Sabr in the Qur’an
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

What is the meaning of sabr in Arabic? Can it be translated as “patience” or is this not appropriate?


In the Arabic language, the word sabr is used to firmly set one’s self on one’s view while protecting one’s self from worry, frustration and anxiety. It does not have any element of feebleness and frailty in it.

While referring to this meaning, Farāhī writes:


الصبر عند العرب ليس من التذلل في شى كما يصبر المضطهد العاجز بل هو أصل القوة والعزم و كثر في كلام العرب استعماله بهذا المعنى

To the Arabs, صَبْر never referred to what is frail and feeble – something accustomed to the weak and meek. On the contrary, it is the basis of power and determination. It is abundantly used in this meaning in classical Arabic.1


Farāhī goes on to corroborate his claim by quoting from the Qur’ān and from various classical poets:


وَلَمَن صَبَرَ وَغَفَرَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ لَمِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ (٤٣:٤٢)

And indeed if anyone shows patience and forgives, that would truly be an exercise of courageous. (42:43)


قال حاتم الطائي

وغمرة موت ليس فيها هوادة

يكون صدور المشرفي جسورها

صبرنا له في نهكها و مصابها

بأسيافنا حتى يبوخ سعيرها

(Many are the seas of death on which are bridges of swords. We showed perseverance with our swords against all their torments and tortures until they cooled down.)


وقال الأصبغ

يا بن الجحاجحة المداره

والصابرين على مكاره

(O progeny of noble chiefs and of people who persevere in facing hardships.)


وقال زهير ابي سلمي


قود الجياد وأصهار الملوك وصبر

في مواطن لو كانوا بها سئموا


(Riding well bread horses, being sons in law of kings and [showing] perseverance in trenches where others lose inner strength.)


All these usages of the word sabr show that it is referred to as a commendable trait and not something which reflects weakness and frailty. Thus a more accurate translation of it would be “perseverance” rather than patience.






1. Hamīd al-Dīn al-Farāhī, Mufradāt al-Qur’ān, 1st ed. (Azamgarh: Matba‘ Islāh, 1358 AH), 48.

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