Marriage and Divorce in North American Muslim Community: Current Status. Challenges and Policy recommendations by M Zohurul Islam, Secretary, Global Social Connections Inc.
Family is the foundation of a society. And from time immemorial, it is the unique and universal institution throughout the whole world irrespective of creed, color and culture. The society how much primitive that might be, had a system of marriage and by this way they would maintain to increase their number to demonstrate their strength and source of prosperity against their adversaries. The health of the children, community and nation depends on ‘strong family ties’. So the aim of the society and govt. policy should be to protect and support this foundation.
Current situation in North America
Unfortunately, the scenario of this vital institution is apathetic not only in the west but also in the rest varying only in degree. In the West, the family to-day is almost collapsed and in the rest , it is on the verge of collapse. In a very brief space, the situation in North America regarding divorce can be gauged from the statistics as produced below:
Age group Men Women
20-24 38.8% 36.6%
25-29 22.30% 16.48%
30-34 8.5% 11.6%
The above statistics show that the first marriage among the lowest age group is most vulnerable- the highest among all groups. This phenomenon requires serious attention. It is observed that along the growth with age, the rate of divorce decreases which is indicative of behaving more responsibly due to various indigenous and exogenous factors
It is stated that 50% of the first marriage is ending in divorce. There is also significant variation in divorce rates with respect to the level of marriage which can be gauged from the following statistics:
1st marriage 50%
2nd marriage 67%
3rd marriage 74%
(Institute of Marriage and Family, Canada-internet)
According to the Rutgers University National Marriage Project, the American divorce rate to day is more than twice the rate of 1960, but has declined slightly after hitting the highest point in the country’s history over the years during the 1980’s. Over all , nearly 50% of marriages started today will end in either divorce or nonreversible separation. In Canada , the divorce rate is about 37%.
The current census report says the divorce rate is on the increase. The census reveals the regular Canadian families with both parents and kids constitute only 25% total families including common law, single parents and same sex families. The increase of common law families since 2006 census is13.9%, single parent families 9.4% and same sex families 42%. The report reveals the spectacular transition of Canadian families from traditional to other forms of relations within the spectrum of law.
Causes and effect of the phenomenon.
But the causes of increasing rate of divorce are many and diverse. The biblical ethics has been waning increasingly in the case of marriage as in other mundane areas. Secularism, extreme individualism, economic independence and spousal rights, increasing incompatibilities have made the matters more vulnerable. Materialistic approach to life and living, changing in value judgment and consequential change in life style are counting too much on the increasing break-down of the families in the west. . Given the conditions, in a married situation, any sort of incompatibility becomes a sufficient cause for break -up of a family. The situation in the west can be analyzed in the following three “Changes”.
- The changing roles of men and women:
Traditionally home was the principal work place of women even in the west until the end of twentieth century. In this situation men used to work and were deemed to bear the responsibilityof the family. His spouse used to provide mostly household services. This was the norm and every one in the family used to take it granted. But what is the position today? Kelly McFarland’s column in National Post, April 2,2012 postures the current state of affairs. Kelly describes men as “adult boys”. Today , a man’s value is generally seen as relative to the worth they are to women. It was like that of women in the 50’s and 60’s when girl’s worth were gauged relative to that of boys. The syndrome during the sixties were-’”Dad, am I as good as Bob-a boy?” While today the syndrome is reverse-the boy says,” Dad , am I as good as Jessica-a girl?”Peter K Jenseen writes in response to Kelly’s proposition, “In elementary school today, boys are ‘problems’ while girls are empowered and sensitively treated to enhance their self worth. The position says it all as to what is wrong with society today.” Peter K. Jensen (of vancouber) further adds “men are derided from all sides, treated as lesser beings and internalize the message”. He goes on to say “over the last few years, I’ve fought with the local education ministry to try to get them to do something about boy’s underperformance, The final position of our superintendent was” the problem is not the system, it is with the boys, that the boys are too immature(the reverse of the sixties)”.Finally, he concludes,” What do we expect from this poor demoralized men who give up and remain boys for life?”
The inferiority complex has affected in both ways-the desire to marry is reducing and break- up of an existing marriage is increasing.
b.Change in value judgment:
It is every body’s knowledge today, ethics and norms of behavior have drastically changed since the 50’s. More or less family was intact and family values among spouses , parents and kids were respected and maintained. The puritan Christianity based values of life, of worldly affairs, of families, of human rights have been replaced by the pursuit of material prosperity changing the philosophy of life.Today ,only materialistic gain is considered as the yardstick of success in this ife.Gap between religion or ethical norms and pursuit of worldly gains have widened almost limitlessly. “Eat drink and be merry” has become the basis of human behaviour in all walks of life. Extreme individualism- ‘I am only for myself’- a selfish notion’ and secularism(devoid of any religio-ethical norms) have been the basis of individual decision making.
c.Change in life style:
Consequently the life style has gone tremendous transformation.Both men and women have become aggressive and arrogant consumers. Consumerism has become the only goal in life . The so-called Burger King Syndrome ,the slogan that” you have your own way’ has become now the life style.These changes have seriously undermined the institution of family particularly in the West. The style of relationship between men and women have undergone unthinkable changes .The common law relationship is also a great contributor to the break down of families as well as delaying the process of getting married.
The serious thinkers are therefore,warning what is going to happen to the society at large. Michael Novak,an American Enterprise Institue thinker,a prolific writer on ethics, moralty and society,Templeton Prize winner, told an audience at Dhaka in 1995,” Forty years hence, America is going to be ruled by bastards. Imagine the horror that is coming ahead”. The horror is already in sight. The increasing divorce rate, extreme secularism and individualism, gayism and lesbianism are increasing unabated. If the trend is not arrested, the future of Civilization is at stake. This has been reiterated by the Pope Benedict the 16th in address to his followers in Jaghrib, Bosnia,last year. He told them to shun secularism ,dating without marriage, talked tough to the young generation –get married, create families or face extinction. Imagine- what is going to happen if all men and women adopt gayism and lesbianism? One hundred years hence, there shall not live a single man or woman on earth.
The Scenario in the Muslim Community of North America
But the scenario in the Muslim community is neither comfortable nor palatable. To guess the enormity of the problem within the North American Muslim Community
we can look to some studies conducted by different individuals and institutions. The study conducted by the late New York-based sociologist Ilyas Ba-Younus, the continental Muslim divorce rate at that time stood at 31.14% which was ‘a far cry from the Muslim world’s two highest divorce rates-Turkey and Egypt, each with 10%.” (Divorce Among Muslims” by Ilyas Ba-Younus in Islamic Horizons magazine,July/August2000 issue). Another online study conducted by Sound Vision, Canada,(2010) gives almost similar output. But this online survey report is not beyond question because during the decade significant changes have taken place. Julie Macfarlane Professor of Windsor University made the most current and penetrating search on the Muslim situation in respect of marriage, conflict, reconciliation and divorce. She conducted a four year empirical study(2006-2010) drawing the relevant cross section of Muslim men and women to arrive at her conclusion and recommendations. The study explores the Islamic approaches to marriage, nature and extents of conflicts and divorce and the meaning and significance they retain for North American Muslim community. The importance of the report is that it focuses on what it reveals about Muslim family ‘ as they adapt their culture and values to life in a western secular state.’(I would request you to read the research at least in internet)
Of course, no doubt, the rate is on the increase since then and there is no indication that it will reduce in near future unless some arresting action program is in place.
The Muslim View point
From the Muslim point of view, divorce is considered to be a legal and necessary route coming out of an abusive and/or unsatisfactory marriage both for men and women. The detailed rules and procedures are outlined in the fiqh of marriage and divorce. But there are various preliminary steps to be followed to help deal with the feud before resorting to this option after much discussion and negotiation taking into account the long-term effects on family members particularly the children and the grandpas.
Though Divorce is allowed as the last resort, historically it has also been looked down upon as a stigma upon the divorcee couples in the Muslim society. This stigma till today works upon negatively in the remarriage of the divorcees not only in the home countries but also equally in North American environment.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, is reported to have said,” Of all the lawful acts, the most detestable to Allah (SWT) is divorce. This view continues to guide many Muslims even today to continue in marriage even in the worst family conditions.
But today among Muslim communities, the tendency to shun away with this motivation is apparent.” Historically, people from immigrant cultures will be more likely to stay in marriage even if they are miserable” said Salma Abugideiri, a Virginia-based therapist who counseled hundreds of both Muslims and non-Muslim families for over a decade.” I don’t necessarily think that’s better. I think we tend to value ‘intact family’ over a ‘healthy family’. It’s a matter of perspective and what we prioritize and how we define what’s best for the kids.” She further elaborated.
Causes of increase in divorce
Julie Macfarlane in her four year empirical study, she had intensive and lengthy interaction with Muslim social therapists, family counselors, imams, lawyers, social workers , leaders of various social organizations, community leaders and social researchers, trend writers and so on andowever identified many pertinent causes of divorces which can be summarized as follows:
1.Gender Role and Authority
“Different expectations and assumptions over the role of women inside and outside the home “she identified” as the single most common source of conflict”. Traditionally husbands expect that they would assume the role of decision makers on a range of matters ranging from working inside the home , to where they would live, to where they would financially support the relatives or live with in-laws” Men are used to see this as their moral responsibility and core to their self image. as a good Muslim husband.
But the entry of an increasing of women in to higher education and consequently into professional roles appeared to have challenged this superior role of the husband. Because, at this level, women hope and expect their husband to share their expectation of greater equality and in its absence they feel disappointed in practice. With the continuance of this situation, conflicts go increasing which may in absence of any reconciliatory intervention, may result in the break-up of the family.
In addition to the conflict of the gender role among the highly educated cross-section,
incompatibility is considered another among most significant factors in threatening the marriage bond. The incompatibility comprises in religiosity, personal taste, family background, education and income level, even in physical matching. Any one of these incompatibilities, is sufficient cause to start conflict in the family, which may finally lead to the break-up of the bond. Our prophet sas therefore emphasized seriously on maintaining the compatibility and equity which is Islamically termed ‘kufu’ in all the relevant factors of a good marriage and family living. Physical matching is extremely important because of the lack of it, either spouse may be involved in adultery which is a sufficient cause for break down of the family particularly in the widespread use of pornography.
3.Interference of In-laws
Many divorcees reported of disputes that arose from the structure and custom of traditional Muslim family life. In many societies, the joint family is the norm particularly in Asian societies. The immigrant communities from these areas consider daughter-in-laws to stay with them which the new daughter in-law, grown in western environment might not like to stay, from where the tension starts. Even in the family, their interference in the personal affairs of the new spouses also count too much in the process of breaking the family. Such cases are very common experience in cases of either spouse from country and the other born in North America.
4.Abuses and domestic violence
In the past only the physical abuse and violence pushed the women of Muslim families to walk out of marriage. But the meaning and scope of abuses have changed. Other forms of abuses such as sexual, verbal and emotional are now recognized as abuses and contributing to break down of marriage bond.The level of alcoholism, drugs and related crimes have increased enormously among the youths and adults alike among the Muslim communities. This tendency has affected our communities in two ways. It has reduced the tendency of marriage among the youths and increased the tendency of divorce among the adult married couples due to abuses and violence out of excessive drinking and drug use.
5. The influence of life style
The prevalent extreme secular attitude and so called Burger king syndrome are also affecting our society, particularly the youths. In the absence of any motivational program in place Muslim people are encountering the influence of these self-centred and open life style in the education centres, work place environment , social associations and entertaining clubs.The influence of these are causing tensions in the families particularly tradional which may some time causing conflict and break-up.-centred and open life style in the education centres, work place environment , social associations and entertaini e
The impact of the break down of a family is tremendous, particularly on the children. Additionally, the health , frustration and tension of remarriage count upon the affected spouses so much that they can hardly look for a fresh good future particularly in the face of social stigma inflicted upon them due to compulsive divorce.
But how to address the situation?
However the solution to this issue is not that much simple and straight forward. Again the issue is not only ours as Muslims. It is equally important for other immigrant communities and the mainstream Canadians also. To improve the overall situation, a long term concerted effort is necessary.
Not alone-Dialogue is necessary
So a dialogue is necessary with the mainstream community leaders, policy makers, bureaucrats, social workers , media people and academics to make them understand the length and breadth of the issue. There should be a community effort with others who share the same view.
1.Research on the effect of current lifestyle
It is very important to gauge the effect of the current life style on labour market, health ,environment and economy. Already in the west the population has turned naggingly skewed . The seniors pension and healthcare are becoming increasingly burdensome on the current generation of labour force. Stagnation –even negative population growth has given tremendous thrust on the economy.. In some of the European welfare states, current generation has to be in the complex net of bearing the pension and healthcare budget of their parents and grandparents. Thus they are increasingly in the doldrums of a serious demographic squeeze. It is therefore necessary to look in to the issue by a research team.
2.Cooperation with other agencies working for similar causes
To cooperate and if possible jointly work with those working for the protection of families and their values.
4. Social workers may be oriented on their activities under the common umbrella of multiculturism.
Muslim Communities own initiatives
But internally the Muslim community can take some additional measures along with social movement with the mainstream community. But at all cost, this social demagogue has to be addressed before it goes out of control. The social researchers are spending lot of their endeavors on this issue. Possible solution to these problems recommended by the specialists, imams, Muslim advocacy groups and other social actors are:
Education particularly on family, its meaning, significance , purpose and its stability has to be provided enmasse to all from school goers to adults equally. It has to be imparted in sun day schools, Friday congregations, study circles, Islamic community awareness events and all other outreach programs. Books, leaflets and flyers are to be largely distributed to create a sense of expediency on the issue.
The imams and mosques can be conveniently used to make a complementary schooling for the Muslim boys and girls along with the public school attendance.
2.Pre-marital communication and counseling
This is very important to communicate each other on issues holding ideas and affinity on world view, philosophy or purpose of our life, personal likes and dislikes, tastes and attributes before marital engagement. If necessary, adequate counseling on the concerned issues that may strain the post-marital life may be provided before marriage takes place,
There may be tenuous situation on the going of a married couple particularly in the initial stage of a married life. It is important to take care of this strains from the very beginning of the strain by either side of the couple or jointly as most sympathetic arbitrator. This arbitration bid may not prove useful in the final stage of the conflict. So, both the families involved in the marriage should take a particular note of their role in protecting marital relationship of their wards.
There should be an unambiguous agreement on rights and responsibilities of the married couple, rules of maintenance, mohr and gifts and this should be notarized during the ceremony which may prevent many post marital misgivings.
5.Removing post-separation stigma
After a divorce, both spouses face a social dilemma. Due to this stigma, remarriages of the divorcees become very difficult. In the pristine time of the prophet sas there was no such stigma or bad name for marriages of the divorcees. Potential spouses of either kind were equally treated. There was no bargaining on mehr and it was made as easy as possible. So marriages of all kinds could take place easily. Equally we should popularize the remarriage of the divorcees of both sexes.
It is noticed that boys or girls of any single ethnicity may not be available easily.
It may be easily available in other ethnic community. So, it may be a feasible plan to zone out all the ethnic groups-such as African, middle east and south asian in which in addition to religiosity ,there similarities in taste culture and overall life style,living in the west, particularly in our north American situation.
7.Being back to the Quran
After all, Allah’s instruction is to revert to Him and His prophet in a situation of conflict of any nature which has not been otherwise mitigated. So every couple should do that in their critical time of strain. If the couple becomes religiously and so spiritually more and more advanced, they can use their spirituality in addressing their own problem.
As we have seen, most of the recommendations and required actions cannot happen automatically. There should be a concerted effort in place to work for actualization of those actions. Global Social Connections Inc. has been established to provide all the needed services and actions for building a good family, counseling for maintaining it peacefully and healthfully and retarding the process of its break –up and separation..
Understanding and managing spiritual ways of crime causing social deviance and then mental illness
Our children live in home, school and community while we adults live in home, school and workplace. In all these places there are another world we call virtual and technological worlds which are part of our daily lives living in 21st century and we being educators always teach and have open discussion about merits and demerits of them with our teenagers, youths and adults coming for education in schools, colleges or universities. Running open house, workshop and seminar are our annual business.
Statiscally these social crimes locally and globally have been increasing rapidly like plague and they are affecting mental health of our children and adults for instance in Canada 20% of our children and adults plus 10% of our adults have been suffering from mental health problems nationally among 35 millions Canadians.
There are so many ways we can control our remove our anxiety and depression caused from daily or short and long term stress from the surrounding social crimes or effects(e.g. cyber sex, cyber bullying, job loss, loss of business, divorce etc.) and mental illness(e.g. anxiety, depression, loss of health etc.). Let us look at Canadian crime statistics below reported by our police department.
The police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued to decline in 2010 (down 5%), reaching its lowest level since 1973 (Chart 1). In total, Canadian police services reported close to 2.1 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic), approximately 77,000 fewer than in 2009 (Table 1a). Decreases among property crimes, namely theft under $5,000 (-23,000 incidents), mischief (-22,500 incidents), motor vehicle thefts (-15,300 incidents), and break and enters (-9,200 incidents), accounted for the majority of the decline.
Police-reported crime rates, Canada, 1962 to 2010
Note: Information presented in this graph represents data from the UCR Aggregate (UCR1) Survey and allow for historical comparisons to be made back to 1962. As such, these data may differ slightly from data presented elsewhere in this article which are based upon newer UCR2 Survey definitions of crime categories.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Uniform Crime Reporting Survey.
In addition to measuring the volume of crime, police-reported data enable the severity of crime to be measured, through the use of the Crime Severity Index (CSI) (see Text box 1). Since 1998, the first year in which CSI data are available, the index for total crime has declined in all but one year. In 2010, the severity of police-reported crime fell 6%, and was 23% lower than a decade before (Table 1b, Chart 2).
Police-reported crime severity indexes, Canada, 2000 to 2010
To treat anti-social behaviors or to fix social criminals we have professional social workers working in schools, hospitals and community centers at local municipal, provincial and federal level while to treat mental health we have drugs, individual and family therapy or group therapy, aroma therapy, spiritual therapy, mindfulness focus meditation classes referred by our professional physicians, therapists, social workers and clergy men or priests or imams.
Here I add 25 Islamic spiritual ways below TO REMOVE STRESS AND ANXIETY FROM YOUR LIFE
1. Ask Our Creator, Allah. He Listens: Dua and alawys help
Turn each anxiety, each fear and each concern into a Dua (supplication). Look at it as another reason to submit to God and be in Sajdah (prostration), during which you are closest to Allah. God listens and already knows what is in your heart, but He wants you to ask Him for what you want. The Prophet said: Allah is angry with those who do not ask Him for anything (Tirmidhi).
The Prophet once said that in prayer, he would find rest and relief (Nasai). He would also regularly ask for God’s forgiveness and remain in prostration during prayer praising God (Tasbeeh) and asking for His forgiveness (Bukhari).
Allah wants you to be specific. The Prophet advised us to ask Allah for exactly what we want instead of making vague Duas. Dua is the essence of worship (the Prophet as quoted in Tirmidhi).
“Call on your Lord with humility and in private: for Allah loveth not those who trespass beyond bounds. Do not make mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order, but call on Him with fear. And longing (in your hearts): for the mercy of Allah is (always) near to those who do good” (Quran 7:55-56).
2. Tie your Camel: Do your Part
One day Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah” (Tirmidhi).
Muslims must never become fatalistic. Although we know only Allah is in control and that He has decreed all things, we are each responsible for making the right choices and doing the right thing in all situations of our lives. We must take action (link to planning articles on SV). We must work to alleviate the hardships we, our families and our communities face.
Ask yourself the following questions if you are worried about the state of the world: are you part of the peace movement? Is your Masjid part of the peace movement? Are you part of an interfaith group with an agenda of peace and justice? Are you working with a group fighting discrimination? If your answer is no, it is time that you sat down to plan your share of time and money in finding solutions to the problems you face. “Verily Allah does not change men’s condition unless they change their inner selves” (Quran 13: 11).
Turn each worry into a Dua and each Dua into an action plan. That will show your commitment to your request and will focus your energy in the right direction.
3. Remember that human responsibility(self, family, social, national, global, eternal) is limited
While we need to carry out our duty to the best of our abilities, always remember that you don’t control the outcome of events. Even the Prophets did not control the outcome of their efforts. Some were successful, others were not. Once you have done your duty, leave the results to Allah. Regardless of the results of your efforts, you will be rewarded for the part you have played.
However, never underestimate your abilities. Understand the concept of Barakah (blessings from Allah) and remember that Allah can and by the power of Allah will expand them if you are sincerely exerting your energies for the right path.
4. Leave the world behind you five times a day
Use the five daily prayers as a means to become more Hereafter-oriented and less attached to this temporary world. Start distancing yourself as soon as you hear Adhan, the call to prayer. When you perform Wudu, keep repeating Shahada, the declaration of faith, as water drops slip down your face, hands, arms, and hair. When you stand ready to pray, mentally prepare yourself to leave this world and all of its worries and stresses behind you.
Of course, Shaytan will try to distract you during prayer. But whenever this happens, go back and remember Allah. The more you return, the more Allah will reward you for it. Also, make sure your Sajdas (prostrations) are talking Sajdas, in which you are really connecting to God and seeking His Mercy, praising Him, and asking His forgiveness.
5. Seek help through Sabr
Seek help through patience and Salat (Quran 2:45). This instruction from Allah provides us with two critical tools that can ease our worries and pain. Patience and prayer are two oft-neglected stress busters. Patience is often translated as patience but it is not just that. It includes self-control, perseverance, endurance, and a focused struggle to achieve one’s goal. Unlike patience, which implies resignation, the concept of Patience includes a duty to remain steadfast to achieve your goals despite all odds.
Being patient gives us control in situations where we feel we have little or no control. ‘We cannot control what happens to us but we can control our reaction to our circumstances’ is the mantra of many modern-day self-help books. Patience helps us keep our mind and attitude towards our difficulties in check.
6. Excuse Me! You are Not Running the World, He is.
It is important to remind ourselves that we don’t control all the variables in the world. God does. He is the Wise, the All-Knowing. Sometimes our limited human faculties are not able to comprehend His wisdom behind what happens to us and to others, but knowing that He is in control and that as human beings we submit to His Will, enriches our humanity and enhances our obedience (Uboodiah in Arabic) towards him. Read the story of the encounter of Moses with the mysteries behind God’s decision (Quran: 18:60-82). Familiarize yourself with God’s 99 Names, which are also known as His Attributes. It is a powerful way of knowing Him.
“God-there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All being. Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave? He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to aught of His knowledge save that which He wills them to attain. His eternal power overspreads the heavens and the earth, and their upholding wearies Him not. And He alone is truly exalted, tremendous.” (Quran 2:255).
The Prophet recommended reading this verse, known as verse al kursi, after each prayer, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. Once Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, approached the Prophet during a difficult time and he found the Prophet in Sajda or prostration, where he kept repeating “Ya Hayy Ya Qayyum”, words which are part of this verse.
7. Birds Don’t Carry their Food
Allah is al Razzaq (the Provider). “How many are the creatures that carry not their own sustenance? It is Allah Who feeds them and you, for He hears and knows all things (Quran 29:60).” By reminding yourself that He is the Provider, you will remember that getting a job or providing for your family in these economically and politically challenging times, when Muslims are often the last to be hired and the first to be fired, is in God’s Hands, not yours. As Allah says in the Quran: “And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose. Verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion (Quran 65:3).
8. God controls Life and Death
If you fear for your physical safety and security, remember that only Allah gives life and takes it back and, that He has appointed the time for it. No one can harm you except if Allah wills. As He says in the Quran: “Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in towers built up strong and high!” (Quran 4:78)
9. Remember that life is short
It’s easy to get caught up in our own stress and anxiety. However, if we remember that our life is short and temporary, and that the everlasting life is in the Hereafter, this will put our worries in perspective.
This belief in the transitory nature of the life of this world reminds us that whatever difficulties, trials, anxieties, and grief we suffer in this world are, By the will of Allah, something we will only experience for a short period of time. And more importantly, if we handle these tests with patience, Allah will reward us for it.
10. Do Zikr, Allah, Allah!
“… without doubt in the remembrance (Zikr) of Allah do hearts find tranquility” (Quran 13:28).
If you commute, use your time in Zikr(chanting. Pick any Tasbeeh(verse or dua from Quran) and do that instead of listening to the radio or reading the newspaper. Maybe you can divide it up between Zikr and planning. Personally, I recite the Tasbeeh of “Subhana Allahe wa be hamdihi, subhan Allahil Azeem” 100 times as I drive. The Prophet taught us these two short phrases which are easy to say but will weigh heavy on our scale of good deeds in the Hereafter.
When your heart feels heavy with stress or grief, remember Allah and surround yourself with His Zikr. Zikr refers to all forms of the remembrance of Allah, including Salat, Tasbeeh, Tahmeed, Tahleel, making supplication (Dua), and reading Quran.
“And your Lord says: ‘Call on Me; I will answer your (prayer)…” (Quran 40:60)
By remembering Allah in the way He has taught us to, we are more likely to gain acceptance of our prayers and His Mercy in times of difficulty. We are communicating with the only One Who not only Hears and Knows all, but Who can change our situation and give us the patience to deal with our difficulties.
“Remember Me, and I shall remember you; be grateful to Me, and deny Me not” (Quran 2:152).
11. Relying on Allah: Tawakkul
When you awaken in the morning, thank Allah for giving you life after that short death called sleep. When you step out of your home, say ‘in Your Name Allah, I put my trust in Allah, and there is no power or force except with Allah’ (Bismillahi Tawakal to al Allah wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah). At night, remember Allah, with His praises on your lips.
Once you have established a plan you intend to follow through on to deal with a specific issue or problem in your life, put your trust in the most Wise and the All-Knowing. “When you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah” (Quran 3: 159).
Rely on Allah by constantly remembering Him throughout your day. When you lay down to sleep, remember that sleep is death. That is why one of the recommended supplications before going to sleep is “with Your (Allah’s) Name I die and become alive”.
12. Connect with other human beings
You are not alone. Muslims are not alone. We are not suffering in silence. There are millions of good people who are not Muslim with beautiful hearts and minds. These are people who have supported us, individually and collectively, post-9/11, by checking up on us and making sure we are safe. These are individuals and organizations who have spoken up in defense of Muslims as we endured harassment and discrimination.
We must think of them, talk to them, connect with them, and pray for them. Through our connections, we will break the chain of isolation that leads to depression and anxiety.
13. Compare your dining table with that of those who don’t have as much as you do
The Prophet said: Whenever you see someone better than you in wealth, face or figure, you should look at someone who is inferior to you in these respects (so that you may thank Allah for His blessings) (Bukhari, Muslim).
Next time you sit down to eat, eye the table carefully. Check out the selection of food, the quality, the taste, the quantity, and then think of the millions of others who don’t have even half as much. The Prophet’s Hadith reminds us of this so that we can appreciate and thank God for all that we have.
Also remember that the Prophet only encouraged us to compare ourselves to others in two respects: in our Islamic knowledge and level of belief in God (Deen). In these two areas, we should compare ourselves with those who have more than what we do.
14. Say it Loud: Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar: Takbirat & Adhan
Find a corner of a lake, go out in the wilderness, or even stand on your lawn at your home and call the Adhan with your heart. While driving, instead of listening to the same news over and over again, say Allahu Akbar as loudly as you can or as softly as you want, based on your mood. Year ago, I remember calling Adhan on a Lake Michigan shore in Chicago after sunset as the water gushed against my knees. I was calling it for myself. There was no one else accept the waves after waves of water with their symphony. It was relaxing and meaningful. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.
15. Pray in congregation (Jamat)
Pray with other people instead of alone. If you can’t pray all five prayers in congregation, at least find one or two prayers you can pray with others. If you are away, establish Jamat in your own family. During the Prophet’s time, even though the Muslims endured great persecution, including physical beatings, they would sometimes meet on the side of a mountain or valley and tried to pray together. This is a great morale booster.
16. How is your Imam’s Dua?
Does the Imam at your local mosque make Dua silently or out loud? Ask him to supplicate with the whole congregation. Suggest Duas for him to make. Ask him to make Dua for other people.
17. Work for the Unity of Muslims
Bringing Muslims together will not only help the Muslims, but it will also encourage you to focus your energies on something constructive versus zeroing in on and consistently fretting about difficulties you are going through.
Invite Muslims from other ethnic groups to your functions. Visit Masjids other than yours in your city. When you meet a Muslim leader, after thanking him for his efforts, ask him what he is doing for Muslim unity. Ask Imams to make Dua for this. These are just small ways you can help yourself and the Muslim community.
18. Sleep the way the Prophet slept
End your day on a positive note. Make Wudu, then think of your day. Thank Allah for all the good things you accomplished, like Zikr and Salat. Ask yourself what you did today to bring humanity together and what you did to help Muslims become servants of humanity. For everything positive, say Alhamdu lillah (Praise be to Allah). For everything negative say Astaghfirullah wa atoobo ilayk (I seek Allah’s forgiveness and I turn to You [Allah]). Recite the last two chapters of the Quran, thinking and praying as you turn on your right side with your hand below your right cheek, the way the Prophet used to sleep. Then close your day with the name of Allah on your tongue. Insha Allah, you will have a good, restful night.
19. Begin the Day on a Positive Note
Get up early. Get up thanking God that He has given you another day. Alhamdu lillahil lazi ahyana bada ma amatana, wa ilaihin Nushoor (Praise be to Allah Who gave us life after death and unto Him will be the return). Invest in an audio tape driven alarm clock so you can get up to the melody of the Quran. Or Let Dawud Wharnsby’s joyful notes put you in a good mood. Sing along if you like. Develop your to do list for the day if you didn’t do it the night before. Begin with the name of Allah, with Whose name nothing in the heavens or the earth can hurt you. He is the Highest and the Greatest. (Bismillahillazi la yazurru maa ismihi shaiun fil arze wa la fis samae, wahuwal Alee ul Azeem). The Prophet used to say this after every Fajr and Maghrib prayers.
20. Avoid Media Overexposure: Switch from News to Books
Don’t spend too much time checking out the news on the radio, television or internet. Spend more time reading good books and journals. When you listen to the persistent barrage of bad news, especially relating to Muslims nowadays, you feel not only depressed, but powerless. Cut down media time to reduce your stress and anxiety. It’s important to know what’s going on but not to an extent that it ruins your day or your mood.
21. Pray for Others to Heal Yourself.
The Prophet was always concerned about other people, Muslims and non-Muslims, and would regularly pray for them. Praying for others connects you with them and helps you understand their suffering. This in itself has a healing component to it. The Prophet has said that praying for someone who is not present increases love.
22. Make the Quran your Partner
Readingand listening to the Quran will help refresh our hearts and our minds. Recite it out loud or in a low voice. Listen to it in the car. When you are praying Nafl or extra prayers, pick it up and use it to recite portions of the Quran you are not as familiar with. Connecting to the Quran means connecting to God. Let it be a means to heal your heart of stress and worries. Invest in different recordings of the Quran and their translations.
“O humanity! There has come to you a direction from your Lord and a cure for all [the ills] in men’s hearts – and for those who believe, a Guidance and a Mercy” (Quran 10:57).
23. Be thankful to Allah
“If you are grateful, I will give you more” (Quran 14:7).
Counting our blessings helps us not only be grateful for what we have, but it also reminds us that we are so much better off than millions of others, whether that is in terms of our health, family, financial situation, or other aspects of our life. And being grateful for all we have helps us maintain a positive attitude in the face of worries and challenges we are facing almost daily.
24. Ideals: One step at a time
Ideals are wonderful things to pursue. But do that gradually. Think, prioritize, plan, and move forward. One step at a time.
25. Efforts not Results Count in the Eyes of Allah
Our success depends on our sincere efforts to the best of our abilities. It is the mercy of Allah that He does not demand results, Alhamdu lillah. He is happy if He finds us making our best sincere effort.
Please Thank Allah not me!
Towhid Noman, Muslim Bangladeshi Canadian Public High School Educator, Toronto Dist. School Boarsince 1994