By Umm Ibrahim
It’s raining. My mind is working on overdrive. It seems to be the perfect time to write! I need to pen down some things- some things I really need to reiterate to myself and that you really need to know too. Let me tell you something: I seem to be stuck in a rut since years. There’s this problem that refuses to solve itself, it gets better for a while- and then returns to just being more complicated. There have been countless nights crying in the pillow or on the musalla, or just pacing around in the bedroom.
Think of your own problems- a loved one’s death, a disease, a rift in the family, a divorce, that rishta, that job, that opposition, those cutting remarks, the repeated failures- whatever it is, when we brood on our troubles, we start to feel really down and depressed. I’m going to share some cutting-edge techniques with you to cope with sadness, to fight your depression, to chase away the blues and live a happy and contented life, despite things going wrong as they often will. I’ve tried and tested them all over the years. They work. So here goes:
1- Complain to Allah only:
Acknowledge the problem; acknowledge the way you are feeling and describe it to Allah. It’ll make you feel lighter. When you need to complain, turn only to Him, and put your trust and hope in Him. As Prophet Yaqub said in troubled times,
“I only complain of my distraction and anguish to Allah, and I know from Allah that which ye know not.” (Surah Yusuf: ayah 86)
Resist the temptation to whine in front of people. Ibn al-Qayyim quoted an Arab poet in his book al-Fawaid, who said:
When you complain to a son of Adam
Verily you complain about the Most Merciful
to the one who does not pity
2- Read the Quran
If you could just leave the other 10 things and do this one- read the Quran with understanding, it would suffice. In it, you will find all the answers and all the solutions. Let Allah speak to you and realign your thoughts and emotions. I sometimes open the Quran at a random page and read for a few lines until an ayah comes which seems to jump out at you, console you and light your way and give you renewed hope.
My personal favourite Surahs in times of sadness are: Surah ash-Sharh, Surah at-Talaq and Surah Yusuf. (They merit another post inshaAllah)
For now, I’ll just share some of my favourite verses from these Surahs. Allah promises in Surah ash-Sharh:
“So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief:
Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (Surah ash-Sharh: ayah 5-6)
And in Surah at-Talaq, He makes the promise:
..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. (Surah at-Talaq: ayah 2-3)
As for the extremly beautiful and moving story of Prophet Yusuf, it just leaves me stunned and bedazzled by the Mercy and Power of Allah every single time.
These are just a few sneak-peaks. The point is: there is no better anti-depressant in the market, no exercise, no strategy, nothing that can come close to the healing power of the Quran.
3- Dua and Istighfar
Seeking Allah’s forgiveness in tough times calms your heart. It saves you from the “Why me?” victimhood mentality. As you remember your sins, and admit that He is the Most Merciful, and that whatever befalls you is a product of your own deeds, you reap multiple benefits- one of which is described in the Hadith:
If anyone continually asks pardon, Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide for him from where he did not reckon. (Abu Dawud)
Call out to Him in prostration and in the last third of the night; He will respond. Remember to be sincere and stay connected to Him in the good times as well as the bad times. To turn away in the good days is very fickle.
4- Fast- Forward Technique
This is something very useful that I learnt from the Productive Muslim website (http://productivemuslim.com/the-fast-forward-technique/). Basically, I mentally fast-forward 5 or 10 years, (time flies anyway) and see how bad this situation would seem at that time. Better still, fast forward to the Day of Judgment, or to the gardens of Jannah where you’re chilling with the Sahaba, sipping Salsabeel! Would this trivial, stupid problem matter then!?
Another variation is the ‘Zoom Out’ technique, in which instead of staring at the cause of grief and worry, you zoom out to focus on the aspects of life that are working out well. And then further zoom out to see the millions of lives, with their sorrows and joys, around you that Allah is nurturing and taking care of perfectly.
5- Spend Time with Good Friends
Resist the urge to stay home and brood. Take your personal time for worship and introspection. But also hang out with good friends who can lift your spirits. Have a good time. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t be bogged down by your problems and worries. You need to re-energize and rejuvenate. Give yourself a break! According to the Hadith,
“A good friend…is like a perfume-seller… He might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
6- Throw in the Humour
This is also a good way to cope. If you can laugh despite your problems, or better still if you can laugh at your problems, you will find it very difficult to be overwhelmed by troubles. Try to see the lighter side of life. Smile often. Try to keep a cheerful countenance even if you don’t feel like it. the Prophet (Sallalahu alaihi wasallam) had to deal with immense grief, yet one of the Companions, Abdullah ibn Harith says:
I did not see anyone who smiled more than the Messenger of Allah. (Shamail Tirmidhi)
7- Live in the moment
Most of the time we’re either grieving (about something that happened in the past) or worrying (about something that might happen in the future). The most important time- the present- is wasted in this process. If you just forget the past and the future for a moment and live in the present, your grief and worry will evaporate. Grab the little moments of happiness: the smell after rain, the taste of fresh oranges, the laughter of a baby, the blooming of a flower, the Eman rush of sujood (prostration). Tune your mind to live in the present. Make peace with your past; let bygones be bygones. As for the future, entrust it in Allah’s Hand. His Plan will work out perfectly.
8- Remember Death
Your death is a calamity that makes every other calamity pale in significance for you. It also puts things – happy and sad- in perspective. What will matter then? What will benefit you after the death?
Similarly, the Day of Reckoning is a worry that makes all other worries seem laughable. Preparing for it makes you gain your focus and prioritize and take control of your life.
9- Get busy in Productive activities
The idle mind, as they say, is the Devil’s workshop. Instead of moping around, get up and do beneficial things that you enjoy doing. Keep yourself busy. Make a positive difference in the world. Volunteer for Youth Club. 😉
Volunteer at an orphanage or a hospital. Help others out. One of the many benefits of this activity will be, as described in the Hadith:
“Allah will help the slave so long as the slave helps his brother.” (Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh)
10- Look at those below you
This is an added benefit of visiting orphanages and hospitals. When you see the sufferings of others, you realize how blessed you are, and how less of a right you have to whine. People are being killed, tortured, and raped this very moment. Children are dying because of hunger and thirst. You, my friend, are better than millions on the face of this planet. Will you take all this for granted? Will you dismiss the hundred blessings and feel sad and worried because of just one problem, one trial that Allah tested you with? Allah’s Messenger (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) said:
“Look at those who stand at a lower level than you but don’t look at those who stand at a higher level than you, for this would make the favours (conferred upon you by Allah) insignificant (in your eyes).” (Sahih Muslim)
11- See the positive side
If you lost one limb, you could have lost both. If one child has become wayward, the others could have followed too. If your love ditched you, your faith could have departed too. Whatever you are facing could have been much worse. Thank Allah. Keep hope alive. Stay Strong.
Oh, and #12 would be: write. Writing is therapy. I feel much better actually. If you have benefited too, that is just an added bonus! 😛
It has stopped raining too. The sun is shining brightly. Glorified and Exalted is Allah. He can change the night into the day when He wills. He can bring forth a new and brighter day whenever He wills.