How To Deal With Sadness And Worry
The typical person in the developed world battles sadness and worry on a daily basis. At the same time you will often hear similar people comment about how happy and content those who live in underdeveloped Muslim countries appear to be. Even facing extreme poverty, hunger and loss, they repeatedly accept their circumstances without complaint. Why do they not suffer from stress and anxiety? We could accept at face value, that because they face death on a daily basis, everything else pales in comparison or we could look a little deeper and wonder about their relationship with Allah.
In the 21st century religious beliefs do not give the same comfort we would have expected one hundred, fifty or even twenty years ago. We have everything available at our finger tips or at the touch of a button but technology does not hold our hand in the quiet of the night or soothe our fears when our heart beats erratically, and our souls are filled with unreasonable fears and anxiety. The religion of Islam is all about making and keeping a connection with God. Islam instructs us to deal with sadness and worry by turning to Allah with patience, gratitude and trust.
Great Islamic scholar of the 14th century CE, Ibnul Qayyim said that our happiness in this life and our salvation in the Hereafter depend on patience. He explained that having patience meant having the ability to refrain from complaining, or despairing, and also having the ability to control ourselves in times of sadness and worry.
Patience means accepting what is beyond our control. In times of sadness or worry, being able to surrender to the will of God is a relief beyond measure. This does not mean that we sit back and let life pass by without participating. It means striving to please God in all aspects of our lives and at all times bearing in mind that if things don't go the way we planned, or the way we wanted, we accept what Allah has decreed and continue to strive to please Him. Being patient is hard work; it does not always come naturally or easily, however Prophet Muhammad said, "Whoever tries to be patient then Allah will help him to be patient".
Patience and gratitude go hand in hand. Sabr and Shukr, are the Arabic words for patience and gratitude. Exercising patience becomes easier if we count our blessings and be grateful for them. We often forget that blessings from Allah include the air we breathe, the rain that falls from the sky, the sunshine on our faces or the shelter from rain and cold.
There are many ways to express gratitude but the easiest and most useful way is to obey Allah by fulfilling all our Islamic obligations. Simply by following the five pillars of Islam we express our gratefulness to Allah. When we bear witness that, there is no god worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is His final Messenger we are being grateful for being blessed with Islam. When a believer prostrates before God in quiet, joyful prayer, we are expressing gratitude. During the fast of Ramadan, we become thankful for food and water by realizing that God provides our sustenance. If a believer is able to make the pilgrimage to the House of God in Mecca, it is indeed a cause for thankfulness. The Hajj journey can be long, difficult, and expensive.
Practising Islam in the way Allah directed is an expression of patience and gratitude. If we accept and acknowledge as blessings the trials, triumphs, and tribulations of this life we open the way for the annihilation of all our worries and grief. All our experiences, from the highest highs to the lowest lows, are blessings from Allah. When we are overcome by sadness or worry we must turn to Allah, strive to be patient and grateful and put our trust in Allah because Allah is the most trustworthy.
"The believers are only those who, when God is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses (this Quran) are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Lord Alone." (Quran 8:2)
This complete trust in Allah is called tawakkul. It means that we face life's trials, and triumphs knowing that whatever our circumstances Allah knows what is best for us. Our trust in Allah must be constant, in all situations, good, bad, easy, or difficult. Whatever happens in this world is with His permission. Allah provides sustenance and He is able to withdraw it. Allah is the master of life and death; He is also the One who determines whether we are rich or poor, healthy or ill. If we are mindful that Allah has control over all things and that He ultimately wants us to live forever in Paradise, we can begin to leave our sadness and worry behind. If we face our fears and anxieties with complete trust in Allah, and if we show patience and gratitude with all our circumstances sadness and worry will disappear.
Prophet Muhammad said, "How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affair is all good, and this applies to no one except the believer. If something good happens to him, he gives thanks and that is good for him, and if something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience, and that is good for him."[Saheeh Muslim]
In order to live our lives with complete trust in Allah it is necessary to build a relationship with our Creator. In order to deal with the sadness and worry that seems to be a part of everyday life in the developed world we need to rely on Allah. If we put our faith and trust in Him, and bear the trials and tribulations that come our way with sabr and shukr, our outlook on life changes. Of course, we cannot expect to be worry free because facing obstacles is part of the human condition. However facing problems armed with trust in Allah and contentment with His decree for us makes life easier and happier.
You cannot completely trust someone without knowing them well and the same can be said with trusting Allah. Before we submit ourselves to the will of Allah we must know who it is we are submitting to. There are a number of ways that a person can establish a relationship with Allah. In addition staying close to Allah will help us combat the inevitable pains and sorrows that form part of being alive. We will examine just a three of the numerous ways a person can reach out to Allah and cope in times of sorrow and stress.
Calling on Allah by His Most Beautiful Names:
Muslims are encouraged to remember Allah and be grateful to Him at all times, however this can be especially beneficial if one is lost in the depths of despair or even just feeling mildly stressed by the day or the week. We are encouraged to know Allah's Beautiful Names and thus, we are able to know our Creator and are able to call on Him by the Names that are indicative of our needs.
Prophet Muhammad encouraged us to call on Allah by all of His Most Beautiful Names. In his own supplications, he is known to have said, "Oh Allah, I ask you by every name that You have named yourself, or that You have revealed in Your book, or that You have taught any of Your creation, or that You have kept hidden in the unseen knowledge with Yourself".[Imam Ahmad]
"Allah! (None has the right to be worshipped but He)! To Him belong the Best Names." (Quran 20:8)
"And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them ..." (Quran 7:180)
Contemplating the Names of Allah can bring great relief. It makes us realize His greatness and increases our faith. It can also help us focus on being calm and patient. It is important to understand that although the believer is encouraged not to thrash about in grief and anguish or to complain about the stresses and problems, he is encouraged to turn to Allah, supplicate to Him and to ask Him for relief. Using the names of Allah that correspond with the need is also a commendable and calming act.
Making dua at every opportunity:
If a person is feeling distressed it is important to remember that Allah is close by and one effective way to reach Him is by making du'a. When one calls upon the Most Merciful, He (Allah) will respond. "And when My slaves ask you concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright." (Quran 2:186)
Prophet Mohammad taught his followers a dua specifically for those of us feeling sorrowful and distressed.
"There is no-one who is afflicted by distress and grief, and says: Allaahumma inni 'abduka ibnu 'abdika ibnu amatika naasiyati bi yadika, maadhin fiyya hukmuka, 'adlun fiyya qadaa-uka. Asaluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltahu fi kitaabika aw 'allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista-tharta bihi fi 'ilmil-ghaybi 'indaka, 'an taj-'alal-Qur-aana rabee'a qalbi wa noor sadri wa jalaa huzni wa dhahaaba hammi (O Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your male slave, son of Your female servant; my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You have named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any 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, the banisher of my sadness and the reliever of my distress), but Allah will take away his distress and grief, and replace it with joy." He was asked: "O Messenger of Allah, should we learn this?" He said: "Of course; everyone who hears it should learn it."[Imam Ahmad]
Du'a increases faith, gives hope and relief to the distressed and saves the supplicant from despair and isolation. Making sincere du'a is indeed a weapon that can battle even the most serious stress and sorrow. There are countless occasions when the prophets and our righteous predecessors have made du'a and Allah's response was to save them from what was certain danger, calamity or pain.
Understanding the reality of the life of this world:
Often misfortune, pain, and suffering come about because of our own actions. We choose to commit sin, but Allah purifies us through loss of wealth, health or the things we love. Sometimes suffering now, in this world compensates for the suffering in the next life; sometimes all that pain and distress means that we will attain a higher station in Paradise.
Allah knows the ultimate wisdom behind why good things happen to bad people, or why bad things happen to good people. In general, whatever causes us to turn to Allah is good. In times of crisis people are drawn closer to Allah. Allah is the Provider and He is the Most Generous. He wants to reward us with life everlasting and if pain and suffering can bring us closer to Paradise, then ill health and injuries are a blessing. Prophet Muhammad said, "If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials."[Saheeh Al-Bukhari]