Professor Rafik Beekun
Updated March 3, 2012
Islam and Stress management (Part 1): Description and Importance of Zikr
Note: This series of articles about stress on “The Islamic Workplace” blog describe the type of stress one may experience as a normal part of one’s career. These articles are purely for informational purposes, and do not refer to the severe types of stress experienced in major crises or life-threatening situations. One should seek professional advice in such situations.
Stress is “the physiological response to actions or events that place excessive psychological or physical demands on a person.” It is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed his ability or resources to handle them. When you are stressed, it may result in any or all of the following:
- Decrease in communication.
- Decrease in motivation.
- Decrease in performance since your performance is a function of your ability times your motivation.
- Learned helplessness. According to Wikipedia, “learned helplessness is a psychological condition in which a person feels that he/she has no control over his/her situation and that whatever he/she does is futile. As a result, he/she will stay passive when the situation is unpleasant or harmful.”
- Reactance. According to Wikipedia, “reactance is an action in direct contradiction to rules and/or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms; it can occur when someone is heavily pressured to accept a certain view or attitude. Reactance can cause the person to adopt or strengthen a view or attitude that is contrary to what was intended and also increases resistance to persuasion.” Reactance can lead to rebellion or physical confrontation to restore previously gained rights or freedom.
Please note that the amount of stress one experiences depends on one’s perception of the situation and one’s ability to handle with it. In a future post, I will talk about the mechanisms underlying stress.
No matter how bad you perceive your situation to be and how depressed or stressed or desperate you are, never give up on Allah. Doing so is actually tantamount to disbelief.
“Truly no one despairs of Allah’s Soothing Mercy except those who have no faith. ” (Qur’an, 12: 87)
When you feel overwhelmed and down with stress, remember Allah and do Zikr. Zikr refers to all forms of the remembrance of Allah, including Salat, Tasbeeh, making supplication (Dua), and reading Quran.
“And your Lord says: ‘Call on Me; I will answer your (prayer)…” (Quran 40:60)
As Muslims, we are in direct communication with the Almighty. He is the only One Who not only Hears and Knows all, but Who can change our situation and give us the patience to deal with our difficulties.
“Remember Me, and I shall remember you; be grateful to Me, and deny Me not“
Continuously relying on Allah or Tawakkul is an intrinsic part of your life as a Muslim or Muslima, and especially so during times of stress. Before you leave home for work, say ‘in Your Name Allah, I put my trust in Allah, and there is no power or force except with Allah’ (Bismillahi Tawakal to al Allah wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah).
Once you have determined how to deal with a stressful situation or problem at work or Allah, put your trust in the most Wise and the All-Knowing.
“When you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah” (Quran 3: 159).
Part of the above article comes from: How a Muslim should deal with stress and anxiety by Abdul Malik Mujahid. Please read the complete article on the Islamcity Forum website.
Stress Management (Part 2): Duas When In Stress
Last updated on February 25, 2007
This section will list the duas (supplications) for handling stress or difficult situations. Some of these are also listed in the duas section of this blog–where many more duas as well as a detailed etiquette for how to make duas are included. Here, however, we have added some extra material related to stress. After you have read this section, please look up the five other segments relating to stress management on this blog. Insha Allah, we pray that they will be of help to you.
General advice from Prophet Muhammad (s) when you are in distress or suffering from anxiety:
In hadith #599 narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas in Sunan Abu Dawood, The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If anyone continually asks pardon, Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide for him from where he did not reckon.
When in distress or difficulty or sorrow:
Source for this dua subsection: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 4, no 128
1. Ibn ‘Abbas reported, “The Prophet, peace be upon him, at times of sorrow and grief used to supplicate, La ilaha illa Allah Al-‘Azim, Al-‘Alim, la ilaha illa Allah, Rabbul ‘arshil ‘Azim, la ilaha illa Allahu, Rabbus-Samawati wa rabbul ardi wa rabbul ‘arshi karim (There is no god but Allah, the Mighty, the Forbearing, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the mighty throne, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and the Lord of the throne of honor)’.”
Source: Bukhari and Muslim.
2. Anas said that when the Prophet, peace be upon him, was faced with a serious difficulty, he would always supplicate, “Ya Hayyu, ya Qayyumu, bi-rahmatika astaghithu (O the Living, O the Eternal, I seek help in Your grace).
3. Abu Hurairah reported that whenever the Prophet, peace be upon him, was faced with a serious difficulty, he would raise his head to the sky and supplicate, “Subhan-Allah al-‘Azim (glory be to Allah, the Mighty).” And when he implored seriously and strongly, he would say “Ya Hayyu, Ya Qayyum (O the Living, the Eternal One).”
4. Abu Bakrah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The supplications of distress are, ‘Allahumma rahmataka arju, fala takilni ila nafsi tarfata ‘ain, wa aslah li sha’ni kullahu, la ilaha illa anta (O Allah, I hope for Your mercy, so give me not over to my self even for as little as wink of an eye, and set right all my affairs, there is no god but You).”
Source: Abu Daw’ud
5. Asma, daughter of ‘Amais, reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked her, “Shall I tell you words that you may say in times of pain or distress. These are, ‘Allah, Allah, Rabbi la ushriku bihi shai’an (Allah, Allah, my Lord, I associate none with Him).” Another narration says that these words should be said seven times.
Source: Abu Daw’ud
6. Sa’d ibn Waqas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The supplication made by the Companion of the Fish (Prophet Yunus) in the belly of the fish was, ‘La ilaha illa anta, subhanaka, inni kuntu minaz-zalimin (there is no god but You, You are far exalted and above all weaknesses, and I was indeed the wrongdoer)’. If any Muslim supplicates in these words, his supplication will be accepted.” In another report we read, “I know words that will cause Allah to remove one’s distress. These are the words (of supplication) of my brother Yunus, peace be upon him,”
7. Ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “If any servant of Allah afflicted with distress or grief makes this supplication, his supplication will be accepted: ‘O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of your maidservant. My forehead is in Your hand. Your command conceming me prevails, and Your decision concerning me is just. I call upon You by every one of the beautiful names by which You have described Yourself, or which You have revealed in Your book, or have taught anyone of Your creatures, or which You have chosen to keep in the knowledge of the unseen with You, to make the Qur’an the delight of my heart, the light of my breast, and remover of my griefs, sorrows, and afflictions‘.” A supplication in these words will be answered. Allah will remove one’s affliction and replace it with joy and happiness.
Source: Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Hibban
8. Anas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to supplicate, “O Allah, there is no ease except what You make easy, and you alone can turn a difficulty into ease.” (Ibn As-sinni)
Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 4, #131
9. Allah’s Apostle used to say at the time of difficulty, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Majestic, the Most Forbearing. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Tremendous Throne. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Heavens and the Lord of the Honourable Throne.”
Source: narrated by Ibn Abbas in Sahih Bukhari, volume 9, #526.
Dua videos Dua when in stress (dua in arabic)
Some Additional Reminders When in Stress:
Remember that sickness expiates evil deeds and wipes out sins.
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “When Allah wants to be good to someone, He tries him with some hardship.”
Abu Hurairah also reports that Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, said:
“For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief, or hurt that afflicts a Muslim
-even the hurt caused by the pricking of a thorn – Allah removes some of his
sins.” Ibn Mas’ud said: “I visited the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him,
while he had a fever. I exclaimed: ‘O Messenger of Allah! You have a high
fever! ‘ He said: ‘My fever is as much as two among you [might have]. ‘ I
asked: ‘Is it because you have a double reward?’ He replied: ‘Yes, that is right.
No Muslim is afflicted with any hurt, even if it is no more than the pricking of a
thorn, but Allah wipes off his sins because of it and his sins fall away from him
as leaves fall from a tree‘.”
Abu Hurairah (r) said: “The Prophet, peace be upon him, remarked: ‘The example of a believer is like a fresh tender plant; from whichever direction the wind blows, it bends the plant. But when the wind dies down, it straightens up again. (Similarly a believer is tested by afflictions to strengthen his faith and heart, and he remains patient and firm). And an evil person is like a pine tree which remains hard and stiff until Allah breaks it whenever He wills.”
Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 4, #1
When under stress or at any other time of hardship, do not wish for death in your dua.
It is makruh or “disliked” to wish for one’s death, or pray to Allah for it, due to poverty, distress, illness, or the like. The six canonical compilers of hadith narrate on the authority of Anas that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Let no one among you wish for death due to any hardship that may befall him. But if one has no other choice, but to do so, one should say: “O Allah! Grant me life as long as life is good for me, and cause me to die when death is better for me.”
The wisdom in the prohibition against wishing for death becomes obvious from a hadith narrated by Umm al-Fadl: “The Prophet, peace be upon him, went to see Al-‘Abbas. He found him wishing for death. Thereupon the Prophet said: ‘O Abbas! O Uncle of Allah’s Messenger! Do not wish for death. If you do good and live long, your good deeds will multiply. Then that is better for you. If you are not good and your death is delayed, you may seek Allah’s forgiveness. That is better for you. So do not wish for death’.” (Narrated by Ahmad and Al-Hakim, who says it is sound according to Muslim’s criteria)
It is permissible, however, to wish for death, and there is no harm in doing so, when one fears persecution that puts one’s faith at risk, as is indicated by the following supplication of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him: Allahumma inni as’aluka fi’lal khairat wa tarkal munkarat wa hubbal masakin wa an taghfarali wa tarhamani wa idha aradata fitnatan fi qaumi fatawafani ghaira maftunin wa as’aluka hubbaka wa hubba man yuhibbuka wa hubba ‘amalin yuqaribu ila hubbika “O Allah! I ask You for the means to do good, to avoid evil, and to love the poor, and I beseech You to forgive me and have mercy on me. When You subject my people to a trial, cause me to die without being affected by it. O Allah! I ask Your love, the love of those who love You, and the love of all such actions that bring one closer to Your Love.”(Narrated by Tirmidhi who said it is a good and sound hadith)
‘Umar (r) used to pray in these words: Allahumma kabirat sinni wa da’ufat quwwati wa anshrat ra’i-atifaqbidni ilaika ghaira mudayi’ wa la mufaratti “O Allah! I have grown old, I have become weak, and my flock has spread far and wide. Therefore, O Allah, take me to You before I fall short of doing my duties or transgress my limits.” This is reported by Malik.
Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 4, #13a
If you are experiencing stress because of illness, you may complain of your illness, but do so Islamically without anger or impatience.
It is permitted for a patient to complain of his pain and illness to a physician or a friend, provided he does not do so to express his or her anger or impatience. It was mentioned earlier that the Prophet (s) said: “My fever is as severe as that of any two of you.” Once ‘Aisha (ra) complained to the Messenger of Allah (s) about her headache, lamenting: “O my head.” He retorted: “Nay, rather (I should say) O my head!” Likewise it is reported that ‘Abdullah ibn Al-Zubair asked his ailing mother, Asma bint Abi Bakr, “How are you feeling now?” She replied: “I am in pain.”
A patient should thank and praise Allah, before talking about his distress and complaint.
Ibn Mas’ud said: “If one thanks Allah before complaining about his pain or disease, then it is not considered impatience. Indeed, to refer one’s complaint to Allah, is quite lawful.” Jacob (the prophet), said: “I complain of my distraction and anguish only to Allah.” The Prophet Muhammad, (s) himself prayed: “O Allah! to You I complain of my weakness.”
Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 4, #2
Do not use the word “if” when faced with something difficult or unpleasant.
Abu Hurairah (r) related that the Prophet (r) said, “When one of you is afflicted with any misfortune he should say, ‘Ina li llahi wa inna ‘ilayhi Raji’un (We are for Allah, and to Him is our return),’ even if it be merely losing one’s shoe straps, for this is also a misfortune.” (Ibn As-Sinni)
Abu Hurairah (r) reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “A strong believer is better and dearer to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, but cherish what gives you benefit in the Hereafter and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say, ‘If I had not done that, such and such thing would not have happened,’ but say, ‘Allah has ordained it so, and whatever He pleases He does,’ because ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ open the door for Satan.”(Muslim)
Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 4, #132.
Islam and Stress Management (Part 3): Underlying Processes
by Rafik Beekun
This article builds upon the two other articles previously posted under the category labelled “Islam and Stress Management” on our blog.
Let us examine different types of stress, how they work and their potential effects on you. In general, there are two types of instinctive stress response: the short-term “Fight-or-Flight Response” and the long-term “General Adaptation Syndrome”. The first centers on the survival instinct, while the second results from long-term effect of exposure to stressors. A third mechanism involves the manner in which we think through potentially stressful scenarios calmly and rationally, and manage our stress level.
The body exhibits signs of stress very gradually, so you may not notice it initially and not realize the severity of your stress condition initially. When you are experiencing stress, your brain produces high levels of two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol that help it to survive. These hormones are meant to help you perform harder and faster by giving a temporary surge in strength. Your heart rate and blood pressure go up, and you produce more oxygen and blood sugar. You concentrate on the threat in order to deal with major events. Unfortunately, you become excitable and anxious when your body undergoes this initial stress state. You are less able to work with others. This response is called the “Fight or Flight response”. This response is triggered not only by life-threatening situations, but also when you experience something unexpected, new or challenging or when you are when frustrated or interrupted. This response is a normal part of everyday life and a part of everyday stress, and can, Insha Allah, be managed if you approach the situation calmly and rationally.
While the Fight-or-Flight response is very short term, a general response (the “General Adaptation Syndrome”) with which the body reacts to a major stimulus, occurs when you experience longer-term stress episodes. While the hormones are not dangerous in the short term, this situation is different: you perceive that you cannot confront the stressful situation directly, or escaping from it in any way. As you begin to feel trapped, you respond by manufacturing more and more of these hormones. This is where you need to be careful, and monitor yourself.
Your response to stress is in three stages:
- The alarm stage: in which there is an increase in the level of abovementioned hormones, and you are reacting to the stressor.
- The resistance stage: during which the body utilizes the produced energy. Your resistance to the stressor increases as you adapt to, and cope with it.
- The exhaustion stage: which results from exposure to the stressor over a long period of time. Once you enter the Exhaustion Phase, your resistance declines. In the business environment, a person may experience “burnout” or may often feel fatigue
Stresses can be classified into internal stresses (which are related to personal characteristics) and external stresses. In addition, they can be classified according to their effects on individual health into a good type of stress (eustress) or a destructive type of stress. Good stress is defined as the ability to respond to the challenges of life in a way that promotes stimulation and encourages personal growth; stress management tools can facilitate this reaction. Examples of destructive, unhealthy reactions to stress are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Some of the possible symptoms of prolonged exposure to stress are headache, brain tissue damage, high blood pressure, heart disease, weakening of the bones, general immune deficiency, muscle tension, menstrual disorders, miscarriage, depression, anger, fear and nervousness. If the body’s immune system is allowed to deteriorate because of stress, it may lead to other serious medical conditions such as a variety of malignancies (Source: Talaat, 2004, “Islamic Oases from Daily Stress.“)
In our day to day life, much of our stress is subtle and originates from situations like work overload, conflicting goals, ethical dilemmas, impending deadlines, conflict with co-workers, hostile work environments and so on. These may affect our performance and distract our attention, thus leading to dissatisfaction or even unhappiness. It is important to realize that to experience stress, you must (a) feel threatened by the situation, and (b) doubt that you are capable of coping with that threat. The threat itself does not have to be physical; it may just be what others might think of you, or whether your career track is at risk or even between two sets of values that are in conflict.
As you seek to handle stress in your work situation or at home, look for patterns in your coping strategies. Evaluate your current coping mechanisms (Mayo Clinic, 2006):
- Do you tense up? Do you experience tension in your neck and shoulder? Are you clenching your jaw or fists? Do you have an upset stomach, shortness of breath, back pain, or headaches?
- Do you eat even when you are not hungry or stop exercising? Stress and overeating go together.
- Do you get impatient? Do you have trouble falling asleep at night or do you have difficulty concentrating?
- Do you get angry? Do you become argumentative, constantly yourself arguing with co-workers, friends or loved ones? Do you have a short fuse?
- Are you reduced to tears? Stress may lead you to cry or find other ways to release emotions.
- Do you give up? Do you deny an issue exists?
- Do you emphasize the negative aspects of a situation?
- Do you smoke? Do you turn to alcohol or other drugs? Stress leads some people to alcohol other drugs, or even relapse into smoking.
- Do you rely on a single coping technique? If you notice yourself using one technique all the time to deal with stress (e.g. crying, being argumentative, etc), you may wish to consider other stress-reduction strategies. Our blog’s series on Islam and Stress Management will discuss a whole array of stress coping mechanisms including those centered around Islam to help you. Please note again that you may wish to seek professional help if you find yourself unable to manage your stress.
Since changing your work situation may be beyond your immediate control, you need to discover suitable mechanisms to cope with daily stress. Talaat (2004) reminds us that the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told us that we could find this internal peace and relaxation during praying. It was reported by Imam Ahmad in (Al Musnad) that the Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him) has told Bilal “call for the prayers, it will comfort us.”
Future articles will look at stress coping mechanisms in Islam, Insha Allah.
Additional source for this article:
1. Relaxation techniques-stress management techniques from mind tools. http://www.mindtools.com/stress/RelaxationTechniques/IntroPage.htm
This article is copyrighted 2006. Please do not quote or cite without permission.
Islam and Stress Management (Part 4): Islamic Coping Mechanisms
By Dr. Tahar Salaat, MD, Assistant Professor of pathology, Faculty of Medicine Cairo University. This article is reprinted here with the permission of Dr. Talaat.
Note: numbers in the article below refer to the reference sources listed at the end of this article. This article builds upon the three other articles previously posted under the category labelled “Islam and Stress Management” on The Islamic Workplace blog at http://makkah.wordpress.com.
Those who are extremely stressed can find peace and relaxation by utilizing different Islamic ‘oases’. Medicine has been proven to be inefficient in dealing with the original causes of stress, nor can it adequately eliminate all of its symptoms. Medicine may be necessary for a person in the most critical stages of chronic stress, but medicine alone may not be enough to achieve a cure for all its symptoms. Scientists are trying to find new strategies to cope with stress and minimize its effects. These include relaxation techniques, meditation, imagination (2, 5) and Yoga (6). These techniques are extensively studied to determine their effects and mechanisms of action. Different studies have confirmed the efficacy of these techniques in coping with stress and eliminating its effects. These techniques are now entering the medical mainstream and are included in many treatment programs (2).
Most of these techniques are rooted in Islamic spirituality and different Islamic forms of worship, ‘ibadatat, which can be – if performed in the correct manner – considered as good tools for coping with life’s stresses. Those who are extremely stressed can find peace and relaxation for their minds, body and soul utilizing the following different Islamic ‘oases’. In this article, I will refer to an oasis as a safe place where one can seek refuge from the ‘desert’ of life and its potential sources of stress.
Since its inception, Islam has proposed several oases from stress, and I will discuss them briefly below:
1. The Faith (iman) Oasis: Some people are more able to cope with stress than others. The determining factor of the level of stress experienced is the perception of something as a threat, which triggers the stress response, and not the threat itself. It seems that the stress response is not created by any particular type of event or situation but rather by the way that event is perceived. It turns out then that stress response is a matter of perception, or awareness. The stress reaction is activated by neural perceptions or by what amounts to one’s worldview. A worldview can be described as the prism of ideas and beliefs through which the world is perceived and judged. This means that your worldview becomes central to the way any stressful circumstance is handled (2, 3).
Islamic spiritual practices can dramatically alter your worldview and thereby restore your feelings of self worth and personal meaning, giving you a feeling of deeply rooted power and control. Control has been found to be a key factor in the psychology of chronic stress. It has been observed in clinical studies that the extent to which you feel that you are in control of your environment, is the degree to which you will, or will not, experience the hormonal stress response. Those who feel most powerless or unable to control their circumstances tend to experience the highest levels of stress. On the other hand, those who feel they have great personal control and power over themselves and their environment will be much less likely to experience the hormonal stress response, and this is regardless of the potential seriousness of the threat (2). In Islam, Muslims feel Allah, Who controls the whole world and all the creatures in it, supports them. It was reported by Omar may Allah be pleased with him that the Prophet has said: “if you people depended on Allah as you should, He would provide for you as he provides for the birds leaving their nests hungry and coming back satisfied.”
2. The Meditation and Relaxation Oasis: Meditation is being riveted on any one idea or object to the exclusion of all other ideas or objects. Meditation is really a natural quality of the mind. With meditation, the mind is trained to pay attention and to follow commands. In this way, one learns to quiet the thought traffic in one’s mind, thereby freeing up mental and physical energy. The basis of meditation is to adopt a posture of body and mind that allows one to remain comfortable for long periods of time without expending significant amounts of energy (7). Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard University physician, researched the physiologic effects of meditation in the early 1970s. He coined the term “relaxation response” to refer to the stress-reducing effects of meditation, which we now know can be elicited through a variety of relaxation practices including meditation (8). In the mid-1980s, Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, incorporated an extensive meditation program into a comprehensive lifestyle program for patients with heart disease. Data published from his five-year trial revealed reductions in total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, decreased anginal symptoms, and regression of coronary artery disease (9). Meditation works by eliciting the relaxation response. The relaxation response is characterized by decreased heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen consumption, and muscle tension.
Meditation seems to produce these changes to a greater extent and more efficiently than sleep. For example, reports from Dr. Benson’s work show that oxygen (O2) consumption diminishes by 8 percent during restful sleep over the course of four to five hours, while the relaxation response results in a 10 to 17 percent reduction of O2 consumption in a matter of minutes (4). Other studies demonstrate significant reduction in total peripheral resistance (TPR) and systolic blood pressure in those practicing meditation regularly. TPR is the maximum degree of resistance to blood flow caused by constriction of the systemic blood vessels. Reduction of TPR will reduce the overall blood pressure (10). Studies also showed diminished lipid peroxide levels resulting in reduced oxidative damage(11). Also, meditation was used intensively and effectively in control of cases with chronic pain (12) and anxiety disorders (13). Meditation by concentrating on Allah’s creatures (plants, animals, space, human body, etc.) is considered one of the most efficient and powerful forms of Islamic worship. In this form of meditation, one concentrates on an object or group of objects from the same category (categorical meditation). In fact, the Qur’an describes Muslims involved in such a process of meditation as:
Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting and lying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth (with the thought): “Our Lord! not for naught hast thou created (all) this! Glory to thee! give us salvation from the penalty of the fire: (Qur’an, 3: 191)
3. The Remembrance (zikr) Oasis: As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, meditation can be done by concentrating our thoughts on an object or group of objects of the same category. Meditation can also be performed by concentrating on one word or a few words that give the person a sense of internal peace and calm; for example by repeating the words subhan Allah (glory be to Allah) or al-hamdu lillah (all praise be to Allah). Deep and silent repetition of such words produces the same physiological effects of meditation (7). It also adds an additional factor that helps in stress elimination and that is giving the individual the feeling that he or she is in extreme proximity with Allah, the Controller of the whole world. Again, Allah mentions people engaged in this introspective process as:
Those who believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah; now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest. (Qur’an, 13:28)
4. The Imagination Oasis: this is considered one of the most powerful methods of stress reduction. During this practice, the person imagines that he or she is in a place, which gives him internal peace, calmness and rest. Muslims can find their safe place through imagining what will be present in the Paradise. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said: I have prepared for My pious servants’ bounties which no eye (has ever) seen, no ear has (ever) heard and no human heart has ever perceived.”
5. The Praying Oasis: This includes all of the previously mentioned oases including meditation, remembrance and imagination. While praying, each one of us feels that we are in extreme connection with the controlling power of this world (Allah) and that from Him we receive maximum support.
O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere. (Qur’an, 2: 153)
It was reported by Gaber may Allah be pleased with him that the Prophet has said: “your prayers are like a flowing river at your doorstep you wash yourself in it five times a day” Recent scientific investigations show that praying reduces post-operative complications following open-heart surgery. Praying also markedly reduces the percentage of patients exposed to depression following hospitalization (14). Nowadays, doctors suggest that praying can be used as an alternative therapy as successfully as meditation, exercise, or herbal treatments. According to Koenig of Duke University, “when prayer uplifts or calms, it inhibits cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine – hormones that flow out of the adrenal glands in response to stress. These fight-or-flight chemicals, released over time, can compromise the immune system, upping the odds of developing any number of illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, peptic ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disorder (IBS).” Many experts feel that the immune system is strengthened and nourished by a sense of peace elicited during praying. Many doctors believe that praying with their patients before and after surgery or before administering a course of powerful drugs might actually assist in the patient’s recovery (15). Five prayers have been prescribed to us daily. This is a good chance to make use of that time not only for spiritual enhancement but also for physical and psychological healing.
Although Ramadan has passed, its spirit should still be fresh in our hearts and minds. Investing this spirit into our daily prayers and meditations could well be the way to a stronger and more relaxing mental health.
1. Relaxation techniques-stress management techniques from mind tools. http://www.mindtools.com/stress/RelaxationTechniques/IntroPage.htm
2. Sultanoff BA & Zalaquett CP. Relaxation therapies. In: Novey DW, ed. Clinician’s Complete Reference to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2000:114-129.
3. Stress at Williams (and Elsewhere . . .) http://wso.williams.edu/orgs/peerh/stress/index.html
4. deLeon D. The relaxation response in the treatment of chronic pain. In: Micozzi MS, Bacchus AN, eds. The Physician’s Guide to Alternative Medicine. Atlanta, Ga: American Health Consultants; 1999:335-337.
5. Alive and healthy – meditation. http://www.aliveandhealthy.com/meditation.html
6. Faheem MA,Yoga and Human Being’s Spiritual Energy (Arabic).
7. Learning meditation. http://www.learningmeditation.com/
8. Meditation. http://1stholistic.com/Meditation/hol_meditation.htm
9. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA. 1998;280(23):2001-2007.
10. Barnes VA, Treiber FA, Turner JR, Davis H, Strong WB. Acute effects of transcendental meditation on hemodynamic functioning in middle-aged adults. Psychosom Med. 1999;61(4):525-531.
11. Schneider RH, Nidich SI, Salerno JW. Lower lipid peroxide levels in practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosom Med. 1998;60(1):38-41.
12. Kabat-Zinn J, Lipworth L, Burney R, Sellers W. Four-year follow-up of a meditation-based program for the self-regulation of chronic pain: treatment outcomes and compliance. Clin J Pain. 1987;2:159-173.
13.Kabat-Zinn J, Massion AO, Kristeller J. Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 1992;149(7):936-943.
14. Prayer and spiritual healing. http://1stholistic.com/Prayer/default.htm
15. International network on personal meaning. http://www.meaning.ca/conference04/presenters/koenig.htm
Islam and Stress Management (Part 5): A Video To Help You Relax
p>The Mayo Clinic has long been rated as one of the top health institutions in the USA, if not the world. Anytime you are experiencing stress or just wish to relax, here is an effective video exercise from the Mayo Clinic that you can click on from anywhere in the world that will help you relax, Insha Allah. You only need a private space and about 5 minutes:
After you are done with the above video exercise, you may wish to recite Sura Fateha (first Sura of the Qur’an) to finish off. AbdulMalik ibn Umayr narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), said, “Fatihat al-Kitab contains healing for every disease.” Darimi and Bayhaqi, in Shu’ab al-Iman, transmitted this hadith. It is also to be found in Tirmidhi.
Islam and Stress Management (Part 6): Relaxation and Humor
by Rafik Beekun at the Islamic Workplace blog
Sources: http://www.fridaynasiha.com and compiled from “The Lawful and The Prohibited in Islam” – Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, p. 292, Sheikh Jamal Zarabozo’s article on ‘The Manner of Joking in Islam’ from Islam House, and an article from Islamway
At times, Muslims can take themselves too seriously, and present too austere or aloof a picture of Islam or of themselves. This also happens as one rises up the organizational ladder, and the scope of one’s decisions widens. It is easy for a senior executive to mishandle his/her pschological size, and intimidate his/her followers. In a toxic, negative relationship, we experience stress which produces cortisol, a harmful chemical that interferes with certain immune cell functions (Daniel Goleman in his new book Social Intelligence, Bantam, 2006). Positive interactions aid the body to secrete oxytocin, boosting the immune system and decreasing stress hormones. Clearly, both the leader and his/her followers need to learn to step back and build positive relationships.
The art of managing one’s psychological size was well understood by the Prophet (s). A stranger once came to him almost trembling out of respect. The Prophet asked the man to come closer to him and with a compassionate pat on the man’s shoulder told him: “Relax brother, I am only the son of a woman who used to eat dried bread.”
Positive leader-follower relationships also include joking and humor. Following the Prophet’s (s) example, his companions also enjoyed humour, play and sport. This allowed them to relax both physically and mentally, and helped them spiritually. Ali bin Abi Taalib (r) said, “Minds get tired, as do bodies, so treat them with humour.” Similarly, Abu al-Darda (r) said, “I entertain my heart with something trivial in order to make it stronger in the service of the Truth.”
Islam is a religion that encourages engagement in this life, not isolation, and the Ummah is described in the Qur’an as a ‘balanced Ummah’. Accordingly, Islam allows a Muslim to entertain himself in order to relax through halal activities and sports. However, the pursuit of relaxation and the pleasure it provides should not become so all consuming so that he then neglects his religious and other obligations. Nor should he joke in an inappropriate manner.
The Shari’ah outlines the parameters of proper behavior with respect to human social interaction. For example, the Muslim is forbidden to joke and laugh about other people’s values and honor. Allah says: “O you who believe, let not some people mock at other people; it may be that they are better than you…” (49:11). Nor is it appropriate for the Muslim to tell jokes based on what is untrue in order to make people laugh. The Prophet (s) warned us against this, saying. “Woe to the one who says something which is false in order to make people laugh! Woe to him, woe to him!” (Collected by at-Tirmidhi)
As long as the above parameters are observed, humor and joking are permitted in Islam based upon the example of the Prophet Muhammad (s). Abu Huraira (r) said that the Prophet (s) was told, “O Prophet of Allah, you are joking with us.” He said, “I only say what is true.” (Tirmidhi).
Based on the example of the Prophet (s), joking is a Sunnah. Sufyan ibn Aiyna was asked, “Is joking prohibited?” He replied, “It is a Sunnah, but the point is that it must be done appropriately.” Many of the scholars agree. Umar said, “I admire a man who is like a child with his family (playful), and once he leaves them, he is more serious.” Thabit ibn Ubaid said, “Zayd ibn Thabit was one of the most humorous men in his home. Outside of his home, he was as serious as any man.” It is also related that Ibn Abbas asked some of his guests to have light and humorous conversation so that they would have a good time and not feel bored.
Here are some examples of joking from the Seerah of the Prophet (s) (source: ‘The Manners of Joking in Islam’ from Islam House):
- The Prophet (s) used to joke with his companions, Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi reported that a man came to the Prophet (s) and said: “Give me an animal to ride on” the Prophet (s) replied: “I will give you the son of a female camel.” The man said with astonishment: “What could I do with the son of a female camel?” (i.e., thinking that he would be given a camel too small to ride). Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (s) replied: “What do female camels deliver except camels?” (i.e., that every camel, even if it is fully grown, is the product of a female camel). (Abu Dawood & Tirmidhi).
- Tabaraani reported that an old woman came to the Prophet (s) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! Supplicate that Allah permits me into Paradise” he (s) replied: “Paradise will not be entered by old women” then he went off to pray. When he came back, his wife ‘Aisha, (ra) said to him: “The old woman found what you said to be difficult” he replied: “Allah will bring all the women of Paradise to a young age before allowing them enter.”
- Bukhari mentioned in his book, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, “The companions used to play by throwing watermelon skins at each other, but when it was time for seriousness, they were real men.”
- The Prophet (s) joked with and teased children. Anas (r), narrated: “The Prophet (s) used to joke with us; He would call out to my young brother: “O Abu ‘Umayr! (a playful nickname), what happened to your bird (a pet that he used to keep)?”” (Bukhari).
Nevertheless, some scholars have prohibited joking and they are supported by some ahadith. It is related that the Prophet said, “Everything has a beginning and hostility begins with joking.”
So how are we to bring together between these two views? Al Hafeth said, “What is prohibited is exaggerated or continuous joking as it distracts from worship of Allah and being serious about religious matters. This often leads to hard-heartedness, envy and loss of respect. Useful joking, which aims to calm people or entertain or relieve them for a short time is permissible.” This view is consistent with the latest scientific understanding and Goleman’s research on social intelligence showing that positive interactions can reduce stress, and boost the immune system.
Types of Joking:
According to ibn Hayan, there are two types of joking: the first type is preferred, and is a positive kind “which Allah has permitted, which commits no sin and does not lead to separation between people.” The second type is the negative harmful kind, which “causes hostilities and sadness, and creates disrespect amongst people.”
Etiquette for humor and joking in Islam:
- Joking should not deviate from the truth. The Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “I only say what is true.” (Tirmidhi and Bukhari in his book Al-Adab Al-Mufrad).
- Joking should not involve verses from the Qur’an, Prophetic sayings, or any of fundamentals of Islam. Allah revealed a verse about a hypocrite who was engaged in this type of ‘joking': “And if you ask them, they will surely say: ‘We were only conversing and playing.’ Say, ‘Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking? Make no excuse; you have disbelieved [i.e., rejected faith] after your belief. [...].” (At-Tawbah: 65-66). Indeed, inventing jokes about the religion of Allah may have dire consequences–as stated in the following hadith: “A servant (of Allah) would utter a word, without paying attention to it, which pleases Allah and which results in Allah elevating his rank in Paradise; And a servant (of Allah) would utter a word, without paying attention to it, which displeases Allah and which results in him going down into the Hellfire.” (Bukhari).
- Joking should not become consistent and entrenched in a person’s manner, for seriousness is also a virtue. Muhammad ibn Ar Rashid said, “The issues of Islam are more serious than to be dealt with jokingly. Smiling, joking, relaxing and laughing are certainly welcome at appropriate times and places. But at times of work, seriousness is called for.”
- Bad language or reference to improper topics of conversation may not be subject of jokes.
- Joking must be at the appropriate time and place. Dr Adel Shuweikh said, “Humour is most welcome after the Fajr prayer. He is supported by what has been related by Sammak ibn Harb, “I asked Jaber ibn Samra if he spent time with the Prophet and he said, “Yes, the Prophet would often not leave the mosque after the Fajr prayer until the sun rose. They would be laughing and he would be smiling.” (Muslim). He also said, atha another appropriate time for humor is after the ‘Isha prayer.” It is up to the person to decide whether the time is right for humour.
- The result of a joke is warmth and a relaxed environment, not shrill, cacophonic laughter. In the great work on the Prophet by Al-Qadi Iyad (d. 1149), Al-Hasan, son of Ali [r] asked his uncle Hind, son of Abu Hala about the hilye [description] of the Prophet of God (s). Part of Hind’s answer about the Prophet (s) was: “When he was full of joy he would lower his eyes. Most of his laughing was as smiling; when he did laugh, it was not loud, and he would show his teeth a bit like they were hailstones.”
Overall, then, it is the subject matter of humor and its effects, which determines whether or not it is permissible by Islam. Imam Nawawi said, “Joking is prohibited when it is excessive and consistent. It becomes ineffective and causes the heart to harden. It distracts a person from worship of Allah and concern with religious issues. It often causes harm, envy and disrespect. If these elements are absent from a joke, then it is what is permissible by Islam. The Prophet would use humor to reach people and draw them together.”
You should also remember that different people have different thresholds and triggers: some enjoy jokes, others do not. Try to understand the people you interact with, in order to decide whether or not it is appropriate to joke with them. Such was the way of the Prophet (s), for he would not joke with all his friends. Similarly, Ad-Dhahabi related that Khalaf ibn Salim said, “We were at Yazeed ibn Haroun’s and he made a joke. Ahmad ibn Hanbal cleared his throat, and Yazeed said, ‘Who cleared his throat?’ When he found out who it had been, he put his hand on his forehead and cried, ‘Why didn’t you tell me Ahmad ibn Hanbal was here so I would not joke?”
By contrast, as serious as the Prophet (s) was on so many issues, he himself could take a joke. Here are two examples of jokes that one of his companions, An-Nuayman ibn Amr (r), played on him:
- Once an-Nuayman went to the suq and saw some food being sold which appeared to be tasty and delightful. He ordered some and sent it to the Prophet (s)as if it were a gift from him. The Prophet (s) was delighted with the food and he and his family ate of it. The vendor of the food then came to an-Nuayman to collect the price of it and an-Nuayman said to him: “Go to the Messenger of God it was for him. He and his family ate it.” The vendor went to the Prophet (s) who in turn asked an-Nuayman: “Didn’t you give it to me?” “Yes,” said an-Nuayman. “I thought you would like it and I wanted you to eat some of it so I had it presented to you. But I don’t have any dirhams to pay the vendor for it. So, pay, O Messenger of God!” The Prophet (s)enjoyed the joke and so did his companions. The laugh was at his expense, literally, for he had to pay the price of the unsolicited gift. An-Nuayman felt that two benefits came out of the incident: the Prophet (s) and his family ate food that they enjoyed and the Muslims enjoyed a good joke.
- A man once came to the Prophet (s) on a delegation and tethered his camel at the door of the Masjid. The Sahabah noticed that the camel had a large fat hump and their appetite for succulent tasty meat was stimulated. They turned to Nuayman and asked: “Would you deal with this camel?” An-Nuayman understood what they meant. He got up and slaughtered the camel. The nomad Arab came out and realized what had happened when he saw people grilling, sharing out and eating meat. He shouted in distress: “Waa ‘aqraah! Waa Naqataah! (O my camel!)” The Prophet (s) heard the commotion and came out. He learnt from the Sahabah what had happened and began searching for an-Nuayman but did not find him. Afraid of being blamed and punished, an-Nuayman had fled. The Prophet (s) then followed his footprints. These led to a garden belonging to Danbaah the daughter of az-Zubayr, a cousin of the Prophet. He asked the companions where an-Nuayman was. Pointing to a nearby ditch, they said loudly so as not to alert an-Nuayman: “We haven’t found him, O Messenger of God.” An-Nuayman was found in the ditch covered with palm branches and leaves and emerged with dirt on his head, beard and face. He stood in the presence of the Prophet (s) who took him by the head and dusted the dirt from his face while he laughed. The companions joined in the mirth. The Prophet (s) paid the price of the camel to its owner and they all joined in the feast.
The Prophet (s) obviously regarded an-Nuayman’s pranks for what they were light-hearted sallies that were meant to create some relief and laughter. He as our role model clearly appreciated the humor in the two examples I have cited (source: Companions of the Prophet from The Alim Software).
At other times, joking may cause a person to lose his/her dignity. Ibn Hayan said, “Whoever jokes with an inappropriate person will lose that person’s respect, even if what he is saying is true. One should be selective with whom he jokes.”
Joking pointers for Muslims/Muslimahs:
- Is this time right time to joke?
- Is this an appropriate person to joke with? Can this person take a joke?
- Is this an appropriate topic to joke about?
- Is this the right place?
One final joking pointer: Do not insult others when joking since it could cause harm. Allah says, “O ye who believe! let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (Indeed) doing wrong.” (Al-Hujuraat: 12).
In conclusion, always show respect to the person you are joking with, as the Prophet Muhammad (s) did when he told a man he was joking with, “In the eyes of Allah, you are great.”
This article is copyrighted 2006, Rafik Beekun. Please do not cite, reproduce on another website, or quote without permission.
Audio of lecture on Islam and Stress Management
Please click here to download and listen to my lecture on “Islam and Stress Management” given in Kansas City for the Islamic Circle of North America. Please note that this lecture and its audio component are copyrighted (2008), Dr. Rafik Issa Beekun. You may listen to it and distribute it for free. Please do not charge others for this lecture in any format.
Islam and Anger Management
Because stress may lead to or result from anger, I have written two articles on my blog about Islam and Anger Management. Here they are:
Patience in Islam: A Great Virtue to live by
I wrote this article some time ago because I believe that under conditions of stress, sabr as prescribed by Allah is a wonderful virtue to live by. Please click here to read this article on patience in Islam.
Morning and Evening Zikr to reduce stress
How to deal with Anxiety and Depression in Islam
In the following two videos, two Islamic scholars give good advice and excellent du’as for how to deal with anxiety, depression and stress.