardless because if he does not take revenge, his heart will ache for the wronged son, and if he does take revenge, his heart will ache for the other. So when Ya’qub faced this situation, he saw that the best thing was patience, silence, and leaving the matter entirely to Allah Almighty.
The saying of Allah, the Most High: “Beautiful patience” indicates that patience can be of two types: one that is beautiful and one that is not beautiful. Beautiful patience is when a person recognizes that the One who has decreed that affliction upon him is Allah, the Most High, and then knows that Allah, the Exalted, is the Owner of the kingdom and there is no objection to the Owner in the disposal of His property. Therefore, his heart is content in this situation, preventing him from expressing any complaints.
The second aspect is that the one afflicted knows that the sender of this affliction is Wise, never ignorant, Knowledgeable, never negligent, Aware, never forgetful, Merciful, never unjust. And if that is the case, then everything that comes from Him is wise and correct. So at that point, he remains silent and does not object.
The third aspect is that it becomes clear to the one afflicted that this affliction is from the Truth, and his absorption in witnessing the radiance of the Afflicter prevents him from complaining about the affliction. And for this reason it is said: Complete love does not increase with payment [of rewards] nor decrease with harshness, because if it increased with payment, then the object of love would be the share and the fortune [received]. The giver of the share [in such a case] is not loved for his essence but for what he offers, and [similarly] this is [what it is meant by] beautiful patience. However, if patience is not for the sake of being content with the decree of Allah, but for other purposes, then that patience is not beautiful. The principle in all actions, words, and beliefs is that whatever is for the sake of seeking the worship of Allah is good, and if not, it is not.
When Ya’qub mentioned his saying, “Beautiful patience“, he said after it, “And Allah is the One sought for help against that which you describe.” The meaning is that his ability to endure with patience can only happen with the help of Allah, because his psychological motives push him to show anxiety which is strong, and his spiritual motives call him to patience and satisfaction. It is as if there is a battle between these two motives, and unless Allah’s help is obtained, victory will not be achieved.