Tag Archives: relapse prevention

Making a Spectacle of Recovery

No matter what stage of recovery you are in, or perhaps you are a carer of an addict, I invite you to think about what kind of glasses you are wearing…

almost-rose-tintedRose tinted glasses: Seeing the positive in things is important but being unrealistic is not helpful. We need to be honest about where our flaws are and think deeply about what needs to change in our lives to make things a better place. Very often, it is the early stages of recovery, when we might be over-confident about staying clean, or we begin to dismiss the signs of an impending relapse that the rose tinted glasses come on. Or it can creep in at any stage when we are reluctant to work hard to overcome our challenges and become lazy – or worse, still fall, into denial. Carers too can often wear these glasses because the thought of their loved-one relapsing or using is just to painful to face up to. If we see things with too much optimism and fail to see the difficulties then things will go on without being changed. Over time our rose tinted glasses may fall from our faces and then it can be overwhelming, the moment we realise things aren’t so peachy after all.

Dark Shades: Opposite to rose tinted glasses, dark shades give us a world view that is dark and cloudy. Day time may look like night time as the shades shut out the light. In our addiction we felt as though great darkness had descended upon us, far removed from the light ofdarkshades Allah and the happiness that being clean and practicing Islam can bring. In recovery, if we fail to lean towards this light we can fall into the trap of negative thinking, often prediciting the worst case scenarios and becoming afraid to make changes that can be positive. These glasses are often worn by celebrities when they are either worse for wear or coming out of the gym without their make up. In other words they have something to hide. We can often hide behind the dark shades as a defense mechanism and keep others out. In our addiction, we may have become isolated or secretive, shutting out friends and family. Recovery is about letting people in so that we can come out of our isolation. As the Prophet peace be upon him said, “The wolf devours the lone sheep”. Being alone leaves us vulnerable to the whispers of Shaitan, where negative thoughts are born. Or maybe we are a carer, and we have become so used to living in darkness that it can be hard to feel hopeful. Having felt let down over and over again we stop allowing ourselves to feel hopeful that our loved-one will come out of their addiction, afraid of getting hurt. But this can be an obstruction, that just leaves us stumbling around the dark. Let there be light.

mirrored.Mirrored lenses: When people look at us, all they see is their own image. We haven’t found our own identity, or maybe we are not comfortable enough around certain people to just be our own self. When our self esteem is low, we begin to take on the personalities of those around us because we feel we are more likely to be accepted. We push the true self down, lock it away, or deny it all together. Prolonged periods of wearing these lenses may mean we forget who we really are, to the point we don’t even know who we want to be. This is a sad state to be in. Recovery, is about finding out who we are and beginning to show our true selves to the world, and to be consistent with that personality, not changing our selves depending on our company. As carers of addicts we can often change our own lives around to fit into the recovery of our loved one, sometimes meaning that we no longer get to do the things we like to do. We become so locked in, obsessed even, by the behaviours of the addict in our lives that we lose sight of our ownselves. As Muslims, we need to connect with our own self in order to strive towards pleasing Allah and following the sunnah of our beloved Prophet.

The wrong prescription: Have you ever tried on a friends glasses just for fun and thought “Woah, that feels weird”? Maybe your head was spinning, and you felt a bit confused and disorientated. Sometimes we can look towards other people in recovery or on the dean and think – “yeah, I want a piece of what they’ve got”. We try to emulate their recovery programme, Eye_Test-1matching them meeting for meeting, going gym, reading the same books or generally copying their routine. But we find when we do it their way, it just doesn’t feel right. It can be really confusing and sometimes upsetting when we try out an example of someone elses recovery and find it does not work for us. Recovery is not a ‘one size fits all’ thing. We need to get our own prescription. People practise Islam in different ways. Yes we all aim to follow the Quran and Sunnah (way of the Prophet, peace be upon him) but we are not all robots doing the same thing every day. There are many ways to catch a fish. So we need to get our own prescription and find our own way to stay clean on The Dean.

T1649Comedy Glasses: No one said life has to be serious all the time. Being stuck in the addictive cycle can be depressing and soul destroying. But at the same time, recovery is no joke. We need to make time for fun, play and laughter but at the same time, we must remember that it is easy for us to get caught up in that. Sometimes the feeling of happiness we get in early recovery can make us lose sight of the bigger picture. Maybe our social life begins to widen as family and friends welcome us back into their lives. Family begin to give us more responsibility as they feel they can trust us now. We begin to say yes to invitations and suddenly the world can feel like our oyster. This is wonderful and amazing but we need to take our recovery seriously and always make sure that within the fun and socialising we make time to reflect and contemplate on ourselves and where we are heading. May Allah keep our feet firm upon The Straight Path.

So these were just a handful of examples of the kinds of glasses we wear in recovery, or while caring for an addict. We will find that over time we become comfortable with our pair, that things seem clear and things work. But as we grow and develop and our vision in life changes we may need to think again about what glasses we have on. We need to strive to keep our sights clear in recovery, always looking ahead and only looking back to remind ourselves how grateful we need to be to Allah for having taken us out of that place. So head up, look straight and we thank Allah for giving us the ability to see and we know that;

” It is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts” (Qur’an 22:46)

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By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

“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

Laziness in Recovery

Short-Attention-Span1We live in times where everything is super fast. We scroll through the pages on Facebook and can no longer be bothered to read the long statuses or the long hadith. We like pictures with a short message on instead. Short, sharp and easy to forget. Remind you of anything?

We are losing our ability to concentrate for long periods of time, addicted to video vines that last a few seconds each, or viewing picture-gram messages a few words long. The books are getting dusty on the shelves and we are losing something special. We are becoming a lazy nation. Now that we have embraced recovery, we need to make sure we do not also fall into these traps and keep ourselves motivated and striving hard in our recovery programme in order to prevent ourselves from returning to darkness.

In our addiction our flaws included lack of motivation, laziness, procrastination, tiredness and sloppiness. Now that we have embraced recovery it is time we overcame these, because I’m telling you with confidence, if we don’t shed ourselves of these inadequacies, we are leaving ourselves wide open for relapse!

Just think about the effort we put in to scoring drugs or fulfilling our urges. If there were no drugs in our town, we would go to the next town, the next city even. We would make 100 excuses to our families so we could make our escape, and 1000 excuses upon our return about where we have been. Not to mention obtaining the money and paraphernalia to use, find a place to use them and then try and act like normal when we return to our family.

Some people say if we even put one half of the effort into our recovery as we did into our addiction then we would stay clean. ihsan

As Muslims we understand the concept of ‘ihsan’ – excellence. A Muslim must strive to do everything with ihsan, to the best of our abilities. The Prophet, saws, never did things halfheartedly. He is our role-model and his companions, many of whom were addicted to alcohol prior to Islam, threw themselves into acts of goodness.

We cannot afford to be lazy in our recovery or our Islamic way of life. Shaitan walks through the door of boredom and comes up with many suggestions for us to pass the time away. The moment we leave that door open for him, we have left ourselves open to relapse.

In recovery, it is up to us to fill up our time with good actions so that boredom and laziness never creeps into our lives. That does not mean we never rest either! But when we rest and relax, we do it with purpose, and in doing that it becomes an act of worship. We play for Allah, we work for Allah and we rest for Allah!

So let us take time to read articles and books deeply, pondering upon them, just like we used to do before social networking came about. Let us find time to write journals, pen to paper, or sit and look at the creation of Allah in the park or seaside. We will get out, what we put in. So how much are we putting in?

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

Know Your Enemy

The Tactics of Shaitan

As Muslims in recovery from addiction or sinfulness, we often talk about the influence of Shaitaan in our lives. We blame him for our relapses, we struggle with his whispers, we feel like we are going out of our mind with the cravings we believe he has created in us. There is no doubt that Shaitaan is there trying to make us slip and fall but does he really have such a hold over us that we think he does? Does he have as much power or have we given him the power? Its time to take the power back and arm ourselves with the methods of protection that Allah has shown us through the Qur’an and the sunnah of Muhammad, pbuh. This is a battle and every war has strategies and the most important one is to know your enemy enemy

Who is shaitaan?

The Imam (leader) of the Shayateen is Iblis, he believes in Allah, he has met him and spoken to him directly. He is a jinne and was considered to be such a dedicated worshiper of Allah that he was kept among the company of the angels. It was not a matter of belief of the heart that made him a disbeliever. It is because of the actions, his arrogance, his failure to follow the commands of Allah that made him a disbeliever and not because he outwardly denied Allah or His existence. In fact it was Iblis’ pride that caused him to stray from Allah. When Allah commanded him and the angels to bow down to Adam, as, Iblis refused saying;  “I am better than him. You created me from fire and you created him from clay.” and “Do You see this one whom You have honored and made greater than me If You give me time, I will lead his descendants astray, all but a few of them.” (Quran: 07:12). And so the war between mankind and Iblis began and he enlisted an army from among the jinne, and later mankind to support him in his plots to lead every son of Adam astray.

The word ‘Shaitaan’ in Arabic has a literal meaning of being “far away”,  or something that is going over the limits. Shaitan is the furthest away from the guidance of Allah who has transgressed beyond all bounds. Shaitaan and his army have become so far away from Allah and his army consists of followers from  both mankind and jinne and they are referred to as “shayateen” far away, having reached the highest level of disbelief in Allah.

A companion asked is it true that there are shaitan from among men? And the Psaws confirmed that there are. But this does not mean, we can go around calling people a shaitan, only Allah knows how far away their actions have taken them away from Him. We must think deeply about this, and ask our own selves, “are my actions taking me away from Allah and His Path?”

Being in recovery as a Muslim is about taking responsibility for our own actions and changes to our lives. A big part of our recovery is to overcome Shaitan and his trickery.

What are the traps of Shaitaan?

plannerThese traps of shaitan, Allah is Aware of all of them. He has allowed them to happen out of His Wisdom and His Knowledge, that we do not always know.  This is part of our test in this world so we can come closer to Allah. Allah wants to see who will try hard in this world to overcome their desires. And we must always remember that Allah is The Most Powerful and He is The Best of those who plot and Allah’s plot will always be Supreme over all the creation.

The plot of shaitaan is weak. We have spent years in our addiction convincing ourselves that shaitaan had power over us, but in fact we were shying away from doing something about our addiction. Allah says: “Indeed the plot of shaytaan is ever weak” (Quran, 4:76)

How can this be when we are always getting waswasa (whispers of suggestion)? We have been giving into these temptations etc. It feels like he is so strong. It’s itme we realised that we are stronger! He was ordered to bow down to us! We are the superior race. We must know that Shaitaan  can be defeated so let us look at his ways of deception now;

THE DOORS OF DOUBT AND DESIRE

Shaitan will enter our hearts through one of two doors – either the door of doubt, or the door of desire.

The Door of doubt

Shaitan’s main goal in life is to cause us to disbelieve in Allah. He may begin to cast doubts in our mind about Allah and Islam. In the depths of our addiction we may have had terrible thoughts about Allah. We were angry with Him. We felt destined for Hell Fire and we wondered why did He create us all, just to make us live a life of sin so that we would go to Hell. These thoughts polluted our hearts and made us go even further astray. When we rebuilt our faith those thoughts went away and we began to love Allah again.

Shaitaan can also cause us to doubt in our ownselves. We consider ourselves weak and incapable of overcoming our addiction or urge to sin. We give up and say “what’s the point in trying again?”. Shaitaan traps us into this negative spiral of thinking to keep us away from making positive changes.

Now we know where these thoughts are coming from, it is time we kept that door firmly shut. One way to keep that door tightly locked is to increase our knowledge of Islam. Doubt is overcome by education and ignorance breeds doubts and negative thoughts.

The Door of Desire

Allah tells us what Iblis said shortly after refusing to bow down to Adam, as;  “Verily, I will mislead them, and surely, I will arouse in them false desires.” (Qur’an, 04:119)

Cravings to indulge in sin are often from Shaitan. He lures us in through his whispers and by beautifying the sin to make it seem exciting. Our bodies respond with physiological urges like butterflies in the stomach, sexual arousal, increased heart beat and adrenaline. It feels as though a relief is needed that only comes about when that urge is fulfilled. Except that relief is only short-lived and is often followed by regret, guilt and shame and very often the only thing we believe will take those feelings away is to repeat the sin again. Thus, we fall into Shaitan’s trap of addictive cycles.

However, we must realise that there is a way out of this vicious cycle and we can avoid relapsing into Shaitaans traps using the following 3 step formula as soon as the thought enters our minds;

1 – Seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan (Audthoo billahi minashaytanir Rajeem)

2 – Make duah to Allah to help you to overcome your desires to sin

3 – Perform a good action in the place of the sinful action. (This could be an act of worship, repeating dhikr, reading Quran etc or some other halal activity such as exercise or meeting a good friend) As the best way to overcome an addiction is to replace the old behaviour with a new behaviour.  

As addicts, we spent far too long entertaining those thoughts when they entered our mind. In recovery, we must learn how to counteract them immediately. Allah will help us if we try

“And if an evil whisper from Shaytaan  tries to turn you away (O Muhammad) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allaah. Verily, He is the All Hearer, the All Knower” [Qur’an, 41:36]

 “Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqoon (the God-conscious), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaytan, they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).” [Qur’an, 7:201]

 THE FOOTSTEPS OF SHAITAAN 

In many addiction treatment centres or twelve step fellowship meetings we will hear sayings like “The relapse doesn’t happen the moment you pick up (obtain drugs) ito you belelieved don't follow happens long before”. This means that we may relapse in our thinking and behaviours long before we actually indulge or succumb to the cravings. Islamically, this may be understood as following the footsteps of Shaitaan. It refers to the way in which Shaitaan lures us away from the Straight Path, footstep by footstep, slowly slowly.

“. . . and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan. Surely he is to you an open enemy” (5:142).

Here are four aims and objectives the Shaitaan have to try and take us away from the Path of Allah. If they fail to get us in the big stuff they will start with the smaller stuff and work their way up until they have pulled us completely away. We must be aware!

1 – Major sins – shirk (associating partners with Allah), biddah (innovation), intoxication, fornication etc.
2- frequent minor sins
3 – Business with permissible deeds – sports, cleaning, socialising, gaming, work, study, etc. We become so preoccupied with these things that we leave off the rewardable actions
4 – busy with things that have less reward rather than more reward.

 “O Children of Adam! Let not Shaitan (Satan) deceive you, as he got your parents (Adam and Hawwa’ (Eve)) out of Paradise,”(Quran, Al-Aaraf: 27).

These are just some of the tactics used by our enemy. We must strive to overcome him and remember that Allah is Superior and All Powerful. Shaitan’s whispers are just an invite. It is up to us if we want to accept it or reject it. We must be aware that on the Day of Judgement, Shaitan will wash his hands of us and tell us that he had a hold on us. We thought he did, but he did not. We must realise that now before it is too late. Listen to what Allah says;

“And Shaitan (Satan) will say when the matter has been decided: ‘Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, and you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I deny your former act in associating me  as a partner with Allah (by obeying me in the life of the world). Verily, there is a painful torment for the Zaalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers)’” (Quran, Ibraaheem: 22).

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

 

Staying Spiritually High After Ramadan

istiqaamah4

The guest of Ramadan came to visit, and we welcomed the month with open arms. We embraced all the aspects of this Holy month and on account of our dedication, the Mercy of Allah poured down on us. The guest brought a sense of peace into our homes. We fell in love with our spouses again, we felt closer to our children, we were kind to our parents, but most of all – above all else we loved Allah and His Messenger more than anyone. We truly tasted the sweetness of eeman! The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said about this;

“There are three qualities whosoever has them, may taste the sweetness of Faith: firstly one who loves Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) above all else; secondly one who loves someone simply for the sake of Allah, and thirdly, one who loathes return to disbelief, after Allah has rescued him from it, as he would loath being thrown into the Fire.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Now as our guest of Ramadan has left us again for another year, and we hope we will live to see another, we must hate to return back to sinfulness just as we would hate to be thrown into the Fire. It may be now that the month has left us, that something within us is stirring. Shaitan is back to his old tricks, now that his chains have been unlocked and the desires within us are raging. Cravings are setting in, our desires are calling us and the battle has begun. Our thoughts are fighting and our hearts our wavering. Now is the time to restrain ourselves more than ever before. Now is the time for relapse prevention!

faithOne of the companions approached the Prophet, pbuh, seeking some simple yet holistic advice that could keep him going on The Straight Path, this is what he said;

 “Say, ‘I believe in Allah’ and then be steadfast.” (Istiqama)
[Muslim]

‘Istiqama’ – literally means to be steadfast, upright, to go straight, to keep going consistently. A quality every Muslim needs

“And worship your Rubb until there comes unto you the certainty” (i.e., death). (Quran:15:99)

 In the past, when we tried to embrace Islam and then we slipped, we blamed Allah. We would angrily say that we tried and that Allah decreed for us to fall. We blamed others and said we were led astray or that Shaitan caused us to leave the Path of Allah. A major catalyst to change is to take 100% responsibility for our own actions and know that Allah never causes us to slip, but it is  us who abandons His Way and turns our back on Islam.

Verily, Allah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state (of goodness) themselves.” (Quran: 13:11)

Ramadan was the training programme and now we must set our training into action. Weistiqama tasted the sweetness of good deeds so we must let that sweet taste linger in our hearts. Every time the thought of sin enters our minds and we entertain those thoughts, it is as though we are imagining carrying out the sin that it will be sweet and tasty. The cravings increase the longer we allow thoughts of sin to ruminate throughout our minds. However, we know that history tells us once we have tasted the sin it is never sweet, rather it leaves a bitter and disgusting after taste in our hearts. It is only through those things that Allah loves that causes the hearts to be filled with sweetness. So as soon as the thought enters our minds we must stop them dead, counteract the thought, and seek refuge in Allah. Allah describes this process and calls  upon His servants to seek help from Him.

Verily, those who are conscious of Allah, when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan , they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).(Quran, 7:201)

changeIn Ramadan, we were able to overcome the thoughts. We were more conscious of Allah. Therefore we have found the answer! To be able to overcome sinfulness and desires we need to increase our consciousness of Allah, or ‘Taqwa’ as it is known in Arabic. And the ways to do this is through all those things that Allah loves – fasting, praying, dua, reading Quran and all good deeds. We did all of those things in Ramadan, so we can still implement them throughout the year so that we can create a recovery programme that will keep us going on the Straight Path with istiqama. We proved to ourselves how capable we are, so let’s keep striving forward inshaAllah with the goal of pleasing Allah.

Verily, those who say: `Our Lord is Allah (Alone),’ and then they stand firm, on them the angels will descend (at the time of their death) (saying): ‘Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Jannah which you have been promised! We have been your friends in the life of this world and are (so) in the Hereafter. Therein you shall have all that your inner-selves desire, and therein you shall have all for which you ask. An entertainment from (Allah), the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (41:30-32)

Lynne Ali-Northcott

 

 

Making Pure Intentions for Eid

CELEBRATING-EID-HEADER90

In Muslim populated areas crime levels soar on Eid day and most of those crimes are drug or alcohol-related. Fights break out and people are arrested. What a sad state that is.

Are you a Muslim or a Ramadan Muslim? What is a Muslim? Islam means submission and a Muslim is someone who submits to Islam. Who are we submitting to? The One who created us. How should we submit? By following His orders and staying away from His Prohibitions. Do you want to be a Muslim just in Ramadan, or do you want to be a Muslim all year around? Do you want to keep this feeling of happiness alive throughout the year?

Ramadan is the training ground for the rest of the year. We are soon to be completing our training. There is still time to push ourselves harder, more time to search our souls, enough time to reach out to Allah and beg of His Guidance and Forgiveness. Ramadan is like building a beautiful home. Brick by brick, deed by deed, good word by good word we build our house of righteousness. Why would we want to smash it all down on Eid?

“Do not be like the woman who had broken her yarn into pieces after spinning it firmly” (16:92)

This analogy offered by Allah should make us think. This woman he is describing has spent a long time spinning little fragments of cotton into fine yarn only to then pull it all apart again. This Ramadan, we worked hard, fasting, praying, sacrificing, abstaining all to try and make ourselves strong in faith. We must work twice as hard to keep doing these actions in order to not undo all the hard work we have achieved. We must make strong intentions now, not to return to the same state we were in before Ramadan. Allah says;

“Verily, those who say: `Our Rubb is Allah (Alone),’ and then they stand firm, on them the angels will descend (at the time of their death) (saying): ‘Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Jannah which you have been promised! We have been your friends in the life of this world and are (so) in the Hereafter. Therein you shall have (all) that your inner-selves desire, and therein you shall have (all) for which you ask. An entertainment from (Allah), the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (41:30-32)

By returning to sinfulness after Eid, we are turning our back on this promise of Allah. He has offered us Paradise on account of us standing firm – Istiqama – staying upright and making strong intentions to stay on The Straight Path of Allah. During Ramadan, we felt the natural high, we got the opportunity for a sense of belonging with the Muslim Ummah, our hearts softened upon hearing the Qur’an and our hope soared when we made duah. Let us not then go back to the life we had before. Let us keep the spirit of Ramadan alive!

Relapse Prevention

failing-to-plan-is-planning-to-failThe number one contingency plan to prevent relapse on or soon after Eid is good planning. If we don’t plan things through we are more likely to succumb to urges and cravings or invitations from bad company. As Eid day arrives its a bit like being a smoker on a long flight. While travelling, the smokers knows he cannot light up a cigarette so his cravings do not set in, otherwise known as ‘long flight syndrome’. But the moment he is out of the airport the cravings are so intense its the first thing he does. While we were fasting we were not able to indulge in our addictions and we often lose the urge to sin, yet the moment the opportunity arises all those cravings and urges come back. We need to be prepared. Start getting your Eid plans in well in advance of the actual day. It may be that bad friends are already making their plans. We need to keep away from them. We must stick to good company. If we are alone, we can find out what our local mosque has planned or try to team up with other individuals on their own like new Muslim reverts, foreign students etc. We need to make sure we have closed every door to relapse on Eid.

The purpose of Eid

Not many people know this, but the purpose of Eid is to be thankful. Allah tells us this;

“…So complete the period (of fasting). Glorify Allah (and thank Him) for the guidance He has granted. Perhaps, you would be grateful!” (2:185)

Notice in this Verse Allah says “perhaps” we will be grateful. This means that not every one of us who observe Ramadan will be grateful at the end. During this month, we will have received so many blessings from Allah. His Mercy rained down on us, yet were we thankful to Him? A sign that our Ramadan has been accepted by Allah  is if we show gratitude to Allah on the day of Eid. Let us be among those who are grateful. A strong intention now will help us. One way Allah asks us to show our gratitude to Him is to praise Him. We can recite;

Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, laa ilaaha ill-Allaah, Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, wa Lillaahi’l-hamd (Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great, there is no god except Allaah, Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great, and all praise be to Allaah). 

The Prophet, pbuh, would recite this Hamd – Praise of Allah – from sunset as he broke his last fast of Ramadan. He would repeat this througout the night and the following day, especially while walking to the mosque for Eid prayer. This is one of the sunnahs of Eid.

Follow the Sunnah of Eid – The following is an excerpt from http://islamqa.info/en/49014

1 – It is mustahabb to recite takbeer during the night of Eid from sunset on the last day of Ramadaan until the imam comes to lead the prayer. The format of the takbeer is as follows: 

Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, laa ilaaha ill-Allaah, Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, wa Lillaahi’l-hamd (Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great, there is no god except Allaah, Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great, and all praise be to Allaah). 

Or you can say Allaahu akbar three times, so you say: 

Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, laa ilaaha ill-Allaah, Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, wa Lillaahi’l-hamd (Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great, there is no god except Allaah, Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great , Allaah is Most Great, and all praise be to Allaah). 

Both are permissible. 

Men should raise their voices reciting this dhikr in the marketplaces, mosques and homes, but women should not raise their voices. 

2 – You should eat an odd number of dates before leaving for the Eid prayer, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not set out on the day of Eid until he had eaten an odd number of dates. He should stick to an odd number as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did. 

3 – You should wear your best clothes – this is for men. With regard to women, they should not wear beautiful clothes when they go out to the Eid prayer-place, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Let them go out looking decent” i.e., in regular clothes that are not fancy. It is haraam for them to go out wearing perfume and makeup. 

4 – Some of the scholars regarded it as mustahabb to do ghusl for the Eid prayer, because it is narrated that some of the salaf did this. Doing ghusl for Eid prayer is mustahabb, just as it is prescribed for Jumu’ah because one is going to meet people. So if one does ghusl, that is good. 

5 – The Eid prayer. The Muslims are unanimously agreed that the Eid prayer is prescribed in Islam. Some of them say that it is Sunnah, some say that it is fard kafaayah (a communal obligation) and some say that it is fard ‘ayn (an individual obligation), and that not doing it is a sin. They quoted as evidence the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded even the virgins and women in seclusion, i.e., those who did not ordinarily come out, to attend the Eid prayer place, except that those who were menstruating should keep away from the prayer-place itself, because it is not permissible for a menstruating woman to stay in the mosque; it is permissible for her to pass through but not to stay there.

Beware of Shaitan

The Shaitan were chained during the month of Ramadan and they will be released at sunset of the last fast. They will flee from their chains yet they will be weak at first and we will be strong. Our bodies may be weak from tiredness, hunger and thirst but the hearts of the Muslims are strong. Insha’Allah Allah has given us a head start over the devils who will be fasting on Eid. Let us try to be conscious of every shaitanic thought that enters our minds and counteract them with the remembrance of Allah.

So let us strive hard Oh Muslims, just as we did in Ramadan. Let us not slip back into our old ways or hang out with the old crowd. Let us do everything we can to overcome our sinfulness and stay on The Straight Path to Allah. InshaAllah we have become purified like the day we were born. Let us not add dirt to those clean slates. May Allah help us, Ameen.

Don't let the world pull you away from the goodness you have found
Don’t let the world pull you away from the goodness you have found

Relapsed in Ramadan! What now?

So you started off the month with good intentions. You aimed to make it to Eid and become clean and sober or give up on your addicted ways. Then…Relapse. Time to rewind the tape. Use the 4 W’s (Where, What, When, Who). wsWhere we you when you relapsed? What were you doing just before ? When did it happen? Night time? Your usual using time? Just when the kids were put in bed? When the fast was broken? And finally ,and usually most importantly, who were you with at the time and did this person have an effect on you?

If we want to avoid this from happening again we need to understand how and why it happened in the first place. What went wrong? If we relapse in Ramadan we need to reflect back on our intentions for fasting and what is it that we want to achieve out of this month. We must remember that the purpose of fasting is not to get clean. Getting clean is the bonus. The real purpose of Ramadan is to attain God-consciousness (Taqwa). The more consciousness we have of Allah, that He is Watching us and Hearing us, the less likely we are to sin in front of him. Ask yourselves this; would you smoke drugs in front of your father? Would you indulge in your addiction in front of your mother. Then why do we sin in front of Allah. And so when we do this in Ramadan we feel a deep sense of regret and shame. In our addiction, we taught ourselves to get rid of the feelings of shame we should try and use substances or act out our addictions again. No matter how hard we tried the feelings never went away. If we felt shame, then this is a good thing. Shame and guilt is from Allah. The one who has no shame for their sins is the one who is truly lost. But it is what we do with our shame that really matters in recovery.

So its Ramadan and we have relapsed! What next?

Utilise that guilt and shame to stand, kneel or sit before Allah and seek His Forgiveness. Does our sins outweigh His Mercy? NO!

“O son of Adam, as long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I have forgiven you for what you have done and I do not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky and then you would seek My forgiveness, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins that are close to filling the earth and then you would meet Me without ascribing any partners with Me, I would certainly bring to you forgiveness close to filling it.” 

We must know that no matter how huge our sins, Allah can wipe them all out, every single one, within the blink of an eye. On account of our repentance Allah will love us more, seeing us humbled and begging of him in distress, seeking His vast Mercy and Forgiveness.

recovery-relapse-roadsign212Sometimes this guilt and aftermath of a relapse is enough to put us off using substances again or acting out our addictive behaviours like gambling and so on. We need to utilise it in the right way so that we can steer clear of relapsing again.

We must not fall into the trap of thinking ‘That’s it! My Ramadan is over!” We must not allow ourselves to think this way. Ramadan is not over until Eid. Ramadan is a guest that comes every year and stays for one month. We can’t kick out our guest! We honour the guest of Ramadan and embrace it like a long lost relative. In fact, we should feel sad when Ramadan leaves us and be fearful that we will not live to see our guest arrive again next year. So no, Ramadan is not over just because we have relapsed.

The sin that could take you to Paradise

So we have committed great sins. We have wronged our Creator in the month of Ramadan. We feel the burden of sins on our back, weighing us down and tearing up our insides with remorse. How would you like these heavy sins to be turned into good deeds? Imagine! Vile sins, terrible crimes, being turned into good deeds that could take us to Jannah (Paradise)! How could this be? That would be like turning a rubbish heap into a mountain of gold, right? Allah says about the one who sincerely repents and then then tries again;

“Except him who repents and believes and does righteous work; as for such, Allah will change their evil deeds to good deeds. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (25:70)

So you relapsed. So get back on that saddle and gallop on that horse. Strive towards Allah, harder than before. Learn from your mistakes. Truly unpick where it all went wrong so you can avoid it happening again. And repent to Allah with a full commitment not to return back to that sin. This relapse happened for a reason. Maybe this relapse happened so it could be turned into a mountain of good deeds that will take you to Paradise. Have hope!

dfuaforgiv