By Mona Siddiqui
Anxiety is often referred to as a disease of the twenty-first century, and is now a much bigger concern as a mental disorder than depression. We all face some degree of apprehension or anxiety – maybe daily, maybe weekly, and if we’re among the luckier ones, then once in a rare while. It is considered a completely normal response to stress. Occasionally though, anxiety can get out of hand and turn into an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders occur when everyday tasks and situations seem monumental and are fraught with fear and danger. As such, they must be treated like any other disease with professional care. This article will address anxiety and panic faced on a daily basis, indicate how to catch it before it spirals out of control and of course, clarify what Islam says about anxiety.
Anxiety and Islam
The fact is that when a Muslim experiences the first stirrings of anxiety – be it accelerated heartbeat, heaviness in the stomach, or deep concern and worry about the future – it is usually accompanied with the thought that this is a crisis of imaan (faith). For how can a Muslim with strong tawakkul feel such things? Doesn’t s/he know that everything lies in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)’s Hands anyway?
What we forget is that fear, panic, and anxiety are all natural and physical responses to any kind of stress detected in the immediate environment. And who is the One that created these reactions to enable us to respond as required in the first place? Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), of course.
If Muslims were meant to coast through life, with nary a worry, distress or anxiety, then there would be no basis in the sunnah for duas for these precise feelings. But in fact, such a dua does exist in our sunnah.
Ibn Abbas narrated: When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was in distress, he would supplicate: “There is none worthy of worship except Allah, the Forbearing, the Wise, there is none worthy of worship except Allah, the Lord of the Magnificent Throne, there is none worthy of worship except Allah, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and the Lord of the Noble Throne (Lā ilāha illallāh al-`aliyyul ḥalīm, lā ilāha illallāh, rabbul -`arshil -`aẓīm, lā ilāha illallāh, rabbus -samāwāti wal-arḍi wa rabbul-`arshil-karīm).” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi, 3435; authentic)
So if you’ve been feeling anxious or fearful, but also ashamed that you’re having these feelings as a Muslim, don’t. Remember that whatever befalls a believer has good in it for him.
Narrated by Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it was the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 5641; authentic)
I personally experienced something similar very recently; a combination of anxiety attacks and general unwellness due to the stress brought on by a medical diagnosis. Anxiety can affect your whole body, and can be debilitating to your normal functioning. Worst of all was the feeling that this was a crisis of my faith. Was I not someone who tried to be a person of taqwa, someone who had tawakkul, and a believer in qadr? How could I be this worried about the future of my health, my family, my children when I knew that it was all out of my control anyway?
It took more than a few weeks of sabr and of ‘taking the means’ before I could say that I was finally on the path to recovery. In this article, I want to share some of the tips that helped me overcome my anxiety and panic attacks.
1. Turn to the Quran
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) tells us in the Quran:
وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا
“And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.” (Quran, 17:82)
When you feel the onset of an anxiety or panic attack, look for healing in the Quran. Recite your favorite ayaat, or read a translation of your favorite surah. Two ayaat that helped me were:
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” (Quran, 13:28)
قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Quran, 6:162)
2. Focus on Salah and Prescribed Adhkaar
Remember the purpose of our creation: to worship Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Allah tells us in the Quran:
وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive to Allah.” (Quran, 2:45)
Follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing upon him) who always prayed more in times of distress and worry. Try to pray on time, and with as much focus as you can. Make heartfelt dua, calling on Al-Mujeeb (The Responder), He who is always responsive and answers our duas. Make dua for people around you as well.
I personally found making dua for other people soothing. These were two other sunnah duas that I found especially helpful.
الَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَ الْحَزَنِ ، والْعَجْزِ ، والْكَسَلِ ، والْبُخْلِ ، والْجُبْنِ ، وضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ ، وغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ
يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّومُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغِيثُ
Be regular with the prescribed adkhaar, and make istighfaar as much as possible as they are great stress-busters that Islam has provided us.
3. Do Hijama and Ruqyah
In a hadeeth, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Healing is in three things: A gulp of honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterizing).” The importance of hijama as a cure is also stated in this hadeeth, where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) recommended hijama as the best of cures / treatments.
Read the prescribed ruqyah as it is a protection with Allah’s Will against evil eye and any kind of suffering. I also found following this Ruqyah Detox Program to be beneficial.
4. Qadr – He is in control, not you!
We all know that Qadr or Predestination is an important part of our belief system. Reading and increasing your knowledge about Qadr during periods of anxiety or distress reminds us that the situation we are in is but a small part of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)’s Grand Plan for us, and that everything that comes a believer’s way is of benefit to him.
5. Increase in Shukr
Being grateful and counting our blessings is always an excellent way to bolster spirits. Look for the silver lining in your situation. When I did that, I found that I was able to gain a focus and sweetness in my ’ibadah that I had not been able to achieve in some time. This article has more tips on how to increase the feeling of gratitude for what we have in our lives.
6. Invest in self-care
Taking care of your basic needs, ensuring that you’re eating well and resting enough is crucial in directing your emotions. Stay physically fit and do something that makes you happy on a daily basis. Stay away from thoughts, people, and events that you feel are triggers for your anxiety or worries, and invest in actions that are good for your aakhirah.
Find more tips on self-care here.
7. Righteous Company
Keep righteous company. Meet people who remind you of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and who keep you occupied in serving Him. Enroll yourself in nearby classes. Listen to lectures on your regular commutes, if you are unable to attend classes personally. Volunteer your efforts where you can. All of this will bring peace to your heart and focus to your day.
8. One Day at a Time
Remember to take baby steps. Don’t expect to overcome your test of anxiety or distress in a day or a week. Take your time to build the walls of tawakkul around you again. Plan your day in small chunks and around acts that will bring you closer to your Rabb. If you deal with your anxiety one day at a time, it is also much easier to practise sabr and stay positive.
In conclusion, just remember that like with everything else, this too will pass and if Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) brought you to it, He alone will bring you through it. Stay strong and soldier on. Allah knows everything you’re going through, and He sees your efforts and He will reward them, insha Allah!
Enjoy your Life, Dr. Muhammed Abd Al-Rahaman Al-Arifi
Don’t be Sad, Aaidh Ibn Abdullah Al Qarni