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Therapy through the Qur’an Series

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Therapy through the Qur’an Series

Aalimah S. Ahmed

Zaynab Academy Online

Session 1 – 27th March 2020

 

Aim of this Series

Disclaimer: This series will not focus on major mental health problems like suicidal thoughts, clinical depression, etc and does not replace medical treatment.

 

The series will focus on minor mental health problems and learning how to cope/manage, mentally and emotionally through practical and spiritual solutions. The focus will be on understanding and changing our thinking patterns (caused due to life experiences) because thoughts affect our emotions, which in turn affect our actions.

 

Therapy through the Qur’an

One’s beliefs and values can change the thought process. What we learn in the Qur’an is theoretical, and this series is about how can we incorporate it into our thought process and overcome and break the mental health problems.

 

Introduction

At present we are living in an unprecedented time of a pandemic – unprecedented in terms of being globally affected. With physical illness, families being closed in together in homes where there may be arguments, issues, etc., together with anxiety, fear and an uncertain future, mental health problems are likely to increase especially for people already suffering from anxiety and depression and for women who need to be strong to hold the family together. It is therefore very important to understand mental health especially through the Qur’an.

 

The introduction session will cover understanding mental health, how to deal with minor mental health problems and how to approach mental health.

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Part 1 - What is Mental Health & What is our Reaction to it?

Humans have a mind, body and soul and therefore we have mental health, physical health and spiritual health. Each has different forms of staying healthy and each can lose the quality of health. Just as a person can lose the quality of their physical health i.e. through an illness or injury, and would seek treatment for it, similarly, a person can lose the quality of their mental health. The heart can hurt after traumatic experiences and a person can get emotionally worn out and just as people need physical therapy for an injury, they need emotional therapy for mental health.

 

Mental Health & Fear of Stigma

Unfortunately, our community is naïve about mental health. When a physically sick person seeks medical help, we think nothing of it yet if someone we know tells us they are depressed or are having therapy, our reactions negate their feelings. Our reaction would be to make a judgement and tell them to pray more, make Sabr, recite the Qur’an or make Dhikr or say things like, “If you pray then you shouldn’t feel anxious or depressed”. Some even mock or make fun.

 

This fear of being judged and stigmatised creates fear in people and some remain quiet about their mental health and carry on for years coping by themselves which worsens the state of their mental health and it becomes a never-ending cycle.

 

We should realise that different people have different levels of stress and also different levels of coping with it. Some stress out earlier than others and some have stress in one aspect of their life while others have stress in other aspects. These differences in people can be due to being affected by their environment or having had trauma in childhood. Some may genetically be happy go lucky. Not having had emotional trauma or bad life experiences, they deal with problems better. Others need to work hard to be able to cope with problems.

 

There is therefore, a crucial need to change our mindsets and destigmatise mental health therapy.

 

Avoiding talking about mental health problems will not take the problem away and until people can talk about it without fear, they will suffer in silence and suffering in silence is the worst type of suffering.

 

What advises do we find in the Qur’an?

The story of Maryam AS

 

فَأَجَاءَهَا الْمَخَاضُ إِلَىٰ جِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ قَالَتْ يَا لَيْتَنِي مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَٰذَا وَكُنْتُ نَسْيًا مَنْسِيًّا

Then the labour pains brought her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She said “O that I would have died before this, and would have been something gone, forgotten.”  [Surah Maryam verse 23]

 

Maryam AS was about to deliver baby ‘Isaa AS. She was naturally anxious, worried and fearful about facing the people so much, so that she said she wished she had died before that moment, having gone and forgotten. Alone and without any support, as she faced labour pains, in a moment of extreme anguish she wished she was dead.

 

What was the response to her emotions? Verses 24 – 26:

 

فَنَادَاهَا مِنْ تَحْتِهَا أَلَّا تَحْزَنِي قَدْ جَعَلَ رَبُّكِ تَحْتَكِ سَرِيًّا

Then he called her from beneath her: “Do not grieve; your Lord has placed a stream beneath you. 

Jibra’eel AS called to her from below the hill upon which she sat telling her not to grieve as Allah ta’ala has created a stream beneath her. [Verse 24]

 

Abdullah bin Abbas RA says that the stream began to flow when Jibra’eel AS struck his foot on the ground. Another narration says that there was a dry stream nearby which Allah ta’ala caused to flow and a wilted date palm which Allah ta’ala caused to bear dates.

 

وَهُزِّي إِلَيْكِ بِجِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ تُسَاقِطْ عَلَيْكِ رُطَبًا جَنِيًّا

Shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards yourself and, it will drop upon you ripe fresh dates.

[Verse 25]

 

Jibra’eel AS told her to shake the trunk of the date palm which caused fresh ripened dates to fall on her. This was also miraculous because normally even a strong man will be unable to shake a date palm, let alone a weakened woman in labour. She was able to shake the tree so that dates fell.

 

فَكُلِي وَاشْرَبِي وَقَرِّي عَيْنًا ۖ فَإِمَّا تَرَيِنَّ مِنَ الْبَشَرِ أَحَدًا فَقُولِي إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنْسِيًّا

So eat, drink and cool your eyes. Then if you see any human being, say (to him), ‘I have vowed a fast (of silence) for the All-Merciful (Allah,) and therefore, I shall never speak to any human today.’” 

[Verse 26]

 

She was then told to eat and drink which are simple pleasures of life and to cool her eyes. The new born child will be the coolness of her eyes i.e. a source of comfort to her.

 

Response to Maryam AS’s feelings of Anguish & Grief

Her feelings were not negated or belittled. She was not told, “Oh Maryam! You are a Siddeeqah. How can you feel this way?” She was not told to continue her ‘Ibaadah or to have Tawakkul.

 

Instead she was told not to be sad and many times that is all a person feeling down or depressed needs to hear.

 

Thereafter she was told to be proactive. Allah ta’ala could have made the dates fall but she was told to shake the tree so that ripe dates would fall. Physical activity can often eradicate feelings of anger, depression, etc.

 

This teaches us that the way to help someone who is overcome with grief, sadness, fear, etc. is to say comforting words, show ways to be proactive and provide them with some resources.  

 

Consolation for the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam

Surah Kahf: verse 6

 

فَلَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَفْسَكَ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ إِنْ لَمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا

So, (O Prophet) perhaps you are going to kill yourself after them, out of grief, if they do not believe in this discourse. 

 

Despite the various miracles and replies to their innumerable questions, the Jews, Christians and the Mushrikeen adamantly refused to accept. Their disbelief greatly grieved the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam. Allah ta’ala knew that even after listening to the account of the people of Kahf, they would still not believe. Therefore, before revealing the story of the people of Kahf, Allah ta’ala first consoles, pre-empts and prepares the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam by saying that it should not be that you destroy yourself after them in grief because they do not believe.

 

In Surah Dhuhaa, Allah ta’ala first reassures and then consoles him,

 

مَا وَدَّعَكَ رَبُّكَ وَمَا قَلَىٰ

Your Rabb has neither forsaken you, O Muhammad, nor is He displeased [93:3]

 

وَلَلْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنَ الْأُولَىٰ

Certainly the later period shall be better for you than the earlier. [93:4]

 

These episodes show the emotional states of Maryam AS and the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam. They were human and experiencing human emotions and the response was comforting and consoling to them in their grief.

 

Save a life

It is very stressful to deal with someone with mental health issues however if someone’s mental health state can be changed from a low dark spot to hope and comfort then that person will forever appreciate it from their hearts because coming out of mental health problems is like starting a new life and  Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an,

 

وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا

and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity [Surah Maa’idah: 32]

 

We do not know what trauma people with mental health problems suffered in childhood and what they are suffering in silence so we should try to be patient and do what we can to relieve them of their suffering.

 

Trials will come

Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an,

 

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

Do the people think that they will be left alone on saying "We believe," and that they will not be tested? [Surah Ankaboot: 2]

 

Spiritual Solutions

·        Seek help through Sabr & Salaah in times of difficulties,

 

 وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ

Seek help through patience and prayer. It is indeed exacting, but not for those who are humble in their hearts, [Surha Baqarah: 45]

 

·        When some difficulty occurs, reflect on why/how this happened since calamities can befall us due to our sins;

 

 وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ

And whatever befalls you of (the) misfortune, (is because) of what have earned your hands. But He pardons [from] much. [Surah Ash-Shura: 30]

 

Ask yourself, how can I change?

 

“If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.” [Abu Dawood]

 

·         What should I read? There are various Du’a, Wazeefah, Dhikr, etc. for different occasions and this is all ‘Ibaadah.

 

In this way a person does Muhaasabah, taking account, and this is part of our Deen. With this method the problem itself may not be removed, but the anxiety/stress/fear will be removed.

 

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُمْ بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

Those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort [Ar-Ra’ad: 28]

 

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Part 2 - Self-help Therapy for minor mental health problems

People have a remarkable ability to adapt and we see this in our current situation of the global pandemic.

 

Since no one can change their circumstances, people have to change themselves according to the circumstances and these sessions are about self-help therapy; knowing how to help ourselves practically, learning how to cope/manage the everyday problems mentally and emotionally i.e. to understand the problem (what are my thinking patterns and how are they causing the problem?) and then changing them. This is what Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an;

 

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ

The fact is that Allah never changes the condition of a people until they intend to change it themselves. [Surah Ra’ad: 11]

 

Allah ta’ala changes the external conditions when we change our internal condition. For example, the pandemic we’re all in now, maybe Allah ta’ala is forcing us to look deep within ourselves and change our internal condition (negative thinking, diseases of the heart, etc.) To change our condition, we have to understand our own selves.

 

There are different scenarios regarding stress:

Ø  A person has problems and stress

Ø  A person has problems and no stress

Ø  A person no problem and no stress

Ø  A person has no problem but has stress – many people say they are stressed but have no problems as they have everything they need.

 

The Power of Thoughts

 

Surah Hujuraat: verse 12

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ

O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime

 

الظَّنّ refers to any thought which is negative or wrong. Therefore, avoid it, push it away, protect yourself from it. This verse shows the power of thoughts.

 

A person’s thoughts result in their thinking pattern which develops into their emotional pattern (mostly in childhood).

 

Example: a child has a bad experience in school so mum gives him a chocolate. Next time the child is sad he is given an ice cream and this develops into emotional eating.

 

Some people go shopping to feel better. In extreme cases especially among youth, they harm themselves by cutting, scratching or slashing themselves. They do not do this to die but according to psychological research, their pain is so deep that to numb the internal pain they bring upon themselves, physical pain.

 

Our awareness of mental health issues is so low that we cannot see the suffering behind the actions and call them crazy. We cannot judge people with mental health problems who need help. When a child complains and refuses to go to school because someone made fun of them, we should not dismiss it and negate their emotions. We have to see it from their point of view and have empathy. We can use different approaches to make them feel better and continue going school i.e. saying, “If you don’t go to school then you’re letting them win. Don’t let them win. Go to school and work hard and win.” This will change their thinking pattern.

 

The Cognitive processes

 

Beware of thoughts as they affect your emotions which lead to actions - (TEA)

·         Identify your thoughts – be aware of yourself and this is also part of Taqwa (Being aware/conscious of Allah ta’ala is the higher level)

·         Change your thoughts

·         Changing thoughts will change your emotions

·         Changing emotions will change your actions

 

Example

1.      A person fears failure and thinks to himself, “I can’t do this, I’m not good enough” - he will give up

2.      Viewing it as a challenge - will change his feelings and use them to grow

 

Both these responses affect the actions.

 

Therefore, ظَنّ  and safeguarding one’s self from negative ظَنّ  is very important. Be aware of your thoughts and negotiate with yourself.

 

Self-care, self-awareness and self-help work together for better minor mental health issues. This is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

 

Following definition taken from psychcentral.com

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. It is used to help treat a wide range of issues in a person’s life, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems, to drug and alcohol abuse or anxiety and depression. CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and their behaviour by focusing on the thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes that are held (a person’s cognitive processes) and how these processes relate to the way a person behaves, as a way of dealing with emotional problems.

 

Beliefs & Values

One’s beliefs and values can also change the thought process. They can overcome and break the mental health problem caused due to life experiences.

 

Emotions such as anger, jealousy, etc can also be overcome through self-awareness and self-help

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Session 2 – 3rd April 2020

The Anger Games – Dealing with the toughest emotion

The session is titled “anger games” because anger is something which requires different tactics, strategies and techniques to control it, much like a game. 

 

Anger is an emotion on which a lot has been written and is a widespread problem in all spheres; public and private. In work places it is somewhat subdued due to the professional environment however it is at its worst in domestic cases. Some people are extremely nice in public however, they have extreme anger issues in private.

 

It is important to understand that Anger is a necessary emotion and it is not bad in itself. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam also felt anger. It is mentioned in Hadith how, when the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam was angry, his face changed colour however he did not react angrily in word or act and he became angry only for truth.

 

Positive anger is a combination of fear and anger which results in courage. Negative anger is the uncontrolled, destructive anger which controls a person’s life. To be completely devoid of anger manifests as cowardice. Therefore, it is not about subduing anger, but controlling it.

 

Imam Ghazali (Rahimahullah) says, "When anger is under control it results in courage. Its excess and defect lead to rashness and cowardice."

 

Anger is necessary to fight any wrong however it has to be applied with justice and righteousness. Imam Ghazali (Rahimahullah) says, “Anger is acceptable only at the right time, at the right place, for the right reason and with the right intensity.” Therefore, there are conditions attached.

In a commentary on Imam Al-Ghazali’s “The Forty Foundations of Religion” the author says,

“Anger is like a hunting dog that does not oppose the hunter who trained it. Anger is led, like a hunting dog, by the intellect and sacred law, abiding by their guidance. This is only possible after a great deal of spiritual struggle against the self and becoming habituated to forbearance and resisting those things that cause anger.”

 

Imam Birgivi (Rahimahullah) says there are two types of anger; excessive anger which comes out of stupidity and anger which is a sickness of the heart. Therefore, excessive anger is a sign of the person being stupid. Anger due to the sickness of the heart can flare up much like a physical illness which is fine at times and flares up at times.

 

Anger with one’s own self

Imam Birgivi (Rahimahullah) says,

“To be annoyed at yourself because you have been lax in worship or you realize that you have sinned is correct, so long as it is not excessive. When your anger leads you to decide to redeem yourself by good actions and extra prayers, it is commendable.”

 

Causes for Anger

There are many causes for excessive anger. It can be genetic or due to environment. Anger can be contagious and it can be a learnt behaviour. Children especially learn from the angry, aggressive behaviour of their parents.

 

Other underlying causes can be:

·         Takabbur (Pride/arrogance) – leads to anger at being slighted or criticised even a little.

·         Hirs (Desire) – leads to anger when things do not go according to desire and the remedy for this is having Tawakkul i.e. do we trust in Allah ta’ala’s plans or ours? Imam Ghazali (Rahimahullah) says,

 

“There is no cause for your anger except the denial that a thing occurs by the will of Allah rather than by your own will…the anger of Allah upon you is greater than your own anger, and the grace of Allah is greater…”

 

·         Hasad (Jealousy) and jesting and mockery can make a person angry

·         PMS - mood swings, fatigue and irritability lead to anger in premenstrual days

 

How to deal with Anger

In the present situation of the Corona virus pandemic, lockdown and social distancing, amid fear, uncertainty and stress, anger can become a great problem affecting relationships. How do we deal with anger when it erupts within ourselves or facing it in others?

 

Being aware one has anger issues and understanding why and when one gets angry, helps in dealing with it.

 

If facing anger in someone else, try to understand their anger i.e. a child may be showing anger due to jealousy of a sibling or a husband may be angry due to stress, an elderly person may be angry due to feeling unwell, etc.

 

Treatment of Anger through self-help Therapy

Remember TEA - thoughts affect your emotions which lead to actions  

 

Pause to reflect. Avoid reacting immediately to any situation - Identify your thoughts. Analyse the cause of the anger.

 

Therapy through the Qur’an & Hadith

Restrain/control your anger

 

وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good;

[Surah Aali ‘Imraa:134]

 

“Swallowing/restraining/controlling” anger it is not that which gets stuck in the throat and later manifests itself into vengefulness. It is do Ihsaan, to overlook and forgive.

 

The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam said, “He who has the strength, the opportunity, and favourable conditions for success in expressing anger by violence, yet restrains himself, will be shown to the resurrected crowds on the Day of Judgment as an honoured servant of Allah and asked to choose his own rewards.” (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)

 

Understanding the verses of the Qur’an and absorbing them is very important as the message is brought to the forefront when required.

 

Umar ibn al-Khattaab RA was a powerful leader yet he welcomed criticism. He used to say, “May Allah have mercy on the one who shows me my faults.” Sunan al-Dārimī 649

 

Ibn 'Abbas RA narrated: "A man sought permission to speak to 'Umar bin al-Khattab RA, then he said: "O Ibn al-Khattab, you are not giving us much and you are not judging fairly between us." 'Umar was so angry that he was about to attack the man, but al-Hurr bin Qays - who was one of those present - said: "O Commander of the Believers! Allah ta’ala said to His Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم): {"Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish."} [al-A'raf; 199], and this man is one of the foolish." By Allah, 'Umar could go no further after al-Hurr had recited this verse to him, as he was a man who was careful to adhere to the Book of Allah." ['Fath al-Bari'; 4/304]

 

Ask yourself, is the anger for the sake of Allah ta’ala or is it for personal reasons?

 

It is related about Ali RA that once when he was in the midst of a battle, he was about to slay his opponent. As he rose to strike his foe, the man spat on his face. Ali immediately dropped his sword and left him.

 

When he was asked why he did not kill the man when he had full control of that situation, he replied that if he had killed the man after he spat on his face, his intention would not have been solely for the cause of Allah, but out of personal anger. Upon hearing this, his opponent accepted Islam.

 

Remind yourself, would I like Allah ta’ala to treat me for my shortcomings as I am about to treat my detractor?

 

Abu Mas'ood al-Ansari RA reported:

When I was beating my servant, I heard a voice behind me (saying): Abu Mas'ood, bear in mind Allah has more dominance over you than you have upon him. I turned and (found him) to be Allah's Messenger (). I said: Allah's Messenger, I set him free for the sake of Allah. Thereupon he said: Had you not done that, (the gates of) Hell would have opened for you, or the fire would have burnt you (Muslim)

 

Having humbleness in the heart

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

True servants of the Compassionate (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant people address them, they say: "Peace;" [Furqaan: 63]

 

Forgiving - Yusuf AS was thrown in a well and abandoned at a tender age yet he forgave his brothers

قَالَ لَا تَثْرِيبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْيَوْمَ ۖ يَغْفِرُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

He said, “No reproach upon you today! May Allah forgive you, and He is the Most- Merciful of all the merciful.  [Yoosuf: 93]

 

Yoosuf AS did not remind them of their evil action or reproach them and instead made Du’a for forgiveness for them saying Allah ta’ala is Most Merciful of all the merciful.

 

Some practical tips to keep anger under control:

 

·         Diffuse the situation by:

Ø  Keeping quiet - "If any of you becomes angry, let him keep silent." Sahih al-Jami'

Ø  Reciting the Ta’awwudh - "I know a word, the saying of which will cause him to relax, if he does say it. If he says: 'I seek Refuge with Allah from Satan' then all his anger will go away" Bukhari

Ø  Walking away

Ø  Changing posture - “When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down.”

Abu Dawood

·         Perform Wudhu – “Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created of fire, and fire is extinguished only with water; so when one of you becomes angry, he should perform ablution.” Abu Dawood

·         Apologising

·         Remind yourself that this is but a test from Allah ta’ala and was written in one’s Taqdeer

·         Breathing exercise

·         Keeping a journal to vent feelings

·         With children, changing the way of talking i.e. talking in whispers or playing a game i.e. each person thinks of 3 things to do shukr for – puts family in better mood

 

Shukr brings contentment and Dhikr brings peace. A peaceful heart will not be an angry heart.

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Session 3 – 10th April 2020

Toxic Relationships – Recognising & Recovering

“Toxic relationship” is a trendy term but what does it mean?

 

By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterised by behaviour on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and physically damaging to their partner. While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy.

 

Toxic relationships are mentally, emotionally and possibly even physically damaging to one or both partners.

 

It has a wide spectrum where the middle level is when it is harmful or hurtful to one participant and the extreme level is verbal or physical abuse which is not just toxic, but wrong. Many of us deal with the middle level i.e. toxic behaviour from parents/children, other family members, colleagues, etc. 

 

Various types of self-help therapies can be found online however God is taken out of the picture. As Muslims we look towards Islam for solutions and this series is about looking for practical Qur’anic therapy.

 

Signs of a Toxic person

·         Belittling – always criticising, name calling

·         Hurting – hurtful, sarcastic or snide comments

·         Lack of empathy – they don’t care if they hurt the person on the receiving end

·         Manipulative – they induce guilt in the victim

·         They feel entitled to and deserving of their demands

·         Control – they have to be in control

 

Signs of being in a Toxic Relationship

A person can determine whether they are in a toxic relationship when they feel;

·         Hurt after being around a particular person

·         Fear, insecurity

·         Low self-esteem, undermined

·         Dominated with one’s own weaknesses used against them

 

Note: Good advice given in a good way which you don’t want to hear is not regarded toxic because the person is trying to help you.

 

Types of Toxic Situations

Toxic situations can arise due to;

·         People – it can be parents, spouse, colleague, etc. who demean, belittle, criticise, and cause a toxic situation

 

·         Places – There is a story mentioned in Hadith regarding the man who killed 99 people

 

The Prophet of Allah () said: "There was a man from among a nation before you who killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the most learned person on the earth. He was directed to a monk. He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the negative and the man killed him also completing one hundred. He then asked about the most learned man in the earth. He was directed to a scholar. He told him that he had killed one hundred people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the affirmative and asked, 'Who stands between you and repentance? Go to such and such land; there (you will find) people devoted to prayer and worship of Allah, join them in worship, and do not come back to your land because it is an evil place.'

 

So he went away and hardly had he covered half the distance when death overtook him; and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded, 'This man has come with a repenting heart to Allah,' and the angels of punishment argued, 'He never did a virtuous deed in his life.' Then there appeared another angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between them. He said, 'Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer.' They measured and found him closer to the land (land of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels of mercy collected his soul".

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

 

In another version: "He was found to be nearer to the locality of the pious by a cubit and was thus included among them". Another version says: "Allah commanded (the land which he wanted to leave) to move away and commanded the other land (his destination) to draw nearer and then He said: "Now measure the distance between them.' It was found that he was nearer to his goal by a hand's span and was thus forgiven". It is also narrated that he drew closer by a slight movement on his chest. [Riyaaadhus Saaliheen]

 

The town was toxic for the man and he was advised to leave it to become a better person. This shows that places can be toxic and they can bring out the worst in us.

 

Mention is made in Hadith regarding the best and worst of places;

“The most beloved of places to Allah are the mosques, and the most hated of places to Allah are the markets.” Muslim

 

The Masaajid are the best places to detox as they are the most spiritually productive and peaceful places where Allah ta’ala’s Rahmah descends. In the Halaal spectrum, the marketplaces are the worst places due to greed, envy, etc. which are part of marketplaces.

·         One’s own self – one’s own self can be toxic i.e. a person’s anger issues, jealousy, etc.  can affect relationships so much so that even their children do not wish to confide or talk to them.

 

Therefore, we also need to be truthful with ourselves and see if we are the cause of hurt for others around us

 

How to deal with a Toxic situation

It depends on the situation;

·         Wider circle – includes colleagues, acquaintances, people who one is not living closely with and therefore easier to put up and control barriers. In this case we find the following solutions in the Qur’an and Hadith;

Ø  Turn away/ignore/remain silent

It takes two people to fight so if one remains quiet or ignores the toxic comments then there will be no fight. Toxic people look for and enjoy a reaction so remaining silent puts a person in a better position. In a tug of war if one side lets go, the other side falls.

 

What does the Qur’an teach us regarding this?

 

‘Umar bin al-Khattab RA was known for his anger yet it is reported about him that a man sought permission to speak and then he said, "O Ibn al-Khattab, you are not giving us much and you are not judging fairly between us." 'Umar RA was so angry that he was about to attack the man, but al-Hurr bin Qays - who was one of those present – said,

 

"O Commander of the Believers! Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) said to His Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم): "Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish."

[al-A'raf; 199], and this man is one of the foolish."

 

The narrator says, “By Allah, 'Umar could go no further after al-Hurr had recited this verse to him, as he was a man who was careful to adhere to the Book of Allah."

 

Ø  Being a true Servant of Allah ta’ala & doing Sabr

Allah ta’ala says in Surah Furqaan who the true servants of Ar-Rahmaan are:

 

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

True servants of the Compassionate (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant people address them, they say: "Peace;" [Furqaan:63]

 

Allah ta’ala says,

وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ وَاصْبِرُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ

Obey Allah and His Rasool and do not argue with one another, lest you lose courage and weaken your strength. Show patience, surely Allah is on the side of the patient.

[Surah Anfaal: 46]

 

Toxic people drain your energy and weaken you emotionally so much so that you do not have energy for anything else

Ø  Being just in Vengefulness

 

Aishah RA reports that a person once came to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam and, after being seated asked, “I have few slaves who lie to me, deceive me and disobey me. I scold them and sometimes even hit them. What will become of us?”

 

The Prophet replied, “On the Day of Judgment, their lies, deceit and disobedience will be reckoned against the punishment that you mete out to them. If the two are found to be equal, then the matter will be resolved. Neither will you receive anything from them, nor will you be punished. If your punishment is found to be less than their misdeeds, you will receive compensation for it. However, if your punishment exceeds the extent of their misdeeds, then they will be compensated at your expense.”

 

Hearing this, the person moved away, weeping and wailing. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam then told him, “Did you not read in Allah’s Book, ‘On the Day of Judgment, We will erect the scales of justice and no soul will be oppressed in the least?’”

 

The person then told the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam, “O Prophet. By Allah! I see nothing better for them and for me except that I should be separated from them. I call you to witness that I have freed all of them.” [Mishkat]

 

Our Deen allows revenge under conditions however, people tend to exceed the limit in revenge. This is an injustice for which there is accountability. Injustice in revenge creates a vicious and ugly cycle so if there is fear of injustice being committed, then it is better to forgive and separate

 

·         Family - includes spouses, children, members of the family one lives with and those whom one is bound to keep ties of kinship with i.e. blood ties, marriage ties, etc. Due to close relations and interactions, it becomes more difficult to put up barriers however it can still be done while remaining within the legal boundaries of the Shari’ah.

 

Ø  “Sila Rahmi” while remaining within boundaries – Sila Rahmi an important part of our Deen. Allah ta’ala says in the Qu’ran,

 

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ

“… and fear Allāh through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut) family ties. [Surah Nisaa’: 1]

 

The Hadith have laid great emphasis on bonds of kinship.

 

The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “Whoever likes to have his livelihood made plentiful and his age extended for him should maintain good relations with his near of kin.”

 

One can pick one’s friends but not one’s relatives so in situations where one has toxic relationships with a family member or relative it does become difficult to honour family ties.

 

There are different ways and levels of maintaining ties, the minimal being making salaam when meeting.  One should also offer condolences at some loss and wish congratulations at some good news. This is the minimum degree of maintaining ties without being close especially when relations are trying to harm you or break your marriage as sometimes happens. Therefore, one can keep their distance without breaking ties. 

 

One should always endeavour to overlook the faults of others and never let the great virtue of joining family ties escape one’s grasp. Uqba bin Amir RA narrates that he once met the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam and, grasping hold of his hand, requested to be informed of a most virtuous action. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam replied, “Oh Uqba, join ties with those who sever them with you. Be generous to those who deprive you, and ignore those who oppress you.”

 

Ø  Affectionate speech - In the Qur’an (Surah Maryam, verses 41-49) we see the beautiful manner in which Ibraheem AS deals with his father who was an idol maker and worshipped idols. He used different approaches to convince his father.

 

He asks his father addressing him يَا أَبَتِ (which is a kind and affectionate term), why he worships things (idols) that cannot hear, cannot see and cannot be of any assistance to him. He continues addressing him in this way and tells him to follow Him (i.e. Ibraheem AS) as he has knowledge and will guide him to the straight path. Thereafter he invokes his father’s emotions and uses the fear factor by expressing his fear lest his father be punished.

 

His father however remained silent throughout this address and thereafter threatened violence and turned him out. How did Ibraheem AS react? He detoxed the situation by saying,

 

قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ “He said, peace be upon you” and made Du’a for him and thereafter he left.

 

He was a Prophet but human, with human feelings. He tried his best to make his father understand and when he was threatened and turned out, he left calmly and peacefully. In this there are many lessons for us.   

 

In a toxic relationship with relatives one can adopt different methods without breaking ties:

Ø  Keep a minimal level of maintaining ties

Ø  Use kind/affectionate speech

Ø  Do not reciprocate toxic behaviour

Ø  Make excuses for them

Ø  Overlook and forgive – the best method but the hardest and heaviest

 

Overcoming negative feelings arising from Toxic Relationships

As we learnt in the introduction session, thought patterns can change our emotions which in turn change our actions.

 

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱجۡتَنِبُواْ كَثِيرً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعۡضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثۡمٌ۬‌ۖ

“Oh you who believe; avoid most of suspicion for surely, suspicion in some cases is a sin.”

[Surah Ankaboot: 12]

 

الظَّنّ refers to any thought which is negative or wrong. Therefore, avoid it, push it away, protect yourself from it. This verse shows the power of thoughts.

 

The following are ways one can overcome the negative feeling arising from toxic relationships however, it requires emotional and spiritual maturity.

 

Ø  This is a test from Allah ta’ala – realising that it is a test from Allah ta’ala makes a person do Sabr. 

 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ

O' You who believe! Seek My help with patience and prayer: surely, Allah is with those who are patient. [2:153]

 

وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاهْجُرْهُمْ هَجْرًا جَمِيلًا

Bear patiently with what they say and leave their company in a polite manner.

[Surah Muzzammil: 10]

 

Ø  Allah ta’ala is al-Baaqi and everything is Faani – nothing is forever

Ø  It is Allah ta’ala Who makes us laugh and weep – the toxic person causing hurt and grief is but the means. It is Allah ta’ala Who makes us laugh and cry.

وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَىٰ 

And that He it is Who maketh laugh, and maketh weep, [An-Najm: 43]

 

Ø  Getting emotional closure - means that you can distance yourself emotionally from your situation and its associated pain when you cannot distance yourself physically i.e. put on a protecting shield/defense mechanism.

Ø  Make Du’a and take the opportunity to make the connection with Allah ta’ala strong.

 

In our present situation of the global pandemic and lockdown, toxic relationships become magnified and relationships can break down. Therefore, there is a necessity for self-awareness, self-care and self-help - take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Don’t let toxic behaviour affect your health. Leave them to Allah ta’ala. Forgive and move on and learn from your pain. The best life lessons a person learns are from testing times.

 

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