Muslim and Anxious

By Mona Siddiqui

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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.

 

Overcoming Anxiety

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)

And

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

O Allah, I seek refuge with You from anxiety, and sorrow, and weakness, and laziness, and miserliness, and cowardice, and the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men.

يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّومُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغِيثُ

O Living, O Sustaining, in Your Mercy I seek relief!

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!

 

Extra Reading:

Enjoy your Life, Dr. Muhammed Abd Al-Rahaman Al-Arifi  

Don’t be Sad, Aaidh Ibn Abdullah Al Qarni

 

Fitrah- A Gift From God

By Ferdousy Akhter Tani

fitrah

Do you ever get that guilty feeling after you do something wrong, like you become shy to look up and think of God? Or do you ever in spite of yourself, completely involuntarily, seek Him? That’s fitrah!

Fitrah is the natural inclination to believe in one God. It is said that if a child were left alone to himself, he would grow up believing in one God. (Philips, 2005)

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that he used to say the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “There is no child who is not born in a state of Fitrah, then his parents make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian, just as animals bring forth animals with their limbs intact, do you see any deformed one among them?” Then Abu Hurairah said: “Recite, if you wish: Allah’s Fitrah with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in Khalqillah.” (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 7, Book of Qadr, Ch. 6, Hadith 6755)

This natural disposition to believe in one God has been imprinted into all human beings because of the covenant Allah took from all of mankind.

 

Allah says in the Qur’an:

And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.”

Or [lest] you say, “It was only that our fathers associated [others in worship] with Allah before, and we were but descendants after them. Then would You destroy us for what the falsifiers have done?” [7:172-173]

 

So all children are upon the fitrah, and it is in many cases their parents who raise them opposing it and make them follow their own customs instead, by providing them a non- ‘fitrah-friendly’ environment to grow up in.

Neuroscience research supports the idea that the brain is primed to ‘believe’, says Jordan Grafman, PhD, director of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Azar, 2010)

Professor Andrew Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and co-author Dr Orsolya Lelkes, from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research are of the view that religion in general, might act as a “buffer” that protects people from life’s disappointments. Professor Leslie Francis, from the University of Warwick believes that the benefit might involve the increased “purpose of life” experienced by many believers that may not be as strongly felt among non-believers. (Sato, 2009)

Believing in God has several psychological benefits:

  • It helps one seek assurance from a “higher power” during different crises of life
  • It helps to cope with adversity when times are difficult
  • It works as a barrier to harming others and oneself because of the accountability towards God, which in turn prevents a person from getting into trouble
  • It bolsters one’s confidence to face challenges in life by seeking help from God
  • It makes a person aware that his actions have consequences
  • It aids in coping with anxiety and fear that faced in one’s life
  • It makes a person motive-driven, as he knows that life has a purpose

 

Fitrah is a true gift from God, as it keeps a person in check, increases his self-control, and makes him conscious of his actions. It is like a fire alarm that goes off whenever the smoke of misdeeds reaches us, and our heart buzzes with what we called ‘guilt’. It is the belief that we are constantly under supervision, all day every day, and nothing escapes Him, the One who sees and hears everything.

 

It is because of fitrah we stop ourselves from straying off the path in our journey to success even when things are difficult, or seem impossible. People with a religious mindset tend to deal with the loss of loved ones, of wealth, or of job much better than people with no religious beliefs – as they understand that there is a reason for the loss, and if dealt with patiently, it will only lead to a greater good.

Fitrah also pushes us towards goodness. A person believing in one God and believing in the purpose of life, which is to worship Him alone, will strive to please Him. So believers tend to contribute more to the society, help people in distress and support others in times of need – all for His sake. This results in a positive effect on the overall society.

On the other hand, a person who has wandered off from his fitrah, has lost the anchor to goodness. He is like a person who has been plunged into total darkness without any direction. This person may walk towards mischief that harms not only him but the society as a whole. He may not care to check his speed limit when the police or any surveillance camera is not around. He may not care to hand over the cash he picked up off the street to the lady who dropped it if no one is watching. He may live a life not caring to contribute to the society if there isn’t anything in it for him. He may simply live life – just for himself.

Fitrah acts as a lighthouse which keeps us from getting lost. It protects us from self-destruction. One who can hold onto their fitrah amidst all struggles is the one who is protected. And in essence, nurturing the fitrah is what contributes to the physical and mental well-being of a person and protects him from harm’s way.

Bibliography

(n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2017, from https://www.pinterest.com/taniaelizabeth/newborn-props-inspiration/

Azar, B. (2010, December). A Reason to Believe. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/12/believe.aspx

Cook, H. K. (2016, June 18). Renunite In Fitrah And Forgiveness, Making Peace. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from http://childhoodspeech.com/2016/06/meeting-ramadhan-fitrah-forgiveness/

Gloss, T. (2009). Faith in a Higher Power: The Study of Religion in Psychology. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from Association For Psychological Science: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/faith-in-a-higher-power-the-study-of-religion-in-psychology

Merwe, K. v., Eeden, C. v., & Deventer, H. J. (2010). A Psychological Perspective on God-belief as a Source of Well-being and Meaning. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from AOSIS Publishing: http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/332/764#20

Philips, B. (2005). The Fundamentals of Tawheed. International Islamic Publication House.

Sato, R. (2009, August 23). Does Belief in a “Higher Power” Make People Happier? A Galaxy Classic. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from Daily Galaxy.com: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/08/does-religion-make-people-happier-scientists-search-to-explain-why-people-believe-in-a-god.html

 

The Strategy of Self-Care

By Mona S.

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If you’ve been to a circus, you’ve seen that performer who’s on a unicycle, or even a tightrope, with a bunch of flowers in his mouth, and juggling what seems like an impossible number of tiny, colorful balls. Isn’t this what life feels like to us, most of the time? A struggle to find that perfect balance between the many demands on our time and attention.

Now, imagine that same performer having to continue like that, with no end in sight, no breaks and no rest. At some point, he will tire, lose his balance, drop everything and end up hurting himself.  That is what happens to us too when we don’t take the time to rest and rejuvenate, relax and refuel. This is where self-care comes in.

 

What is Self-Care?

To many people, self-care is a bubble bath or a manicure appointment, or maybe a massage. But in fact, it is much bigger than that; it is any activity performed deliberately to care for yourself, whether physically, emotionally or mentally. It includes taking care of your mind and body with diet and exercise, ensuring that you get a good amount of sleep, doing things that bring you joy, being in the company of people you love, and so on and so forth – basically, it is any activity that adds to your well-being.

Regular self-care ensures that you’re happy, healthy and functioning to the best of your abilities. If you’re ignoring your own needs as you rush to fulfill the needs of your family, friends, job or society in general, it will eventually affect your well-being and the tasks/people in your care. This is why the safety brochures on airplanes around the world state that in the event of an emergency, each person put on his or her oxygen mask first, before assisting others.

Studies have shown that self-care promotes psychological and physical health and well-being, and prevents as well as manages disease, injury and trauma. It decreases stress and depression; increases capacity for empathy while also improving immunologic functioning. Unfortunately though, self-care now has earned a negative reputation and is seen as selfish, needy or weak. This is because we’ve always been told that it is noble and right to put others’ needs before our own. In reality though, we  are best able to serve others when we care for ourselves first. In an increasingly overstimulating world, it is imperative to take the time for self-care, in order to continue to function optimally in all the relevant spheres of our lives.

 

Self-Care in Islam

In Islam, our duties and priorities have clearly been specified via the Quran, hadeeth and sunnah. Our first duty – and the very purpose of our creation – is of course to worship Allah.

Allah says in the Quran,

Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay.

Here, Allah reminds us that He creates everything with perfection and then in the following two ayaat, explains the fashioning of man. He is, in essence, telling us that we were created perfectly, in the best possible form by the Most Perfect of Creators. This is a great favor from our Lord, one that we should be thankful for and show our gratitude by taking good care of it. This is reiterated in a hadeeth where the Prophet said that our bodies have rights over us. They are, after all, vessels that Allah has blessed us with in order to fulfill our duties.

In yet another hadeeth, the Prophet Muhammad said that a strong believer is more beloved to Allah SWT than a weak believer and it is understood that strength here refers to physical strength. This is proof that we are required to care for our bodies physically and ensure that we are strong and healthy, by way of diet and exercise and preventive steps against illnesses and self-harm.

This is corroborated in the many sunan that we practise today. There are ahadeeth on the etiquettes of eating, how much to eat, and even what kinds of food to eat. As for the rest that our bodies need, there are both Quranic ayaat as well as ahadeeth, on sleep.

Science is only now proving that intermittent fasting has numerous health benefits and this has been in our sunnah for hundreds of years. The Prophet Muhammad was known to fast at least three days of the month, and encouraged fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, whereas the best type of fasting is considered to be that of Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him), i.e. fasting every alternate day.

Emotionally, as well, we are reminded often in the Quran and ahadeeth on the importance of a sound heart, and of caring for the state of the heart. One of the many ways to do this is to reflect and contemplate Allah’s signs. This is part of prophetic tradition as well; our beloved Prophet Muhammad often retreated to the Cave of Hira to reflect and remember Allah. This is a great reminder that we all need a break from our daily routines and lives to rejuvenate mentally and emotionally.

Spiritual self-care is just as essential to our well-being. As practising Muslims, we are all aware that imaan does not remain steady, that there are crests and troughs, that we have to strive to worship Allah as best as we can anyway. When we feel a dip in our imaan, when we feel a disconnect from our spiritual selves, we should strive to increase our ibadah to get back on track. Allah tells us that we draw closer to Him when we perform the obligatory acts but if we want to draw even closer, then we should increase our nafl (supererogatory) deeds and this will gain for us Allah’s Love.

Mindfulness is another way to practise spiritual self-care. Mindfulness is the mental state of awareness, focus and openness allowing you to engage fully in what you are doing at any moment. While being touted as a ‘new’ way to look at and live your life, mindfulness has been encouraged by our deen for centuries. As people of taqwa, we are required to always be present in and fully aware of everything around us, and about us. We will, after all, be held accountable for even the tiniest of  our deeds. We are encouraged to purify and renew our intention before everything we do, and isn’t this is just one way to practise mindfulness?

When we explore mindfulness with Islamic teachings in mind, we realize that it is an inherent part of self-care in every aspect of life, not just spiritually. Mindfulness is encouraged, by our deen, in physical, emotional, mental as well as spiritual self-care. It is beautiful to see a hint of the Infinite Wisdom of Allah when you see these components fit together so perfectly, subhanAllah!

 

Start Self-Care Now

Now that we’ve learned the importance of self-care, we should look at ways to implement it in our lives. We are advised to hasten towards good, after all so here are some tips to start implementing self-care in your life today.

1. Introspection

Because self-care is such a personal thing, it varies from person to person, depending on their lifestyle, interests and other commitments. To be able to care for and nurture yourself in a way that suits you best, you have to take the time to understand yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and your physical and emotional needs as well.

Physically you could start with thinking about your diet and fitness levels in relation to your current lifestyle. Are you eating the foods you need to be able to function at your best or are you skipping meals or eating junk? Are you ensuring that your body is getting the exercise it needs? What about sleep?

Emotionally, you could start by recognizing what triggers your stress, and how much is too much for you. Spiritually, you can start by analyzing what it is that gives you imaan-highs and how often you need them – regular dhikr, fasting, learning something new, listening to short islamic lectures, etc.

2. Take Twenty

Once you’ve determined what it is that helps you relax and refuel, actively make twenty minutes for it as often as you can. It could be something as simple as a cup of tea by yourself before you take on the day, or a walk at the end of the day, or making the time to read something that interests you, or even a spot of gardening or coloring if that is the sort of thing that calms and re-energizes you. Do it regularly, make time for you and your interests!

3. Ask for Help

When you’ve understood your limits, don’t feel shy about asking for help when you need it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s no shame in asking for help so you don’t end up only half-heartedly handling your responsibilities or taxing yourself and end up ill, or worse.

4. Say No

Another important skill to develop to self care-effectively, is the ability to say ‘no’, i. to people when you already feel like you have to much on your plate, and ii. to any guilt you might feel when you take time to nurture yourself, in any way.

5. Implement the Sunnah

One of the most fail-safe ways to start implementing self-care in your life is to introduce more sunnah practices into your daily routine. Reciting the morning and evening adhkaar is the simplest way to take a few minutes to center yourself at the beginning and end of the day. Start small, and with the basics – hygiene, rest, food and drink, activity levels, prescribed dhikr – and move up as you feel like you can make more of these beneficial changes in your life.

 

To tie it all up, we’ve often heard that Islam is a complete way of life, and the more we reflect and absorb its teachings, we discover that this is nothing short of the truth.

The Joy of Putting Others Down

By Ferdousy Akhter Tani

bullying

He smirked, feeling a sense of vicious satisfaction. That must have been the umpteenth time he managed to intimidate the weird boy – the weird, weak boy.

Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, and younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully.

Bullying is real.

Most of us, if not all, have witnessed or heard about someone getting bullied. As the word ‘bullying’ may seem rather nasty, we often inadvertently label it elsehow while overlooking the dangers it poses towards the people actually being bullied. It may happen around us while we turn a blind eye to it – either because it’s easy to ignore, or because the bully is our relative, a friend, sibling, or maybe even one’s boss.

It does feel good to win an argument, to defeat rather than being defeated. But we need to understand that bullying is much more than just winning an argument. It is the urge to put others down, emotionally or physically, and enjoying ourselves while at it. It is a badly-masked attempt to hide one’s insecurity; an insecurity which stems from poor control over one’s mind and actions. A bully somehow feels worthier after preying on his victim. However, close inspection reveals that the need to devalue others actually leads back to his depraved sense of self-worth. He feels the drive to increase his value by lowering someone else’s. He feels victorious as he sees his victim overpowered. But is it really a victory?

When you put someone down by using intimidation, snide remarks or any other misconduct, you are causing great harm to the person’s mental health. The one being bullied may become increasingly less confident, anxious and eventually fall into depression. A moment of joy for you may become the cause for prolonged agony for someone else. What may have been an excuse for entertainment for you may be a cause of anguish for another. An attack on someone’s physical appearance, financial status or racial background may leave a mark deeper than what you see. You cause fear, hurt and humiliation, all in one go! So is it really worth it? Is it worth inflicting pain on others just because you can? Is it worth seeing someone withering away mentally for a few seconds of amusement for yourself?

With instances of bullying, it is not only the victim who is affected but also the bully himself who brings about his own harm. His incessant need to control and put others down affects his relationship with others; he may become increasingly abusive to those around him; verbal abuse may follow physical abuse in no time; and all of this would lead to cause a greater harm for himself in the long run. Before he knows it, it could be his tranquility – and not just the victim’s – that will be destroyed. The momentary feeling of victory may lead to a greater and permanent loss for himself when his abusive nature pushes him towards violence, and he ends up doing something atrocious and irreversible.

From an Islamic viewpoint, bullying can be easily rebuked if we look at the statement of the Prophet ﷺ:

‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘as (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are safe;… “.

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

If people had followed just this one hadith, most of society’s problems would disappear overnight. Rasulullah ﷺ put a qualifier for those who wish to be Muslims. They are those who will try their best not to harm another Muslim, neither by words nor actions.

Even though the hadith mentions only Muslims, Islam teaches us to not wrong the non-Muslims as well.

The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If anyone wrongs a mu‘aahid (a non-Muslim living under Muslim rule), detracts from his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do or takes something from him without his consent, I will plead for him (the mu‘aahid) on the Day of Resurrection.” [Abu Dawood; authentic]

One can clearly see that bullying has no place in Islam. There is no room for it in our deen to make others feel inferior just to show one’s superiority. It is deplorable to hurt one’s feelings only because he seems in some way weaker than oneself.

 

What to do to stop bullying?

 

  1. Recognize

Recognize bullying for what it is. When you see someone being put down, do not take it lightly. Make a mental note of doing something about the situation.

  1. Help

Get involved (depending on the scope you have) and offer help. Talk to the person being bullied. Highlight some positive things about them. Try to make them feel more confident about themselves. Take help from the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ.

Ibn Mas`ud climbed a tree and they started laughing at the thinness of his legs, whereupon the Prophet ﷺsaid: “I swear that they shall be heavier in the Balance than Mount Uhud.”(Ahmad; authentic)

  1. Stop it

Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by hating it] – and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim)

A teacher may stop his students, a parent may stop his children, and a friend may stop his friends from engaging in bullying.

  1. Talk to the bully

Anas reported: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.’ A man asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I (know how to) help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?’ He said: ‘You can restrain him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him.’” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Tell them that their actions are wrong and let them know about the consequences of their actions; it could be that they are unaware of the damage they are causing to their victims.

A bully should know that it is a loss to let one’s emotions and actions go unchecked to the point that it leaves a permanent scar on the people who become prey to his bullying. It is a loss to send someone crying to bed. It is a loss greater for himself than those whom he thinks he has defeated.

Putting others down is not what he considers to be a victory. It’s a loss.

Gratitude: It’s Good for You

By Mona Siddiqui

gratitude

In this day and age of excessive sharing on social media, it is commonplace for people to fixate on what they don’t have over what they do and feel dissatisfied with their lives. It might be pictures of someone’s new car, a foreign holiday, or even just a dinner cooked at home – encountering such dazzling shots from other’s lives often leaves people feeling unhappy and frustrated with their own. Unfortunately though, it is a well-known fact that like attracts like. Focusing on negativity will only end up in breeding more negativity – it is an endless, vicious cycle to be stuck in, but not impossible to break out of. All that’s needed to combat it is a little dose of gratitude.

 

What is Gratitude?

In simple terms, gratitude is the quality of being thankful and appreciative of the good in our lives. In reality though, it is so much more than just that; gratitude is accepting that what we have today, in the present, is good and worthy of having; it is also accepting that this good comes from outside of ourselves, while affirming that most things in life do, in fact, lie outside of our control.

And this is the one thing that allows gratitude to materialize in our lives. As long as we feel like we hold the reins – that we are in ultimate control of what we have and what we don’t – we cannot truly be appreciative of our lives in the present moment.

In recent times, gratitude has become the focus of many psychological studies, exploring the many benefits it has on our well-being – mental, physical as well as social. Research has shown that cultivating gratitude can help us reduce stress in our lives, increase our self-esteem, and distance ourselves from negative emotions such as envy and regret. Physically, exercising gratitude ensures that we take better care of our health, and that we are more mindful of what we put into our body, and how we use and rest it. While in the social sphere, grateful people attract more people in their lives and are able to maintain healthier relationships.

These studies prove that practising gratitude begets positivity and good in our lives – for every good that we focus on, we attract more of it. Needless to say, this very concept has been highlighted in the Quran as well.

 

Gratitude in Islam

Shukr, the Arabic word describing the concept of gratitude in Islam, is an important principle that is highlighted over and over again in Quranic ayaat, as well as in the ahadeeth. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), himself prayed much of the night, swollen feet and teary eyes, despite knowing that he was forgiven and already granted jannah, only to express to Our Creator his immense gratitude.

Allah tells us in the Quran (14:7),

And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.

This is a promise that Allah has made to us; if we count our blessings and are grateful for them, He will increase for us the goodness in our lives. The beauty of this lies in the fact that Allah, in His Infinite Love and Mercy, tells us to let go of our worries, stress, and negative thoughts and emotions. He tells us to focus on the good, so that He can give us even more of it, subhanAllah!

This increase in good could translate to a multitude of things – ease in accepting the situation, possible improvement of the situation itself, and ajr for practising both sabr and shukr in ways we cannot even begin to imagine, just to name a few. For us, as believing muslims, the benefits of gratitude far exceed the worldly ones, since we are assured of receiving rewards in our aakhirah as well.

The end of the ayaah also promises that, by being grateful, we will be saved from Allah’s punishment. In yet another ayaah, (4:147) Allah (Exalted be He) reminds us of this blessing, “What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing.

As the old adage goes though, ‘no pain no gain’. Thus, it is a given that cultivating gratitude will require hard work. This is because gratitude goes against our nafs, the human need to constantly increase – even hoard – what we have; it goes against the need to feel like we are in control of our lives, and against our basic need to take credit for the good in our lives. Cultivating gratitude is one surefire way of ensuring that we are in control of our nafs, and not the other way around.

Shukr, according to Islamic scholars, can be expressed in three ways:

  1. Shukr of the heart, which is the satisfaction in having what we have, whilst wishing the best for those around us,
  2. Shukr of the tongue, which is verbally expressing our thankfulness (saying alhamdulillah, for instance), and
  3. Shukr of the limbs, which is when we choose to share the blessings that Allah has given us through our actions

Having looked at what an attitude of gratitude implies, here are some practical ways to implement it in our lives on a daily basis.

 

Cultivating Gratitude

 

  1. Ask for Allah’s Help

As with everything else, the first step is always to ask for Allah’s help. This, the Prophet made easy for us through a dua that he has instructed us to recite after every prayer:

اللَّهُمَّ أَعِنِّيْ عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ وَشُكْرِكَ وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَتِكَ

Allahumma a’inni ‘ala dhikrika wa shukrika wa husni ‘ibadatika

“O Allah! Assist me in remembering You, in thanking You, and in worshipping You in the best of manners.”

The fact that this is a dua that we should be making after every single prayer again just highlights the importance of cultivating shukr in our lives.

 

  1. Show Gratitude to People

In another hadeeth, the Prophet said, “Whoever is not grateful to the people, he is not grateful to Allah.” We should make it a habit to thank the people in our lives, from those who hold doors open for us, to those who bag our groceries, to all those who form an important part of our lives – namely, our parents, spouses, children, extended family, and friends. Expressing our appreciation in small ways will help us in staying positive, spreading positivity, as well as in being more loving, kind and gentle with our loved ones.

 

  1. Maintain Dhikr through the Day

Dhikr is a powerful way of staying connected to Allah through the day, to remind ourselves who is really in control and whom we should be thankful to. The easiest way to show our gratitude is to praise Allah by saying alhamdulillah for the sights and sounds around us.  We should also read through the meanings of the prescribed sunnah adhkaar – the ones we say when we wake, before we eat and after, during the mornings and evenings, and the ones we say before bed – to really feel them in our hearts as we recite them.

 

  1. Hunt for Silver Linings

As we go through the day, we might receive good news and bad news, and may have things that happen to us that we perceive as negative. We should get into the habit of taking a minute, after thanking Allah for whatever has come our way, to look for possible silver linings. There is always a silver lining – especially if we’re looking for it. This will increase our ability to always look at the bright side of things, giving us a more positive outlook towards life and helping us deal with the curveballs thrown our way with grace and patience, inshaAllah.  

 

  1. Pray Sajdah Shukr Often

This is a simple and beautiful sunnah that we should strive to maintain. The Prophet would  prostrate in gratitude to Allah whenever he heard news that made him happy. Sajdah Shukr requires no wudoo, nor that we face the qiblah – it is just one sajdah made to thank Allah. Combined with the previous step, we can hope that every news that comes our way will be perceived as happy news and followed by a sajdah shukr. I remember reading about a family who fell in prostration of gratitude on hearing of the passing of their child after a long illness. They did so in gratitude for the love they’d shared and for having been allowed to care for her. SubhanAllah, what a beautiful way to look at things!

 

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

There are many people who are visual, for whom just going through the list of things to be grateful for isn’t enough. Writing them down, 3 or 5 or even an unset number, at the end of the day can really bring the day we’ve had into focus. It helps us become more self-aware, and helps us realize what is really important to us. Going to bed with a positive mindset, minus the stress, will help sleep better as well.

 

  1. Pay it Forward

Studies have shown that giving also makes you feel happier and more grateful. Help out whenever, wherever and in whatever little way you can within your community. Volunteer if you have the opportunity to, whether it is working with people or even with animals. Make  sadaqah a daily habit, no matter how small, even if it is just a smile given with the right intention.

 

Allah says in the Quran (16:18),

And if you should count the favors of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

We may never be able to thank Allah for the blessings He has bestowed upon us in the way that He deserves to be thanked, but what we can do – and should – at least, is try our best to be grateful servants to the Most Generous and Gracious of Masters.

Husn udh-dhann finnaas – Having Good Opinion of People

By Naila Naiyyar

husn-udh-dhann-of-people

A lot of problems arise among families, relatives, in-laws, colleagues, and neighbors, simply due to having negative thoughts of them. Allah has clearly stated in the Holy Quran to avoid such negative assumptions, calling it a sin.

“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (Quran; 49:12)

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah’s worshipers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you!”) (Bukhari)

Perhaps you see a friend online regularly updating on social media, but isn’t replying to your messages. Instead of jumping to a conclusion like she is ignoring you, fancy the thought that she may be too caught up with things and just needs a gentle reminder to get back to you.

That person who passed by you not replying to your salaams, possibly didn’t hear you.

That colleague who snapped rudely at you might be facing something terribly bad at home.

And even if you don’t know why the driver behind you overtook your car so dangerously, supposing that he might have an emergency to rush to will let you stay calm on the road and give you peace of mind, instead of letting it affect your mood adversely, which you would ultimately take back home or to work.

Developing a positive opinion of people does NOT mean ignoring danger signs or being careless and unguarded; rather, it means not to paint every one with the single brush of negativity; it means to not let stereotypes affect our judgment, and not to let other people’s personal experiences or opinions bleak our sense of rationality.

To put it briefly, having good opinion of people implies:

  • Thinking positive of others
  • Avoiding suspicion and wrong assumptions of others
  • Giving others the benefit of the doubt

 

The first step to eradicating negative thoughts of others is to acknowledge the problem. Next, is to work through it. In order to do that, we need to identify why we think the way we do. What could be the underlying factor for thinking ill of others? Some possible reasons are enlisted below. Identifying which one(s) affect us most would be able to help us in resolving our issues more effectively.

 

Reasons for thinking the worst of others:

1) Polluted heart

The first and foremost reason is having a polluted heart – a heart  low in eeman (faith) and taqwa (fear of Allah). The heart which is not clean will not be able to see nor seek the good in others. Such a heart weakens the eeman and pollutes the mind, with this pollution extending to our everyday-dealings with other people.

2) Stereotypes

We all have our own criteria of thoughts and beliefs based on which we judge people and events around us. However, external factors like family, peers, and society too condition this outlook of ours towards the world. This is where stereotypes come into play. We can reduce harboring bad opinion of people simply by not following stereotypes. Always objectively analyze the person or event in a particular situation before forming opinions. This would help us in being non-judgmental.

For example, a very common stereotype has to do with the mother and daughter-in-law dynamics, wherein a mother in-law is considered to be someone who is always against her daughter in-law. Even though a wife-to-be may not know her mother in-law well enough before marriage, she could step into her new family with preconceived ideas based on all the things she has heard about mothers-in-law in general. In doing so, she fails to realize that her husband’s mother is just like any other mother – including her own, who would only be eager to start a beautiful relationship with her new daughter-in-law.

A wise person will always think reasonably and avoid jumping to conclusions.

3) Lack of empathy

Empathy is a quality that helps us connect with people especially when they are going through tough times, and creates a bond of trust between two people. When we lack empathy we are unable to feel the other person’s situation. This leads to forming bad opinions about them when what they actually need from us is understanding and support.

4) Not being able to accept others’ achievements

This factor has a lot to do with being envious or jealous of others for their achievements. Some strategies to deal with envy are mentioned in our blog post here.

5) Difference of opinions

This refers to considering ill of others because they don’t agree with us in certain instances.

We need to realize that everyone has different approaches to life, and so our view will not necessarily be the same as that of another person. Since we are more prone to form wrong opinions about people when we don’t get along with them, we must be more mindful in such cases.

 

Benefits of having good opinion of people

1) The heart remains pure and free from wrong assumptions, malice, or rancor, instead is full of love for others.

2) It breeds positivity, promotes unity, and fosters love and respect for fellow human beings.

3) We are more concerned about improving our lives, instead of making others miserable.

4) We earn the Pleasure of Allah.

 

How to develop good opinion of people

1) Ask Allah to purify your heart. Raise your prayers to the One who answers.

2) Be constant in focusing on yourself and how you can improve your own life. It is not befitting of a Muslim to be unnecessarily concerned with others’ lives, following their every move.

As mentioned in the hadith, “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi)

3) Be open-minded and try to understand each person’s situation.  Get more clarity into the situation by looking at it through different angles.

4) Feel happy for others achievements. Force it, if you have to. Allah will rush to your help when you put in your efforts, and soon the feelings of happiness would come to you naturally.

5) Always give others the benefit of the doubt. Give him/her a chance to put forward his opinion too. We need to keep in mind that no one is free from making mistakes. Hence, it is not fair to ignore the good deeds and focus only something they erred on.

6) Filter the information you get before forming an opinion. Instead of creating stories in your head, it is better to directly communicate with the other person in a civilized manner.

7) Understand and respect the differences of other people.

8) Always put yourself in the other’s situation and ask yourself how you would feel if people have prejudice in their hearts against you.

Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, “This is an obvious falsehood”? (Quran; 24:12)

 

Good opinion about kids in the home and at school

Having good opinion of children is crucial to help build their self-confidence. When adults have a good opinion of them, they feel good about themselves they will tend to perform well in all areas of life. But if adults assume that they are ‘just kids’ and so won’t be able to complete even a simple task then they are already setting the child up for failure. The same is the case with teachers. If a teacher believes that a student is and will always remain a C-grade student, then that’s just how the student will perform. Instead, when the student is given the confidence of excelling, s/he will actually begin to strive for it.

 

Final Notes

On the flip side, it is also important for us to be very clear and open about our own actions, and avoid things that will raise suspicion among those around us either through our facial and body gestures, or our actions.  We should be careful not to leave room for conceivable suspicion from others. A very beautiful example can be found in the following hadith:

Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) wife Safiyya visited him one night when he was observing I’tikaf. When it was time for her to leave, he stood up to bid her goodbye. During this time two men passed by them. When they saw Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with a female they began to walk away swiftly. So he (peace be upon him) said, “Walk calmly, she is Safiyya, daughter of Huyyay.” Both of them said: “Messenger, Praise be to Allah. We cannot conceive of anything doubtful even in the remotest corners of our minds.” He (peace be upon him) said: “Satan circulates in the body of man like the circulation of blood and I was afraid lest it should instill any evil in your heart or anything.” (Muslim)

Of Selfies, Grades, and Nose Surgeries – My Self Esteem

By Khalida Jalil

self-esteem

Taking about 200 selfies every day, a teenage boy almost killed himself due to his addiction.

When she did not earn grades high enough to attend her first-choice university, a smart teen took her life.

While undergoing surgery for beauty purposes, Iranians most commonly choose to do a nose surgery. If that is not surprising enough, Iran is one of the top 10 countries in the world for performing plastic surgeries.

 

These are all three different stories, but they have one commonality: Self-esteem.

When we post a selfie on social media, we often expect viewers to ‘Like’ the picture and/or ‘Comment’ on it. However, it becomes destructive when we begin to crave that ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’. We claim that our self-esteem is not built up on people’s praises, but still have an unhealthy attachment to praise.

How do we react when someone comments, “You look alright,” or “You are ugly”? Does that shatter us? Does that make us doubt ourselves?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that taking selfies indicates having a low self-esteem. The problem is not with taking selfies; the problem is with our intentions and objectives behind taking them. Do we take selfies so people can praise us, or is it for some other reason?

As humans, we enjoy being praised because in the instances that we are praised, our brain releases dopamine, a pleasure hormone in the brain. Although it is generally important for our bodily functions, excessive dopamine levels do play a role in forming addictions (read: 200 selfies per day story!). So it clearly isn’t healthy to base our self-esteem on people’s praises or criticisms.

It is important, however, to be realistic.

We may not look like celebrities on a daily basis, but guess what! They themselves wish that they looked like that. Why, you ask?

Because the beauty standards on the media are not real. The images are all fictitious facades hiding flaws through Adobe, Photoshop, filters, make-up, and even surgery in some cases.

We may not be as “beautiful” as some people we see, but we are beautiful in our own way. Imagine a world where everyone looked the same. Wouldn’t that be boring? I think so.

Through the media, we also see posts by “successful” people who have the “best” careers, the “perfect” families, and the “happiest” lives.

 

How can we possibly develop and maintain a positive self-esteem amidst all the standards that the media, our families, and our cultures set for us?

Well, self-esteem consists of how we view ourselves and others. And how we view ourselves includes how we value, respect, and trust ourselves (e.g. trusting our ability to learn, judge, and/or decide); it also includes our competence in handling life’s challenges.

Do not worry – Developing a good self-esteem is a gradual, dynamic process. It takes both effort and time. So take it slowly.

The best way to nurture a healthy self-esteem, in my opinion, is to understand the Quran as if it is addressing us – which, it is. We often do not think that the Quran teaches us about confidence and how to have a good self-image, but it does.

 

In the Quran, we learn that we have value and are honorable simply because we were created by Allah:

“…وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ…”

And We have definitely honored the son of Adam (al-Israa; 17: 70)

Our value and honor are not dependent on what people think of us, how we look, what grades we earn, the job we hold, our salary, or where we are from.

Our worth and honor are based on how God views us. Our value is in how God-conscious we are, that is, how we conduct ourselves based on God’s words.

 

“The father of the self-esteem movement” Dr. Nathaniel Branden, says in his book The Power of Self-Esteem, “We cannot work on self-esteem directly, neither our own nor anyone else’s, because self-esteem is a consequencea product of internally generated practices — such as that of living consciously, responsibly, purposefully, and with integrity”.

And subhanAllah, we have been taught all this in the Quran:

Allah tells us why He created us so that we live our lives with that purpose in mind. He reminds us to have taqwa – to follow Allah’s commands and stay away from His prohibitions to protect ourselves from His punishment – which essentially requires us to live consciously and responsibly.

Living consciously helps us to assess ourselves realistically, rather than negatively. It teaches us to exert our utmost effort into anything we do, but to then leave its results to Allah. If we do not reach the perfection we aimed for, we do not pressure ourselves because we know that we invested our best effort into it.

This subsequently teaches us to accept ourselves as we are, even if there is a characteristic in us that we do not like. We then learn to acknowledge our strengths, accept our mistakes as learning opportunities, and aim for improvement. We do not obsess about our “flaws”; instead, we correct ourselves to the best of our abilities and work on what we can change.

Allah also informs us how to live a life of integrity: He commands us to stand up for truth and justice, and to not tolerate oppression and dishonesty, besides calling us to other exhortations.

By living consciously, responsibly, purposefully, and with integrity, we naturally value, respect, and trust ourselves. We would then begin to live in a way where we can best cope with life’s challenges and interact with others in a healthy manner.

Let us always remember that while we should beautify ourselves outwardly, we should not forget to beautify our soul and character too, both of which are the main foundations for a positive self-esteem and success in both worlds.

 

Disclaimer: In this article, I am not referring to surgeries needed for health reasons; I am talking about surgeries people undergo solely for “beauty” purposes. I believe in feeling comfortable in the body God created us with.

Husn udh-Dhann Billah – Having Good Opinion of Allah

By Naila Naiyyar

husn-udh-dhann

Husn udh-dhann billah means having a good opinion of Allah. It refers to being certain of receiving only good from Him; to have positive thoughts about Him, believing that He will deal with us in the best of ways. Allah says, “I am as My servant thinks I am”. (Bukhari) That is, in order for us to expect something good from Allah we have to truly believe that He is capable of giving that good.

Thinking well of Allah is a fundamental aspect of our worship. How can we worship Him the way He deserves to be worshipped when we are not aware of His Attributes or when we think that He is akin to the people around us?

One of the main causes of lacking  husn udh-dhann billah is our comparing Allah and His Attributes to those of humans, wrongly assuming that Allah will not be good to us because we ignored Him; or that He is One who takes pleasure from our sufferings and will not listen to our pleas because we disobeyed Him (na’udhubillah); or that since we have indulged in the worst of sins, He will put us in the blazing hell-fire, wondering why will He even consider us for heaven as there are so many pious people that already exist!  All such thoughts indicate that we do not know who Allah actually is or how Just and Merciful He is.

In order to avoid all these negative thoughts, we need to study and know the Attributes of Allah. Allah is nothing like any of His creation. He is free of defect and deficiencies. His Promise is always true and He never forgets. Even the tiniest of our deeds does not escape His Attention. He is never too busy to ignore us. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him, nor sleep. He always remembers us no matter how many times we forget Him. We need to firmly believe that Allah answers our duas, forgives us and that He is enough for us. Count all your Blessings and ponder over your past, recounting all the moments that Allah never let you down.

This lack of education on our part helps shaytaan play with our minds and heart. This creates hopelessness in us and we begin to despair the Mercy of Allah.

I will share two great examples of this from the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

 

Example 1:

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) set out of his home with Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) as his companion to migrate to Madeenah, while the Quraysh were conspiring against him. They hid in the cave of Thawr, and Abu Bakr said to him (peace be upon him) “If one of them looks down at his feet he will see us.” He (peace be  upon him) said, “What do you think, O Abu Bakr, of two the third of whom is Allah?

This is an example of nothing but having a strong conviction that Allah is the Most Powerful and the One in control of everything. Allah mentions this historical event in the Quran:

“If you do not aid the Prophet – Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, “Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us.” And Allah sent down his Tranquility upon him and supported him with angels you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the Word of Allah – that is the Highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Quran, 9:40)

 

Example 2:

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was having his mid-day sleep under a tree, with his sword hanging on one of the branches. A Bedouin suddenly came and took the Prophet’s sword. The Prophet (peace be upon him) woke up and the Bedouin asked him, “Who will protect you from me?” He (peace be upon him) replied, “Allah”. The sword fell from the bedouin’s hand and the Prophet (peace be upon him) took his sword. (Bukhari)

 

Benefit of having good opinion of Allah

It makes life easy and productive. When we have husn udh-dhann billah, we’d have a sense of peace and inner calm which pushes us to do good with the belief that Allah will reward us and grant us success.

Husn udh-dhann billah also increases our tawakkul (trust) where we do our best and then leave the result up to Allah. If we had a bad opinion of Allah (soo’udhann billah) then we wouldn’t strive hard in life, nor would we wish to achieve anything because we would not expect anything good to happen to us.

We also need to keep in mind that good opinion has to be followed by good actions. We can’t be mean to people or disobey Allah and then expect that He be kind to us.

“And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent”. (Quran, 65:2-3)

 

How to Develop Husn udh-Dhann Billah

1) Making du’a with certainty

Making du’a is not only action of the lips but also includes the intention in one’s heart. People may raise their hands in making du’a but may not be sincere in asking Allah. They either make their minds up that Allah is never going to answer, or they preoccupy their minds so much with worldly thoughts that making dua becomes merely a ritual.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Call upon Allah when you are certain of a response, and know that Allah does not accept any supplication from a heart that is unfocused and distracted.” (Tirmidhi)

2) The intention of our deeds

Performing deeds solely for Allah’s Pleasure and having firm belief that Allah will accept them and reward us in the best way are yet other ways of imbibing husn udh-dhann billah. Else, we would never attempt at anything good or we may easily give up half-way questioning ourselves, ‘why bother when our actions are not bringing instant results or the way we want them to turn out?’

3) Belief in Allah’s Promise

Husn udh-dhann billah also refers to believing that Allah always keeps His word and will grant us all that He promises. For instance, if He Promises ease with every hardship, then indeed we will have that ease. If Allah Promises us increase in our sustenance if we spend in His way, then we must have firm belief in that too.

4) Repenting & seeking forgiveness

Allah says, “O My servants, you commit error night and day and I am there to Pardon your sins, so beg pardon from Me so that I should Grant you Pardon.” (Muslim)

This teaches us to sincerely repent and seek forgiveness from Allah with the hope that He will accept our repentance and forgive us. If we did not have this certainty in our hearts, then we will never seek forgiveness and perhaps will keep on sinning. Not expecting Allah to Forgive us or Grant us what we ask him is despairing of His Mercy and not believing in His Word.

5) Trials & tribulations

The most crucial stage to have a good opinion of Allah is when calamity falls upon the believer. It is very easy to complain at that time, lose hope and be in the worst state of negativity. But a believer knows that trials occur only due to Allah’s infinite Wisdom, and to purify and increase us in closeness to Him. We might not understand why we are suffering but being positive in those times will help us to accept Allah’s Decree and make us realize that tests from Allah are in our best interest which we may comprehend only later.

The Prophets and Messengers of Allah had pinned all their hopes onto Allah, most especially when all odds were stacked against them. The fire was cooled for Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Yunus came out of the belly of a fish and Prophet Zakariya was blessed with a child even though he was old and his wife barren. Why? Because they knew that Allah would respond to their pleas and get them out of every situation no matter how impossible they seemed.

Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (Surah Yusuf: 87)

6) Remember death

Finally, we are encouraged to remember Allah’s Mercy & Forgiveness on our death beds so that when we leave this world, we are hopeful of meeting our Lord.

Three days before Prophet (peace be upon him) passed away, said: “No one of you should die except thinking positively of Allah”. (Muslim)

 

Husn udh-Dhann Billah and Positive thinking

Having good opinion of Allah has one major byproduct – it makes us positive about life itself. This positive mindset will help us in keeping calm even during turbulences and help us get rid of pessimistic thoughts.

Having a positive outlook is the most important thing to bring ease in life especially when everything around us seems unbearable. It is the good belief that Allah is the Most Powerful, the Giver, our Savior & our Provider which will stop us from fearing people, and fear Allah instead. It will help us be consistent in our worship and teach us to ask from Allah alone rather than tiring ourselves in struggling to gaining acceptance from people. It frees us from the need of other human beings, and liberates us from following shaytaan and all those who follow him.

 

You may wonder: What if you did not experience success even though you worked hard and had good opinion of Allah? Well, remember that what seems like failure to us now will in fact bring only the best – even much better than what we had initially anticipated. It might be that Allah is saving us from something not in our knowledge. So we have to do our best in everything and accept His Divine Will that whatever we get is in our best interest and are thankful to Allah.

“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (Quran: 2:216)

Mending Myself

By Khalida Jalili

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Let me tell you a short story about a teenage boy whose early life is possibly very similar to many of our own teenage lives:

Spoiled and wealthy, this young teen was the center of his mother’s attention and adoration. He lived a life of ample luxury because of his mother. He made one decision in his life, however, that completely overturned his mother’s affection towards him. She would tell him to give up the new change he had brought about in his life. She would even threaten to never eat or drink if he did not listen to her! And when he refused to concede, she too decided to make dramatic changes: she quit spoiling her son, thus depriving him of the luxurious life he once enjoyed. He was forced out of the house onto the streets in only one garment and left to figure out how to live life all on his own!

 

Before I let you know who this young man is, let me introduce you to another gentleman:

This young man loved his dad dearly and also cared a lot about his community. However, he too, like the teenager, was not treated well by his parent because of the lifestyle that he had adopted. His dad even threatened to stone him, demanding that he leave to somewhere far away from him, and the community he had well-wished for almost burned him alive! 

You might have already guessed that this young man was Ibrahim (peace be upon him). And the teenager mentioned earlier was none other than a sahabah named Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umayr (may Allah be pleased with him).

 

Anyone who knows what it means to be spoiled and then deprived, or to be dearly attached to people and then hurt by them, could relate (at least to some extent) to these two cases. Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umayr (may Allah be pleased with him) were both emotionally and physically abused by their loved ones just because they chose Islam as their lifestyle.

Allah knows best if these experiences were traumatizing for either of them, since the validity of such an assertion will depend on various determinants such as whether they felt emotionally overwhelmed or if they felt “a threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity” (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995, p. 60). Nevertheless, these experiences would definitely prove to be traumatic for many.

Yes, Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umayr (may Allah be pleased with him) was forced to leave his mom despite his love for her; but he found another family whom he loved just as much – if not more – and who loved him back as one of their own: Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and the sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them all). And yes, Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was driven out by his father and community; but not only did he find a different home and community,  he was also blessed with a family of his own along with a legacy his descendants remember until this day (Surah Maryam; 19: 41-50). SubhanAllah.

 

Regrettably, if you have ever experienced emotional trauma, you will know that it can be difficult to talk about your traumatic experience and to seek support, or even believe that you need support! Understand that you do not have to talk about anything that makes you uncomfortable; however, it is important to know that there are people out there whom you can trust. Of course, it is good to be cautious about whom you trust and to take necessary precautions, so do not think you are being paranoid if you find it difficult to trust others; but know that there are people who want the best for you. If you do not feel comfortable trusting a friend, family member, or teacher, try finding a counselor who is bound by law to keep your case information confidential (although, there are specific exceptions for safety and medical reasons, which they will explain to you).

Learning how to effectively deal with your fears, insecurities, and anxieties is important in maintaining your mental health. You cannot move past emotional trauma if you do not act. As tempting as it may be to stay within your own company, you need to connect with people who have the experience and knowledge to support you.

 

Ask yourself this: If you had a friend who was undergoing a rough time, how would you comfort him/her? What would you say to him/her? Would you be harsh with them, or gentle? You’d know that being harsh will only make the situation worse for them. Instead, you’d let them know that you are there for him/her. You would be compassionate to them and assist them in whatever way you can. Likewise, be compassionate to yourself.

In order to realize how best you can treat your mental and emotional illness, consider the physical illnesses that you face. When you have a cold, for instance, would you hope to get better just by lying in bed all day? Or would you get moving? Chances are you’d do the latter. You’d go to the pharmacy for medication and may even go the extra mile to try home-remedies or anything else that could cure you. This is how we should view our emotional health as well. The medicine is out there in the forms of counseling, joining a trauma support group, attending self-development workshops, and further educating ourselves on healing. Our medicine is there in the form of endeavoring to live a more productive lifestyle through salah, du’a, dhikr, exercise, healthy diet, and wholesome sleep.

 

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “There is no one who is afflicted by distress and grief, and says:

اللِّهُمَّ إنِّي عَبْدُكَ ، ابْنُ عَبْدِكَ ، ابْنُ أَمَتِكَ ، نَاصِيَتِي بِيَدِكَ ، مَاضِ فِيَّ حُكْمُكَ ، عَدْلٌ فِيَّ قَضَاؤُكَ ، أَسْأَلُكَ بِكُلِّ اسْمٍ هُوَ لَكَ ، سَمَّيْتَ بِهِ نَفْسَكَ ، أَوْ أنْزَلْتَهُ فِي كِتَاَبِكَ ، أَوْ عَلَّمْتَهُ أَحَدًا مِنْ خَلْقِكَ ، أَوِ اسْتَأْثَرْتَ بِهِ فِي عِلْمِ الْغَيْبِ عِنْدَكَ ، أنْ تَجْعَلَ الْقُرْآنَ رَبِيعَ قَلْبِي ، وَ نُورَ صَدْرِي ، وَ جَلاءَ حُزْنِي ، وَ ذَهَابَ هَمِّي

Allaahumma innee ‘abduka ibn ‘abdika ibn amatika naasyati bi yadika, maadin fiyya hukmuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadaa’uk. As’aluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltahu fi kitaabika aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista’tharta bihi fi ‘ilmil-ghayb ‘indaka an taj’al al-Qur’aana rabee’ qalbi wa noor sadri wa jalaa’ huzni wa dhahaaba hammee

Oh Allah, I am Your Slave, son of Your slave, son of Your maidservant; my forelock is in Your Hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me if just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You have named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or taught to any one of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Quran the life of my heart and the light of my chest, and a departure of my sorrow and a release of my anxiety.

except that Allaah will take away his distress and grief, and replace it with joy.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)

 

Healing takes time, so be patient with yourself and the process. While we take all the means to heal, we should never forget that healing – whether physical or psychological – is ultimately in Allah’s Hands. He is Al-Shaafi, The Healer. And among Allah’s Most Beautiful names is Al-Jabbaar. The name Al-Jabbaar encompasses a very comprehensive definition, one of which is The Mender. Al-Jabbaar is the One Who can heal that bone fracture. Al-Jabbaar is the One Who can heal your heart when you feel hurt because of a bully, parent, child, friend, teacher, or stranger. He is the One Who is capable of healing your physical and psychological wounds.

 

May Al-Jabbaar mend you and your heart, dear reader.

Ameen.

Dealing with Envy

By Naila Naiyyar

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Envy is a feeling of displeasure that sets in upon knowing of another person’s achievement, success, fame, influence or possession, all the while feeling discontent and inferior about one’s own self. The envier may even wish that the blessing be removed from the envied.

Side notes:

 

Envy is a disease of the heart which can ruin one’s peace. Envying indicates low self-esteem and a sense of inferiority, as the envier feels unable to achieve what the envied has achieved.

Envy has no positive or constructive influence on the envier. In fact it causes resentment, bitterness, and if not controlled, then eventually, depression, anxiety and possibly even suicide – May Allah protect us. The envier may even go a step further and harm the envied as he can’t stand seeing him enjoying his milestones.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Envy consumes good deeds just as fire consumes wood, and charity extinguishes bad deeds just as water extinguishes fire. Prayer is the light of the believer and fasting is a shield against the Fire.” (Ibn Majah)

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Beware of envy because envy consumes (destroys) the virtues just as the fire consumes the firewood,” or he said “grass.” (Abu Dawud)

Due to the competitive world we live in where we are programmed to compare and compete with others. And so the envier wonders how the envied has managed to achieve a milestone when he/she has not, despite taking several efforts.

However, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has encouraged envy (ghibtah). But only in the following cases:

He said, “Envy is justified in regard to two types of persons only: a man whom Allah has given knowledge of the Qur’an, and so he recites it during the night and during the day; and a man whom Allah has given wealth and so he spends from it during the night and during the day.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Feeling envious (without wishing for the other to lose his blessing) in these cases is encouraged in Islam due to its noble nature of pleasing Allah using the blessings provided Him.

As for the impressible type of envy, here are some coping strategies that we can employ:

 

Coping Strategies

 

  1. Count your Blessings

You are gifted in ways different than others and are blessed with a life worth celebrating. You are unique and don’t have to live life like everyone else. Sit down in a quiet and comfortable place and think of all that you have been bestowed upon by Allah Almighty; do not ignore even the smallest of things. This activity will make you realize that you are indeed valuable; and will question yourself, “why am I sulking over this (envy) and making my life miserable when I already have so much!”

 

  1. Stop comparing

You must realize that there will be people who will always have it better than you. And then, there will be people who don’t have what you do. Why not compare yourself to them?!

If you compare yourself with those who have what you don’t, you will feel as if you don’t have anything at all. Amazingly, the people who you envy might in turn, be wishing for things that you have! You see, everyone can’t have everything.

Have a look at this hadith and ponder over it. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah. (Ibn Majah)

 

The only time you should look above you is when you see people attaining authentic knowledge of deen and doing good deeds to Please Allah.

 

  1. Avoid people who value the wrong things

Stay away from those who are ‘obsessed’ with and gauge their success with nothing but the latest gadgets, branded clothes, or eating at high-end restaurants, valuing neither time, morals, etiquettes, nor good manners. Instead, choose people who are always grateful to Allah with whatever they have.

 

  1. Beware the consumer culture and materialism

No matter where you look, the marketers will tell you that if you don’t have what your neighbor has then you are the biggest loser. It’s not wrong to be ambitious or struggle to make yourself better and enjoy the blessings of Allah in this world, but it should not be at the expense of your peace of mind and soul.

 

  1. Learn to be happy for people

People enjoy their blessings because Allah planned to give them those blessings in the first place. By not being happy for them, we are actually complaining to Allah of His Will! Instead, congratulate them and give them gifts.

Conversely, ask yourself: How would you feel if people envy you for your blessings?

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Another time, he said, “…Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and enter the garden should die with faith in Allah and the Last Day and should treat the people as he wishes to be treated by them…” (Muslim)

 

  1. Identify the trigger points

Analyze what’s making you envy and feeling insecure. Is it something that you greatly value, something you have been working on too long but haven’t been successful in? Try to work even harder to achieve it and leave the rest to Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices by overbidding against one another; do not hate one another; do not harbor malice against one another; and do not enter into commercial transaction when others have entered into that (transaction); but be you, O slaves of Allah, as brothers. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he look down upon him, nor does he humiliate him. Piety is here, (and he pointed to his chest three times). It is enough evil for a Muslim to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother-in-faith: his blood, his property and his honor”. (Muslim)

 

  1. Make Dua when you hear good news about others

Ask Allah to bless them even more and Protect form from evil eye. Ask Allah to make you content of all His Decisions and bless you with even better than what they have. And the best part is when you make dua for anyone, the angels say Aameen too!

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The supplication of a Muslim for his (Muslim) brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: Aameen! May it be for you too.” (Muslim)

 

  1. Examine your intention and goals

What is it that is making you envy? In what way, will achieving it, make you feel enriched, happy and successful? Why not work on what you already have and excel in it? What can you do, the halal way, to achieve what others have? Does your success truly depend on it? Are you sure you will be ‘happy’ once you achieve what the other person has or enjoys.

Work on these questions so that you can manage these emotions in a positive and productive manner.

 

  1. Belief in Qadr/Allah’s Decree

Allah is the one who blesses everyone with what they are destined for and that which is in their best interest.

“Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? It is We who have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and have raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service. But the mercy of your Lord is better than whatever they accumulate.” (Surah Az-Zukhruf; 43:32)

“And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing.” (Surah An-Nisa; 4:32)

 

  1. Build up your self confidence

Envy is usually a result of low self-esteem. Be confident of who you are, your achievements and your talents. Work on them to achieve greater heights.

 

  1. Life is a Test

Everything in this dunya is a test; difficult times as well as the blessings. If Allah can Give, He can take it back too. Generally, we humans start boasting about our achievements and forget to thank Allah. So thank Allah and succeed in your tests. As Allah mentions in the Holy Quran, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]”. (Surah Ibrahim; 14:7)

 

Bonus: Envy & Social Media

With the increased trend of people updating statuses and sharing posts about each and everything going on in their life, it’s very easy to fall in the trap of feeling inferior to others.

Topper at the university, landing the dream job, marriage, best wedding coverage, best spouse, latest car, huge mansion, branded clothes, baby shower, birthday parties, outings, check-ins, holiday trips, etc. Everything seems so beautiful and complete for such people, doesn’t it?

Know that no one in this dunya is without issues or problems, and such people have their own set of problems too (conversely, due to this self-advertising and over-exposure they may in fact, be inviting the evil eye towards themselves).  So do not worry too much looking at their status and picture updates. They have just as normal a life as anyone else.

 

Recommended Reading:

Diseases of the Hearts and their Cures