Proven ways to handle stress as being practiced now ranges from relaxation techniques, meditation, exercise, socialization, psychotherapy, sleep, yoga and tranquilizers. In this essay we are going to discuss how to deal with stress in the light of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Medicine has been proven to be inefficient in dealing with the original causes of stress, nor can it adequately eliminate all of its symptoms.
Those who are extremely stressed can find peace and relaxation for their minds, body and soul utilizing the following different Islamic “Oasis.” They are as follows:
1. The Faith (Iymaan) Oasis: 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.
Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) says: “He it is Who sent down calmness and tranquility into the hearts of the believers, that they may grow more in Faith along with their (present) Faith. And to Allaah belong the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allaah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise” (Qur’aan, 48: 4).
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.
In the mid-1980, Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California; incorporated an extensive meditation programme into a comprehensive lifestyle programme for patients with heart disease. Data published from his five-year trial reveal reductions in total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, decreased anginal symptoms and regression of coronary artery disease.
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% during restful sleep over the course of 4 – 5 hours, while the relaxation response results in a 10 – 17% reduction of O2 consumption in a matter of minutes.
Meditation by concentrating on Allaah’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). Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) says: “Those who remember Allaah standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): ‘Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.” (Qur’aan, 3: 191)
3. The Remembrance Oasis: 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 Subhaanallaah (Glory be to Allaah) or Alhamdulillaah (Praise be to Allaah). Deep and silent repetition of such words produces the same physiological effects of meditation. 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 Allaah, the Controller of the whole universe. Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) says: “Those who believed and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allaah Verily, in the remembrance of Allaah do hearts find rest.” (Qur’aan, 13: 28) And also: “And men and the women who remember Allaah much with their hearts and tongues Allaah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).” (Qur’aan, 33: 35).
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 Paradise.
Abu Hurayrah (May Allaah be pleased with him) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Allaah, 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 Worship Oasis: This includes all of the previously mentioned oasis 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 and that from Him we receive maximum support. Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He): “O you who believe! Seek help in patience through patience and prayer). Truly! Allaah is with the patient.” (Qur’aan, 2: 153).
It was reported by Imaam Ahmad that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has told Bilaal (May Allaah be pleased with him): “Call for the prayers, it will comfort us.”
Recent scientific investigations show that praying reduces post-operative complications following open-heart surgery. Praying also markedly reduces the percentage of patients’ exposure to depression following hospitalization.
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 administering a course of powerful drugs might actually assist in the patient’s recovery.
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.
6. Qur’anic Recitation: Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) says: “O mankind! There has come to you a direction from your Lord, and a healing for (the disease in your) heart, and for those who believe a guidance and mercy.” (Qur’aan, 10: 57) The echo of sound has a medical effect and is now widely utilized. The recitation of the Qur’aan or listening to the same has a wholesome effect on the body, the heart and the mind. Dr. Ahmad el-Kadi of Akber clinic, Panama City, Florida conducted and published the effects of listening to the Qur’aanic recitation on physiological parameters, i.e. the heart rate, the blood pressure and the muscle tension and reported improvement in all, irrespective of whether the listener is a Muslim or a non-Muslim, Arab or a non-Arab. Obviously, it can be postulated that those who can understand and enjoy the recitation with a belief in it as the Word of Allaah (God) will get maximum benefit.
7. The Prophet Muhammad’s Supplications: All the Prophets, being human beings, had to undergo tests and trials which resulted in temporary stress. They constantly remembered Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) and received peace through His remembrance. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for example, himself used and advised his followers to use the following supplications in times of distress, sorrow and stress.
- Anas said that when the Prophet (peace be upon him), was faced with a serious difficulty he would always supplicate, “Ya Hayyu, ya Qayyuum, bi-Rahmatika astaghith (O the Living, O the Eternal, I seek help in your Grace.” (at-Tirmidhiy)
- Abu Bakrah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him), said: “The supplications of distress are, Allaahumma Rahmataka arju falaa takilni ila nafsii twarfata ‘ayn wa aswlih li sha’ni kullahu laa ilaah illa Anta (O Allaah, I hope for Your mercy, so give me not over to myself even for as little as the wink of an eye, and set right all my affairs, there is no god but You.” (Ahmad and Abu Daawuud)
- Asmaa bint ‘Umays 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 Allaah Allaah, Rabbiy laa ushriku bihi shay’an (Allaah Allaah, my Sustainer, I associate none with Him”. Another narration says that these words should be said seven (7) times (Abu Daawuud).
8. Marriage Oasis: This is a very important aspect in our life. It is due to this that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was extremely particular in the choice so that the spouses can have the much needed tranquility to live together and assist one another in upbringing of the children. It was narrated by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A woman is married for four things, her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her Religion. So marry the religious woman, otherwise you will be a loser.” (Al-Bukhaariy and Muslim)
Marriage develops the spirit of love, mercy, affection and harmony between the spouses. When the husband returns home after a day of hard work, socializes with his wife and children, forgets the distress of the day and the fatigue fades away quickly. The wife feels the same when she joins her husband in welcoming her life partner at night.
This is how everyone gets under the shade of the other, self tranquility and mutual spouse happiness. Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) informed us of the tranquility, which will accrue from the marriage when done in the most appropriate manner. Allaah, the Exalted has said the truth when He (Exalted and Almighty be He) vividly pictured a clear appraisal and the best expression: “And of His signs, another one is that He created for you mates among yourselves that you may find comfort with them, and He planted love and kindness (tenderness/ mercy) in your hearts; surely there are signs in this for those who think about it” (Qur’aan, 30: 21).
In the above mentioned verse, Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) with His miracle has made possible for the spouses to live together though they never knew each other before in comfort between themselves, incline towards one another, find rest and also dwell in tranquility with one another. Here we indeed have a Sign to those who are able to reflect and ponder.
A person’s religious belief has an important bearing on his personality and his outlook in life. By putting the trust in Allaah, a believer minimizes the stress on him by reducing his/ her responsibility and power to control his/ her failures.
It’s important to think of the challenges (problems) in one’s life, but EVEN MORE IMPORTANT is to have trust in Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He) and to ‘put them down’ at the end of every day before you go to sleep. That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh and strong and can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way! So, as it becomes time for you to leave office today remember brother/ sister to ‘PUT THE GLASS DOWN NOW’ and have tranquility by putting Trust in Almighty Allaah (Exalted and Almighty be He).
Muslims can deal with prolonged stress better when they understand where it comes from. Stress, doctors say, usually comes from the fear of the unknown, the future, and death. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Your most ardent enemy is your evil self, which resides within your body. If this soul is not checked, it will lead to unusual stress.” (al-Bukhaariy)
A surprisingly effective remedy for stress is to “Remember death.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Remember frequently the one who will destroy all your pleasures – death! For there is no one who remembers death when in straitened circumstances, but his situation will become easier…” (An-Nawawiy)
By Mohamed Abdalla Swaleh
Muslim Chaplain – University of Nairobi