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Dealing with Worries and Stress

Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

category: Coping with Adversity


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But as for the person who insists on running his own affairs and making his own choices, whose concern is only for his own share and not for his duties towards his Lord, Allaah will leave him alone with the choices he has made, so he will be surrounded by concerns, worries, distress, grief, fear, exhaustion and depression. His thoughts will be confused, none of his deeds will be pure and none of his hopes will be fulfilled. He will gain no respite, and will enjoy no pleasure. He will never feel joy or contentment. He will be labouring like a working-animal, with no hope of gaining anything that could help him in the Hereafter.

When a person relies upon Allaah and puts his trust in Him, he is not controlled by bad illusions. He trusts in Allaah and hopes for bounty from Him, which protects him from distress and worry, as well as many psychological and physical diseases. Thus his heart gains indescribable strength, relaxation and joy. The one who is truly free from problems is the one whom Allaah has freed and helped to strive against his own-self (jihaad al-nafs) by seeking beneficial means of strengthening his heart and dispelling anxiety. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"And whosoever puts his trust in Allaah, then He will suffice him" [al-Talaaq 65:3]

i.e., He will take care of everything that is of concern to him, whether it has to do with his religion or his worldly affairs.

The person who relies on Allaah is strong in heart and is not adversely affected by illusions or things that happen, because he knows that this is a sign of weakness and fear that is unfounded. He also knows that Allaah has guaranteed to take complete care of the one who puts his trust in Him, so he trusts Allaah and has confidence in His promise. Thus his worries and anxiety disappear, hardship is replaced with ease, sadness turns to joy and fear turns to a feeling of security. We ask Allaah to keep us safe and to bless us with strength of heart and steadfastness through complete reliance on Him, for He has guaranteed all goodness and protection from all evil and harm to those who put their trust in Him.

Other ways of dispelling distress and anxiety include paying attention to what is beneficial, focusing on what matters today and no longer worrying about what may happen tomorrow or regretting what happened yesterday

Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sought refuge with Allaah from worry and regret: regret for things that have happened in the past which one cannot go back and change, and worries about what may happen in the future. The slave should think only about the present, focusing his energy on doing his best today, because this is what results in perfect work, and helps him to forget his worries and regrets. When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prayed a du'a, or taught it to his ummah, he encouraged them not only to seek the help of Allaah and hope for His blessings, but also to work hard and strive to achieve the protection they prayed for, for du'a goes hand-in-hand with effort. Thus the slave will strive for whatever benefits him in his religion or his worldly affairs, and will ask his Lord to grant him the result for which he is aiming. He asks Allaah for help, just as Abu Hurayrah reported: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allaah than the weak believer, and both are good. Pay attention to that which could benefit you, seek the help of Allaah and do not feel incapacitated. If anything befalls you, do not say, "If only I had done such-and-such, such a thing would have happened." Say instead, "It is the decree of Allaah, and what He wills, He does," for saying "if only" opens the way for Shaytaan."

Thus the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) established a link between, on the one hand, his command to strive for beneficial things in every situation, seeking the help of Allaah, and not giving in to feelings of inadequacy which the harmful kind of laziness, and, on the other, giving in to regret for things in the past which are over and done with, and thinking about the will and decree of Allaah. He described things as being of two types: things which the slave can strive to achieve either in totality or as much as he can, or can protect himself from them, or lessen their impact, by making an effort and seeking the help of Allaah; and others about which he cannot do anything, so he should accept them and be content. Undoubtedly, paying attention to this principle will bring about happiness and dispel worry and distress.

The hadeeth quoted above indicates that one should strive to eliminate the causes of distress and bring about causes of happiness, by forgetting about bad things in the past that cannot be changed, and by realizing that to spend too much time thinking about such an impossible task is a foolish and crazy waste of time. So one should try not to think about it, and try not to feel anxious about the future or imagine fear and poverty that may or may not lie ahead. We should realize that the future, whether good or bad, is something unknown; it is in the hands of the Almighty, All-Wise, not in the hands of His slaves, and all they have to do is to strive for the good things and protect themselves from bad things. The slave should know that if he distracts his mind from worries about the future and puts his trust in his Lord, then Allaah will take care of it and his worry and anxiety will disappear.

One of the most effective ways of finding comfort and contentment is to remember Allaah frequently

Dhikr (remembrance of Allaah) has a wonderful effect in calming the soul and relieving stress and worry. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"Verily, in the remembrance of Allaah 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-Allaah (there is no god except Allaah)." This is what Talhah told 'Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him: "I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say a word which no slave says at the time of death but Allaah 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 Allaah be pleased with him) said: "I know what it is." Talhah asked, "What is it?" 'Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: "Do you know any word greater that what he told his uncle to say? "Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah". Talhah said, "That's it, by Allaah, that's it!"

Seeking refuge in prayer

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"And seek help in patience and al-salaat (the prayer)" [al-Baqarah 2:45].

Hudhayfah said: "Whenever the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was grieved by something, he used to pray." When Ibn 'Abbaas (may Allaah 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 Allaah.

Another thing that may dispel worry is jihaad for the sake of Allaah

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "You must strive in jihaad for the sake of Allaah, may He be blessed and exalted, for it is one of the gates to Paradise, and Allaah dispels worry and distress through it."

Speaking about the blessings of Allaah, both those which are obvious and those which are hidden

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