After jumuah last week, I was approached by someone who talked about their worries about the future. Will there be a vaccine? Should we take it? Will it make a difference? What about the economy? Will we ever go back to normal? A load of questions and associated worry which was building up and I’m sure many of us have thought and worried about the future. Some even complain about losing sleep worrying about something that has yet to happen?
Worrying about the future can interrupt your productivity and your mood. Worry happens to all of us, particularly when it comes to events, people, and things that are important. The trouble with worry is it is a complete and total waste of our valuable time and energy. We all know that on a logical level, and yet we still worry.
While we may never learn how to stop worrying about the future completely, there are ways to help us better manage that worry, so we can save ourselves some time. There is a saying that “worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
So how can we better deal with worry in light of Islamic guidance?
Don’t forget to live
Worry about the unknown prevents us from experiencing and enjoying our current state. Its that state of absent-mindedness when everything loses its taste and you cant focus. You go through the routine of work, home and even prayers almost subconsciously and you cant get your point of worry out of your mind.
The Prophet(SAW) said, in relation to our biggest worry, Qiyaamah – the end of our lives in this world, that even then we should not lose focus on what we can do. The Messenger of Allah(SAW) said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.” [Musnad Aḥmad 12491]
Every breath is a blessing and even contemporary approaches to mindfulness aim to focus your attention on something within your control. I have personally benefitted in being able to sleep quicker by focusing on each breath I’m inhaling and exhaling rather than the thoughts running through my head. Being able to clear the mind and get into a state of flow is a skill which needs practise and the khushoo (humility) we seek in our salaah can only come once we are able to bring the mind to bear on a single matter.
Dhikr is also intended to help you to think about these beautiful names of Allah(SWT).
- When you are worried about what may happen, say SubhanAllah and remember Allah’s plan is perfect and He is without any shortcomings – He wants the best for you.
- When you are worried about something you don’t have, say Alhamdulillah and be grateful for everything you do. Worry creates negative thoughts and feelings. Gratitude does the exact opposite – I recommend an exercise for all my students to write down 33 things you are personally grateful for which Allah(SWT) has blessed you with right now – use this technique when worry wakes you up in the middle of the night. When this happens, begin listing all the things you am grateful for until you fall back to sleep.
- When you are afraid about something happening, say Allahuakbar – surely Allah(SWT) is far greater than that worry so what do I have to worry about when Allah(SWT) is on my side.
Take a look around and notice what is surrounding you. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you taste? What do you hear? What do you smell?
Often times, we create a lot of scary scenarios in our minds which paralyse us from taking action. If I ring the doctor to ask about an illness, perhaps he’ll ask me to come into hospital and then I catch coronavirus? What about if he finds I have something critical? What about if this gets out to my family or my workplace? What about my dependents? All of these questions can fill our minds in seconds and we feel like we can do nothing about them.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say: Allah did that what He had ordained to do and your” if” opens the (gate) for the Satan. [Sahih Muslim 2664]
I’ll give you an example in a time of real worry.The Prophet(SAW) was alone, having sent the believing men and women forward to Madinah. He(SAW) knew that Quraysh were planning to assassinate him. He(SAW) knew that they would pursue him if he did manage to get out of the city. He(SAW) had no real means of support on the journey in terms of protective forces or support, not even family members or the strength of Banu Hashim with the passing of his uncle and wife.
In the story of his migration to Medina, we see many instances of his careful and well thought-out planning at every step of the way. Once being inspired to migrate to Yathrib, the Prophet (PBUH) devised a plan with his closest companion, Abu Bakr. This plan was secret and known only to those who played a part in it.
Knowing that he(SAW) couldn’t leave publicly, the night the murderers surrounded the Prophet’s house, to do the foul deed, the Prophet (PBUH) instructed his faithful son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abu-Talib, to wrap himself in his cloak and lay in his bed, knowing they will not harm him.
First, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) hired Abdullah Ibn Uraqitt as a guide for the journey. He then asked Abu Bakr to prepare a camel loaded with food and drinks. To ensure that he would know what the enemy was up to during this migration period, as well as be in touch with the rest of the Muslim community, he instructed Asma, Abu-Bakr’s daughter and her brother Abdullah to provide him and their father with food and news in their hiding place.
To mislead his enemy, who believed he would head north to join the rest of the Muslims in Yathrib, Muhammad and Abu Bakr headed south instead and hid in the cave of Thawr south of Makkah. There they spent three days until the feverish search for them subsided. During the three days, news and food were brought to them according to plan. Consequently, they were kept aware of all Quraysh actions and intentions, as if they were still among them.
To further ensure a safe escape and avoid falling into the hands of the Quraysh, the Prophet (PBUH) instructed Abu Bakr’s servant, ‘Aamir Ibn Faheerah to graze a herd of sheep which would hide their footprints.
Despite the Prophet(SAW) certain faith that Allah (SWT) would protect him regardless of the situation, he still drew up his plan of migration with care and deliberation. His actions and procedures in this situation are a clear example to Muslims that, regardless of the position they find themselves in, they must consider every possibility and its alternatives when making their plans to ensure its success.
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab(RA) also said: For your worldly affairs, construct your plans based on the assumption that you are going to live forever, and as for the work reserved for the Hereafter, create your programs based on the assumption that you are going to die tomorrow.
What does this mean for you and I? Either write down or discuss each and every one of the scenarios causing you anxiety so you can think through each eventuality. Keeping a journal helps Counselling is not just for mental health problems, it’s also useful for things like relationship problems, difficult life events and behavioural problems. Sharing thoughts with other people helps you consider what their view is, meaning you can gain new ways of thinking about your problems, simply by letting them out.
Focus on what you can fix
What do you have control over? What can you fix? What can you do to prevent whatever you are worrying about from happening? Answer these questions and take action on what is in your control, rather than becoming fixated on all the things you cant fix.
A story is told about a king and his minister who passed by a 70-year-old man who was planting baby palm tree saplings. The king asked him “Do you think you will eat from the fruits of these palms, though you know that it doesn’t yield after many years?”
The old man prompt answered “They planted and we eat, and we plant and they will eat.” The king was amazed at the old mans wisdom and gifted him 100 dinars. The old man man took the money and said “Look, respected King, the palms have already paid off.”
The Khalif laughed at the clever answer and gave him another 100 dinars. A smile filled the old mans face and he said “Each plant gives fruit once a year except my plant. It gave fruit twi.
The admiration of the king increased at the cleverness of the old man, and he ordered another 100 dinars to the given to him. The king turned to his minister and said “lets go quickly from here, otherwise he will take all of our money because of his wisdom and presence of mind.”