Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Recovering Muslims Survival Kit for The Festive Season

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‘Tis the season to be jolly – fa la la la la la  la la la la  La illaha illallah! 

Relapse season is about to start – oh yea even Muslims succumb to the Christmas indulgence! It is not just in the Western countries like UK or USA where Muslims may struggle to stay clean and serene during the holiday season. A visit to the Mall of Emirates, housing the worlds largest Christmas tree, hints (ok more than a hint) that it aint just a Western thing.  We don’t even celebrate Christmas but there is something about this time of year that sets off those cravings and relapses happen. Maybe its that annoying jingle jinglekeep-calm-and-bah-humbug-4 music in every shop we go in, that’s enough to send anyone crazy, or maybe that there is that atmosphere in the air where people start inviting you out to parties, movies on tv, adverts, triggers everywhere we look! The addict recovering from substances is suddenly faced with adverts for wine, office parties with punch and champers, even on the street level, the crack house has a bit of tinsel on the door! The obsessive over-eater cannot walk through the supermarket without all the tempting chocolates on offer, they even get the stuff offered for free as the lady in the pinny reaches out to them with a bit of Christmas pudding stuck on the end of a cocktail stick! For the sex addict, all he sees are pretty girls everywhere in sparkling dresses and this seasons version of red lippy (red is red right?), and it doesn’t really help if they’ve had a few drinks and getting flirty! For the shopaholic it can be turmoil to resist the lure of the sales, Black Friday, Boxing Day sale, everything must go, don’t miss out, ching ching ching. For a recovering addict, whatever your drug of choice is, there seems to be no escape from the various and many temptations on offer during the merriment that is Christmas and New Year. Sounds like we need our Christmas Survival Kit for Recovering Muslims! So let’s take a look inside ….

quranl.ight1) Your Book of Guidance – “My idea of a good night is to snuggle up with a good book” – How often do you hear that these days? Well let’s start with the basics of a recovery in Islam. Our way of life starts with the best of books – The Word of Allah, The Qur’an, in which Allah speaks directly to us. It is this very Book that is our survival kit for the rest of our lives, throughout our lives, day in day out, night in night out. The map to our world.

There was once a man who came back to his apartment, to find that his flat mate was having a party. Drinks were flowing and there were girls, willing girls. His friend waved him over to join in and in that moment he was torn whether or not to give in. The girls started calling him too. But he remembered Allah, he dashed to his room and he locked the door. He grabbed his Qur’an and he hurriedly opened it at any page and Allah spoke to him;

حُورٌ۬ مَّقۡصُورَٲتٌ۬ فِى ٱلۡخِيَامِ 

Fair ones, close-guarded in pavilions  Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? –  Whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them –  Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny?  (Surah Rahman )

In that very moment, Allah reminded him of Paradise. As Muslims we strive for those things in the Hereafter by abstaining from them in this life. By reading the Qur’an we will be reminded constantly of this and will help us to keep our vision clear and our goals for Paradise in sight. Through Allah’s Words, staying abstinent from this world becomes easy.

2) Your Shield of Taqwa!  Never leave the house without this important piece of armory.

taqwa.shield Taqwa (God-consciousness) is the very thing that keeps our recovery in tact. It is the barrier between our lusts and our sin. It is the stopping force between getting the thought to relapse and actually relapsing. During this season, triggers are everywhere. It is a time when people let go of their inhibitions and we are tested by people more so than we were throughout the rest of the year. Trying to be conscious of Allah at all times will help us to remember that Allah is Watching us, our angels are writing things down. When we are put in a position where relapse can happen, our souls struggle, we fight the urges and we feel uncomfortable and strained. Our soul cries out not to succumb to the cravings. Taqwa will make us of the winners, who hear our souls and who remain constant in the worship of Allah. And when we overcome that craving and turn back to our Lord, the soul is happy and contented. But if we fall that feeling of satisfaction will never come.

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3) Good company! It is not always the case that we get invited to parties. Christmas day is historically the most common day for people to commit suicide. Loneliness can creep in and we feel like thehqdefault whole world is having a party without us. Even as Muslims we can feel isolated as we hear about the Christmas message of sharing joy and togetherness. Our addiction may have caused us to become alienated away from our families or community. We lost good Muslim friends because of our behaviour. So whether we are the party pooper or on everyone’s naughty list, its time we made an alternative to the we_love_islam_2__by_nayzak-d3d2e83Christmas Party! Now is the time to try and catch family and friends we have lost touch with while they are off work and taking time out. Perhaps our local mosque has some activities planned for the holiday period and we can find our way back into the community. Or maybe we can bite the bullet and invite people round to our homes for something to eat. Good company during the season of relapse is important. We need to stay in the company of those people who remind us of Allah and our purpose of life. This is the time to cling onto the good people and try hard to steer clear of those who will add to our craving. It is important we replace the forbidden actions with good halal permissible ones. Islam is not dull and boring and there is a time and place to have fun. Why not get together while everyone is off work? It is a good opportunity to reunite with family and old friends.

4) Nil by mouth sign nilFasting is not just for Ramadan. The Christmas holidays are theeating easiest time of year to fast, especially if you do not have to go to work. These are from the shortest days. Fasting strengthens the shield of taqwa and helps control our cravings and desires. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said: “Winter is the best season for the believer. Its nights are long for him to pray in, and its days are short for him to fast in.” ‘Majma’ az-Zawa’id’ (3/203) and he also said: “Fasting in the winter is the easy prize.” (Ahmed)

dua5) Book of Dua’s Know that it is only Allah that gives strength to the  believers to keep them away from sin, so increase in dua’s. We must seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan and the evil within our own selves. The believer who begs of Allah for help and assistance is the one who is able to abstain from displeasing his Lord. Staying in constant conversation with Allah through our supplication will help us to strive towards pleasing Him and be mindful of those actions that take us away from His Path.

So its time to get ourselves in gear, hold onto the rope of Allah, cling on to our recovery and get ourselves strong to get through the party season, clean and dry and sober. Time to cling onto our dean and keep ourselves strong, avoid bad company and stay safe. May Allah keep us all strong and keep us on the Straight Path to Recovery. Ameen!

“Expand my chest”

anxiety2If ever any one of you has experienced severe or prolonged anxiety you will know how difficult it can make your every day living. That feeling when your chest feels tight or heavy, the heart feels like a solid rock, breathing can feel painful and the stomach churns constantly. We may have to take more trips to the toilet than normal and may even experience shaking or trembling or tearfulness. Things that we could normally do easily, like driving, trips to the shops, talking to strangers etc can feel overwhelming and frightening. If we doanxiety not treat this feeling of anxiety it becomes heightened and panic attacks can ensue. This has a ripple effect where we become more and more fearful and the anxiety increases. Throw an addiction problem into this mix and all this becomes much bigger and more scary and is often something that leads to relapse as the person seeks a way to just make that feeling go away, a feeling that we often associate or misinterpret as a craving. Carers of addicts also experience high levels of anxiety as they live in fear of the next relapse or become exposed to oppressive and unacceptable behaviour from the active addict in their lives. Anxiety begins to effect the whole family.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an about the anxiety that Musa (Moses) experienced when he was tasked with going back to Egypt to call the tyrant leader, Firaun, to worship Allah and set free the Children of Israel, who he was oppressing through slavery. Musa (as) became afraid and anxious. For a fleeting moment he doubted his abilities, his chest tightened and he lost hope in carrying out this task. He was overwhelmed. Allah tells us about his duah;

tumblr_inline_mxj3e0dLMa1qjcw8k“Lord! Expand my chest for me, and ease my task for me and And loosen the knot from my tongue that they understand my speech.” 

Musa asked for Allah to expand his chest, meaning that he felt as though his chest was tight and constricted, thus displaying the feeling of anxiety. He felt overwhelmed with his task, worried that he would find it hard so he asked Allah to make things easy for him. And lastly, his inadequacies seemed bigger to him, making him worried. He was afraid that the people he was going to would not understand him, due to a slight speech impediment, and therefore he asked Allah to remove this flaw.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this duah of Musa (as). This verse from the Qur’an teaches us that it is Allah who has the ability to remove our anxiety and make things easy for us when it all seems so difficult and frightening. It is Allah that can make things easy. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, taught us another beautiful prayer;

اللّهُـمَّ لا سَـهْلَ إِلاّ ما جَعَلـتَهُ سَهـلاً، وَأَنْتَ تَجْـعَلُ الْحَـزَنَ إِذا شِـئْتَ سَهـْلاً  “O Allah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make the difficulty, if You wish, easy.”

Knowing that a great prophet like Musa experienced anxiety should help us to be easy on ourselves. Some people may say to us “Muslims should not feel anxious when they havedont-panic Allah” are grossly mistaken. We are but human beings, and most of us will experience anxiousness at one time in our life. When we get anxious, this is the time to remember that Allah is the One who can pull us together and help us begin to rely and depend on Him.

Another example of panic and anxiety in the Qur’an, is that of Musa’s mother when she placed her little baby in the river;

“And the heart of the mother of Musa became empty. She was very near to disclose her secret, had We not tied up her heart , so that she might remain as one of the believers”(28:10)

This Verse is so beautiful. This is a Verse of Allah that needs to give us hope when our heart is feeling broken and we experience trauma or emotional pain. Allah describes her heart as being completely emptied out. Anyone who has experienced anxiety will know that the heart empties out of all other matters except that one thing we are worried about.  Allah tells us here that He intervened to strengthen her heart. He ‘tied up’ the broken pieces of her heart and held them together for her in order to get her through this test and keep her faith in tact. Therefore we must know that it is Allah who ties back the heart together when we are feeling as though we are in tatters and falling apart, broken into pieces.

So it is a very natural thing to panic and feel worried and anxious from time to time but the solution to prevent it and stop it lies in turning to Allah and trusting Him to help us.

5 Steps To Overcome Anxiety

1) Make duah, call upon Allah for help

Use the duahs mentioned above as they are from the Qur’an and sunnah and also make duah from your own heart in your own language, knowing that Allah will help you. Musa called on Allah to expand his chest when it felt tight and He knew Allah could do that.

2) Breathe!

breatheOne of the main reasons we may have a panic attack, or experience chest pains is because we are not breathing properly. When we are nervous or anxious we tend to take shorter breaths or even hold our breaths without even realising we are doing this. If you watch a sleeping baby, you will see that it is there bellies that rise and fall as they breathe. Babies know how to breathe and we forget. If we take a deep breath it is often our chests that rise. However, our oxygen receptors are actually in the diaphram, close to the stomach. When you take deep breaths try to ensure that it is your belly that is rising and not your chest. If we do not breathe from here, the receptors send a message to the brain saying “we are not getting enough oxygen here!” thus sending the person into a state of panic and they may begin to hyperventilate. For more breathing tips please click here 

 3) Try to remove the cause of your anxiety and lighten your load

If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety, you need to consider removing that cause from your life if it is possible. Seek help from others to try to make things easier for you. Call on family or friends to help you ease your task. Musa (as) knew that he would struggle to complete the task that Allah wanted him to do so Musa asked Allah to make his brother Haroon his companion and help him, and so Allah made Haroon a prophet too and granted Musa’s request. No more soldiering on alone! Time to get some help!

4) Exercise Peaceful park in spring

The scientific cause of anxiety is the release of too much adrenaline. The brain has gone into an emergency state and realises this chemical so that the person can either fight or flee, known as “fight or flight” syndrome. The body is not designed to constantly live in this state. Excess adrenaline can be burnt through exercise. If you are not ready to hit the gym yet, then a pleasant walk in a local park can do wonders. It is also very spiritual to come back to nature and sit under a tree for a while and breathe in fresh air. Cardiovascular exercise is recommended for 20 minutes at least three times a week, and this may include a brisk walk and will help lift the mood.

5) Positive self-talk

It is easy to fall prey to the whispers of Shaitan, who want us to feel weak and lose self belief. Musa (as) became fearful of his speech problem, but he called on Allah to fix it. Sometimes, Shaitan can make our flaws and weakness seem much bigger than they actually are. Allah tells us in the Quran it is Shaitan that causes us to be fearful (3:175), therefore seek refuge in Allah from his whispering several times per day. We must stop focusing on the things we struggle with, and start strengthening the things we do well.

May Allah help us to overcome our anxieties and move forward to complete our tasks and get through our days and nights without fear. May Allah help us to stay focused on trusting Allah to keep helping us and guiding us. May we remember that Allah will smooth out our roads so long as we keep turning to Him and may Allah keep us away from all those things that He is displeased with and guide us to those actions that earn His Pleasure. Ameen!

The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

 

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

Lessons for The Day of Ashura

images1BXW1LOVAs the 10th of Muharram, otherwise known as The Day of Ashoora, approaches it got me thinking and reflecting about the way Allah can open up possibilities we thought could never happen. Subhana’Allah, Glory be to Allah, He is so Amazing and truly does make miracles occur every day and sends down signs for us to see.

Fasting on this day is recommended as part of the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as related in the following hadith;

Fasting on Muharram 10, known as the Day of ‘Ashura’, expiates for the sins of the past year. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) arrived in Madinah in 622 CE, he found that the Jews there fasted on Muharram 10 and asked them the reason for their fasting on this day. They said,” This is a blessed day. On this day Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy (in Egypt) and so Prophet Musa [Moses] fasted on this day giving thanks to Allah.” 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, imagesYNJ31TNU

“We are closer to Musa than you are.” 

He fasted on that day and commanded Muslims to fast on this day. (Al-Bukhari) The following year, Allah commanded the Muslims to fast the month of Ramadan, and the fasting of ‘Ashura’ became optional. It is also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) intended to fast on the ninth and tenth. Ibn ‘Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah fasted on the day of ‘Ashura’ and ordered the people to fast on it. The people said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.” The Prophet said, “When the following year comes, Allah willing, we shall fast on the ninth.” The death of the Prophet came before the following year. (Muslim and Abu Dawud)

saveLet us just briefly take a moment to imagine the moment the children of Israel were leaving Egypt with Firaun and his frightening army following shortly behind. The children of Israel, weak and oppressed for many years, on foot, from elderly and sick to babies in arms, while soldiers advance on horseback and with weapons. Imagine, that moment when they reach the sea and there is no where to run to, no where to hide. Imagine how fast and hard the hearts were beating in their chests. It would seem that there is no way out of this terrible situation. It would seem as if this is the end, perhaps many thought they were about to die.

And then, something amazing happens! Something HUGE. Something unimaginable!

So We revealed to Musa, “Strike the sea with your staff.” And it split in two, each part like a towering cliff. And We brought the others right up to it. We rescued Musa and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest. There is certainly a Sign in that yet most of them are not believers. Truly your Lord is the Almighty, the Most Merciful.

(Qur’an, 26:63-68)

And with that wonderful, amazing moment, Allah saved the oppressed from their oppressors and they were free to worship Allah without fear. Allah has preserved this amazing story in His Books, the Bible and The Qur’an as a lesson for mankind for all those who remain on this earth until the Day of Judgement. This story is for us, as Allah says in the above verse, is a sign for us to reflect upon.

As we make a commitment to change our lives around, to seek to continuously improve our character and our relationship with Allah, we must reflect on this historical moment. Allah wants us to know that He can make anything possible and get us out of any difficulty if we totally rely and depend upon Him. Allah wants us to know this, so that we may trust in Him and increase our faith in His powers and abilities. Indeed Allah is able to do everything. Sometimes, we can get down and feel as though there is no solution to our problems. It may feel as though every one and every thing is going against us. But so long as we keep turning back to Allah, we must know that our Lord will free us from our difficulties and that no one or no thing can harm us. All is All- Mighty, All Powerful.

”And whosoever has Taqwa (consciousness of Allah), He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him (sources) he never could imagine…”  ( Qur’an. 65:2-3)

So now that we know this, what next? Well as the verse above says, those who are muh.conscious of Allah receive the help of Allah to get out of difficulty. As we try to better ourselves as Muslims increasing taqwa is the key to staying away from sins and doing more good deeds. When we know with conviction that Allah is All Aware and Ever Watchful over us, this should be enough for us to change. One way to increase our taqwa of Allah is to fast, as this helps us become more conscious of Allah, as Allah says in the Qur’an;

“O believers! Fasting has been made obligatory for you just as it was made obligatory for those before you so that you may attain taqwa”  (Qur’an: 2:183-187)

Fasting brings us closer to Allah and helps us to be more mindful of our actions, something we need if we really want to become better Muslims. Fasting on The Day of Ashura, is a means for us to cleanse ourselves of our sins and be grateful to Allah for all His blessings upon us. So with all this in mind, take time to reflect on this sign of Allah to increase your faith in Allah and become better people insha’Allah and always remember, that no matter how impossible things might seem sometimes, Allah can get us out of any situation if we depend entirely upon Him. Allah is truly Amazing and Capable of Everything. He will make a way out, he will save us from our enemies and He will provide us with all the things we need to move on and move forwards. So turn to Allah and trust Him in all that you do.

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By Lynne Ali-Northcott