Praise be to Allah ﷻ
It is the nature of this life that people will suffer from worries and stress, because this world is the place of disease, hardship and suffering. Hence among the things that distinguish Paradise from this world is the fact that there is no worry or stress there (interpretation of the meaning),
|“No sense of fatigue shall touch them, nor shall they (ever) be asked to leave.” [al-Hijr 15:48]
Nothing ever upsets the people of Paradise, not even the slightest word (interpretation of the meaning),
|“No laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk) will they hear therein, nor any sinful speech (like backbiting, etc.), but only the saying of Salaam! Salaam! (greetings with peace).” [al-Waaqi’ah 56:25-26]
It is also the nature of this life that people have to put up with suffering and hardship for various reasons, as is indicated in the Qur’an (interpretation of the meaning):
|“Verily, We have created man in toil.” [al-Balad 90:4]
So people feel regret for what has happened in the past, anxious about what may happen in the future, and worried about what is going on in the present.
The things that cross our minds and make us feel distressed are things in the past that have caused grief, things in the future that we are worried about, and things in the present which concern us.
People react differently to stress and worries, depending on how many things are concerning them, whether the worry is continuous or not, and on whether they have faith in their hearts or are rebellious and sinful. We may describe people’s hearts as being of two types: either the heart is the throne of Allah ﷻ, filled with light, life, happiness, joy and all the treasures of goodness; or it is the throne of Shaytan, wherein is distress, darkness, death, grief, worry and anxiety.
People’s worries and concerns will also differ, according to the differences in their motivations, circumstances and individual responsibilities.
One type of worry or concern is that which may be described as worthwhile worries that are a good sign, such as a scholar’s anxiety to resolve difficult issues concerning which the Muslims need an answer – especially when the matter is very serious and there appears to be no solution. Another example is the concern of the Muslim leader about the problems of the people under his care. This is what made the two ‘Umars (i.e. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez) and other leaders worried and anxious. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab used to think about how to prepare the army whilst he was praying, and he was excused for that; he also used to worry about the animals stumbling in the land of ‘Iraaq. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez used to express his suffering thus,
|“I am dealing with something with which no one could help me except Allah ﷻ. The elderly have reached the ends of their lives with it (in this situation), the youth have grown up with it; the foreigners have learnt Arabic and the Bedouin have migrated to the cities in these circumstances. [It is so well-entrenched] that they think this is religion, and they can see the truth nowhere else but in this.”
When the khilaafah passed to him and the people gave their bay’ah (oath of allegiance) to him, he came home, feeling anxious and stressed. His freed slave said to him,
|“Why do I see you so anxious and stressed? This is not how you should be on such an occasion as this.”
|“Woe to you! How could I not be anxious when there is no one in the East nor the West of this ummah who is not demanding his rights of me or asking me to help settle some matter with another person, whether he writes down his request or not, whether he asks me directly or not?”
The more any decision had to do with the fate of the Muslims, the greater the anxiety and stress involved. Hence when ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf was entrusted with the task of selecting the next khaleefah for the Muslims, after the death of ‘Umar, he did not sleep during that period, because he was so busy consulting the Muslims, even the old women.
Other types of commendable concern include: the concern of the dai’yah who is striving to spread Islam and convey the message, guiding others to the path of Guidance; the concern of the worshipper to ensure that his worship is correct both in intention and practice; and the concern of the Muslim for the suffering of his brothers in faith throughout the world.
Kinds of anxieties that may result from committing sin include: the distress suffered after shedding blood wrongfully; or the anxiety of a woman who is pregnant as a result of fornication or adultery.
Kinds of distress that result from wrongful treatment at the hands of others include that suffered because of mistreatment by one’s own relatives, as the poet said,
|“The wrong suffered at the hands of those who are closely-related is more painful to bear than a blow from a powerful sword.”
Distress suffered because of the calamities that happen in this world include: chronic or serious diseases, disobedience of children towards their parents, hostility on the part of one’s wife or mistreatment on the part of one’s husband.
Some kinds of anxiety result from fears about what may lie ahead in the future, for example a father may be worried about what will happen to his children after he dies, especially if they are weak and he has nothing to leave behind for them.
In the next part of this article series we will look at the different types of worries and stress and their causes.(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)