Sheikh Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarnee authored a self-help best seller book about helping Muslims cope with depression, feelings of helplessness and for times when one feels discouraged and sad. This book is different from the many of similar kind in that it is written specifically from an Islamic perspective and references Quran and Hadith, yet also quotes western philosophers and thinkers whose words of wisdom are equally applicable in this context.
The following are excerpts from his book called "Don't be sad". To buy the book, visit the Don't be Sad section of Islamic Books.
Do not be shaken by hardships; rather pause to think about hardships
Hardship strengthens your heart, atones for your sins, and helps to suppress an inclination towards pride and haughtiness. The one upon whom calamity has fallen gets the opportunity to display courage with patience. The author emphasizes that despite all this we should strive to avoid sadness as sadness, grief, and anxiety are the roots of mental problems and sources of stress. Besides, we have the advantage of having Quran, supplication, remembrance, and prayer, which to Muslims are known to lighten the load of our anxiety.
Allah says in the Quran:
And never give up hope of Allah's Mercy. Certainly no one despairs of Allah's Mercy, except the people who disbelieve. (Qur'an 12: 87)
Doing good to bear your hardships with serenity.
Dale Carnegie said: "African-Americans that live in the South along with the Chinese rarely fall prey to those heart diseases that result from anxiety. This can be attributed to the serene and casual way in which they lead their lives." He also said: "The number of Americans that make suicide attempts is greater than the number of those who die as a result of the five most deadly diseases combined."
Helping others gives comfort to the heart.
Aristotle said: "The ideal person is he who takes pleasure in serving others, and who is ashamed when others do things for him, since showing compassion is a sign of superiority, while receiving it is a sign of failure."
Sheikh Qarni highlights a known fact that if you find yourself to be in difficulty or distress, show kindness to others, and you will in turn find solace and comfort. Give to the needy, defend the oppressed, help those in distress, and visit the sick: you will find happiness surrounding you from all directions.
An act of charity is like perfume - it benefits the user, the seller, and the buyer. Furthermore, the psychological benefits that one receives from helping others are proven. If you suffer from depression, an act of charity will have a more potent effect on your sickness than will the best available medicine.
Also, we know from Ahadith that Allah admitted the prostitute from the children of Israel into Paradise because she showed mercy and gave a drink to a dog who was thirsty. So what will be the case for the one who removes hardships for his or her fellow humans !
Do not be sad from the want of ample provision
Verily, the One Who provides sustenance is Allah. He has made it binding upon Himself that whatever provision He has written for His slaves will reach them.
Allah says in the Quran:
And in the heaven is your provision, and that which you are promised. (Qur'an 51: 22)
The author emphasizes the point that if one truly believes what is in the Quran and that Allah is the One Who provides for the creation, then there is no need to despair for sustenance and there is no need to degrade oneself in front of another person in the hope of procuring from him his sustenance.
Allah says in the Quran:
And no [moving] living creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allah. (Qur 'an 11: 6)
How to deal with bitter criticism
The author raises a good point that those who are ignorant have uttered curses at Allah, the Exalted, the Creator of all that exists, so what treatment should we, who are full of faults, expect from people? You will always have to face criticism, which in its onslaught is like an interminable war: it shows no sign of ending. As long as you shine, give, produce, and have an effect upon others, then you are doing what is expected of you and even then one can face people’s disapproval and condemnation. Until you escape from people by finding a tunnel in the ground or a ladder leading to the sky, they will not desist from censuring you, and from finding fault in your character. For that reason, as long as you are from the denizens of earth, expect to be hurt, to be insulted, and to be criticized. The wisdom is to deal with that criticism in a way without being depressed and in a way that continues to propel you toward acts of goodness and kindness.
The key therefore is to remain firm and patient when facing their insults and criticism. If you are wounded by their words and let them have an influence over you, you will have realized their hopes for them. Instead, forgive them by showing them the most beautiful of manners. Turn away from them and do not feel distressed by their schemes. Their disapproval of you only increases you in worth and merit.
Do not expect gratitude from anyone.
Allah, the Almighty, created His slaves so that they may worship and remember Him, and He provided sustenance for them so that they may be grateful to Him. Nevertheless, many have worshipped other than Him and the masses are thankful not to Him, but to others, because the characteristic of ingratitude is widespread among human beings. So do not be dismayed when you find that others forget your favors or disregard your kind acts. Some people might even despise you and make you an enemy for no other reason than that you have shown them kindness.
Rebel boredom with work
When you find yourself to be idle, prepare for depression and despair, because idleness allows your mind to wander in the past, the present, and the future, with all of their difficulties. Therefore, my sincere advice to you is to perform fruitful acts instead of being idle, for idleness is a slow and veiled form of suicide. Idleness is like the slow torture that is inflicted upon prisoners in China: they are placed under a tap, from which a drop of water falls only after every few minutes. During the period of waiting between drops, many of them lose their minds and are driven to insanity.
Convert a lemon into a sweet drink
An intelligent and skillful person transforms losses into profits; whereas, the unskilled person aggravates his own predicament, often making two disasters out of one. The Prophet (pbuh) was compelled to leave Makkah, but rather than quitting his mission, he continued it in Al-Madeenah -- the city that took its place in history with lightning speed.
Imam Abmad ibn Hanbal was severely tortured and flogged, and yet he emerged triumphant from that ordeal, becoming the Imam of the Sunnah.
Imam Ibn Taymiyah was put into prison; he later came out an even more accomplished scholar than he was before.
Imam As-Sarakhsi was held as a prisoner, kept at the bottom of an unused well; he managed therein to produce twenty volumes on Islamic jurisprudence.
Ibn Katheer became crippled, after which he wrote Jam`ey al-Usool and An-Nihayah, two of the most famous books in the Science of Hadith.
Imam Ibn al-Jawzi was banished from Baghdad. Then, through his travels, he became proficient in the seven recitations of the Qur'an.
Maalik ibn ar-Rayb was on his deathbed when he recited his most famous and beautiful poem, which is appreciated until this day.
When Abi Dhu'aib al-Hadhali's children died before him, he eulogized them with a poem that the world listened to and admired.
Therefore, if you are afflicted with a misfortune, look on the bright side. If someone were to hand you a glass full of squeezed lemons, add to it a handful of sugar. And if someone gives you a snake as a gift, keep its precious skin and leave the rest.
Allah says in the Quran:
And it may be that you dislike a thing that is good for you... (Qur 'an 2: 216)
Find consolation by remembering the afflicted
Look around you, to the right and to the left. Do you not see the afflicted and the unfortunate? In every house there is mourning and upon every cheek run tears.
How many tribulations and how many people persevere with patience? You are not alone in your troubles, which are few compared to those of others.
How many sick people remain bedridden for years while suffering from unspeakable pain?
How many have not seen the light of the sun for years due to their imprisonment, having knowledge of nothing but the four corners of their cell?
How many men and women have lost their dear children in the prime of youth?
How many people are troubled or tormented?
The author reminds us therefore that we should be thankful with our situations as others are worse predicaments.
Being sad is not encouraged in our religion
The authors reminds us that sadness enervates the soul's will to act and paralyzes the body into inactivity. Sadness prevents one from action instead of compelling one towards it. The heart benefits nothing through grief The most beloved thing to the Devil is to make the worshipper sad in order to prevent him from continuing on his path.
Allah, the Exalted, says:
Secret counsels [conspiracies] are only from Shaytaan [Satan], in order that he may cause grief to the believers. (Qur'an 58: 10)
Contrary to what some believe (those who have an extreme ascetic bent), the believer should not seek out sadness, because sadness is a harmful condition that afflicts the soul. The Muslim must repel sadness and fight it in any way that is permissible in our Religion.
The art of happiness
Among the greatest of blessings is to have a calm, stable, and a happy heart. For in happiness the mind is clear, enabling one to be a productive person. It has been said that happiness is an art that needs to be learned. And if you learn it, you will be blessed in this life. But how does one learn it? A basic principle of achieving happiness is having an ability to endure and to cope with any situation. Therefore you should neither be swayed nor governed by difficult circumstances, nor should you be annoyed by insignificant trifles. Based on the purity of the heart and its ability to endure, a person will shine. When you train yourself to be patient and forbearing, then hardship and calamity will be easy for you to bear.
It is incumbent upon you and I to take time out to be preoccupied with more than just us, and to sometimes distance ourselves from our own problems in order to forget our wounds and hurts. By doing this we gain two things: we make ourselves happy, and we bring joy to others.
Do not be sad - Some of the fundamentals of happiness that the author discusses are the following:
Know that if you do not live within the scope of today, your thoughts will be scattered, your affairs will become confused, and your worries will increase
Forget the past. Getting absorbed in things that are gone in the past is sheer lunacy.
Do not be preoccupied with the future. Because the future is in the world of the unseen - do not let it bother you...
Do not be shaken by criticism; instead, be firm. And know that, in proportion to your worth, the level of people's criticism rises.
Have faith in Allah and do good deeds: these are the ingredients that make up a good and happy life.
Whoever desires peace, tranquility, and comfort can find it all in the remembrance of Allah.
You should know with certainty that everything that happens, occurs in accordance with a divine decree.
Do not expect gratitude from anyone.
Train yourself to be ready and prepared for the worst eventuality.
Understand that perhaps what happens is in your best interest (though you may not be able to comprehend how that is so).
Everything that is decreed for the Muslim is best for him.
Enumerate the blessings of Allah and be thankful for them.
You are better off than many others.
In both times of hardship and ease, one should turn to supplication and prayer.
Calamities should strengthen your heart and reshape your outlook in a positive sense.
The Quran states that indeed, with each difficulty there is relief.
Do not be angry... Do not be angry... Do not be angry.
Look at those who are afflicted and be thankful.
When Allah loves a people, He makes them endure trials.
You should constantly repeat those supplications that the Prophet (pbuh) taught us to say during times of hardship.
Work hard at something that is productive, and cast off idleness.
Don't spread rumors and don't listen to them. If you hear a rumor inadvertently, then don't believe it.
Your malice and your striving to seek revenge are much more harmful to your health than they are to your antagonist.
The hardships that befall you atone for your sins.
Controlling one's emotions
Emotions flare up for two reasons: either for joy or for inner pain. In a hadith, the Prophet (Blessings and Peace be upon him) said: "Verily, I have been prohibited from emitting two foolish and wicked sounds, one that is emitted when something favorable happens, and the other that is expressed when calamity strikes."
For this reason, the Prophet (pbuh) said: "Verily, true patience is that which is displayed during the initial shock."
Therefore, when one contains his emotions upon both the joyful and the calamitous occasion, he is likely to achieve peace and tranquility, happiness and comfort, and the taste of triumph over his own self. Allah described man as being exultant and boastful, irritable, discontented when evil touches him, and niggardly when good touches him. The exceptions, Allah informed us, are those who remain constant in prayer. For they are on a middle path in times of both joy and sorrow. They are thankful during times of ease and are patient during times of hardship.
Unbridled emotions can greatly wear a person out, causing pain and loss of sleep. When such a person becomes angry, he flares up, threatens others, loses all self-control, and surpasses the boundaries of justice and balance. Meanwhile, if he becomes happy, he is in a state of rapture and wildness. In his intoxication of joy, he forgets himself and surpasses the bounds of modesty. When he renounces and relinquishes the company of others, he disparages them, forgetting their virtues while stamping out their good qualities. On the other hand, if he loves others, then he spares no pains in according them all forms of veneration and honor, portraying them as being the pinnacles of perfection.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Love the one who is beloved to you in due moderation, for perhaps the day will come when you will abhor him. And hate the one whom you detest in due moderation, for perhaps the day will arrive when you will come to love him."
And in another hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) said: "And I ask you (O' Allah) to make me just, both while being in a state of anger and while being in a state of Joy...". So when a person curbs his emotions, when he controls his mind, and when to each matter he gives according to the weight of its importance, he will have taken a step towards wisdom and true understanding.
Indeed, Islam came as much with balance in morals, manners, and dealings as it did with its straightforward, holy, and truthful way of life. "Thus We have made you a just [and the best] nation…(Qur 'an 2: 143). Being just is an end that is called for in both our manners and in matters of jurisprudence. In fact, Islam is founded on truth and justice truthfulness in all that we learn from revealed texts, and justice in rulings, sayings, actions, and manners.
The Prophet (Blessings and Peace be upon him) said in an authentic hadith: "And know that victory comes with patience and that relief comes with hardship."
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