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 Dealing with Worries and Stress

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PostSubject: Dealing with Worries and Stress   Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:49 pm

Dealing with Worries and Stress

English Translation

Book by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

Introduction
Kinds of Worry and Stress
Islam's Treatment for Anxiety and Worry
Writings of Immam Ibn al-Qayyim on Treating Distress and Grief
Du'aa' (Supplication)
Reminder

1. Introduction:

Praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, the Master of the Day of Judgement. I bear witness that there is no god but He, the Lord of the earlier and later generations and Sustainer of heaven and earth. Peace and blessings be upon the one who was sent as a Mercy to the worlds. I bear witness that he is the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Peace and blessings be upon him, upon all his Family and Companions, and upon those who believe in his guidance and follow in his footsteps until the Day of Judgement.

It is the nature of this life that people will suffer from worries and stress, because this world is the place of disease, hardship and suffering. Hence among the things that distinguish Paradise from this world is the fact that there is no worry or stress there: “No sense of fatigue shall touch them, nor shall they (ever) be asked to leave.” [al-Hijr 15:48 – interpretation of the meaning]. Nothing ever upsets the people of Paradise, not even the slightest word: “No laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk) will they hear therein, nor any sinful speech (like backbiting, etc.), but only the saying of Salaam! Salaam! (greetings with peace).” [al-Waaqi’ah 56:25-26 – interpretation of the meaning].

It is also the nature of this life that people have to put up with suffering and hardship for various reasons, as is indicated in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “Verily, We have created man in toil.” [al-Balad 90:4]. So people feel regret for what has happened in the past, anxious about what may happen in the future, and worried about what is going on in the present.

The things that cross our minds and make us feel distressed are things in the past that have caused grief, things in the future that we are worried about, and things in the present which concern us.

People react differently to stress and worries, depending on how many things are concerning them, whether the worry is continuous or not, and on whether they have faith in their hearts or are rebellious and sinful. We may describe people’s hearts as being of two types: either the heart is the throne of Allaah, filled with light, life, happiness, joy and all the treasures of goodness; or it is the throne of Shaytaan, wherein is distress, darkness, death, grief, worry and anxiety.

People’s worries and concerns will also differ, according to the differences in their motivations, circumstances and individual responsibilities.

One type of worry or concern is that which may be described as worthwhile worries that are a good sign, such as a scholar’s anxiety to resolve difficult issues concerning which the Muslims need an answer – especially when the matter is very serious and there appears to be no solution. Another example is the concern of the Muslim leader about the problems of the people under his care. This is what made the two ‘Umars (i.e. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez) and other leaders worried and anxious. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab used to think about how to prepare the army whilst he was praying, and he was excused for that; he also used to worry about the animals stumbling in the land of ‘Iraaq. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez used to express his suffering thus: “I am dealing with something with which no one could help me except Allaah. The elderly have reached the ends of their lives with it (in this situation), the youth have grown up with it; the foreigners have learnt Arabic and the Bedouin have migrated to the cities in these circumstances. [It is so well-entrenched] that they think this is religion, and they can see the truth nowhere else but in this.” When the khilaafah passed to him and the people gave their bay’ah (oath of allegiance) to him, he came home, feeling anxious and stressed. His freed slave said to him: “Why do I see you so anxious and stressed? This is not how you should be on such an occasion as this.” He said, “Woe to you! How could I not be anxious when there is no one in the East nor the West of this ummah who is not demanding his rights of me or asking me to help settle some matter with another person, whether he writes down his request or not, whether he asks me directly or not?”

The more any decision had to do with the fate of the Muslims, the greater the anxiety and stress involved. Hence when ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf was entrusted with the task of selecting the next khaleefah for the Muslims, after the death of ‘Umar, he did not sleep during that period, because he was so busy consulting the Muslims, even the old women.

Other types of commendable concern include: the concern of the dai’yah who is striving to spread Islam and convey the message, guiding others to the path of Guidance; the concern of the worshipper to ensure that his worship is correct both in intention and practice; and the concern of the Muslim for the suffering of his brothers in faith throughout the world…

Kinds of anxieties that may result from committing sin include: the distress suffered after shedding blood wrongfully; or the anxiety of a woman who is pregnant as a result of fornication or adultery.

Kinds of distress that result from wrongful treatment at the hands of others include that suffered because of mistreatment by one's own relatives, as the poet said: “The wrong suffered at the hands of those who are closely-related is more painful to bear than a blow from a powerful sword.”

Distress suffered because of the calamities that happen in this world include: chronic or serious diseases, disobedience of children towards their parents, hostility on the part of one’s wife or mistreatment on the part of one’s husband.

Some kinds of anxiety result from fears about what may lie ahead in the future, for example a father may be worried about what will happen to his children after he dies, especially if they are weak and he has nothing to leave behind for them.

These are a few examples of different kinds of stress and worry. We will discuss the matter in further detail below:

[ Table of Contents ]

2. Kinds of Stress and Worry:

The distress suffered by the dai’yah when he calls his people to Islam. The Prophets had more than their fair share of this kind of stress. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) told her nephew (the son of her sister) ‘Urwah that she asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Did you ever suffer any day worse than the day of Uhud?” He said: “I suffered what I suffered at the hands of your people, and the worst that I suffered from them was on the day of ‘Aqabah, when I had made an appeal to Ibn ‘Abd Yaalayl ibn ‘Abd Kalaal and he did not respond in the way I had hoped for. I left him, hardly knowing where I was going, and I did not realize where I was until I had reached Qarn al-Tha’aalib. I raised my head, and saw a cloud which was shading me. I looked in it, and saw Jibraa’eel, who called to me and said: ‘Allaah has heard what your people have said to you, and their response to you. He has sent to you the Angel of the Mountains, to do whatever you tell him to do to them.’ Then the Angel of the Mountains called to me, greeted me, and said, ‘O Muhammad, if you wish, I will crush them between two mountains.’” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Rather, I hope that Allaah will bring forth from their descendents people who will worship Allaah alone and not associate anything with Him.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) suffered similar distress when his people disbelieved his account of his Night Journey (Israa’). Muslim (may Allaah have mercy on him) narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I found myself in the Hijr (an area in the Haram in Makkah, near the Ka’bah), and Quryash were asking me about my Night Journey, questions about Bayt al-Maqdis that I was not sure of. I felt more distressed and anxious than I had ever felt, then Allaah raised it for me so that I could see what they were asking me about and answer all their questions…”

Concern about acts of worship. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was very concerned about telling people about salaat (prayer). Abu ‘Umayr ibn Anas reported from his (paternal) uncles among the Ansaar that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was worried about how to gather the people together for prayers. Someone suggested that he set up a flag, so that people would see it and tell one another, but he did not like this idea. Another suggestion was a ram’s horn (the shofar of the Jews), but he did not like this idea, and said, “This belongs to the Jews.” Someone else suggested a bell, but he said, “This belongs to the Christians.” ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Zayd ibn ‘Abd Rabbihi went away, worrying about the concern of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he was shown the adhaan (call to prayer) in a dream. The next morning he came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and told him about it: “O Messenger of Allaah, whilst I was half asleep and half awake, someone came to me and showed me the adhaan…”

The anxiety faced by the truthful person when he is disbelieved. This happened to the great Sahaabi Zayd ibn al-Arqam (may Allaah be pleased with him), when he heard the chief of the munaafiqeen (hypocrites) saying to his colleagues: “When we return to Madeenah, the one who has pride and power will expel the one who is humiliated” (meaning that the “one who has pride and power” was himself, and the “one who is humilated” was the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the people with him). Zayd said: “I told my (paternal) uncle, and he went and informed the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent for (the chief of the munaafiqeen, ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Ubayy), who swore that he had said no such thing. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) believed him and not me. My uncle came to me and scolded me: “All you wanted was for the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the Muslims to hate you and disbelieve you!” I felt extreme anxiety and stress, such as no one has ever suffered. When I was on a journey with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), I hung my head with worry. Then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came up to me, tweaked my ear, and smiled at me. I felt happy in a way that I would not exchange immortal life in this world for that feeling. Then Abu Bakr caught up with me and asked me what the Messenger of Allaah had said to me. I said, ‘He did not say anything, but he tweaked my ear and smiled at me.’ He told me, ‘ Be of good cheer!’ Then ‘Umar caught up with me and I told him what I had told Abu Bakr. The next morning, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) recited Soorat al-Munaafiqoon to us.’”

According to a report narrated by Muslim, which tells the same story, Zayd said: “I came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and told him about it. He sent for ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Ubayy and asked him about it, but he insisted and swore that he had done no such thing, saying, ‘Zayd is telling lies to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ I felt very hurt because of what they said, until Allaah revealed words confirming that I had spoken the truth (interpretation of the meaning): ‘When the hypocrites come to you…’ [al-Munaafiqoon 63:1]”

The anxiety suffered by an innocent person when false accusations are made. An example of this is what happened to ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) when the munaafiqoon accused her of sin during the campaign of Muraysi’. She was ill, and when she heard the news of the rumours from one of the women of her household, she became even sicker, and felt very distressed. She said: “I said, ‘Subhaan-Allaah! Are people talking about that?’ I wept all night, until morning, and never slept; my tears never stopped falling. Then I wept all day, and never slept; my tears never stopped falling. My parents came to me the next morning, after I had cried for two nights and a day, without ceasing and without sleeping. They thought that this weeping would kill me. Whilst they were sitting with me, and I was crying, a woman of the Ansaar asked permission to see me. I gave her permission, and she sat down, weeping with me. Whilst we were sitting thus, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came in, greeted us, and sat down. He had not come to visit me since the rumours had started, and for a month there had been no Revelation concerning my situation. Whilst he was sitting there, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) recited the Shahaadah, then he said: ‘O ‘Aa’ishah, I have heard such-and-such about you. If you are innocent, Allaah will prove your innocence, and if you did commit a sin, then ask for Allaah’s forgiveness and repent to Him, for when the slave admits his sin and repents to Allaah, Allaah will accept his repentance. When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had finished what he had to say, my tears stopped completely, and I said to my father: ‘Respond to what the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has said.’ He said, ‘By Allaah, I do not know what I should say to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ I said to my mother: ‘Respond to what the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has said.’ She said, ‘By Allaah, I do not know what I should say to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ I said: ‘I am only a young girl and I do not know much of the Qur’aan. By Allaah, I have nothing to say to you except the words of the father of Yoosuf: “… So (for me) patience is most fitting. And it is Allaah (Alone) Whose help can be sought against that which you assert.” [Yoosuf 12:18].’ Then I turned away and lay down on my bed. Then Allaah revealed (interpretation of the meaning): ‘Verily! Those who brought forth the slander (against ‘Aa’ishah) are a group among you. Consider it not a bad thing for you…’” [al-Noor 24:11 – see complete passage, aayat 11 to 20].

Before ‘Aa’ishah’s time, Maryam bint ‘Imraan had suffered a great deal of stress and anxiety because she became pregnant without being married. Her distress reached such an extent that: “…She said: ‘Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!’” [Maryam 19:23 – interpretation of the meaning]. She spoke thus because she knew that people would accuse her and not believe her when she came to them with a child in her arms, because she had been one of the devoted female worshippers who lived in seclusion close to the mosque, and she came from a very religious household and was descended from Prophets. Because of all this, she bore such a great burden of anxiety that she wished that she had died before this happened to her, or that she “had been forgotten and out of sight,” in other words, that she had never been created at all.

Another example is the story of the women who was accused unjustly. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) told her story: “A black woman who belonged to some of the Arabs became Muslim. She had a cubicle in the mosque. She used to come to us and talk with us, and when she had finished conversing with us, she told us: ‘The day of the wishaah (an ornamented girdle worn by women) was one of the wonders of our Lord. Indeed, it is He Who saved me from the land of kufr (disbelief).’” When she repeated this several times, ‘Aa’ishah asked her, “What was the day of the girdle?” She said: “A young girl who belonged to some of my people went out wearing a girdle made of leather. She dropped it, and a kite (a kind of hawk) came and swooped it up, thinking that it was a piece of meat. They accused me of taking it, and they began to punish me, to the extent that they even searched my private parts. Whilst they were surrounding me and I was in that state of distress, the kite flew back over our heads and dropped the belt. They picked it up, and I said to them: ‘This is what you accused me of, and I was innocent!’”

A man’s worry about what may happen to his wife and children after his death. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) reported that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to say: “One of the things that concerns me is what will happen to you [his wives] after my death, for none will be able to take care of you properly except those who are truly patient.”

Anxiety because of a loan. An example of this is what happened to al-Zubayr (may Allaah be pleased with him), whose story was told by his son ‘Abd-Allaah ibn al-Zubayr: “When al-Zubayr stood up to fight at the Battle of the Camel, he called me, so I went and stood by his side. He said: ‘O my son, no-one will be killed today except one who is a wrongdoer or one to whom wrong is done. I can see that I will die today as one to whom wrong is done. My greatest concern is my debts – do you think that any of our wealth will be left after paying off our debts? O my son, sell our property and pay off our debts.’” ‘Abd-Allaah said: “He started to advise me what to do about his debt, and told me: ‘O my son, if you are unable to pay off anything, seek the help of my mawlaa.’ By Allaah, I did not know what he meant until I asked, ‘O my father, who is your mawlaa?’ He said: ‘Allaah.’ By Allaah, every time I felt distress because of difficulty in paying off his debt, I prayed, ‘O Mawlaa of al-Zubayr, pay off his debt,’ and Allaah paid it off…’” ‘Abd-Allaah ibn al-Zubayr said: “I calculated how much he owed, and found it to be two million and two hundred thousand… (some of al-Zubayr’s friends did not think it possible to pay off such a great debt, but Allaah greatly blessed some land belonging to al-Zubayr, and surprisingly enough, when it was divided up and sold off, there was enough to pay off the debt and have something left over)…Al-Zubayr had four wives: one-third of his wealth was put aside for them, and each wife got one million and two hundred thousand. The total sum of his wealth was fifty million and two hundred thousand.”

Anxiety caused by dreams. This happened to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as he said: “Whilst I was sleeping, the treasures of the earth were brought to me, and two armlets of gold were placed on my arms. That distressed me, but Allaah revealed to me that I should blow them away, so I did so, and they disappeared. I interpreted them as being the two liars whom I am facing, the one in Sana’aa’ and the one in al-Yamaamah.”

Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) also felt distress because of a dream which he saw. He told us about it: “Some men among the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to see dreams at the time of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). They used to tell him about them, and he would say ‘Ma sha’ Allaah.’ I was a young boy, and I used to live in the mosque before I got married. I said to myself, ‘If you were any good, you would have seen something like these people have seen.’ When I lay down that night, I said, ‘O Allaah, if You see any good in me, then let me see a dream.’ Then two angels came to me, each of whom was holding an iron bridle in his hand. They dragged me to Hell, and I was praying, ‘O Allaah, I seek refuge with you from Hell.’ Then I dreamt that I was met by another angel, who was also holding an iron bridle in his hand. He said, ‘Do not worry, you are a good man, if only you prayed more.’ They took me to the edge of Hell, and it was shaped like a well with horns; between every two horns was an angel holding an iron bridle. I saw in it men suspended upside down from chains, and I recognized some men of Quraysh. Then they led me off towards the right. I told Hafsah about it, and Hafsah told the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). (According to a report narrated by Muslim: “When I woke up, I felt worried and scared about what I had seen, so I asked Hafsah about it, and she said, ‘It is good, what you have seen.’ I said to her, ‘Ask the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about it,’ so she asked him.”) The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘ ‘Abd-Allaah is a righteous man, if only he prayed at night.’” Naafi’ said: “After that, he always prayed a great deal.”

Islam prescribes a number of ways to deal with the distress that results from seeing nightmares and frightening dreams.

Having described a number of kinds of distress and anxiety experienced in this world, we will now discuss ways of dealing with them.

Undoubtedly the first thing we should mention when discussing worries and anxiety is: ‘aqeedah (belief) and eeman (faith), and the effects they have on dealing with stress. One can see many of the kuffaar and Muslims who are weak in faith suffering breakdowns and committing suicide in an effort to rid themselves of depression, frustration and despair when they get into trouble or when disaster strikes. Hospitals are full of patients who are suicidal or have suffered nervous breakdowns, or other kinds of psychological trauma. These problems affect many of those who are strong, let alone those who are weak. How often they lead to complete incapacity and loss of sanity!

The person who has been guided to Islam, if his ‘aqeedah is sound and his eemaan is strong, will find the cure in that which has come from Allaah, the All-Knowing and All-Aware, Who created all things and Who knows best what befits His creation. “Should not He Who has created know? And He is the Most Kind and Courteous (to His slaves) All-Aware (of everything).” [al-Mulk 67:14 – interpretation of the meaning].
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