Little by Little

By Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas

“So I call to witness the rosy glow of sunset; the night and its progression; and the moon as it grows into fullness; surely you shall travel from stage to stage. What, then, is the matter with them, that they do not have faith in the unfolding?” (Qur’an 84: 16-19)

“A new moon teaches gradualness and deliberation and how one gives birth to oneself slowly.”  (Rumi)

In the Qur’an, humankind is enjoined over and over again to develop faith through “steadfast patience.”  The word in Arabic that is translated most often into patience  (sabor) is actually more accurately translated as perseverance and resilience.  We are asked to be patient in the face of difficulties, trials, misfortune and hardship, and times of peril.  Humanity is enjoined to expect trials, not by way of punishment, but because the world is complex, a place of dualities, and we experience most everything either by way of its opposite, or as incomplete.  We are asked to persevere and bounce back from difficult situations, placing our trust in Allah, that we will be guided to find a way through and evolve into a better situation eventually.  We are given examples from nature where everything unfolds gradually, slowly, at the appointed time and in the correct place. As human beings, we are prone to impatience, we want everything “Right now! Right now!” ….the moment we imagine or conceive that we are ready for it or want it.  But how often have we wished desperately for something that we received, then soon regretted? The most valuable aspects of life – in nature and in human existence – come gradually.  Even human existence itself!  After all a human embryo takes nine months to gestate. How much longer must it take for human consciousness to realize its true essence and potential? 

The chapter from which comes this verse, and many others, extend the metaphor into the afterlife as well.  “If anyone desires a reward in this life, with Allah is the reward of this life and of the Hereafter: for Allah hears and sees all things.”  (4:134)   Humankind is impatient and we would like to see justice done and rewards offered right away, and right here on earth (even our limited conception of justice), yet Allah assures us that the real and complete justice occurs in the hereafter. Lucky for us, the justice occurs with Mercy that outweighs any mistake we may have made in our lives.  “Whoever brings a good deed, he shall have ten like it, and whoever brings an evil deed, he shall be recompensed only with the like of it; and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.”  (Qur’an 6:160) Everywhere in the Qur’an, the equation of just recompense and mercy ends up in favor of Mercy.  God is Infinitely Merciful, Boundlessly Compassionate. May we learn to be even a little like that with ourselves, with our own development, the situations in which we find ourselves and our fellow human beings.  Patience is a virtue in every tradition, yet it seems to be something we are not born with, but must develop!

Think back on your life to some of the most valuable experiences you have had, the ones that really changed your life in significantly positive ways.  Did these outcomes happen immediately, or did they unfold gradually?  

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