3 Ways to Keep Your Acts of Worship Sincerely For The Sake of Allah Alone

Muslim Matters - 16 March, 2017 - 21:56
The Good News

It has been narrated that Imam Al-Hasan Al-Basri said about hypocrisy:

“مَا أَمِنَهُ إِلَّا مُنَافِقٌ، وَمَا خَافَهُ إِلَّا مُؤْمِنٌ”

“No one feels safe from (falling into) it (i.e. hypocrisy) except a hypocrite, and no one fears from (falling into) it except a believer.” The fact that you are interested in learning how to maintain your sincerity is a great sign, God willing, of your belief and sincerity, and Allah knows best.

Here is a quick reminder of why it is critical to have our intentions in acts of worship sincerely for the sake of Allah alone:

Remember, for one’s act of worship to be accepted there are two conditions that need to be fulfilled:

1) The action has to be correct (i.e. in accordance to the Quran and Sunnah)

2) The action has to be done for sake of Allah alone


Allah said:

“فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا”

“…Sowhoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.” [18:110]

Here are 3 ways to keep your acts of worship sincerely for none other than for the sake of Allah: 1. Seek Allah’s assistance

We need to keep in mind 2 important points:

  1. Just as we cannot breathe, see, feel, eat nor hear if it wasn’t for Allah’s assistance … we too cannot keep our intentions sincere for the sake of Allah if it wasn’t for His assistance.
  2. Never feel confident that you will die in a state of sincerity and belief. Read and appreciate this remarkable request from Prophet Ibrahim to Allah in the Quran.
    وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَـٰذَا الْبَلَدَ آمِنًا وَاجْنُبْنِي وَبَنِيَّ أَن نَّعْبُدَ الْأَصْنَامَ

And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said, “My Lord, make this city [Makkah] secure and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols.” [14:35]

Do you realize what he asked for? He asked Allah to assist him and his children to not worship idols! If he, Ibrahim, one of the best humans who ever walked the face of this Earth was seeking Allah’s assistance towards not committing major association (shirk akbar) then what should we do…

Not just that, Shahr bin Hawshab said:

شَهْرُ بْنُ حَوْشَبٍ، قَالَ قُلْتُ لأُمِّ سَلَمَةَ يَا أُمَّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ مَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُ دُعَاءِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِذَا كَانَ عِنْدَكِ قَالَتْ كَانَ أَكْثَرُ دُعَائِهِ ‏”‏ يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَتْ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَا لأَكْثَرِ دُعَائِكَ يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ

“I said to Umm Salamah: ‘O Mother of the Believers! What was the supplication that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said most frequently when he was with you?” She said: ‘The supplication he said most frequently was: “O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion (Yā Muqallibal-qulūb, thabbit qalbī `alā dīnik).’” [At-tirmidhi]

Simply amazing! The one who went to the heavens and spoke with Allah still sought assistance in Him towards keeping his heart steadfast and sincere… So be in a habit of making this supplication especially when you feel your sincerity may sway away.


Another supplication one should be in the habit of saying:

Allah commanded Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) to say:

وَقُل رَّبِّ أَدْخِلْنِي مُدْخَلَ صِدْقٍ وَأَخْرِجْنِي مُخْرَجَ صِدْقٍ وَاجْعَل لِّي مِن لَّدُنكَ سُلْطَانًا نَّصِيرًا

“And say, “My Lord, cause me to enter a truthful entrance and to exit a truthful exit and grant me from Yourself a supporting authority.” [17:80]

What does it mean to ask for “a truthful entrance?” One of its meanings, as Dr. Mohammed Al-Nabulsi said, is a person asking Allah for that entrance (i.e. to their job, university, travel, marriage, etc.) to be for the sake of Allah alone, subhana Allah. That is beautiful, but is it enough? A person may start an action sincerely for the sake of Allah but as time progresses one’s intention may drift away towards worldly reasons instead. Here, the second part of the supplication comes in where we ask Allah for a “truthful exit”. Just as we would seek to begin our acts of worship with a sincere intention for none other than Allah we would love to end the action with the same sincere intention for Allah.

2. Hide your good deeds

Allah said:

“ادْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ”

“Call upon your Lord in humility and privately; indeed, He does not like transgressors.” [7:55]

Imam As-shinqiti explains the concept of hiding your deeds in Adwaa’ Al-Bayaan:

إنما كان الإخفاء أفضل من الإظهار لأنه أقرب إلى الإخلاص، وأبعد من الرياء.

“Hiding (the good deed) is better than publicizing it because it is closer to sincerity and further from showing off (to people).”

The earlyMuslims would not indulge in sharing their worship. We learn from Ibn Katheer that Imam Al-Hasan Al-Basri said:

أدركنا أقوامًا ما كان على الأرض من عمل يقدرون أن يعملوه في السر فيكون علانية أبدا

“We have known people who no act of worship on Earth which they can perform secretly except that they would never end up publicizing it.”

But one, obviously, can publicize their good deed if it wasn’t possible to hide it and if it was seen to be better than hiding it as Allah said:

“إِن تُبْدُوا الصَّدَقَاتِ فَنِعِمَّا هِيَ ۖ وَإِن تُخْفُوهَا وَتُؤْتُوهَا الْفُقَرَاءَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۚ وَيُكَفِّرُ عَنكُم مِّن سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ”

“If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah, with what you do, is [fully] acquainted.” [2:271] 

Ibn Katheer stated about this verse:

فيه دلالة على أن إسرار الصدقة أفضل من إظهارها ; لأنه أبعد عن الرياء ، إلا أن يترتب على الإظهار مصلحة راجحة ، من اقتداء الناس به ، فيكون أفضل من هذه الحيثية

“In it (i.e. this verse) a sign that hiding and being secretive in giving charity is better than publicizing it; because it is further from showing off, unless publicizing the act is more beneficial, such as, for people to be inspired and be positively influenced, then it is better (to publicize it) from this angle.”

One day I had to pick up a brother very early in the morning for an appointment. Upon picking him I asked: “Brother, you seem wide awake. Did you not sleep?” He replied: “I did sleep but I woke up, prayed qiyam (night prayers) and stayed awake since.” To me personally, there were great lessons to extract from this incident. Mainly, one should avoid accusing anyone’s intentions, since one’s intention is located in the heart and only Allah knows about, and because it is possible that the brother publicized to me such a supposedly secret deed just to inspire me to wake up at night and pray to Allah.

With that being said, I’d like to share a thought with you: it is a lot easier to be sincere when performing public good deeds if a person has a good amount of secret good deeds. Think about that. On the other hand, as many have advised in the past: “Hide your good deeds the way you would hide your bad ones”.

3. Keep in mind the consequences, in this life and afterlife, of seeking peoples’ pleasure over Allah’s pleasure

The insincere will be exposed in this life. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:

“مَنْ سَمَّعَ سَمَّعَ اللَّهُ بِهِ، وَمَنْ يُرَائِي يُرَائِي اللَّهُ بِهِ”

“He who lets the people hear of his good deeds intentionally, to win their praise, Allah will let the people know his real intention, and he who does good things in public to show off and win the praise of the people, Allah will disclose his real intention (and humiliate him).” [Al-Bukhari]

My beloved, be watchful of your intention, be watchful of it even when you are posting on social media. Do not post a hadith, verse or an Islamic reminder of some sort except that your main focus is whether Allah will be pleased with it or not and not whether you will get many likes or not. The people may praise us for the “dawah” work we do but it would be just a matter of time till we get exposed had we been doing it just to please the people and for an intention other than it being for the sake of Allah, and Allah knows best.

The insincere will suffer mentally and physical

Why is that? Because if an act of worship was not performed for the sake of The Creator then it is surely done for the sake of the creation and it will never be possible to please all the creation. So the insincere is wasting his energy, time and all valuable assets for a goal that will never be accomplished. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) himself did not have everybody pleased with him. The people accused him of being a magician, madman, possessed…etc. Allah says in the Quran

كَذَٰلِكَ مَا أَتَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا قَالُوا سَاحِرٌ أَوْ مَجْنُونٌ

“Similarly, there came not to those before them any messenger except that they said, “A magician or a madman.” [51:52]

Not just that! Even Allah, glory be to Him, did not have everybody pleased with him and some even considered Him stingy! Allah said in Surah Maidah:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ يَدُ اللَّـهِ مَغْلُولَةٌ ۚ غُلَّتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَلُعِنُوا بِمَا قَالُوا ۘ بَلْ يَدَاهُ مَبْسُوطَتَانِ يُنفِقُ كَيْفَ يَشَاءُ ۚ

And the Yahood said, “The hand of Allah is chained.” Chained are their hands, and cursed are they for what they say. Rather, both His hands are extended; He spends however He wills. [5:64]

Please pay attention to the following as well: leaving a good deed for the fear that people may think you are showing off is in essence showing off.

Moving on to mentioning the consequences of being insincere in the afterlife- the insincere will be mocked and the first to be punished on the day of judgment. The Beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:

إِنَّ أَخْوَفَ مَا أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ الشِّرْكُ الأَصْغَرُ . قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ : وَمَا الشِّرْكُ الأَصْغَرُ؟ قَالَ :الرِّيَاء . إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى يَقُولُ يَوْمَ تُجَازَى الْعِبَادُ بِأَعْمَالِهِمْ اذْهَبُوا إِلَى الَّذِينَ كُنْتُمْ تُرَاءُونَ بِأَعْمَالِكُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا فَانْظُرُوا هَلْ تَجِدُونَ عِنْدَهُمْ جَزَاءً

The thing that I fear most for you is minor shirk.” They (companions) said: “O Messenger of Allah, what is minor shirk?” He said: “Showing off, for Allaah will say on the Day when people are recompensed for their actions: ‘Go to those for whom you were showing off with your deeds in the world, and see what reward you find with them.’” [As-selselah As-saheehah]

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) also said:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ النَّاسِ يُقْضَى يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عَلَيْهِ رَجُلٌ اسْتُشْهِدَ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ قَاتَلْتُ فِيكَ حَتَّى اسْتُشْهِدْتُ ‏.‏ قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ قَاتَلْتَ لأَنْ يُقَالَ جَرِيءٌ ‏.‏ فَقَدْ قِيلَ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ حَتَّى أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ وَرَجُلٌ تَعَلَّمَ الْعِلْمَ وَعَلَّمَهُ وَقَرَأَ الْقُرْآنَ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ تَعَلَّمْتُ الْعِلْمَ وَعَلَّمْتُهُ وَقَرَأْتُ فِيكَ الْقُرْآنَ ‏.‏ قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ تَعَلَّمْتَ الْعِلْمَ لِيُقَالَ عَالِمٌ ‏.‏ وَقَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ لِيُقَالَ هُوَ قَارِئٌ ‏.‏ فَقَدْ قِيلَ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ حَتَّى أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ ‏.‏ وَرَجُلٌ وَسَّعَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَعْطَاهُ مِنْ أَصْنَافِ الْمَالِ كُلِّهِ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ مَا تَرَكْتُ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ تُحِبُّ أَنْ يُنْفَقَ فِيهَا إِلاَّ أَنْفَقْتُ فِيهَا لَكَ قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ فَعَلْتَ لِيُقَالَ هُوَ جَوَادٌ ‏.‏ فَقَدْ قِيلَ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ ثُمَّ أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ

The first of men (whose case) will be decided on the Day of Judgment will be a man who died as a martyr. He shall be brought (before the Judgment Seat). Allah will make him recount His blessings (i. e. the blessings which He had bestowed upon him) and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his life). (Then) will Allah say: What did you do (to requite these blessings)? He will say: I fought for Thee until I died as a martyr. Allah will say: You have told a lie. You fought that you might be called a” brave warrior”. And you were called so. (Then) orders will be passed against him and he will be dragged with his face downward and cast into Hell. Then will be brought forward a man who acquired knowledge and imparted it (to others) and recited the Qur’an. He will be brought And Allah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). Then will Allah ask: What did you do (to requite these blessings)? He will say: I acquired knowledge and disseminated it and recited the Qur’an seeking Thy pleasure. Allah will say: You have told a lie. You acquired knowledge so that you might be called” a scholar,” and you recited the Qur’an so that it might be said:” He is a Qari” and such has been said. Then orders will be passed against him and he shall be dragged with his face downward and cast into the Fire. Then will be brought a man whom Allah had made abundantly rich and had granted every kind of wealth. He will be brought and Allah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them and (admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). Allah will (then) ask: What have you done (to requite these blessings)? He will say: I spent money in every cause in which Thou wished that it should be spent. Allah will say: You are lying. You did (so) that it might be said about (You):” He is a generous fellow” and so it was said. Then will Allah pass orders and he will be dragged with his face downward and thrown into Hell. [Muslim]

May Allah protect us…

Do you know when should one feel completely safe and confident that they are going to make it to Jannah, in shaa Allah? It is when the person hears the angel of death right next to his or her head during the last moments of their life and says as Allah says:

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ﴿٢٧﴾ ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً ﴿٢٨﴾

“[To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul, (27) Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him], (28)” [89:27-28]

I pray to Allah that you get to hear this said to you, my beloved and respected brothers and sisters, but to hear it you need to do your best to perform your acts of worship sincerely for none other than Allah. Remember to seek Allah’s assistance and hide your good deeds.

The Guardian view on Geert Wilders’ defeat: good news, to be treated with caution | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 March, 2017 - 19:19
Dutch voters have shown that xenophobic populism need not advance unchecked. But the Freedom party’s gains and the prime minister’s embrace of some of its themes are alarming

It was – finally – a piece of good news for Europe’s liberal democratic order: in the Netherlands, a closely watched election has produced a defeat for xenophobic populism. After Brexit and Trump, and ahead of key elections in France and Germany, the Dutch vote was widely seen as a test for populist forces across the west. In the end, voters turned their backs on extremism. They turned out in large numbers and prevented Geert Wilders’ anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-EU Freedom party from delivering the populist “revolution” he had so fervently promised. With less than 13% of the vote, the Dutch far-right failed to reach first place. Clear victory went to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD party, which won the largest share of votes and is now set to form the next coalition. On the left, Labour suffered a severe setback. It may not be unrelated that the Greens and the centrist D66 party achieved notable breakthroughs.

After a campaign largely dominated by identity politics, the overall outcome signalled that even in an era of polarisation and fragmentation, the centre can hold and things do not necessarily have to fall apart. It showed that populist insurgencies are not a foregone conclusion and that democratic pushback can be effective. So it was no surprise that a collective sigh of relief could be heard from European capitals. Angela Merkel spoke of a “very pro-European result”. A Wilders victory would have been a boost to Marine Le Pen’s Front National, just six weeks ahead of the first round of the French presidential elections, as well as an encouragement for Germany’s far-right AfD party. In the wake of Donald Trump’s ascendency to the White House, the leaders of Europe’s national populist movement (Mr Wilders among them) had held a summit designed to hail a common “Patriotic spring”, saying 2017 would be the year Europeans “wake up”.

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India, Brexit and the legacy of empire in Africa | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 March, 2017 - 18:42

It is disingenuous of Shashi Tharoor to pretend that religious hatred did not exist in India before “the British introduced it” with their policy of “divide and rule” (A legacy of exploitation and ruin, G2, 9 March). He must know that when Mahmood of Ghazni first brought Islam to the subcontinent in the 10th century, his invasion involved incalculable violence, massive loss of life and a wanton destruction of Hindu religious sites on a scale that Islamic State could only dream of. The Mughals, who were Persian and never let their Hindu subjects forget it, were as foreign to India as the British.

Those British were, of course, lucky that a power vacuum had been created by the collapse of the Mughal empire in the second half of the 18th century, which the well-organised East India Company was better able to fill than even such a warlike Hindu warrior caste as the Marathas. As George Orwell pointed out long ago, the Raj was indeed a racket run for the greedy benefit of about 1% of the UK’s population (true of all capitalism since about 1980). Nevertheless, there were great moments of civilization and glory, both for the eventually defeated conquerors and those who bravely resisted them, throughout the very short period (in Indian historical terms: 1600-1947) when the British were political players in India.

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Turkey plans to ban TV dating shows

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 March, 2017 - 15:53

Deputy PM says they do not fit with the country’s ‘customs, traditions, beliefs and family structure’

Turkey is planning to ban popular television dating shows because they do not fit with Turkish traditions and customs, the deputy prime minister has said.

Numan Kurtulmuş was referring to matchmaking reality shows, which are popular in Turkey but attract thousands of complaints every year.

Related: Turkey closes 20 TV and radio stations in post-coup clampdown

Related: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: 'A woman is above all else a mother'

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Documents support fears of Muslim surveillance by Obama-era program

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 March, 2017 - 11:00

Obama’s controversial Countering Violent Extremism program described as ‘intelligence gathering’, something civil rights groups have long claimed

Internal US law enforcement documents describe a highly controversial community initiative aimed at identifying potential terrorists before they “radicalize” as being intimately related to intelligence gathering.

Despite years of official denials, American Muslim civil rights groups have claimed that Barack Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative was a euphemistic approach that targeted Muslims for surveillance.

Related: Kellyanne Conway: 'microwaves that turn into cameras' can spy on us

Related: Registry used to track Arabs and Muslims dismantled by Obama administration

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Why won’t YouTube and Google consider moderators to tackle online hate? | Keith Kahn-Harris

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 March, 2017 - 08:59
There’s no easy fix of course, but it would help if internet companies faced up to their responsibilities as publishers, and tried the human approach

In preparation for an article I am writing, I spent much of the other day researching neo-Nazi music. I explored the music of skinhead bands such as Skrewdriver and Bound for Glory, national socialist black metal groups such as Graveland, and some of the more bizarre manifestations of white power music (German neo-Nazi hip-hop is apparently a thing).

And how did I do this research? Did I skulk in dodgy pubs with bull-necked men with shaved heads and bulldogs? No, I used YouTube and Google.

Related: Social media sites face heavy hate speech fines under German proposal

Related: Facebook policy chief: social media must step up fight against extremism

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The hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women | Iman Amrani

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 March, 2017 - 19:19
Religious identity isn’t something you can take off in public. The European court of justice has turned the headscarf into a symbol of resistance

This week’s decision by the European court of justice to allow the hijab to be banned in the workplace is yet another sign of the continent’s obsession with how Muslim women dress.

Related: Europe's right hails EU court's workplace headscarf ban ruling

The French staged ceremonies where Algerian women had their veils removed to show they'd chosen the coloniser's side

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'Not about religion': how Trump officials have attempted a travel ban rebrand

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 March, 2017 - 13:32

Challengers argue the ban’s intent has been to discriminate based on religion or nationality, but supporters of it are trying to classify it as something else

At midnight on Thursday, Donald Trump’s renewed executive order restricting travel from six Muslim-majority nations will go into effect, provided no last-minute legal challenges intervene. When it does, more than 15 months will have passed since, in the wake of a horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, then candidate Trump announced his intention to impose a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”.

Related: Trump travel ban: opposition rallies as new order set to take effect

Related: Meet Stephen Miller, the architect of the new Trump travel ban

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Dutch PM Mark Rutte 'boosted by spat with Turkey' as election nears

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 March, 2017 - 07:00

Diplomatic row over Turkish minister ban ‘letting statesman-like Rutte snatch ground from rival Geert Wilders, say analysts

Dutch voters go to the polls on Wednesday in a high-stakes general election overshadowed by an ugly diplomatic standoff between Turkey and EU capitals that analysts believe has played in the prime minister’s favour.

A day before a vote widely viewed abroad through the prism of the UK’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s US victory, late polls gave Mark Rutte’s liberal centre-right VVD party its clearest lead yet over Geert Wilders’ populist, anti-Islam, Freedom party, which some surveys put down in third or even fifth place.

Related: Dutch parliamentary elections: everything you need to know

Related: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: 'We know Dutch from Srebrenica massacre'

Related: What the Dutch elections are all about … and what they’re not about | Cas Mudde

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Shattering The Stigma of Mental Health

Muslim Matters - 15 March, 2017 - 04:45

Imagine a 20-year-old girl, who had spent her short life misunderstood and ridiculed not only by her peers but by her own family members. Devastated and broken, and suffering for years in silence, her self-esteem was obliterated. She pleaded with her parents for professional help, but her grievances were never taken seriously. Overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and alienation, the darkness of depression took over. Her unbearable loneliness left her feeling as if she didn’t have a choice but to try to end her pain the only way she knew how by taking her own life. Alhamdulilllah, it was a failed attempt, which jolted her parents to wake up from their delusion and finally act.

When the family came in to see me they had no idea that the solution could be so simple. Alhamdulillah we were able to turn her life around in just a few short sessions. She learned to understand her depression, ways to cope with stress and restore the relationship with her parents.

“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.” (Al-Bukhari)

Many people are suffering in silence with depression like the girl in the story, but they are not seeking help because of the fear and the stigma associated with mental health. They are either apprehensive about being labeled or they are ashamed to admit that they have a problem. It is about time we start prioritizing mental health and giving the same kind of medical attention as we do with physical illness. If your child broke his leg would you ignore it and hope it will just get better on its own or will you rush him to the emergency room to align the bone and put a cast on it? What would happen if the broken bone was ignored and not treated? It would obviously become a bigger problem leading to a lifetime of difficulty when it could have been so easily treated. Parents who wouldn’t treat a broken bone would be seen as negligent and unfit parents. They would even be categorized as abusive. Then why do we ignore the emotional wounds of our loved ones? Why do we assume that they will get over it? Bones will not heal sporadically without an orthopedist; a cavity will not go away on its own without a dentist and mental illnesses will not be healed without seeking psychological help from a professional. There are some people who may have limited finances, but in the same way we come up with the funds needed for surgery we need to come up with the funds to treat our family with mental health issues.

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Stigma associated with mental health
  • Apprehensive about being labeled
  • Ashamed to admit their problem
  • Financial limitation
How Mental Health is Generally Dealt With

Mental health is often completely disregarded and trivialized in our communities. Since the symptoms of the disorders may not be as visible as physical diseases, it can be easily dismissed as being made up or unimportant. Due to a lack of education in mental health or experience, many parents prefer to sweep the problems under the rug denying that it is of any significance. Unfortunately, sticking your head in the sand will not make the problems disappear. Pretending that mental illness does not exist only exacerbates the problem. Untreated mental health issues can proliferate and completely take over the life of a loved one. Sometimes this can manifest in extreme depression, anxiety or hallucinations, which can be scary for family members, who then may resort to yelling, threatening and shaming their loved ones into silence. At their most vulnerable and frightening time when they are desperately in need of support, understanding and professional help, they are often ostracized and humiliated. 

Summary: How Mental Illness is Generally Dealt With:
  • Disregarded
  • Trivialized
  • Dismissed
  • Pretend it doesn’t exist
  • Yelling
  • Threatening
  • Shaming
  • Ostracizing
  • Humiliating
Benefits of Early Detection

And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message], so ask the people of knowledge if you do not know. (Surat Al-Anbiya, 21:7)

In seeking medical attention for our family, we spare no expense to get the most renowned cardiologist or neurologist in the country for advice and treatment. When it comes to psychological advice, though, anyone will do. There is a total disregard for education, experience and competence. It is important to find a professionally trained counselor who is qualified to provide the specific type of treatment that is needed.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen extremes in people seeking treatment. There have been those who come for therapy in their fifties confiding in someone for the very first time in their life that they were abused at the age of four. These individuals delay their healing process and live with pessimism, rancor and resentment throughout their lives. Then there are those who quickly recognize there is a problem and they seek help to prevent it from escalating. These individuals learn to navigate through tumultuous waters of life with grace and confidence, knowing that they took the necessary steps to seek help. Amongst the elite are those exceptional individuals who come before they even detect a problem for premarital therapy, pre-parenting tips and preparation for loss of a loved one. They equip themselves like professional campers in avoiding dangers of conflict in marriage, putting out the fire of anger in parenting, preparing for the inevitable and making the most of their adventurous journey of life.

As with all illnesses, early detection and treatment of many mental disorders could be managed and cured. It could be the difference between having a fulfilling, peaceful life or living miserably and destroying the happiness of others. When someone learns to overcome their issues, they are more capable of having meaningful relationships. Early detection could mean more empathy for the one suffering and it could increase their self-esteem by having an in-depth understanding of their disorder. Sometimes it could be life and death.

Let’s not wait until it’s too late to seek treatment for ourselves and our loved ones.

Summary: Benefits of Early Detection:
  • Manage the illness
  • Cure the illness
  • Peaceful life
  • Better relationships
  • More empathy
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Better understanding of the illness
  • Prevent suicide
What Needs To Be Done?


Did I mention education? The more we inform our communities about the importance of treating mental health, the more we can prevent tragedies and help people live a fulfilling life regardless of their mental and emotional challenges. There is a need for Friday sermons across the country discussing our responsibility as practicing Muslims to treat ourselves and our families for mental illness. In order to create a safe environment to discuss mental illness, we have to be less judgmental and more supportive of one other as a community. We need to talk more openly about it without feeling ashamed. Instead of humiliating and ostracizing those with mental illness, we need to have prophetic patience, a heart full of compassion and the willingness to provide reliable treatment. If we adopt all these new strategies, then maybe we can change the current statistics. Sadly, 56% of adults in the 4.5 million people who suffer from mental disorders do not get treated. Let’s educate ourselves and our communities to shatter the stigma of mental health once and for all.

Review: What Needs To Be Done?
  • Education
  • Khutbas about mental illness
  • Less judgmental
  • More supportive
  • Talk openly
  • Prophetic patience
  • Compassion

The Myth of the Depression-Proof Muslim

Muslim Matters - 14 March, 2017 - 22:49

There’s this article I haven’t written yet, the one where I confess to struggling with depression.

In that soul-baring masterpiece I finally admit to sleeping too little and breaking down too often. I talk about having a child with autism, a rare genetic disease, and the heart-breaking pain of watching my children develop the same disease too.

I cry while writing it, you cry while reading it. Its completion gives purpose to my years of private struggle but – but I haven’t written that one yet. So I’m writing this one instead.

We Muslims have some pretty ridiculous myths about depression, and the worst is that somehow there is “no depression in Islam.”

O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers. – Qur’an 10:57

Allah calls the Qur’an the healer of hearts. If depression doesn’t exist, is Allah referring to coronary heart disease?

This myth’s existence is based on the idea that depression is a form of ingratitude or low faith. Therefore, a person in depression mustn’t be “in Islam” so to speak.

Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested?  Allah asks this of us in Surah Anqaboot. You think being a believer means never being stressed? Wrong.

We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. – Qur’an 29:2-3

Allah tested believers before, and He’ll test believers now. To say that depression is a sign of weak faith is to imply that those with bad lives are guilty of being bad Muslims, and this completely contradicts what we know about the most righteous people. In fact, the more righteous you are, the more likely you are to be tested.

Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas, may Allah be pleased with him, once asked, “O Messenger of Allah, which of the people are most sorely tested?”

The Prophet ﷺ said: “The prophets, then the next best and the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of religious commitment. If his religious commitment is strong, he will be tested more severely, and if his religious commitment is weak, he will be tested in accordance with his religious commitment. Calamity will keep befalling a person until he walks on the earth with no sin on him.”

For as long as people have been unhappy, the human mind has struggled with understanding the difference between a test and punishment. A person can suffer and instead of seeing their suffering as temporary opportunity, they wonder what they did to deserve such punishment.

Shaitaan loves this train of thought, because it travels due south. I’ve done everything Allah asked me to. I know I’ve messed up, but I said I was sorry. Why is He is doing this to me? Either Allah’s not fair or Allah’s not really there. Either way, this sucks and I don’t wanna do this anymore.

That’s a dangerous ride to take, and if you don’t change direction before going too far, your options become limited to loss of faith or loss of life. You either give up on Allah and find other reasons to continue living, or discontinue living entirely.

No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.  – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Life is painful and unpredictable and complicated, so when it comes to knowing the difference between a punishment and a test, all you have to remember is this: How are you reacting to it?

If you find yourself faced with depression and you fight it with the help of Allah and all the means He puts at your disposal, it is a test and you have passed it even if you NEVER fully defeat depression. As long as your keep your faith and stay patient, you have shed sins the way a tree sheds its leaves in fall. You trade some pain in this life for reward in the next, that other believers will be halal jealous of.

However, if you find yourself faced with depression and you resent Allah for it, allowing your state to push you farther from Him and closer to any sinful thing you can use to distract yourself from it, then your test has become your punishment. Your response increases your pain in this life AND the next.

Say: “Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our protector.” And in Allah let the believers put their trust. – Qur’an 9:51

A dear friend of mine called me once, knowing that I was struggling. She had been taking a class on the names of Allah, and when she read up on Al-Jameel, she just had to tell me about it.

“Zeba listen!” she said excitedly, “Allah is Al Jameel, He is Beautiful! He creates beautiful things! He loves Beauty!”

I thought of flowers and fractals and fish. I didn’t see the relevance. “And?”

“Don’t you get it? Al-Jameel wrote your Qadr with beauty too. He wrote autism into your son’s Qadr. He wrote beauty in all of it, even in your pain.”

If that hit you in the heart the way it hit me, make dua for Mona. I think of that phone call often, because it was the first time I began to see pain as part Allah’s plan, rather than my own failure at the emotional invulnerability that I believed all good Muslims were supposed to have.

I wasn’t hurting because I was a bad Muslim, badly managing Allah’s punishment for my badness.  I was hurting because Allah was allowing me to experience hurt, and hurt forced me to seek Allah out for healing.

How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him. -Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Being depressed feels like sitting underwater in the bottom of a well, hating the darkness but starving for the air and strength needed to swim toward the surface. It’s cold and lonely and desperately hopeless down there. Depression feels so very far away from Allah, but it forces me to fight my way closer to Him. And I feel safer and less afraid knowing that Allah put me at the bottom of the well the same way He put Yusuf down there, peace be upon him.

Allah knows I’m  down here. He knows I can make it out. I don’t have to know everything that He knows, I just have to trust Him.

In my other article- I’ll write it one day maybe – I have this totally neat, emotionally satisfying and perfectly well-rounded conclusion. I put depression in its proper context by calling it a test, not a punishment or curse for weak Muslims. I let on that I was depressed before but I’m ok now, and if I can make it out of depression then you can too.

That’s in my other article though. In this one, I’ll be frank. I get sad sometimes, I get really, really sad. And then, I feel guilty for feeling sad. Not because I’m blaming myself for not being “Muslim enough” to get happy already, but because I when I look at my first world life and my first world problems, I feel as if I am making a big stink. Like oh pity me, I’m chronically sick but happily married, well supported, and have a good healthcare plan that covers most of my deductibles and I also don’t live in a war zone. 

None of my self-deprecating objectivity seems to work. I can imagine all the children dying in Syria and Palestine and Burma and South Sudan, but when mine cries in my lap because she’s not feeling well for the 99th day out of the last hundred, I feel like my heart is broken.

I’m trying to remember that my heart is NOT broken though. It’s working perfectly well and doing the things my heart is supposed to be doing. It is aching out of sympathy for the love of my children, because they too are being tested by the will of Allah. My heart is struggling and in pain, and I will use that pain to seek healing by the will of Allah. Because that is what my heart is supposed to do. Hearts are supposed to hurt.

Because Allah has promised to heal them.


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