Continued from the previous article…
11. One of the most effective ways of finding comfort and contentment is to remember Allah frequently.
Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) has a wonderful effect in calming the soul and relieving stress and worry. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning),
|“… Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [al-Ra’d 13:28]|
The greatest phrase of dhikr that can relieve the distress of death is: “Laa ilaaha ill- Allah (there is no god except Allah).” This is what Talhah told ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him,
|“I heard the Prophet ﷺ say a word which no slave says at the time of death but Allah will ease his distress and brighten his colour. It was only the fear that I might not be able to do it that prevented me from asking him about it before he died.”|
‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “I know what it is.” Talhah asked, “What is it?” ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Do you know any word greater that what he told his uncle to say? – ‘Laa ilaaha ill-Allah’.” Talhah said, “That’s it, by Allah, that’s it!”
12. Seeking refuge in prayer.
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning),
|“And seek help in patience and al-salaat (the prayer)…” [al-Baqarah 2:45]|
|“Whenever the Prophet ﷺ was grieved by something, he used to pray.”|
When Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) heard about the death of his brother, he stopped at the side of the road – as he was on a journey – and prayed, following the command of Allah.
13. Another thing that may dispel worry is jihaad for the sake of Allah.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
| You must strive in jihaad for the sake of Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, for it is one of the gates to Paradise, and Allah dispels worry and distress through it.|
14. Speaking about the blessings of Allah, both those which are obvious and those which are hidden.
Acknowledging them and speaking about them dispels worry and distress. The slave is encouraged to have the attitude of thankfulness, which is the highest level he can reach, even if he is in a state of poverty, sickness or other kinds of misery. If he were to compare the innumerable blessings that Allah has bestowed upon him with the bad thing that has befallen him, he will see that the distress is as nothing in comparison to the blessings. When Allah tests His slave by means of these disasters and miseries, and the slave does his duty of being patient and accepting, then the difficulties become easy for him to bear, and he has the hope of earning reward from Allah for submitting to Him, and being patient and content. This makes bitter things sweet; the sweetness of the reward helps him to forget the bitterness of patience.
One of the most beneficial things in this regard is to follow the advice of the Prophet ﷺ given in the saheeh hadeeth reported by Abu Hurayrah,
|“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Look at those who are below you, not at those who are above you, so that you will not think little of the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you.’”|
If a person keeps this important concept (of looking only at those below him) in mind, he will definitely feel that he is better-off than many others when it comes to good health, physical strength, and provision (rizq) such as food, clothing, shelter, etc., no matter what his situation. So his anxiety and distress will disappear, and he will fell increased happiness and joy in the blessings of Allah which have raised him above others.
The more he thinks about the blessings of Allah, both obvious and hidden, spiritual and worldly, he will see that his Lord has given him many good things, and has lifted from him many bad things. No doubt this too will dispel worries and anxieties, and bring joy and happiness.
15. Keeping oneself busy with useful work or the pursuit of beneficial knowledge.
This will distract a person’s mind from the matter that has been causing anxiety. Maybe then he will forget the causes of his distress, and begin to feel happier and more energetic. This is something which both believers and non-believers may try to do, but the believer is distinguished by the fact of his Iman (faith), his sincerity and his hope for reward when he occupies himself with learning or teaching something useful or doing something beneficial. If he is keeping himself busy with worship, then this is worship, and if he is keeping himself busy with some worldly work or custom, then he tries to accompany it with the right intention, and seeks the help of Allah to do this thing as an act of obedience or worship to Him. Thus his action will be effective in dispelling his anxiety, stress and grief. How many people are suffering from anxiety and constant feelings of depression, which result in various kinds of disease and illness. The right treatment for them was: to forget the thing that caused the depression and worry, and to keep themselves busy with some important work. It was important that the work with which they kept themselves busy was something that they liked to do and looked forward to; this was more effective in bringing about the desired good results. And Allah knows best.
16. Looking for the positive aspects of the events in which he tends to see only things that he dislikes.
Abu Hurayrah said,
|“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘No believing man should hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one aspect of her character, he will be pleased with another.’”|
The benefits of this hadeeth include: lifting anxiety and stress, preserving tranquility, continued upholding of the duties which are either obligatory or encouraged, and the achievement of peace between the two parties. Anyone who is not guided by the Prophet’s words, but does the opposite, will see only the negative aspects of a situation, and will be blinded to the positive aspects. So it is inevitable that he will become anxious and depressed, the relationships between him and those with whom he is in close contact will turn sour, and he will neglect many of the mutual duties that both parties should pay attention to.
17. Understanding the true value and shortness of this life, and that time is too precious to be wasted in stress and anxiety
The wise person understands that his true life is one of joy and contentment. Life is very short, and he should not let himself get carried away with distress and depression that will make it even shorter. This goes against the true idea of life, so he is reluctant to spend too much of his life in distress and depression. In this regard, there is little difference between the righteous and the rebellious, but the believer can achieve this in the best way, in a way that benefits him both in this world and in the Hereafter. When misfortune strikes, or when he is afraid of something bad happening to him, he should also compare the blessings that he enjoys, both spiritual and worldly, with whatever misfortune has befallen him. When he does this, he will see just how much blessing he has, and the bad things will be put into perspective. Similarly, he can make a comparison between the thing he fears will harm him and the far greater possibility that he will be kept safe from it: the faint possibility that he may be harmed is far outweighed by the greater positive possibilities, and so his anxiety will be relieved. He takes into account the most likely scenario so that he can try to prepare himself in case it does happen, and he takes measures to protect himself against things that have not happened, or to alleviate or reduce the impact of things that have happened.
18. Another beneficial measure is not to allow one’s work and other duties to accumulate.
This means taking decisive action immediately, so that one is free to deal with whatever comes up in the future, because things that are not dealt with immediately pile up and are added to previous work that should have been done, thus making the burden even heavier. If you deal with everything at the right time, you will be free to deal with whatever lies ahead with a focused mind and adequate strength.
You should prioritize your work in order of importance, and try to choose things that interest you and that you enjoy, otherwise you will become bored and fed up. You can help yourself to achieve this by thinking clearly and consulting others, for one need never regret consultation. Study what you want to do in depth, and once you are sure about what action is needed to achieve your interest and have resolved to go ahead, then put your trust in Allah, for Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.
19. Constantly anticipating and being prepared for all possibilities.
If a person is prepared for the possibility of the loss of a loved one, the sickness of a relative, incurring a debt, being overpowered by an enemy, or any other unpleasant possibility that has not yet happened – whilst seeking refuge with Allah and hoping to be safe from it – then if his fears materialize, their impact will not be so great because he has already anticipated them and prepared himself to deal with them.
One important point that we should make is the fact that many ambitious people are prepared to deal with major calamities in a calm and patient manner, but they are unduly worried and stressed by trivial problems. The reason for this is that they prepare themselves to face major problems, but forget to prepare themselves to cope with minor troubles, which consequently cause them harm. The prudent person prepares himself to deal with both major and minor problems, and asks Allah to help him and not leave him to deal with it by himself for even the blink of an eye. Thus both major and minor troubles become easier to bear, and he remains calm and serene.
20. Another remedy is to complain to religious scholars and ask them for advice.
Their advice and opinions are among the things that can be of the greatest help in remaining steadfast at times of calamity. The Sahaabah used to complain to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ about the torture they were suffering.
Khabbaab ibn al-Aratt (may Allah be pleased with him) said,
|“We complained to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ when he was reclining on his cloak in the shade of the Ka’bah. We said to him: ‘Why do you not ask Allah to help us (grant us victory)? Why do you not pray to Allah for us?’ He said, ‘A man from the people before you would be placed in a hole dug for him, then they would bring a saw and cut his head in two, yet that would not make him renounce his faith. They would use an iron comb to drag the flesh and nerves from his bones, yet that would not make him renounce his faith. By Allah, this matter will be completed (i.e. Islam will be perfected and will prevail) until a rider travelling from Sana’aa’ to Hadramawt will fear nobody but Allah or the attack of a wolf on his sheep, but you are too impatient.’”|
The Taabi’een also complained to the Sahaabah. Al-Zubayr ibn ‘Adiyy said,
|“We came to Anas ibn Maalik and complained to him about what we were suffering at the hands of al-Hajjaaj. He told us: ‘Be patient, for there will come no time but the time after it is worse, until you meet your Lord. I heard that from your Prophet ﷺ.’”|
So the Muslim will hear from the scholars and leader’s words which will help him and alleviate his pain, distress and anxiety.
Similarly, one can also seek the help of sincere brothers, wise relatives and faithful spouses. When Faatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) felt distress, she complained to her husband ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him). ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) tells us the story: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ came to visit Faatimah, but he found a curtain over her door, so he did not enter. It was very rare for him to enter without greeting her so when ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) came, he saw that she was worried and upset. He asked, “What is the matter?” She said, “The Prophet ﷺ came to me, but he did not come in.” So ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) went to him and said: “O Messenger of Allah, Faatimah feels very upset because you came to her but you did not come in.” He said, “I have nothing to do with these worldly things and fancy decorations.” So ‘Ali went to told Faatimah what the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had said. She said, “Ask the Messenger of Allah ﷺ what I should do with it.” He said, “Tell her to send it to Banu So-and-so.” (It was a curtain that was decorated with embroidery and so on)
Going to a man who is wise and has sound opinions can also help to dispel anxiety.
Al-Mugheerah, the freed slave of al-Waleed, said,
|“I entered upon al-Waleed and found him looking worried. I asked, ‘What is worrying you, O Ameer al-Mu’mineen?’ He said, ‘The number of Muslims has increased, and the mosque is becoming too small for them. I offered them money for the rest of this church, so that I could take it and add it to the mosque, to make the place big enough for the Muslims, but they refused.’ Al-Mugheerah said: ‘O Ameer al-Mu’mineen, I have an idea that may relieve your worry.’ He asked, ‘What is it?’ I said: ‘When the Sahaabah took Damascus, Khaalid ibn al-Waleed entered through the Eastern Gate, conquering by the sword. When the people heard of this, they rushed towards Abu ‘Ubaydah (who was laying siege to another gate of the city), asking him for protection. He granted them protection, so they opened the Gate of Jaabiyah for him. Abu ‘Ubaydah entered peacefully, having made a truce with the people. We should find out how far the military seizure of land reached, and take it, but the areas covered by the truce should be left in their hands. I hope that all of the church will be on land seized militarily, so that you can incorporate it into the mosque.’ Al-Waleed said: ‘You have made me feel much better. Take care of this matter yourself.’ So al-Mugheerah took care of it; he surveyed the area extending from the Eastern Gate towards the Gate of Jaabiyah, as far as Sooq al-Rayhaan, and found that the military seizure of territory had continued as far as a little more than four cubits beyond the Great Arch, so the church could be incorporated into the mosque. So al-Waleed sent word to the Christians to tell them: ‘The whole of this church lies in the territory which was seized militarily, so it belongs to us, not to you.’ They said: ‘Initially you offered us money and land, and we refused. Be generous and give us what you offered us originally, so that we may settle this matter peaceably, and we will give you the rest of the church.’ So the matter was settled peaceably.” [Al-Badaayah wa’l-Nihaayah fi Seerat al-Waleed]|
21. The person who is distressed or worried should know that after hardship comes ease.
So he should think positively and realize that Allah will make a way out for him. The more intense his stress and depression is, the closer he is to relief and a way out.
Allah says in Soorat al-Sharh (interpretation of the meaning),
|“So verily, with the hardship, there is relief, verily, with the hardship, there is relief.” [al-Sharh 94:5-6]|
In effect, hardship is mentioned once, and relief is mentioned twice, because the definite article (“al”) indicates that the hardship mentioned in the first aayah quoted is the same as that mentioned in the second, whereas the fact that relief is mentioned in an indefinite form (with tanween) shows that the relief mentioned in the second aayah is different from that mentioned in the first.
The Prophet ﷺ advised Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father),
| Know that victory (or achievement) comes through patience, and that ease comes through hardship…|
22. Another remedy for distress is certain kinds of food.
Al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) reports that ‘Aa’ishah used to order talbeen for people who were sick or had been stricken by tragedy, and she would say,
|“I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say, ‘Talbeen warms the heart of the sick person and alleviates some of a person’s grief.’”|
Al-Bukhari also narrated from ‘Aa’ishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ that whenever a member of her family died, and the women gathered together then dispersed, except for her family and close friends, she would ask for a pot of talbeen, then she would cook it, make thareed [a dish of sopped bread, meat and broth] and pour the talbeen over it, then tell the women: “Eat from it, for I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say that talbeen is the cure for the heart of the sick person and alleviates some of a person’s grief.”
Talbeen is a soup or broth made from flour or bran to which honey is added. It is called talbeen because it resembles milk (laban). It is cooked from ground barley.
Saying that it is a cure for the heat of the sick person means that it relaxes him, gives him energy and alleviates his grief and distress.
Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) reported that ‘Aa’ishah said,
|“Whenever the Messenger of Allah ﷺ heard that someone was sick or in pain, and not eating, he would say: ‘You should make talbeen and let him sip it. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, it will cleanse the stomach of any one of you just as you wash the dirt from your faces with water.’”|
Al-Tirmidhi reported that ‘Aa’ishah said,
|“Whenever any member of his family fell ill, he would order that soup or broth be made for them, then he would tell them to sip it. He used to say, ‘It makes the grieving heart strong and cleanses the heart of the sick person, just as any of you cleanses the dirt from her face with water.’”|
Even though some people might find this strange, this is a true matter, as it has been proven to be part of the Revelation conveyed by the infallible Prophet ﷺ. Allah has created all kinds of food, and He knows best their characteristics, so the soup of barley mentioned in the hadeeth is one of the types of food that make people feel better. And Allah knows best.
With regard to the method of cooking this food for the person who is physically sick or whose heart is stricken with grief, Ibn Hijr (may Allah have mercy on him) said,
|“What suits the sick person is the water from barley that has been cooked whole, and what suits the grieving person is the water from ground barley that has been cooked. And Allah knows best.”|
WRITINGS OF IMMAM IBN AL-QAYYIM ON TREATING DISTRESS & GRIEF
Following this discussion of cures, we will pause to look briefly at the list written by Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) in which he lists fifteen kinds of remedies through which Allah may alleviate distress and grief:
1. Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah (Unity of Divine Lordship)
2. Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah (Unity of Divinity)
3. Unity of belief, i.e. Tawheed al-Asmaa’ wa’l-Siffaat (Unity of the Divine Names and Attributes)
4. To declare that Allah is far above mistreating His slave or punishing him without any cause on the part of the slave himself.
5. Admission on the part of the slave that he is the wrongdoer
6. Beseeching Allah by the best of things, which are His Names and Attributes. Among the most comprehensive in meaning of His Names and Attributes are the Names al-Hayyu (the Ever-Living), al-Qayoom (the Eternal)
7. Seeking the help of Allah Alone
8. Putting one’s hope in Allah
9. Putting one’s trust in Allah and handing over all one’s affairs to Him, recognizing that one’s forelock is in His hand, that Allah runs all one’s affairs as He wills, that His command is ever executed and that His decree is just.
10. Reading Qur’an and pondering its meaning, seeking consolation in it for all disasters, and seeking a cure in it for all diseases of the heart (i.e., spiritual or psychological diseases) for it washes away grief and heals his distress and anxiety.
11. Seeking the forgiveness of Allah
13. Jihaad (striving for the sake of Allah)
14. Salaat (prayer)
15. Admitting that one has no power or strength at all, and attributing them to the One Who holds them in His hand.
We ask Allah, may He be exalted, to keep us safe from distress, to grant us relief from depression and to alleviate our worries, for He is the All-Hearing Who answers prayers, He is the Ever-Living, Eternal.
Finally, let us remind ourselves that no matter how great and how numerous the worries and distress of this world may be, the distress and anguish of the Hereafter will be far greater. This includes that which will befall all people when they are gathered all together for Judgement. Al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) reported from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
| I will be the master of all people on the Day of Resurrection. Do you know why I will be the master of all people? Allah will gather together all the people, the first and the last of them in one place, in such a way that if a caller calls out to them, they will all hear him, and they will all be seen at once. The sun will be brought close to them, and they will feel more distress than they can bear. People will say, ‘Can you see what has happened to you? Won’t you see who can intercede for you with your Lord?’ Then some of them will say to others, ‘Let’s go to Adam…’|
There will be no cure for distress and anguish on that Day unless one turns to Allah today.
May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his Family and Companions, who are the best of people. Praise be to Allah Who is overtaken by neither slumber nor sleep.(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)