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.

Lessons of Bravery from Hind bint Utbah (ra)

Self-masteryHind bint Utbah was the daughter of Utbah ibn Rabiah and Saffiyah bint Umayyah. She was the wife of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and the mother of Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan.

She was a woman of eloquence, zeal, determination, and self-confidence.

A Visionary Mother

Passing by a town with Muawiyah (ra), when someone commented that her son will become a leader of his tribe, she replied, “Only his tribe’s leader? I want to see him as the leader of the entire world.” Her vision for her child was that of splendour.

Lessons to draw: Do we have any vision for our children? What kind of a vision is that? Is it limited to their worldly success or are we also concerned about their eternal success?

Her Husband’s Companion in War and Peace

Hind was both a heroine and a villainess. As an unbeliever, she was determined to wipe out Islam and its followers. She never shied away from voicing her opinion and regularly counselled her husband on the political front.

When she lost her father, uncle, and brother in the Battle of Badr, she did not shed a tear. She had to plot revenge. She picked an expert javelin thrower who seldom missed his target. On the promise of manumission and gold, Wahshi ibn Harb was to kill Hamza (ra). Assigning the task, Hind did not sit back home. Rather, she was present in the battlefield along with some other women, singing and boasting about their family honour and pride. She kept her eye on Wahshi ibn Harb, and as soon as Hamza (ra) was down, she entered the battlefield to proceed with what she had to do.

Lessons to draw: In a society, where only men are seen as guardians, we see Hind as a powerful woman. She did not find herself weak, though she had lost a father, an uncle, and a brother, all at the same time. Instead of wasting her energy or losing her senses wailing over them, she planned her next course of action. While her determination was for a wrong cause, we see a woman who was focused and could not be deterred. She identified the best person for her task and did not sit back home. She made sure her goal was achieved. How determined are we about our goals? And how well-planned are our goals?

Do we have any vision for our children? What kind of a vision is that? Is it limited to their worldly success or are we also concerned about their eternal success?

Conversion to Islam

Abu Sufyan and Hind accepted Islam after the conquest of Makkah.

When Abu Sufyan accepted Islam, he returned to his tribe and invited them to the True Faith. He confirmed that Muhammad (sa) was indeed the true messenger of Allah (swt), and that it is for their own good to embrace Islam. Hind could not believe her ears. How could her husband support their greatest enemy? She called him a traitor and incited her tribe to kill him. Abu Sufyan firmly informed his people that there was no way that they could fight the Muslims now. Their salvation lied in accepting the Truth.

Now that the Prophet (sa) and his followers were settled in Makkah, Hind watched them closely. She was an intelligent woman and did not believe in hearsay. One day, she approached her husband and requested him to take her to the Prophet (sa). She was so impressed by the focused worship of the Muslims that she had no reasons to believe that this was a false religion.

Abu Sufyan, though pleased with his wife’s decision, was worried about her act in the Battle of Uhud. He did not wish to upset the Prophet (sa) by reminding him that his wife had mutilated his beloved uncle. He advised her to take some women from her tribe and visit the Messenger (sa). Hind gathered some women and requested Uthman ibn Affan (ra) to accompany them.

Hind still felt remorseful for what she had done with Hamza (ra). To hide her shame, she veiled her face so that the Prophet (sa) would not recognize her. After testifying and taking her oath of allegiance, she removed her veil. She was a woman of pride and self-respect; she could not hide her identity. The Prophet (sa) made no mention of what had happened at the Battle of Uhud, and welcomed her into Islam. Hind said: “By Allah (swt), there was no house on earth that I wanted to destroy more than your house. Now, there is no house on earth that I so dearly wish to honour and raise in glory than yours.”

The lady who used to sing fierce poetry for the Prophet’s (sa) opponents then recited Quranic verses to keep the morale of Muslim soldiers high

The once vicious enemies of Islam, Abu Sufyan and Hind, then worked for the promotion of Allah’s (swt) religion. The lady who used to sing fierce poetry for the Prophet’s (sa) opponents then recited Quranic verses to keep the morale of Muslim soldiers high. Such is the fruit of guidance!

Lessons to draw: We see how we can channel our energy towards positive endeavours.

Adapted from the book: Hayat-e-Sahabiyat k Darakshan Pehlu and the lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi on Seerat-e-Sahabiyat

A Meaningful Life – Is it Really an Option?

1 meaningful life“A time will come when your life will flash in front of you. Make sure it is worth watching.” For a man, this might happen thrice. Once, when he is ripening in age and occasionally going down the memory lane. Secondly, when he is on the death bed, and his entire past reels before his eyes. Lastly, it will be on the day of standing, when he will account for his worldly life before his Lord (swt). Fifty thousand years of standing and waiting will turn a child into an old man.

How many of us even think about this amidst the frenzy of undertaken tasks or, conversely, when having nothing to do? Quite amusingly, we find people ranging from those for whom twenty-four hours are not enough, as they are madly dashing from one finished business to the next unfinished one, to those who have ample time at hand to waste and still the day is not done. Both categories have one trait in common. They will stand before Allah (swt) and account for every second they spent.

It all begins with the need to lead a meaningful life. What is it? A meaningful life is a life with purpose. Suleman Ahmer of “Timelenders” explains that it has the following four elements:

  1. Vision
  2. Time management
  3. Leadership
  4. Additional required competencies

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Important or Urgent – The Forked Road

2 important or urgentShould I finish my report first or take care of my emails at the office? Should I attend to my sick mother-in-law or go to my child’s parent-teacher meeting? Is it more urgent to do the laundry or to cook the lunch? Life tosses at us choices to be made round the clock, and we find ourselves continuously deciding what to do. Some of us prioritize in terms of value, while others arrange items to do in terms of time. Nevertheless, all of us would benefit from learning what we need to do first, what we need to do next, and what we do not need to do at all.

It is helpful to understand that most of our daily prioritization springs to action from our discretionary mental routines (DMRs). We develop our DMRs over a lifetime, depending upon our education and experiences. Hence, our choices are automatic, unless we consciously reflect before coming to a decision. For instance, you may know three people who either live with you or work with you. One day you notice that all three make the same mistake, and you decide to help them out by offering sincere advice.

You approach ‘A’ and correct him gently. He not only listens to you carefully but also seriously assesses his mistake, and eventually thanks you for helping him grow. Next, you offer the same piece of advice to ‘B’. He immediately becomes defensive, and starts explaining himself, without listening to you. At the end, he thanks you ceremoniously, and you feel highly uncomfortable following this incident. Lastly, you talk to ‘C’, who blows up in your face. He reacts bitterly to your counsel, and you regret bringing it to his attention to begin with.

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But Why Arrive on Time?

3 why arrive on timeSome people do not give any importance to arriving on time. And we are not referring only to Pakistani weddings (we will address that later)! It applies to any event, be it a business meeting, an appointment, a casual get-together, or a formal dinner. It is a principle for such individuals to walk in late, regardless of the inconvenience caused to their host, friend, or business associate. They disregard it with the flick of a fly.

Such individuals offer three common arguments to defend their practice:

  1. What will happen if I arrive early or on time, and everyone else is late? What will I do with my spare time? I will be wasting it anyway! So I cautiously delay my arrival to save my own time.
  2. What is the big deal if I was detained and have arrived late? It’s not the end of the world. Everyone is alive and kicking. Why does everybody have to make such a hue and cry about being punctual all the time?
  3. I am worthy of being waited for. Of course, all dignitaries and luminaries never make timely arrivals to grace any occasion. If the best showman will arrive on time, perform and then leave, how will concerts last until the wee hours of the morning?

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Planning Ahead to Save Time

4 planning ahead to save timeAyesha was running late. She had set her alarm for 7:00 am, and actually gotten up without pressing the snooze button even once. She had estimated that she needed around half an hour for breakfast and for getting ready, and would be at the convention centre (half an hour’s drive away) by 8:00 am sharp, where she was volunteering at a seminar that day.

However, things did not go as she had planned. She hadn’t ironed her Abaya the night before. She still had a few things to put in her bag. And making and eating breakfast took longer than she had imagined. When she finally set out of the house, it was 7:45 am. Traffic signals, a bottleneck at one intersection, and a flat tyre on the way delayed her further. When she finally reached her destination, it was almost 8:45 am.

One can say that Ayesha planned ahead of time but still managed to get her timings wrong. How?

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Keeping the End in Mind

vision for marriageBearing the end in mind is about the principle of vision, and vision is powerful. According to a well-acclaimed research, it is this principle that helps prisoners of war survive the atrocities and brutalities of concentration camps. Vision is the same principle that gives children the drive to succeed. It is a moving power behind effective individuals and organizations in every walk of life. Vision is also greater than the negative baggage of the past and even the accumulated heartache of the present.

Mariam, a woman married for almost fifteen years shared that, “There are times when my husband and I disagree about things and put a wall between us due to a difference of opinion. I have resolved not to let the wall expand and drive us apart. Almost instantly or later, I realize what Satan is trying to scheme against us. Without caring who is right or wrong, I willingly apologize to my husband or try talking things out.

Many of my friends think this is a loser’s policy. They prefer to be caught dead than to admit their mistake, or kiss and make up for a quarrel they never started.”

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