Islamic Perspective in Stress Management

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While stress may be necessary for human survival, the excess of it certainly affects our health and productivity. It is claimed that in the United States nearly 20 million people suffer from stress in terms of attributing their illness or symptoms to it. Stress related compensation cost nearly $200 million per year. Loss of productivity and stress related illness directly or indirectly amounts to $50 billion per year. Many corporations and individuals are spending nearly $15 billion per year on stress management of their employees. (Newsweek 042588)

There is enough medical evidence to link stress to the causation of peptic ulcer disease, hypertension, coronary artery disease and depression. In addition, many common problems like tension headache, insomnia, impotency (in man), frigidity (in women), are stress related to causation of diabetes, suppression of immune system and development of cancer.

In our day to day life, stress affects peace at home, job performance at work, grades in school and even our eating and mating behavior.

Warning Signs Of Stress 

The earliest signs of stress are irritability, mood swings, difficulty in sleep, lack of concentration, abdominal distress, extreme sensitivity to criticism, weight gain of weight loss, fear of failure, poor appetite, or hunger, and increase dependence on tranquilizers or alcohol for sleep.

Conditions  Which Cause Stress

Psychiatrists have identified some 50 stressors. In fact any change, good or bad, is stressful. A change in job, or job description, in school, residence, financial status, loss or gain of a family member or close friend, injury or illness, national calamity or news of riots or violence all can be extremely stressful. Muslims living in a non-Muslim society may acquire some additional stress. These may include such factors as preserving their identity, practicing Islam (i.e. in food matters or timing of prayer), defending Islam on a hostile media and settling conflicts between family members: the spouse, parent /child, and practicing / non practicing factions.

Who Are Prone to Stress

Although stress spares no one including children, certain professions get more then their share. They include the sales person, the stock broker, the secretary, the inner city school teacher, the air traffic controller, the medical intern, the police officer and those handling complaint departments. It is interesting to note that qualities like being ambitious, compulsive, high achieving, productivity oriented are looked upon as signs of efficiency by the employer, are also type A personality traits, so dangerous to our health. So the art is to have these qualities, with a cool type B personality in order to live happily and have a longer time.

Coping With Stress

Although we are all exposed to stress, why can some of us cope with it better then others ? Is it the way we deal with the stressor, or the way we are built? There is some evidence to suggest that some of us may be genetically predisposed to depression, or have deficiency in the level of neurotransmitters, the mood regulating hormones, or just do not produce enough adrenalin on demand.

A person’s religious belief has an important bearing on his personality and his outlook in life. By putting the trust in God, a believer minimizes the stress on him by reducing his responsibility and power to control his failures.

Proven ways to handle stress as being practiced now range from meditation, sleep, exercise, socialization, biofeedback, psychotherapy and tranquilizers. In this article we are going to discuss how to deal with stress in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

Psychologically the stress results from the following factors.

  1. Fear of the unknown, and our inability to recognize, foresee and control it.

  2. Loss of things, and people in our life dear to us, and our inability to recover these losses or accept them.

  3. Our inability to see through the future. In fact we might be more stressed if we do see the future.

  4. Conflicts between the mind, and the reality and our failure to accept the reality (i.e. the phase of denial). It is the lack of the inner peace due to our internal conflicts which leads to the external disturbances in our behavior and affects our health.

Let us examine how the Qur’an deals with such situations. Our losses are a part of trial for us:

“Be sure We will test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, but give glad tidings to those who are steadfast, who say when afflicted with calamity: To God we belong and to Him is our return. They are those on whom (descend) blessings from God and mercy and they are the ones that receive guidance.” (Qur’an 2:155)

Whatever we are given is a gift from God. We are not their owners. Everything belongs to God and returns to Him. So if we don’t own these things why mourn their loss or wax proud on receiving them.

  1. Only God knows what our ultimate destiny is. We cannot peek into our future. We do, however, have a limited free will; we are free to choose between good or bad, to believe in God or not to believe in Him, but we have no control over future not related to our ability to act in the present – whether my wife will have a son or daughter, whether his / her eyes will be brown or black, or whether I will have an accident tomorrow or not. Worrying over such things is of no use.

  2. Rejection of faith in the Qur’an is described as a disease, its cause being arrogance and reluctance to accept truth.

“In their heart there is a disease and God has increased their disease and grievous is their penalty because they lie to themselves”. (Qur’an 2:10)

Thus when a man lies to himself, he creates an inner conflict – between his heart and the mind. In order to contain that conflict, the mind sends signals to glands for secretion of hormones like adrenalin which leads to rapid heart rate, perspiration, tremor, the basis of a lie detector tests.

This conflict could be due to “small” crimes like theft or adultery, or big crimes like rejection of God.

Three Stages Of Spiritual Development Of Soul Age

  1. Nafsul Ammara: The Passionate Soul

    “I do not absolve myself. Lo the (human) soul is prone to evil, save that whenever my Lord has mercy. Lo, my Lord is forgiving; merciful”. (Qur’an 12:53)

    This soul inclines toward sensual pleasure, passion and self gratification, anger, envy, greed, and conceit. Its concerns are pleasures of body, gratification of physical appetite, and ego. In a hadith we are told, “Your most – ardent – enemy is your evil self which resides within your body”. (Bukhari)

    If this evil soul is not checked, it will lead to unusual stress and its resultant effects.

  2. Nafsul Lawammah: The Reproaching Soul 

    “Nay, I swear by the reproaching soul” (Qur’an 75:1)

    This soul is conscious and full aware of evil, resists it, asks for God’s grace and pardon, repents and tries to amend and hopes to achieve salvation.

    “And (there are) others who have acknowledged their faults. They mix a righteous action with another that was bad. It may be that Allah will relent toward them. Lo Allah is relenting, merciful”. (Qur’an 9:102)

    “There are two impulses within us. One, spirit, which calls towards good and confirms the truth. He who feels this impulse should know that it comes from Allah. Another impulse comes from our enemy (devil), which leads to doubt and untruth and encourages evil. He who feels this should seek refuge in Allah from the accursed devil” (Hadith).

    This soul warns people of their vain desire, guides and opens the door to virtue and righteousness. It is a positive step in spiritual growth.

  3. Nafsul Mutma ‘innah: The Satisfied Soul

    “O (you) soul in (complete) rest and satisfaction. Come back to your Lord, well pleased (yourself) and well pleasing unto Him. Enter you then among My devotees, enter you in My heaven”. (Qur’an 89-27-30)

    This is the highest state of spiritual development. A satisfied soul is in the state of bliss, content and peace. The soul is at peace because it knows that in spite of its failures in this world, it will return to God. Purified of tension, it emerges triumphant from the struggle and resides in peace and bliss.

What Should We Do In Panic And Despair? 

In panic situations non-believers behave differently from believers. They have no one to turn to, to ask for mercy and forgiveness, they know and believe not in any life other then this worldly life, over which they have no control. Naturally they get more depressed which in turn leads them to even more wrong doing. If they were used to casual drinking, after drinking,  they will increase their consumption of alcohol and end up as alcoholics or habitual criminals.

In a state of depression a believer, on the other hand, is advised to do the following:

  1. Increase Dhikr (remembrance of God).
    “He guides to Himself those who turn to Him in penitence – Those who have believed and whose heart have rest in the remembrance of God. Verify in the remembrance of God, do hearts find rest”. (Qur’an 13:27-28)

  2. Be constant in their prayers.
    “O you who believe, seek help with steadfastness and prayer. For God is with those who are steadfast”. (Qur’an 2:153)

  3. Pray to God for Forgiveness.
    “And I have said: Seek forgiveness from your Lord. Lo He was ever forgiving”. (Qur’an 71:10)

In addition to the above believers are also expected to constantly struggle to better ourselves.

“Surely God does not change the condition in which people are until they change that which is in themselves”. (Qur’an 13:11)

Qur’anic Recitation  In Reducing The Stress

“O mankind! There has come to you a direction from you Lord, and a healing for (the disease in your) heart, and for those who believe a guidance, and mercy. (Qur’an 10:57)

The echo of sound has a medical effect, and is now widely utilized. The recitation of Qur’an or listening to the same has a wholesome effect on the body, the heart and the mind. It is said that the letter ‘alif’ echoes to the heart and latter ‘ya’ echoes in the pineal gland in the brain. Dr. Ahmed El Kadi of Akbar Clinic, at Panama City, Florida, conducted and has published the effects of listening to the Qur’anic recitation on physiological parameters i.e. the heart rate, the blood pressure and the muscle tension and reported improvement in all, irrespective of whether the listener is a Muslim or a non- Muslim, Arab or non-Arab.2 Obviously it can postulated that those who can understand and enjoy the recitation, with a belief in it as word of God, will get maximum benefit.

Prophet Muhammad’s Prayer During Stress

All the prophets, being human beings, had to undergo tests and trials which resulted in temporary stress. They constantly remembered God and received peace through His remembrance. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), for example, himself used and advised his followers to use the following D’ua (prayer) in times of distress.

  • “Allah is sufficient for us, and He is an excellent guardian, and we repose our trust in Allah.”

  • “Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shell we return. O Allah, I beseech you for the reward of my hardship. Reward me, and compensate me for it with something good.”

Dr. Shahid Athar is a Clinical Associate Professor at Indiana University. He has written and published over 110 articles on Islam, authored “Peace Through Submission” and edited “Islamic Perspective in Medicine”. He is a frequent speaker at many Muslim institutions, mosques, universities and churches all over the USA.

 

  1. The above article was first published in Hamdard Medicus, Volume XII, No. 4, Winter 1989
  2. For more details, please refer to Dr. Ahmed El-Kadi’s article on this subject in this book. Islamic Perspectives in Medicine (pages 135 -140 )


By: shahid athar | Source: IslamiCity | Category: Articles, Faith, Featured, Society | Topic: heart, peace, soul | Views: 31,444 | Comments: 25

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25 Comments

  1. The true worth of a person is gauged on the basis of his attributes

    in the eyes of Allah and in the eyes of people as well.Good

    attributes are bound to engender spontaneous admiration of a person

    within the hearts of people.This is transcendental norm of Allah

    Taala through Taqwa tawakkul forbearance and patience.In the wake

    of of pain caused by others if one exercises patience he will

    develop good character such as truthfulness taqwa.In the end he

    will be adored and loved by people.So at the time of stress one has

    to turn to Allah in prayers and patience nurturing the heart and

    body ready to obey Allah.May Allah give us taufiq.

  2. ALLAH says in QURAN “WAMAN AERAZA AN ZIKRI FA INNALAHU MAEESHATAN ZANKA “..

    means he who stays away from ALMIGHTY’S dhikr Allah makes his life harder…..

    from this ayah it is clear that whatever treatment you do for stress management ,all useless as long as you do not turn to ALLAH…

  3. Jazaka Allahu kheir. Very good article and efforts should be made to make such information to most Muslims for it is a source of solution for the many perceived hard situations Muslims find themselves in hence opt for other unIslamic solutions.

  4. Four things should be taken into consideration.

    1.Know this is Decree from Allah therefore should be accepted in good faith.

    2.It is a test whether you pass the test or fail

    3.What one should do is Sabr exercise patience and make dua

    4.Shura or consultation should be made during the calamity.

    Allah says no calamity befalls except it is decreed therefore one should not be impatient rather should be patient by turning to Allah and Insha Allah He will make things eisier to all those who turn to Him in repentance.

    The second point Allah Says Walanabulu wannakum bi shai’in… One will be tried with something of fear,hunger loss of wealth,self and crops,so what do we expect?He says give glad tidings to those who are patient.Therefore one should exercise patience at the time of calamity by making Dua saying Inna Lillahi Wa inna ilaihi raji’un.When you say this Allah would be sending His special Mercy and definitely one is among the guided.At the same time in case of problem or calamity striking a person he should consult those who know especially the sincere pious friendly person who would give him/her sincere advice what to do next.Allah says Wa shawirhum fil amri faiza azamta fatakawakkal alal Lah i.e consult them in any matter when decision is taken we should depend on Allah.This is how one can easily manage the stress or anger which is always from Shaitan. So as believer dont give Shaitan chance to succeed by misguiding you.Finally let me remind us of the young lady who was trapped in the rubble of Bangledesh recently for 17 days which every one saw in the media. Allah in His Infinite Mercy sent His Speacial Mercy to this young Lady due to her Sabr and Dua because She was in Prayer Room (mosque).Allah in His Grace saved her and was brought out alive which we all saw showing the Qudurah of Allah that Allah is able to do each and everything beyond our imagination like the story of this young Lady.May Allah give us complete trust in Him.

  5. Jazakallah Khair for the article which if read carefully and one reflects we may find solution to all our problems the unnecessary fear of the unknown which is only a myth and not a reality as explained by the learned author. One needs to trust more on Allah who gives and who takes whatever He has given you. It belongs to Him not you He is the Real Owner not you therefore stopworrying yourself unnecessarily you will soon be relieved of your simple stress which is caused by Shaitan and lack of following the Deen.May Allah give us guidance stop deceiving ourselves and turn to Allah in all matters.

  6. mansha Allah, may Allah reward you brother your interpretation, you really make every explicit what is the perspective islam about having stress,? because i was lot of people say we have stress when they face something that are not really or maybe some of them copy others who have stress. so therefore as we Muslim it isn’t good to say having stress if we ‘re Muslim and believe Allah no matter how many problem we would face, because the believer always turn to Allah when he or she faced some problem and make dua to Allah. salaamu alaykum

  7. Assalamu Alaikum:

    While your article is helpful, there are legitimate medical/mental health reasons why some people cannot control stress or panic with just prayer alone. It is important for Muslims to recognise this fact and accept it instead of making these people feel that their Iman is weak or that they are somehow not a “good” Muslim. Being judgemental or ostracizing them only adds to the stress. Stating that someone who suffers from Generalized Anxiaety Disorder is simply lying to their soul is a serious oversimplification and could have dangerous ramifications. Sometimes people NEED medication and therapy. When it comes to mental health disorders the Islamic Unmmah needs to step out of the Middle Ages and adopt a more enlightened view.

  8. CORRECTION:

    “He guides to Himself those who turn to Him in penitence – Those who have believed and whose heart have rest in the remembrance of God. VERILY in the remembrance of God, do hearts find rest”. (Qur’an 13:27-28)

  9. Brother Assalaam Alaikum

    May Allah shower all the happiness and joy on you and your family for spreading Islam. Certainly you will get the reward of it in hereafter.

    To Believers and Non Believers:

    The Shortest Distance Between a Problem and it’s Solution is the Distance Between Knees and Ground, One Who Kneel Down to Allah can Stand up for Anything.(Ammen)

    Come Embrace Islaam and You will Feel Heaven.

  10. Salam, this is an unbelieveable good article produced by a Muslim in the West. Better than any other article I read from the entire Middle East scholarship. They rants about non believers without any substance in it – plain rubbish. Here is a gem from North America armed with deep knowledge in his field and strong love for his God. This is the type of scholars is the future for Muslims. We have lost our civilization because we in deed stopped reading the first command of God in the Quran. IQRA. This is the power and faith makes it perfect state of a person. I am having goose bump reading it. May Allah have mercy on him and grand the higest level of Heaven. Scholars are the torch bearer of the messengers this true knowledge is uplifting. This is the best article I ever read regarding Stresssssssssssssss from any Muslim scholar and great it came out from North America not Cairo or Jeddah. Alhamdulillah

  11. Assalamalaikum warahamatullahi wabarakatahu,

    Well written article.We hear lot of things about stress management but heart does not find satisfaction.When we come to how deal it in the light of Quran and Hadith,Heart and Soul surely finds Satisfaction.Thanks a lot.

  12. I disagree that stress management is something we should strive for. I committed myself to the practice of Islam for the last 29 years, since I was 17 years (without any Kabira, Haram experience like Killing other than hunting birds, Drinking , Adultery, Theft, Worship other than Allah, at that age). I lived a peaceful life (I thought) I did not worry about Rizq because I believed that Allah provides it. I did not worry about my position in the community, because “a Muslim has a built in value whether he rose in the ladder of wealth or not”. I worked hard and ascended the ladder of wealth also. I did not worry. That attitude created a lot of resentment in many people around me. “Who do you think you are? I answer “I am nobody”. O, so you think you are that high? …So, You sound too confident, who is backing you?” I used to answer’ Allah”.

    That caused people around me to be infuriated and I am known in the community as stupid. My wife decided to take off after she took the kids and property. (Knowing the boneless believer Islam created) She left and I did not want to create a fight, with a Muslima after all, over few million dollars and with the judicial system being not Islamic, “And whoso judges not by that which Allah has sent down, these it is who are the disbelievers. Chapter 5:45”

    This being my end, I think we need to yell and scream just for the hell of it to show that we are there. We need to not express, but secretly hide the belief, if it is there that Allah provides, because only then you keep the family, wife, kids on their toes).

    Love to All

  13. I agree with the article and find it very useful to practice in day-to-day life. It would be even better if you elaborate on the issue ane give series of articles on this topic(Stress Management) in the light of Quran and Hadith. I know that most of the stress is brought down just by practicing five time prayers(100% true). But it will be even more benefitial if you could include steps and practical on improving on stress mgmt. Like for example more Duaas, tips and tricks to increase concentration with some practical examples.

  14. Yes, it is absolutely true. Being a Muslim, the peace itself could be experienced. But most of the Muslim does not aware of it as because they inheritantly are Muslim. This can be only felt by new Muslim, because what they can realise and discern the different after they embrace Islam. So called Muslims are ignorent about Islam and they feels Islam like other religion which has limited with some rituals. Those who realise and understand Islam are victorious and they can attain peace. Why there are many ignorent Muslims go behind Yoga because they do not know what precious stone in their hand. Those particular religious people keeps yoga because they do not have any practical worshipping method. Islam has the exceptional worship through 5 times silent, breath holding listening of Quran and interval movements which can give highest form of peace by submitting to God. The people find difficult in praying and calls themselves as Muslims, goes behind such yoga and promotes such meaningless simple act. The congregational prayer makes calm and peace mind and social harmony which no other religion can claim such practial method of praying/worshipping. Somehow, Muslims experiences the real peace than any other religious people. Those ignorent Muslims follows Yoga and where ignorent more, yoga promoters find their place to cultivate and exploit.

    Article is quite enlightening.

    Let people understand first what is islam and what is Islam not.

  15. Assalamu Aleykum, this is in reply to Khazamohiddin’s remark about Yoga. I am a Muslima and a Fitness Instructor and I teach Hatha Yoga. The breathing and deep stretches relieves stress. As to the spiritual teachings, we are asked to connect with the Creator and be devoted, no matter what religion we are. I will always practice yoga and hopefully be able to teach it many years. You should try it!

  16. asslamo alaykum

    may allah reward this doctor and guide the mankind. There no peace except in the trust of allah. make allah your guardian and you will know what peace is.

    wasslam

  17. This is very interesting article on stress Management-Islams prespective.This is very useful to all,whether muslims/nonmuslims.But it is very unfortunate that some muslims are attending “YOGA”classes.Insted of switching to Dhikr and salat,they are switching towards Yoga.Recently,I read in newspaper,a group of youngsters from War torn Iraq are sent to Some Indian yOGA Centre by the Minister in Iraq Govt.

    May Allah guide towards right path

  18. Asalam Alaikum,

    You are realy doing a great job and may Allah bless you all becouse you are spreading the words of Allah (sw) just as the prophet of Allah (pbuh)said.

    I am very happy about this articles,i am a fun of this site becouse i love islam,Allah and his prophet.

    Gazakalahu Qheir.

  19. The American Institute of Stress and The Centers For Disease Control have both reported that up to 90% of all illnesses are due to stress. For many years I experienced several life threatening illnesses. I found the Institute of HeartMath and discovered that all of these illnesses were due to stresses I had been experiencing in my life. Learning and practicing HeartMath’s scientifically substantiated tools and technologies helped center me, exponentially increased my faith in God and through God’s Grace literally saved my life. Additional information on HeartMath and how to prevent, manage and reverse the effects of stress, in-the-moment, achieve better health, more energy, improved mental and emotional clarity, and improved performance and relationships can be found at http://www.emotionalmastery.com.

  20. In Islam, we have been taught to cope with stress through many concepts. Islam taught us to never to give up, i believed this is one of the reason why suicide is prohibited in Islam. As a Muslim we are encouraged to do our best, then give it to God to decice. Through the concepts of ‘tawakkal'(meaning depending on Allah) and ‘Qada and Qadr’, we will hope for a success after put considerable amount of efforts, and could accept any outcome even failure with patience (Sabr). We also acknowledge Allah knows best and as muslim we should not spent too much time to despair. Live is never be easy, that is why ALlah recognise this by loving who are struggling (Jihad) to be a better person each day.

  21. Alhamdulillah! This article is a reminder and has reassured me that there is a way to control the stress that goes hand in hand with our worldy lives. When you make a conscious effort to submit to the Lord, truly you become content and are left with a piece of mind. Dhikr of Allah swt, prayer, and repenting for even the thought of sin helps keep me sane in an insane yet beautiful world. Subhanallah for his mercy and kindness. God has truly blessed man/woman with the answers to finding the beauty and meaning in life. Thank you Islamicity for allowing me to post this comment!

  22. Romesh Chander, another “must read” article for you.

    Alhamdu lill-Allahil lazi ihdina lil islam

    All praises are to Allah who Has guided us to Islam.

  23. Salamalaikum,

    Thank you so much for this article. I completely agree that everything belongs to Allah (swt) and that to show our respect for this, we must constantly be grateful and understand that we should strive to the best of our abilities and relax and leave the rest to our Creator, Allah (swt). Thank you again for this article as it has made me realize my own mistakes in the past of trying to handle everything without realizing that it is Allah (swt) who bestows gifts upon us.

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