Be positive – Put your hope in Allah

Path.Woods_“Think positively!” is the most common phrase. I used to hear this every single day. I was a girl who used to curse fate and life for everything that went wrong. I was depressed, spiritually weak, and distressed; I used to blame myself for my ill-fate and for every mishap. I was always a good student, but soon the turmoil deepened its root, and I started to lose my grades. The good girl turned into a bad irritable girl, but soon found peace within herself.

The peace-hunt

It sounds so easy to get close to Allah (swt), but actually, it is the most difficult journey. All you have to face is total guilt. I faced myself going back to my past- it seemed like I started living in hell having vicious flash backs. My heart sank, my brain struck with pain. I wanted to get rid of my past, and still, I am trying to get rid of it. But trust me- it’s more peaceful than before. I feel I am half washed and half pure because I am trying.

Maybe my story is not that strong, but all I believe is that trying and getting close to Allah (swt) will not just enlighten your heart, but it will also stabilize your soul.

I am the luckiest person living on earth, and I am sure you will be the next.
Hold on to Allah (swt), this is all we need for success…

“Some found Allah (swt) in the depth of their sin.” This is what I love to relate with myself.

People often get too depressed for what they had been doing in the past, and they lose hope in nurturing their self and soul for better.

I personally advise people to let it off and try to start a new chapter- A pure chapter of your life. Insha’Allah.

Address your stress- Learn to help yourself!

stressStress is the most common problem humanity has to deal with. Every single being is under the spell of stress; he might be a poor teenager or an old millionaire, he will be consumed in ferocious storm of stress and depression. We all are victims of this battle; some might win, but most will perish. Stress has this power, not just to manipulate minds, but squander the body and soul altogether. Increased number of stress relief medications, enhanced therapeutic technologies, modified stress releasing machinery, escalating demand of psychiatrists, and psychologists show how our stress is becoming the ultimate victor of this battle.

Pressing the issue of increased suicidal rate in Muslim community is posing a big question mark on the lifestyle of a religion-oriented nation. It is unfortunate that Muslims are not very considerate about ‘dealing with stress’ issue on a massive scale. A special homework must be done in the scientific and therapeutic fields in the Muslim world, in order to design techniques which are compatible to Muslim mind set and lifestyle; rather than mindless application of the contrastive work of western scholars on Muslims. Meanwhile, we can try to win over the stress within our individual power frame. Usually, people run towards music, party, drinking, smoking, or drugs etc. to get rid of stress; but good news is that there are many alternative Halal (permissible) ways to beat stress. I have enlisted simple, yet powerful tips, which can help overcome stress.

1. Dhikr (rememberance of Allah (swt))

As a Muslim our very first source to beat stress is Dhikr. Allah (swt) said,  “Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.”  (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Now what is this Dhikr? Dhikr literally means to “hold something in conscious mind” and in Islamic terms it means “the remembrance of Allah”. He also said,
“And men who remember Allah greatly and women who remembers (Allah greatly)- Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward” (Surah Ahzab 33:35)
We find examples of Dhikr in the Quran and narrations of Prophet (sa). Quran itself is the best kind of Dhikr. The psychology behind Dhikr is very interesting. When a person calls his Creator and Sustainer in his conscious mind then he ‘unconsciously’ starts developing a sense of belonging- where he starts trusting his Creator and becomes contented with what is given or taken by Him. This contentment is the key to the door of happiness, and this sensation of felicity beats stress.

2. Follow the Sunnah
Muslims already have a set pattern of life style provided by our prophet (sa). The more you practice Sunnah, the more you beat the stress. Anyone can get those guidelines, anywhere, at any time, just by contemplating over the life of prophet (sa). Allah (swt) said in the Quran, “Say (O Muhammad) onto them that if you love Allah SWT than follow me. Allah will love you and forgive your sins”

When one is loved by Allah (swt) then there is nothing in this entire universe that can harm him/her, or even cause any discomfort. Living a sinless life, gives a great comfort to one’s heart and mind which helps beat stress.

3. Fulfil your obligations/responsibilities

Every adult has to deal with some specific responsibilities. As Prophet (sa) said: “Every one of you is a Shepherd (responsible) and every one of you is accountable for the ones you are responsible for.” In fact, the ever mounting stack of unfulfilled responsibilities and obligations are the cause of depression and stress. Hence, when one fulfils his/ her obligations sincerely on a daily basis then there is nothing to worry about at the end of the day.

4. Develop a habit of physical exercise

Study of Harvard Health shows that regular exercise enhances the action of chemicals in our body, known as Endorphins. These chemicals help in building immunity and serve to improve our mood. Walking briskly for 35-thirty five minutes daily, shows to have a significant influence on mild to moderate symptoms of depression. On the other hand, our Islamic tradition strongly recommends physical exercise where Prophet (sa) used to motivate Muslims to practice different types of sports. Develop a habit of daily exercise, and participate in your favourite sport, so that you can ward off boredom and stress.

5. Provide a helping hand

Helping others gives ultimate happiness. If we observe the poor or destitute closely, we develop a sense of thankfulness; and when we will be thankful to Allah (swt) for His bounties, He will give you more- that is His promise. Hence, start helping others. Find a welfare organization in your area, and participate in community service to beat your stress.

6. Find your vision/mission

Everything in this universe has a purpose of its existence. The tragedy of Muslims nowadays is the lack of vision in their lives; they are confused and negligent of their purpose of creation. Existence of vision in one’s life instils fun, trill and enduringness in it which is a very helpful component in beating stress.

7. Organize yourself
Organization of oneself is one of the most important things in one’s life. If you ponder upon the system of this universe, you will see that everything has its specific time of happening. Nothing falls off the set schedule. Similarly, humans are also designed to organize their lives, or else they will fall from the divine dignity. Start your organization from little things like cleaning your messy cupboard, your book shelf and room, office desk then move up and design your daily routine, manage your events, and make a timetable. Rest assure- the more you organize yourself, the more you beat the stress.

8. Be Patient

Sabr (patience) makes it easy to deal with depression and stress. When a person thinks that everything belongs to Allah (swt), and He has complete authority to give and take any of His bounties whenever He wills; only then, he will experience true peace. Allah (swt) the Almighty knows what is best, and if one is patient at the time of calamity, Allah (swt) rewards him in this world and hereafter. One should try to practice patience, and be contented for what Allah (swt) has ordained for him for He is not unjust.

9. Let Go

Psychology tells us, when a person experiences, or senses something- it immediately goes into his short term memory, and when, it is repeated few times, it becomes long term memory where it resides for a long time. So, when you experience something unlikely and depressive- try to let go of it. It might be extremely depressing, but thinking about it over and over again will just make it worse, and ultimately, lead you to severe depression. Letting go needs a lot of practice and patience as it involves the training of your brain.

Practice these tips and God willing, you will regain your strength to fight stress. May Allah (swt) grant us all the peace of heart and mind. Ameen.

Combating Depression, Sadness and Anxiety

Depression, sadness and pain related crossword(This article has been “proof read” by a foreign qualified Psychologist)

Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

“But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection.” (TaHa 20:124)

The above two verses from The Quran explain the basic requirement in order to achieve tranquility of the heart. The heart and mind shall be at peace when it is filled with the remembrance of Allah (swt); on the contrary, it will be full of anxiety and restlessness in its absence.

The “Shaytan” (Satan) wants to inflict pain to us. His work is done for the disbelievers but his main targets are Muslims. Anyone who tries to get closer to Allah (swt), Allah (swt) makes the path even easier for him; whereas somebody who continues to ignore his Creator, Allah (swt) appoints a Shaytan (Satan) for that person, and makes that also easy for him, so it is our choice to choose our course.

“And whosoever turns away (blinds himself) from the remembrance of the Most Beneficent (Allah) (i.e. this Quran and worship of Allah), We appoint for him Shaytan (Satan – devil) to be a Qarin (an intimate companion) to him.” (Az-Zukhruf 43:36)

In contrast to the above verse, Allah (swt) gives good news to those who remain close to Him and do good deeds, they will not only have contentment of heart in this world but will also have a good ending, which means good return in the afterlife. Insha’Allah.

The heart and mind shall be at peace when it is filled with the remembrance of Allah (swt); on the contrary, it will be full of anxiety and restlessness in its absence.

“Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and work righteousness, Tuba (it means all kinds of happiness or name of a tree in Paradise) is for them and a beautiful place of (final) return.” (Ar-Rad 13: 28-29)

A believer is grateful to Allah (swt) when he is blessed in some way, and he is patient when he is going through a test in order to wait for Allah’s (swt) help.  Imagine how Yaqoob (as) wept for his son Yusuf (as) and lost his sight. Imagine how distress and overwhelmed ‘Aishah (ra) was when people slandered her by telling lies about her, and she kept weeping so much that she said: “I thought that grief would tear me apart.”  (Source: Shaykh Al – Munajjad, Saudi Arabia)

Turn each worry into a Dua and each Dua into an action plan.

As human beings, we have a habit to get attached to people and worldly things. We also tend to expect quick results and humans are generally impatient by nature. Many times, even after much effort when the results do not turn out the way we planned, we get depressed. Most common reasons of depression are loss of wealth, health problems, demise of a family member and relationship conflicts. There is no running away from stress because in this life there will always be something small or big troubling us. All that matters is how you deal with it.

This article does not deal with the factors of stress, anxiety, and depression, nor is it a clinical advice. This article would help to develop an attitude to combat with it on a daily basis Insha’Allah. If you feel depressed, you are not alone. It has been estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians in America are for stress-related problems. Turn each anxiety, each fear and each concern into a Dua (supplication). Look at it as another reason to submit to God and be in “Sajdah” (prostration), during which you are closest to Allah (swt). God listens and already knows what is in your heart, but He wants you to ask Him for what you want. Allah (swt) is displeased with those who do not ask Him for anything.

A Muslim turns towards Allah (swt) and calls for His help in all types of distress.

Adopt the Prophetic approach

Our job is to carry out our responsibilities to the best of our capacity parallel with a clear belief that we do not control the outcome of events. Even the Prophets did not control the outcome of their efforts. Some were successful, others were not. There will be Prophets on the Day of Judgement with one, two and more people; and some with not even one. Does that mean Prophets with very few or nobody were failures? No! They did their best and had their faith in Allah (swt), but Allah (swt) did not choose guidance for their Ummah (nation). Similarly, our role in this life is to make the best with the given resources, and leave the rest in Allah’s (swt) hands. Regardless of the results of your efforts, you will be rewarded for the part you have played.  (Insha’Allah)

However, never underestimate your abilities. Understand the concept of Barakah (blessings from Allah (swt); and remember that Allah (swt) can and Insha’Allah will expand them if you are sincerely exerting your energies for the right path.

A person can be sad due to various reasons.  Depression may be caused with or without a reason. In all types of grief and sadness, a Muslim deals with it differently from a non-believer. A Muslim turns towards Allah (swt) and calls for His help in all types of distress. We can encapsulate it in two categories for easy understanding:

1. Due to a specific reason, such as loss of wealth or loss of a family member.

2. Due to no reason at all. Person may start crying or get aggressive for no reason.

In both of the above situations, it is essential for a person to have a connection with his/her Creator. Whether it is a medical healing or a spiritual healing, the Healer is only The Creator.

              15 Islamic tips to overcome sadness, depression and anxiety

  • Believing that Life and Death are in the hands of Allah (swt) only. Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in towers built up strong and high!” (Quran 4:78)
  •  Believing that ease and difficulty come from Him only.
  • Believing that Allah (swt) is the Only “Raaziq” (Provider). Our job is to make efforts and leave the rest to Him. Our “Rizq” (provision) was decided and written when we were 4 months old in our mother’s womb.  Fataawa Noor ‘ala al-Darb (p. 36). Shaykh Muhammad ibnSaalih al-‘Uthaymeen, Saudi Arabia  (quoted and checked by Shaykh Al-Munajjad, Saudi Arabia) “How many are the creatures that carry not their own sustenance? Allah (swt) says, “It is Allah Who feeds them and you, for He hears and knows all things.” (Quran 29:60)  Allah (swt) further says in the Quran, “And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose. Verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion” (Quran 65:3)
  • Believing that what He gave us was never our right and what He took away from us was always His in the first place.
  • Turning towards Allah (swt) in “Taubah” (repentance) in order to seek His help and forgiveness. Allah’s (swt) mercy overshadows His anger.
  • Keeping a clear focus on those who are less privileged and in greater pain than us.  This should be done on a daily basis as a reminder.
  • Take a spiritual break from the world and have a private moment with Allah (swt). This can be done in various ways such as, by going to Masjid for prayers, doing long prostrations, shedding tears during Dua and keeping total faith in The Creator or by going on a family vacation. It is extremely important to break the monotony of our daily routine before we reach our limits.
  • Recognizing the ultimate enemy- The Satan. He plays with our mind. We can put up a fight with him with Allah’s (swt) help.
  • Appreciate the blessings that cannot be bought with worldly wealth. Health, family and friends are some examples of such blessings that have no price tag.
  • Find a hobby. Involve in some community service. Be a volunteer or even start your own organization if you can. It gives an inner peace and satisfaction when a selfless deed is performed.
  • Staying away from negative people- especially the ones who keep putting us down. Keep a constant check of your company. The ideal company is of somebody who is positive, helps you get closer to Allah (swt); somebody who is honest to you and becomes your shoulder when you need him or her.  It is important not to have too many confidants.
  • Try not to verbalize the negative thoughts. Fighting negative thoughts is better than verbalizing them, which eventually turn into negative actions. Diversion is better and recommended by getting involved in something more positive and constructive.
  • Learn to let go of the things that are not in your control.
  • Exercise daily. Walking and swimming are one of the best exercises for depression. Healthy mind only exists in a healthy body.
  • Learn to forgive. Forgiving is important for our own peace. Once we forgive, we will be able to forget also. Keeping grudges is very unhealthy and self-destructive.
  • Do not fall prey to worldly material things and do not let them control us. We all want money, cars, house and jewellery etc. but there will always be people who will have more than us, and there will be ones who will have less- this is how it works. It is important to have decent living but it is more important to have good health, nice family and friends.

The above method is a road leading towards positive living.

Conclusion

A lot of worry and psychological stress is caused by not being content with the will and decree of Allah (swt). Even after getting what we want, we may still suffer from anxiety and fear of losing that blessing. There is no remedy for this apart from accepting the decree of Allah (swt), thanking Him for His blessings, and patiently bearing the difficulties and calamities that Allah (swt) has decreed for us.

Prayer

May Allah (swt) bestow His blessings up on us in this life and in the hereafter. May He give us peace of heart and mind, give us courage and wisdom and guide us to the right path. May He make us of those whom He loved and shown His mercy to. Ameen!

Bridging the Gap between Hearts

respect2Every individual expects recognition of his/her rights by the people he/she lives with. The fulfillment of this expectation builds a relationship of give and take between two people. This, if defined in one word, is what is known as “respect”. It is through respect that one learns to notice other people’s rights; and in return, gets his/her rights fulfilled as well. Human relationships are strengthened when the seed of respect is sown; whereas its absence may yield devastating results which are quite noticeable at present with the increasing percentage of people falling prey to life shattering evils.

A glimpse at the past and present 

Allah Almighty (swt) sent Prophets (as) upon nations that deviated from the straight path till a seal to the Prophets (as) was put with the revelation of the final message. Man found it comprehensible as Prophet Muhammad (sa) practiced what he preached. That was how people adopted his way of life and considered it a responsibility to pass it on. To be more precise, it was the acquisition of this “knowledge” that justified man’s role as a man- because it was what our Creator chose for our betterment.

The lives of the Arabs revolutionized with the advent of Islam. But prior to that, they lead completely different lives. Evil lurked in their society to the extent that there remained no evil that they weren’t involved in. What we see these days is similar to the pre Islamic times, but a total opposite to the golden times. One can easily see how our priorities have changed. The rule is quite simple. In order to do good, one must know what good really is. And, that happens through the acquisition of knowledge that revolutionizes beliefs.

Concept of respect in Islam

Islam is the way of life that sets certain rights and responsibilities for each and every individual despite of the restrictions of age, nationality, race, or class. This rule in return brings contentment for everybody. Following are some points regarding the concept of respect in Islam:

1.      Respecting parents

Parents are such people in our lives who, in order to fulfill our needs, often give up theirs. Most of us must have witnessed our mother’s sacrifice when she gave up her wish to buy new clothes on Eid to grab ours. Our father must have taken us for recreation, even though at times he may be feeling tired. Both of them must have had sleepless nights just because of us. It is due to such reasons that in Islam parents are said to be treated likewise when they grow old.  Allah (swt) says,

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.” (Al-Isra 17:23-24)

2.       Restoring an orphan’s property

Living with a family, especially with parents, provides a supportive environment which no other thing can substitute. This is what an orphan child yearns for. Islam condemns the act of depriving an orphan of his/her rights. Allah (swt) says,

“And give unto orphans their property and do not exchange (your) bad things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by adding it) to your substance. Surely, this is a great sin.” (An-Nisa 4:2)

3.      Greeting with respect

It is in Islam that even a greeter is said to be greeted better than him/her. Allah (swt) says,

“When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. Certainly, Allah is Ever a Careful Account Taker of all things.” (An-Nisa 4:86)

4.      A bully is up to no good

Scornful attitude is what we hear people calling “cool” these days. We often find it in educational institutions under the name of ragging, which at times crosses all limits- despite of the teachers’ intervention. And many children and even adolescents fall prey to depression- just because of this. It would not be wrong to say that children often learn such responses from their parents when they are busy in ridiculing others. No matter how normal we term it as, Allah (swt) has a commandment for that which we need to know. Allah (swt) says,

“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith (i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: “O sinner”, or “O wicked”, etc.) And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.).” (Al-Hujurat 49:11)

5.      Respect for a wife

If any man intends to treat his wife with respect, he must learn to do that from the life of Prophet Muhammad (sa).

It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas (ra) that the Prophet (sa) said: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Let the Quran do the Miracle

Park-Bench-SA-087-Last month, her life turned into a complete mess. Sitting on a bench in a park, she went into reminiscence of her past; she was a happy girl, leading a happy, prosperous life. She had a beautiful family comprising of her loving parents and siblings; a home, a good job with a successful career and many good friends. One day, while coming back from a family picnic, her car got into a terrible accident. Her parents and siblings died on the spot, while she got badly injured and lost her arm that made her handicapped. Due to her incapacitation, she was fired from her job; moreover, to pay for her medical expenses, she had to sell her house and move into her aunt’s home.

“Life has treated me cruelly!” she thought, while sitting on the bench, and tears started rolling down her cheeks. She felt worthless and purposeless, and found no reason to live anymore. She’d even tried committing suicide, but that too failed. The ghastly circumstances she’d seen in the last one month had made her miserable and depressed; all she wanted was some peace.
Some days later, she started working at a place, which accommodated people with disabilities. Since she was a hardworking and talented woman, she was able to buy a house soon with her earnings. She got a little stable with a decent job; yet, she did not get the peace and satisfaction that her heart yearned for.

She decided to get involved in various activities to divert her mind, hoping to get over her depression and emptiness in her heart. She started clubbing and partying, regularly attended social gatherings and visited friends. That company made her feel better, but she still did not get the peace she longed for.

Then, she joined a musical band and started listening to songs frequently on a friend’s advice, who told her that music is food for the soul; hence, it’d give her peace. She gave it a try and it felt good for some time, but then again, she felt that music gave her nothing but headache.
Afterwards, she decided to get into shopping spree; she’d spend all her time roaming in the markets. She made herself aware of the latest brands as well as the trends in fashion and shopped accordingly, stuffing her wardrobe with branded dresses, bags, shoes, jewellery and makeup. Consequently, spending all her time shopping made her forget about the sadness in her life; but, after about a week, all that felt useless. Her wardrobe, bloating with branded stuff, could not give her peace of mind and heart. It could not fill the emptiness in her heart.

Then, she started watching movies all the time. She got so absorbed in them that she’d forget all her worries; however, as soon as the movie was over, she’d start feeling restless and depressed again.

After that, she took up another job to keep herself as busy as possible, hoping it would help her get over her depression; but it was not much of a help either.

Next, she decided to go on a world tour. She had gathered enough money from her jobs, so she made a list of all the countries that she wanted to visit. Excited about the tour, she thought that it would certainly give her contentment, as she had wanted to have that tour since forever. So, she visited all the countries one by one, but to her disappointment, it couldn’t give her peace and satisfaction; her heart still felt vacant and peace less.

Her depression was gradually increasing; she even went on medication, but it did little good.Then, she got into drugs, expecting to get relief from her depression. But, it made the situation even worse! She had tried one thing after the other, but all in vain. All she wanted was peace and satisfaction of heart, mind and soul.

Then one day, she decided to visit an old friend, not knowing how this visit would change her entire life. Just as she entered her home, she heard something that captured her attention at once. It was somebody reciting the Quran. She stood there still, unable to take any step further, and listened to the words of the Quran – it was so beautiful and pleasing that it touched her heart, and she could feel the warmth of tears on her cheeks. She left the house that very moment, and felt ashamed realizing how long had it been since she had last read the Quran. All these years, she had been neglecting the Book sent by the One, Who created her!

Through Quran, she found guidance for every aspect of her existence; she implemented it in her life, found true peace and lived happily ever after.

She went home immediately, opened a cabinet that had not been opened since ages, and took out the Holy Quran, which was covered with dust. She wiped off the dust with trembling hands and watery eyes, her heart heavy with sheer embarrassment. She quickly performed ablution and sat down with the Quran in her hand. She randomly opened a page in the Quran, and the first Ayah on the page that caught her eyes was,

“Verily, in the remembrance of Allah, do hearts find peace.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Reading this, she could not stop crying. It was as if these words were written exactly for her. All her life, she had been trying to find peace through materialistic desires, and that was the moment she felt utmost peace. In her flight for the search for peace and satisfaction, how beautifully Allah (swt) had landed her on the amazing Ayah!

She started reciting the Quran along with translation, and started obeying all of Allah’s (swt) commands in the Quran; it gave her so much peace and gratification that she could have never imagined to have. It felt as if the emptiness in her heart had finally been filled. She found contentment and satisfaction of heart, mind and soul that she had been longing for since a very long time.

Through the Quran, she realized that the death of her family, loss of job and all the other calamities were trials for her; challenges through which Allah (swt) tests His people, so that they bear patience on them and He raises their standards. The calamities and hardships of life are nothing but a blessing for us, which washes away our sins.

“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.).” (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

Through Quran, she found guidance for every aspect of her existence; she implemented it in her life, found true peace and lived happily ever after.

Heart-Break

Free Grunge Textures - www.freestock.ca / Foter / CC BY

Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca / Foter / CC BY

Yet another serious heart-break,
yet another unexpected blow.
Yet another discrete proof of,
people’s fake and outward show!

Ready to help us all the time,
support they’re willing to offer.
But when the time comes to help,
their words and actions differ!

Expectations are built and broken,
it happens again, and yet again.
One feels dejected and ditched;
friendships are lost without gain!

Words of hope echo in your mind,
their false claims give you tears.
But you, O human, do not stop,
to turn to the “Only” who’s near!

Nothing to lose when you love Allah (swt),
His pleasure wins you all gain.
Benefits in this world and the next,
happiness and rewards, no pain!

Yet we humans fail to be believers,
we find it difficult to rely on Him.
Shaytan wins the battle with us,
chances of not being doomed are slim!

We know all this yet from people,
our needs of love, we associate.
We get hurt but we keep trying,
to fool ourselves till we dissipate.

Then we gather our shattered self,
we bow down to Him in depression.
We renew our faith, and we pledge,
We’ll only yearn for His attention.

A few days pass by until we stick,
to the new promise and resolve.
However, Shaytan doesn’t cease,
we give in to his tricks, we absolve!

Our mind tries to hold us back but,
our heart craves for love and care.
Self-deceived and misguided again,
we turn to the creation in despair!

Knowingly we treat ourselves unkind;
we get involved in people again.
Expecting from others rather than Him,
Utterly dismayed, we shout in pain…..

“Yet another serious heart-break,
yet another unexpected blow.
Yet another discrete proof of,
people’s fake and outward show!”

Fighting Stress with the “Four A’s Rule”

stress

A problem recognized is a problem half solved. When we find ourselves under mental pressure, we interchangeably call it anxiety, depression or stress. It is important to identify these as three distinct aspects of mental pressure, which impact our moods in different ways and, therefore, have to be addressed by appropriate kinds of treatment.

Anxiety is a generalized mood condition that can often occur without an identifiable triggering stimulus. Anxiety is related to situations, which are perceived as uncontrollable or unavoidable. disorders are characterized by a sense of doubt and vulnerability about future events. The attention of anxious people is focused on their future prospects and the fear that those future prospects will be bad. For example, how will my children turn out to be? What will be Karachi’s law and order situation? Will my future husband help me practice Islam?

Depression differs from anxiety. Depressed people are not preoccupied with worrying about what might happen to them in the future. They think they already know what will happen, and they believe it will be bad, just like the current miserable state they are in. They start believing in things like “I can never save enough for Hajj” or “I am not capable of learning Arabic”. The key symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad and/or hopeless;
  • Lack of interest and enjoyment in activities that used to be fun and interesting;
  • Physical aches and pains without physical cause and lack of energy;
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and/or making decisions;
  • Changes in appetite and weight;
  • Unwelcome changes in usual sleep pattern;
  • Thoughts of death and suicide.

Stress is completely different from anxiety or depression. Stress can be defined as a state we experience, when there is a mismatch between perceived demands and perceived ability to cope. Whether we feel stress or not depends upon the balance between how we view demands, and how we think we can cope with those demands.

Strategies for Fighting Stress

There is a “Four ‘As’ Rule” for fighting stress in our day to day life.

‘A’ for Avoid

“The greatest prison that people live in is the fear of what other people think.” (David Icke – English writer, public speaker and former professional footballer.)

You are responsible for what is in your head. Remember! A negative mind cannot have positive thoughts. If you are told that the food you are about to eat is poisonous, you would choose to be hungry than eat the poison. Similarly, if you know that a certain situation, person or experience can cause stress, don’t take the chance of digesting this psychological poison. Be wise enough to remove yourself from places and situations that can be stressful. For instance, if you have to go shopping and you know that you can miss your Maghrib prayer, don’t go shopping at that time or go to a mall that has a prayer area. Similarly, if spending too much on unimportant things will drain out your budget and you fear you will not be able to pay Zakah, control your desires, and avoid excessive shopping.

One of the reasons we find ourselves trapped in stressful, useless commitments is our fear of saying ‘no’. Saying ‘no’ is not rude, especially if you are avoiding a stressor. The way you say it has to be gentle, wise and accommodating. We don’t always need to shout, offend or abuse, while saying ‘no’. It can be said with a graceful smile.

Try to have clear priorities in life and avoid all distractions that come in your way to achieve your goals. For example, if you are asked to attend a late night party a day before your child’s exam, try to call, congratulate on the occasion and tell the host your reasons to miss the occasion. You can visit the host prior to the event or at a better time with a gift to compensate for the absence.

There are numerous incidents from the life of the Prophet (sa), which illustrate how he said ‘no’ without hurting anyone’s feelings. One of them is mentioned in the following Hadeeth:

Abu Dharr (rtam) narrated: “We fasted with the Messenger of Allah (sa) in Ramadan and he did not lead us in praying Qiyam until there were seven days left in the month, when he led us in praying Qiyam until one-third of the night had passed. Then he did not lead us in praying Qiyam when there were six days left. Then he led us praying Qiyam when there were five days left until one-half of the night had passed. I said: “O Messenger of Allah! What if we spend the rest of this night praying Nafl?” He said: “Whoever prays Qiyam with the Imam until he finishes, Allah will record for him the Qiyam of a (whole) night.” (An-Nasai)

Note the Prophet’s (sa) response to Abu Dharr (rtam). He did not reply ‘no’ to his question though his answer implied this. He simply informed him that if he follows the Imam, it will be as if he spent the whole night praying Nafl.

‘A’ for Alter

Avoiding is not always possible. In cases, when complete avoiding is not a good choice, you can alter the situation to have a pleasant and agreeable setup. Remember: our decisions are very important for us, but we need to show concern and respect for our family and friends, too, which is a very important characteristic of a Muslim.

A Hadeeth states: “…friendliness toward people is half of (one’s) intelligence.” (Bayhaqi) Here friendliness is considered to be intelligence, because it helps a Muslim be sociable and stay out of fights, abuses and trickeries, which can only be done by intelligent minds.

Alter situations to avoid confrontations.

If your husband does not like your cooking, try to see what you can do to alter that. Request your mother-in-law or sister-in-law for recipes that work. At times, it is only a matter of adding a few spices or getting rid of some. By doing a thing as simple as that, you can have a pleasant, joyful dining experience with your spouse.

If you find yourself spending too much time on maintaining your house, shift to a simple lifestyle that will give you relief from maintenance and a lot more time for studying religion and enjoying with family.

Another Hadeeth says: “The believer is one who is sociable (with others), and there is no good in one who is not sociable (with others), nor in one who is not met sociably (by them).” (Bayhaqi and Al-Hakim).

You cannot and should not avoid people, but meet them in a way that is best in Islam.

Abu Burdah (rtam) narrated: Abu Musa (rtam) said: “I was with the Prophet (sa) when he was encamping at Al-Jaranah (a place) between Makkah and Madinah. Bilal (rtam) was with him. A Bedouin came to the Prophet (sa) and said: ‘Won’t you fulfill what you have promised me?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Rejoice (at what I will do for you).’ The Bedouin said: ‘(You have said to me) rejoice too often.’ Then the Prophet (sa) turned to me (i.e. Abu Musa (rtam)) and Bilal (rtam) in an angry mood and said: ‘The Bedouin has refused the good tidings, so you both accept them.’ Bilal (rtam) and I said: ‘We accept them.’ Then the Prophet (sa) asked for a drinking bowl containing water and washed his hands and face in it; then he took a mouthful of water and threw it therein saying (to us): ‘Drink (some of) it and pour (some) over your faces and chests and be happy at the good tidings.’ They both took the drinking bowl and did as instructed. Umm Salamah (rtaf) called from behind a screen: ‘Keep something (of the water) for your mother.’ So they left some of it for her.” (Bukhari)

Again, note the Prophet’s (sa) response to the Bedouin to whom he (sa) had promised something but could not ultimately deliver. He told him kindly to rejoice but the audacious reply of the Bedouin ended up enraging them. He did not, however, make a mountain out of a molehill. He did not reply in kind. He applied the “alter” principle and directed the attention of those present to something else entirely different.

‘A’ for Adapt

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Just accept that you can’t always be the wronged one. Self pity and blaming everything on others is a full stop to progress. There are things in life that you can control and change through proper planning and time management. For instance, if you are always late for Salah, see how you can adapt your lifestyle to be punctual. Plan your activities such that they do not fall into Salah time. Stop all work with the Adhan. Get up and perform Wudhu. You can even switch off your phone. Likewise, if you are always late for work, maybe you can wake up a little earlier or use a route with less traffic. Try to adapt to situations that cannot be avoided.

The following incident from the life of Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (rtam) illustrates how the Companions of the Prophet (sa) used the ‘adapt’ principle instead of stressing about things (or people) they could not change.

The Prophet (sa) once sent Amr ibn Al-As (rtam) to Dhat As-Salasil, Syria, on an expedition. When he arrived in Syria, he noticed that the enemy was great in number. He sent a message to the Messenger (sa), asking him for reinforcements. The Prophet (sa) then sent Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (rtam) with a unit, comprising some of the early Muhajirun, including Abu Bakr (rtam) and Umar (rtam). Abu Ubaidah (rtam) was the commander of this unit.

Before dispatching this unit, the Prophet (sa) instructed Abu Ubaidah (rtam) that he should not differ with Amr ibn Al-As (rtam).

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) left with his unit and when he reached Dhat As-Salasil, Amr (rtam) told him: “You have come to reinforce my army and I am its commander.”

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) replied: “I remain in my position as you remain in yours.” (This meant that he would lead his unit while Amr (rtam) would lead the rest of the army.)

Amr (rtam) insisted: “No, you have been sent to reinforce my army.”

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) responded: “O Amr! The Messenger (sa) told me that the two of us should not differ. So even if you disobey me, I will obey you.”

Amr (rtam) said: “In that case, I am your commander and you are reinforcing me.”

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) agreed. Amr (rtam) stepped forward and led the prayer. After the expedition was over and the Prophet (sa) was informed about this, he said: “May Allah have mercy upon Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah!” (Ibn Katheer)

In the process of adapting, you may find the following tips useful:

  • Always keep ‘time buffers’: a certain amount of extra time in your schedule for dealing with circumstances beyond your control. For example, instead of running to catch a plane at the eleventh hour, leave a little early for managing the traffic jams. If you reach early, you will be less hassled and more relaxed.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle for managing your level of stress. Make sure that your routine includes exercise, healthy food, leisure activities and time for family.
  • Try to decrease competition and sense of time urgency in life. Keep your cool and show your strengths only when required. Your softer side should be prevalent.
  • Also remember that we have to understand the Islamic perspective of challenges and hardships. These may be:
  • Mismanagement: Not using Allah’s (swt) blessings properly means paying a hefty price. This includes our time, money, health and all forms of Rizq.
  • Punishment: Sometimes, it is our own evil that is coming around. A thorough repentance and mending relations with blood relatives is a very important remedial. During times of trials, along with repentance, try to give Sadaqah (charity) as well.
  • Blessing in disguise: When you find yourself buried under layers of darkness like Yunus (as), follow his example: remember the Creator of that darkness. Some lessons are learnt only the hard way.
  • Try to improve your life by identifying major causes of stress, which may be:
  • Love of the world: Controlling our reactions is crucial. Equally important is the need to take a closer look at our lifestyles. Too much love of worldly possessions creates fear of loss and depression. Limit your wants by knowing your needs. Avoid indulgence.
  • Lack of proper nutrition: Eating inorganic, fast food and lack of routine in proper eating habits spoils the mood. If one does not eat at proper intervals, or if one starves for too long only to fill up the stomach with junk food, then the brain is confused to the extent that it treats hunger as stress. The body responds to hunger not by eating (because it is not trained to), but by shouting, screaming and showing irritation.
  • Lack of proper sleep: Agitation is also a common reaction to sleep deprivation. A healthy, sound sleep makes us happy and relaxed. By staying up for too long, we become irritable and angry.

One more important factor keeping people away from emotional stability is uncontrolled thoughts. Have you ever noticed that your last thought before going to sleep is the first one that you have when you wake up? For the entire night, our brain is engaged in thoughts. So make Dua, thank Allah (swt) and think positively, as you lie down to sleep. Avoid horror movies or late night talks.

‘A’ for Accept

For circumstances beyond human control, we need to accept the situation and place our Tawakkal (reliance) on Allah (swt). This means that you should trust and depend on Allah’s (swt) will without complaining. “Nay! Verily, man does transgress all bounds (in disbelief and evil deed, etc.). Because he considers himself self-sufficient.” (Al-Alaq 96:6-7) If harm touches us, and we are not able to solve it through Halal means, then we should accept it as a decree of Allah (swt) and hope for good times to come in the future. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “So verily, with hardship, there is relief. Verily, with hardship, there is relief (i.e., there is one hardship with two reliefs, so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs).” (Ash-Sharh 94:5-6)

Remember that perfection lies in being unapologetic about the imperfections of our lives. It is okay if your height, complexion, mental capacity or family life is not the way you wanted it, because it is exactly the way Allah (swt) wants it.

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

You will find within yourself a great energy to improve and enjoy if you stop questioning destiny.

In “Enjoy your Life”, Dr. Al-Arifi narrates the following incident. Once, the Prophet (sa) went out on an expedition with his Companions. After a while, their food started running out and they felt weak. The Prophet (sa) instructed them to gather whatever food they had. He spread his cloak. One man came forward with a date or two; another brought a piece of bread. When all the food was collected, they sat down and ate with contentment. It is quite obvious that none of them ate his fill, but at least they ate something. All of them applied the ‘accept’ principle without stressing about the fact that they had little food or where would they get more of it from.

Allah (swt) has placed our eyes at the front of our head, because it is more important to look ahead than to look back. Don’t dwell on things in the past. Learn from them and keep moving on.

Emotional stress is a subjective illusion created by the human mind. If stress were real and objective, like, for example, gravity, then it would impact everyone the same way. Stress eats away our bottom lines and affects our mental health, personalities and attitudes. Control it before it starts controlling you.

Don’t forget to develop a sense of thankfulness towards Allah (swt). The more we thank Allah (swt) for what we have and what is happening with us, the less we get upset for what we do not have and what is not happening with us.

Allah (swt) has promised in the Quran: “…If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My Blessings)…” (Ibrahim 14:7)

Dhikr in any form is a very good medicine for stress. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Likewise, it is our responsibility, as Muslims, to ensure that we are not triggering stress in the lives of others. We often do that unintentionally by asking too many questions about someone’s personal life, weak points and embarrassing aspects of their lives that they don’t want to share. Also, avoid pointing out other people’s anomalies or weaknesses.

If we wouldn’t have any difficulties in our lives, we would not have the chance for recognizing our true potential. We don’t need to be strong in every situation, we don’t need to be always winning and we don’t even need to be happy all the time. We just need to be Muslims in submission to Allah’s (swt) will, grateful for His blessings, patient in times of trial and never losing hope. Keep trying, seeking help from Allah (swt) and hoping for the best.

Let me reiterate this: Muslims are the Khulafa of Allah (swt) on the Earth. It is only because of our own condition that the world is in this state of chaos. We need to take control of our lives and stresses. We are responsible for the world we live in.

Depression: the Elephant in the Room

cover-depression - CopyLife has its highs and lows – the cycles of happiness and sadness. Sometimes, however, despite having everything we need for being happy, most of us experience ‘the blues.’ As if the chaos and mayhem we face communally is not enough, personal problems keep cropping up to curtail our happiness. This could be the death of a near one, a debilitating illness, familial conflict, financial difficulty, lack of a satisfying job or career, misbehavior of children, difficulty in getting married, marital strife, divorce, infertility, old-age weakness, workplace tensions, or other problems, just to name a few. Such events leave us feeling low.

At times, we find ourselves feeling hopeless and forlorn also for other reasons. Nowadays, even after reading the news, we feel confused about the traumatic events happening in the world: bomb-blasts, killings, wars, natural disasters. Sometimes we search for the purpose of life, asking ourselves: “Is this all there is? Why were we born?” At other times, it’s our monotonous daily routine we get tired of. Also, despite loathing it, we find ourselves inadvertently trapped in the incessant rat-race for a higher standard of living – the stress of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ Constant bombardment of branded material products through the media makes us yearn for a slower, more genuine life – one that gives us time to sit back and relax, to ‘smell the flowers.’ It’s no surprise then that stress, anxiety and depression abound as the rampant new-age afflictions.

Stress is defined as any change in a person’s environment that triggers a ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Any environmental, physical or social change that causes one to worry or fear is a stressor, such as an upcoming marriage, a new baby, emigrating to a new place, unfavourable weather conditions, traffic congestion, etc.

Depression is a state of temporary sorrow. A depressed person loses interest in previously enjoyed activities, is irritable and restless, lacks energy, feels worthless and finds it difficult to sleep, concentrate and make decisions. Eating patterns change, leading either to obesity or extreme weight loss (eating disorders), and the person also becomes socially isolated.

If gloominess continues over a long period of time, so that the intensity of sadness disrupts a person’s normal functioning, it becomes a condition called ‘clinical depression,’ and is actually a mental illness. Psychiatrists recommend a treatment, which consists of a combination of medication and counseling. If clinical depression is left untreated, the patient might attempt suicide.

According to official statistics, about a million people die by suicide annually; more than those murdered or killed in war. (WHO Sites, “Mental Health,” February 16, 2006)

Studies show a high incidence of psychiatric disorders in suicide victims at the time of their death with the total figure ranging from 87.3% to 98%. (“Psychiatric Diagnoses and Suicide: Revisiting the Evidence”)

September 2, 2007, issue of “DAWN” magazine states: “Stress related disorders are now larger in number than infectious diseases, but not sufficient attention has been paid to them. Many sophisticated tests and costly medicines have been developed, but not much importance is given to stress relieving techniques, which are necessary for patients.”

The incidence of depression is not on the rise just among non-Muslims, but also among Muslims, both young and old.

“I got married and went abroad but was very homesick. For three years, I tried doing everything to keep myself busy, but nothing worked. Finally, I got divorced and returned to my country. I used to take medication and lie in bed all day, depressed. That changed after I joined the Quran course at “Al-Huda.” Now, I am happy and at peace, and do not take any medication,” says a woman above thirty.

“When the USA invaded Iraq, I tried not to watch the news on TV, as it would make me depressed and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my studies. I tried reciting Duas for anxiety and depression,” says a young student in the USA.

Since our body and soul are intertwined, any negative effect on one influences the other.

There are several physical ailments caused by depression. It is, therefore, important to remember that some illnesses are actually a result of emotional recession, and taking medicines for just the physical effect will not eradicate the root problem – the soul will have to be treated to revive mental and physical health.

A Muslim with strong faith in Allah (swt) can never suffer from chronic stress or prolonged depression. The Islamic way of life provides remedies for any distress caused by life’s tribulations. It is human to be sad once in a while. The following remedial steps can get us back on track in no time at all.

Patience

“O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer). Truly! Allah is with As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Al-Baqarah 2:153)

One of the most difficult good deeds to practice is Sabr in the face of adversity. Patience, or Sabr, means maintaining righteousness of tongue and deeds even during severe calamities. Abstention from complaining, blaming others, being wishful and throwing tantrums is part of Sabr. Remaining constant in prayer, thinking positive thoughts about Allah (swt) and incessantly hoping for imminent relief is also Sabr.

Prayer

Prophet Muhammad (sa) prayed two units supererogatory prayer, whenever he was sad or worried. When depressed or worried, we should follow this example, until relief comes.

Dua

Even the Prophets, being human, went through bouts of Huzn, or sadness, caused by events in their lives – and they taught us, how to deal with such phases. They always turned to Allah (swt) for help. Examples of this, as mentioned in the Quran, are:

  • Prophet Yaqoub (as) going blind with grief, when his son Yusuf was separated from him for many years;
  • Prophet Yunus (as) being swallowed by a whale;
  • Prophet Ayub (as) being afflicted by a prolonged illness that mutilated his body;
  • Prophet Muhammad (sa) being persecuted and exiled from Makkah – after a long, strenuous decade that dealt him severe blows.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) also experienced the death of many his near ones during his life, including his wife Khadijah (rta) and most of the seven children he fathered. He was chased out of Taif by being pelted with stones. He lost three minor sons in an era, when a man’s worth was measured by the number of his sons. He had to fight several battles with arch-enemies. At each such event, all the Prophets turned to Allah (swt) with supplications, humility and hope, trusting Him to get them out of their miserable situation, whence no apparent means of relief existed. And Allah (swt) always responded to their sincere calls.

Our troubles do not even come close to what the Prophets suffered. We should, therefore, learn to make Dua to Allah (swt) in times of sorrow, hoping for His mercy. Istighfar, or sincere Dua for seeking forgiveness, is also a means of making a way out of every difficulty.

Quranic Qirat

Regular and correct recitation of the Quran in a loud, clear voice brings peace to the agitated soul. “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Productive work

An idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Idleness breeds negative thoughts. One should, therefore, always keep busy in doing productive work, even if it is something as inconsequential as stitching a torn garment or scrubbing the floor. An occupation gives one a motive to work for, and the sense of having accomplished something of benefit during the day fills the soul. It is even more desirable, therefore, to work for the benefit of others. Any selfless work, such as teaching others, volunteering for charity or caring for the sick, refurbishes the soul.

Physical exercise

The body needs activity to maintain its health. Sloth or laziness automatically sets gloom on the soul and fat on the body. A negative self-image dampens one’s self-esteem. Therefore, walking, climbing stairs or working out every other day is recommended, in order to chase away depression.

Change of environment

Temporarily going somewhere gives an immediate stress relief – even if it is a stint to the supermarket to buy groceries, visiting a friend or relative for the sake of Allah (swt), picking up a child from school or going to the park. Those, who stay cooped up in the house all day, are more prone to getting bored and depressed.

Social/community involvements

Islam has enjoined community involvement among Muslims: the five daily congregational prayers, Jummah and Eid all require Muslims in a community to meet and greet each other. Islam discourages individuals to lead isolated lives. This is to ensure that everyone is kept involved in a social circle and never left alone to face life’s problems. Muslims should, therefore, attend circles of knowledge-seeking, weddings, funerals and other permissible social engagements. They should call on others and invite families over for creating strong social bonds.

Eating right

The adage ‘you are what you eat’ is quite true. Eating a balanced diet, avoiding harmful foods and eating a bit less than one’s appetite leads to physical plus mental well-being.

Understanding the purpose of this life

Last but not least, each Muslim must endeavor to understand, why the mankind was created and what happens after death. This can only be achieved by understanding the Quran deeply, preferably from a learned scholar. This fuels the flame of Iman that helps in facing trials and difficulties.

“Verily, along with every hardship is relief. Verily, along with every hardship is relief (i.e. there is one hardship with two reliefs, so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs).” (Ash-Sharh 94:5-6)

The Flip Side of Motherhood: Postpartum Depression

Vol 5 - Issue 2 The flip side of MotherhoodIt’s the moment most women wait for – entering the coveted domain of motherhood! Tired of pregnancy pains and restrictions, the expectant mother excitedly anticipates the arrival of her baby, thinking that she’ll be fully able to enjoy her ‘bundle of joy’ once it’s all over. She can’t wait to cuddle and gaze at the life that has been kicking inside her for months.

Yet, merely hours or days after childbirth, most women couldn’t feel worse. Amid the congratulatory phone calls, text messages, flowers, gifts and visits of relatives and friends, the ‘new mama’ feels a cloud of gloom looming over her life. Like a whirlwind, the baby has disrupted her routine, usurping the lavish attention and care showered previously to her. She’s lucky, if she can sleep uninterrupted for more than three hours at a time.

So what are the ‘baby blues’? It’s when the mother feels overwhelmed by the burden of parental responsibility, over-worried about the baby’s well-being, displeased with her weight gain, at a loss of control over daily activities and disgruntled with the lack of quality time with her husband – all of this, plus physical weakness and dependence on others during postpartum, makes her tearful, edgy, short-tempered and over-reactive about trivial matters.

“Moodiness, tearfulness, anxiety and fatigue are all common on the roller coaster of emotions women may experience after giving birth,” says obstetrician and gynecologist Susan Spencer, M.D. “Postpartum blues are a normal consequence of adjusting to a huge life change and the sleep deprivation that comes with it.”

For some, this phase arrives days or weeks after childbirth; for most, though, it happens just after delivery. “At the hospital, I just wanted to take off all the IV drips and run away. I felt so chained and helpless,” says Nabeeha. She refused to hold her baby, due to the physical pain of a Caesarian-section surgery. “For the first two months, I couldn’t sleep, until my baby did. Even if she was lying in the cot playing, I would sit nearby, watchful.” After returning to her husband’s home abroad, she frantically called up her parents in tears, panic-stricken that she wouldn’t be able to do it alone. Hours of her mother’s consoling restored her composure.

Struggling to establish breastfeeding, constantly changing diapers and dealing with a spouse, who is unhappy with her new figure and her constant preoccupation, a new mother is terrified of making mistakes and of failing as a parent. Putting up with recurrent advice of older women is another headache: “Don’t hold the baby that way”, “use cloth diapers – it’ll save money”, “swaddle tightly for the first six months”, “press baby’s head into the right shape”… It’s no wonder then that the motherhood brings with it a great mental and physical fatigue.

Triggered by drastic drops in hormonal levels after delivery, the baby blues are experienced by 85% of new mothers. However, if this condition lingers beyond two weeks, so that it adversely affects the mother’s ability to take care of her baby, it can be attributed as postpartum depression (PPD).

“About 10 to 20 percent of women actually develop postpartum depression. The difference is in the degree and duration of symptoms,” says Dr. Susan Spencer.

PPD has more chances of occurring amid certain factors, such as: a difficult and/or unwanted pregnancy, a difficult older child, financial difficulties, poor relationship with spouse, lack of family support, or history of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) before marriage. How does one know that PPD has onset?

A significant change in mood and/or appetite, an inability to concentrate, excessive fatigue, inability to sleep even when a support person is there to care for baby are common signs of this more serious condition.

The signs of PPD are noticed first by the spouse or other relatives. It is very important not to dismiss them as trivial, because PPD is an illness requiring non-medication treatment and therapy.

“Becoming a mother is the most beautiful experience, but it doesn’t come without paying a price. Allah (swt) would not just throw heaven at our feet,” says Amna. “Dealing with sibling rivalry, if there’s an older child, maintaining (the latter’s) school and activity schedule, doing chores expected by the in-laws, having to cook and clean the house, losing the mental enrichment derived from a previous purposeful job, feeling estranged from spouse, if he is not supportive enough… it takes a good six months, or may be more, before you are able to settle down with the overwhelming responsibilities. You can only survive it by pouring your heart out before Allah (swt).”

What can be done? This writer also confesses going through the same phase twice in the past 3 years. That’s all the more why I would like to share the ways of helping women experiencing these problems.

Acknowledge that the problem exists

For the relatives: if you see your daughter or daughter-in-law acting as described above, empathize with her. Recall the pain you felt, when you delivered a baby (the stitches hurt, whether the delivery was normal or C-section) and don’t reprimand her for her outbursts. Also, try not to say: “I never went through this,” because you were fortunate. Other women have erratic hormones, even if you did not. And it’s not their fault that they do.

Ask for help

Whether it’s your husband, mother or mother-in-law, don’t feel guilty about asking them to take the baby for some time, so that you can relax and unwind. Pamper yourself: you need to recover from one of the biggest physical experiences ever. Go out, exercise, eat your favourite dessert or call up a friend, especially one, who has also recently given birth.

Remember Allah (swt)

If you cannot recite Quran, pray or fast, engage in extra remembrance of Allah (swt), particularly the Adhkar that repel the Shaitan. Remember Him, when you cry, when you feel the physical pain, when your toddler misbehaves or when the house is a mess. Remember Him, because He knows how you feel:

“And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years.” (Luqman 31:14)

Have faith in Allah (swt): help is near

Even if it seems impossible right now, it’s just a matter of 5-6 months for you to become ‘normal’ again. Your baby will start sleeping through the night, you will have ‘free’ personal time; you will lose weight and gain energy; you will enjoy leisure hobbies and your husband will revert to being more than a male-nanny.

Sister, remember that also this shall pass…

 

Depression in Teenagers

By Naba Basar

Depression is one of the most common psychological problems, affecting nearly everyone at any stage of their lives. It causes pain and suffering, not only to the one affected but also to the ones close to the sufferer. Serious depression can paralyze lives. One should distinguish the thin line between general sadness and serious depression.

Signs and symptoms of depression in teens:

  • sadness or hopelessness
  • irritability, anger or hostility
  • tearfulness or frequent crying
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
  • changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • restlessness and agitation
  • difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • thoughts of death or suicide

If you are a parent and see similar symptoms in your teenager, take action right away. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better. Depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. The following symptoms of depression are more common in teenagers than in their adult counterparts:

  • irritable, sudden outbursts or angry mood
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • extreme sensitivity to criticism
  • withdrawing from some, but not all people (unlike adults)

What are some of the problems that depression can cause in teens? The effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. In fact, many problematic behaviors or attitudes in teenagers are actually indications of depression. Remember that untreated depression can lead to: problems at school, running away from home, drug and alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, eating disorders, Internet addiction, reckless behavior, violence or self-injury, which can lead to suicide.

The question remains – what are you to do if your teen is depressed? The first thing you should do, if you suspect depression, is to talk to your teen about it. Share your concerns with your teenagers in a loving and non-judgmental way. Let your teen know, what specific signs of gloominess you’ve noticed, and why they worry you. Then, encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through. As any parent knows, getting teens (depressed or not) to talk about their feelings is easier said than done. If your teen claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your teen is qualified to diagnose or rule depression out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.

Tips for talking to a depressed teen:

  • Offer support. Let depressed teenagers know that you’re there fully and unconditionally for them. Hold back your queries but make it clear that you are willing to provide whatever support they need.
  • Be gentle but persistent. If your adolescent shuts you out at first, be persistent. Talking about it can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level, while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
  • Listen, don’t lecture. Resist your urge to criticize or pass judgment, once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is communication. Avoid offering unsolicited advice.
  • Validate feelings. Their feelings or concerns may seem silly or irrational to you, but don’t try to talk teens out of their depression. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling.
  • Your job here is not over. Then it’s your responsibility to help your teenager out of depression. Your support is greatly needed at this point. It is now more than ever that your teenager needs to know that he or she is valued, accepted and cared for.
  • Be understanding. Living with a depressed teenager can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Be patient and understanding.
  • Encourage physical activity. Encourage your teenager to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of melancholy, so find ways to incorporate it into your teenager’s day. Something as simple as walking or going on a bike ride can be beneficial.
  • Encourage social activity. Isolation only makes gloominess worse, so encourage your teenager to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your teen out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, etc.
  • Stay involved in treatment. Make sure your teenager is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your child takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your teen’s condition and call the doctor, if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.
  • Learn about depression. Just like you would, if your child had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression, so that you can be your own ‘expert.’ The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed teen.
  • Encourage your teenager to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed teens realize that they’re not alone, and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.

 

I would like to recommend a book by Aiadh Ibn Abdullah Al-Qarni entitled “Don’t be Sad.” This book contains verses from the Quran, sayings of Prophet Muhammad (sa), of his companions and of wise people throughout history. “Be happy, at peace, and joyful; and don’t be sad” is the essence of this book.