Sabr Jameel – Patience is Beautiful!

On a Monday morning I am reminded of a phrase used daily in Egypt, and perhaps the entire Middle East. It’s the phrase “Sabr Jameel” loosely translated as “Patience is Beautiful!”  At face value one can hear this and assume it is no more than an idiom or pleasant phrase. What I learned this weekend is that the concept of ‘Sabr’ permeates the Muslim world and is deeply ingrained in Islam. My brother, Dr. Daniel Brown, a pastor with a PhD in Islamic Studies and an excellent speaker/teacher was speaking at a conference and brought in this value and concept as one of the areas where there is a cultural disconnect between the world of the instantly gratified and the world of ‘Sabr’. In more simple language, it is a disconnect between values of speed, efficiency and productivity often represented by the western world, and relationships and patience viewed highly by Muslim majority countries from Iran to Indonesia.

This idea of patience is more than our idea of being patient and letting someone get in front of us in a line. Dan explained it as a persistence, a fortitude, a willingness to endure. He likened it to a fairy tale where a man wants a princess, but the father stands in the way loathe to let someone unworthy have his prized possession. But the man will risk all for the sake of his love and go to great lengths to earn the father’s grudging respect, and the princess hand in marriage.

I realize within my faith tradition that this value is also highly prized and referred to in various ways. Even a quick search within the Bible brings me to verses that speak to this character trait. There remains a question as to why my present culture has moved so far away from this as an admirable sought after trait, often considering the patient person one who is willing to be walked over and dismissed.

In my world of the deliciously instant from oatmeal to ATM’s ‘Sabr’ is a challenge. As my brother was speaking I remembered the many times the words “Sabr Jameel” were said to me as a gentle rebuke while living in Egypt. The rebuke came at times when my impatience was obvious, my western value of efficiency getting in the way of manners and relationships. It was more than one time that I rushed in to the local grocery shop and said “I need apples, oranges, bananas and strawberries” only to be smiled at by Hosni and replied with the words “Sabah al Khair ya madame! Sabr Jameel!” “Good morning Madame! Patience is Beautiful!” The gentle rebuke would stop me and I would realize I was ready to risk relationship for speed.

And that brings me to my present world and reality of a Monday morning where I’m confronted with a great need to exercise “Sabr jameel”. Exercise this beautiful patience in the face of fatigue, heavy work load, and interaction in my surroundings that reflect efficiency and impatience as opposed to fortitude and willingness to endure.

And with that I move forward on this first day of the week with a renewed value of the power and beauty of patience.

13 thoughts on “Sabr Jameel – Patience is Beautiful!

  1. On the lighter side: I have told my husband that if he asks the Lord for patience, he shouldn’t be provoked with me if the Lord uses me to grow that patience!!


  2. Amen mama! What a life lesson for me to learn!!! Especially right before I travel to see you :) wonderfully written, as always! Especially like the image of you with Hosni! I relate all too well!


  3. Beautiful post Marilyn. I have not come across Sabr jameel much, but whenever something bad happens, I do often hear the Arabs say Allah Kareem.
    Innallalah ma sa’abireen . God is with the patient, says the Qur’an.
    Patience is hard yet the fruits of patience are so sweet.
    In today’s world of instant gratification, how long does the pleasure truly last? When we have longed for something and waited for it and worked for it, how sweet it is to finally possess it.
    The true worth of a thing is found, only when time and patience have been invested in it. Something that today’s discontent generation that has everything, doesn’t realise.


    1. I’ve heard Allah Kareem but not the following phrase. Beautiful! I think I am so struck by how differently I am willing to live when I am in the eastern part of the world. It’s like a switch goes on and I am more relaxed, more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt- in short, more patient. here with my microwave oven and quick fixes I buy into the idea that everything is supposed to be quick and easy. Such a poor way to live my life!


  4. Have you heard this one: “Patience is a virture. Possess it if you can. ALWAYS found in woman; NEVER found in man.” Seriously Marilyn, let me make a comment. A characteristic of love is patience. It stands to reason then, that where there is love, there is patience. True patience is learned through tribulation, isn’t it? Thinking on your blog today has given me incentive to include “Patience is beautiful” as one of my daily reminders. Thanks


    1. Haha!! I would have included the wonderful quote had I heard it! And thanks for the reminder of the never old words “Love is Patient, Love is kind” thanks for reading and commenting!


  5. Thank you, Marilyn, for this insightful and inspiring post! As I await the birth of my daughter’s first child within the next few weeks, I will carry the phrase, “Patience is beautiful!” with me. What a lovely way to envelop her and the babe she will bring into the world. Cath


    1. Thanks Cathy! Remind me of this next time we are presenting together and you see my pulse rate rise. and you are so right – what a beautiful way to bring in a babe. Looking forward to seeing you.


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