Praise be to Allah ﷻ.
Let us now discuss some of the different kinds of remedies and treatments taught by Islam:
Equipping oneself with Iman (faith), accompanied by righteous deeds.
Allah ﷻ says (interpretation of the meaning),
|“Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer, verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world, with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e., Paradise in the Hereafter).” [al-Nahl 16:97]
The reason for this is clear: the believers in Allah whose faith is correct and motivates them to do righteous deeds that reform their hearts and characters, and change their status in this world and the next, have the basic principles according to which they deal with every kind of joy and grief that they may face. They receive blessings and joys with acceptance and thanksgiving, and put them to use in beneficial ways. When they do this, they feel happy and hope that it will last and will bring them reward for their gratitude, as well as other things that will supersede the original goodness and blessings.
When faced with distress, harm, worries and anxieties, they try to resist them and reduce them as much as they can, and they react with befitting patience to the things in which they have no choice. They gain a lot of benefits as a result, such as: resilience and toughness as is appropriate; useful experience, strong willpower, patience, the hope of reward, and many other benefits which reduce the distress felt. Thus their anxiety is replaced with joy and the hope of blessings and reward from Allah, as the Prophet ﷺ stated in the saheeh hadeeth,
| How marvellous is the affair of the believer! Everything that happens to him is good, and this does not apply to anyone except the believer. If something good befalls him, he gives thanks for it, and that is good for him. If something bad befalls him, he bears it with patience, and that is good for him.
This is the way in which we may view calamities in a positive light. Another example is:
Thinking of how the Muslim may earn expiation for his sins, purify his heart and raise his status, when he is stricken with distress and worry in this life.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
| Nothing of fatigue, illness, distress, worry, grief or harm befalls the Muslim, not even a prick from a thorn, but Allah will accept it as expiation for some of his sins.
According to a report narrated by Muslim,
|“No illness, fatigue, sickness or grief befalls the Muslim, not even worries, but it will be an expiation for some of his sins.”
The one who is distressed or worried should know that whatever psychological pain afflicts him is not wasted, but serves a purpose in increasing his hasanaat (good deeds) and expiating for his sayi’aat (bad deeds). The Muslim should realize that if it were not for disasters and afflictions, we would come empty-handed on the Day of Resurrection, as some of the salaf (early generations of Islam) pointed out, which is why they would rejoice when misfortune struck just as we rejoice at times of ease.
When a person understands how the disasters that befall him expiate for his sins, he will rejoice and be of good cheer, especially if that happens to him straight after he has committed a sin, as happened to some of the Sahaabah, may Allah be pleased with them. ‘Abd-Allah ibn Mughaffal (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that a man met a woman who had been a prostitute during the time of Jaahiliyyah. He started to joke with her, then he touched her. She told him, “Watch it! Allah has destroyed shirk (once ‘Affaan said: has destroyed Jaahiliyyah) and has brought us Islam.” The man went away, and walked into a wall, cutting his face. The Prophet ﷺ came along, so the man told him what had happened, and he said,
|“You are a slave for whom Allah wishes good. When Allah wishes good for His slave, He hastens the punishment for his sin; when He does not wish good for His slave, he withholds the punishment until the matter is settled on the Day of Resurrection, when all of his sins will be brought forth together.”
The Prophet ﷺ said,
| When Allah wishes good for His slave, He hastens to bring about his punishment in this world, and if He does not wish good for him, He withholds the punishment until he is dealt with for his sin on the Day of Resurrection.
Understanding the reality of this world.
The believer knows that this world is only temporary, that its luxuries are few, and that whatever pleasures exist here are always imperfect. If it causes a little laughter, it gives many reasons to weep; if it gives a little, it withholds far more. The believer is only detained here, as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
| This world is the prison of the believer and the paradise of the kaafir.
This world is also fatigue, pain, misery and suffering, so the believer feels relief when he departs from it. Abu Qutaadah ibn Rib’i al-Ansaari used to say that a funeral passed the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and he said, “He is now relieved, and people feel relieved of him.” The people asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how can he be relieved and people feel relieved of him?” He said, “The believing slave (who dies) is relieved of the fatigue and pain of this world and has gone to the mercy of Allah; when the rebellious slave dies, people, land, trees and animals are relieved of him.”
For the believer, death brings a respite from the distress, worries and pain of this life, as is stated in the hadeeth,
|“When the believer is about to die, the angels of mercy bring white silk and say, ‘Come out content, with the pleasure of Allah upon you, to the mercy of Allah and sweet fragrance and a Lord who is not angry.’ So (the soul) comes out like the best fragrance of musk and the angels hand it to one another until they bring it to the gate of heaven. They say, ‘How good is this fragrance that has come from the earth.’ They bring it to the souls of the believers, and they rejoice over it much more than you do when one who has been absent returns. They ask him, ‘What did So-and-so do? What did So-and-so do?’ then (the angels) say, ‘Leave him alone, for he was suffering the distress of the world.’ When he asks, ‘Did not So-and- so come to you?’ they say: ‘He was taken to his home in the Pit (i.e., Hell).’ When the kaafir is about to die, angels of punishment bring sackcloth and say, ‘Come out discontent, with the wrath of Allah upon you, to the punishment of Allah.’ So (the soul) comes out like the worst stench of rotten meat, and they take it to the gate of the earth. They say, ‘How foul is this stench,’ until they bring it to the souls of the kuffaar.”
This understanding of the reality of this world makes it easier for the believer to bear afflictions, pains, distress and anxiety, because he knows that they are an inevitable part of the nature of this life.
Following the examples of the Prophets and the righteous.
The Prophets and the righteous suffered more distress in this world than other people. Each person is tested according to the strength of his faith. If Allah loves a person, He tests him. Sa’d (may Allah be pleased with him) asked the Prophet ﷺ,
|“O Messenger of Allah, which of the people suffers the most distress?” He said: ‘The Prophets, then those who come after them (in terms of status), then those who come after them. A man will be tested according to the strength of his faith. If his faith is strong, then the distress with which he is tried will be greater; if his faith is weak, he will be tested in accordance with the level of his faith. Distress will keep on befalling the slave until he walks on the face of the earth free from sin.’”
Making the Hereafter one’s main concern.
The concerns of this world overwhelm and confuse people, but if the slave makes the Hereafter his main concern, Allah will help him to focus and be determined, as was narrated by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him),
|“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘Whoever has the Hereafter as his main concern, Allah will fill his heart with a feeling of richness and independence; he will be focused and feel content, and this world will come to him in spite of it. Whoever has this world as his main concern, Allah will cause him to feel constant fear of poverty; he will be distracted and unfocused, and he will have nothing of this world except what was already predestined for him.’”
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said,
|“When a person spends his entire day with no other concern but Allah alone, Allah, may He be glorified, will take care of all his needs and take care of all that is worrying him; He will empty his heart so that it will be filled only with love for Him, free his tongue so that it will speak only in remembrance of Him (dhikr) and cause all his faculties to work only in obedience to Him. But if a person spends his entire day with no other concern but this world, Allah will make him bear its distress, anxiety and pain; He will leave him to sort himself out, and cause his heart to be distracted from the love of Allah towards the love of some created being, cause his tongue to speak only in remembrance of that creation instead of remembering Allah, and cause his faculties to work in obeying and serving them. So he will strive hard, labouring like some work-animal, to serve something other than Allah… Everyone who turns away from being a true slave of Allah and obeying Him and loving Him will be burdened with servitude, love and obedience to some created being.
Allah ﷻ says (interpretation of the meaning),
|“And whosoever turns away (blinds himself) from the remembrance of the Most Beneficent (Allah), We appoint for him a shaytaan (devil) to be a qareen (intimate companion) to him.” [al-Zukhruf 43:36]
A surprisingly effective remedy: Remembering death
The Prophet ﷺ said,
| Remember frequently the one who will destroy all your pleasures: death, for there is no-one who remembers death when in straitened circumstances, but his situation will become easier, and there is no-one who remembers death during times of ease, but his circumstances will become straitened.
Praying to Allah ﷻ, may He ﷻ be exalted.
Du’a (prayer or supplication) is very beneficial, and includes both protection and treatment. As far as protection in concerned, the Muslim is obliged to turn to Allah and pray to Him for refuge from distress and to keep him away from it, as the ﷺ used to do. His servant Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) tells us,
|“I used to serve the Messenger of Allah ﷺ when he stayed in Madeenah (i.e. was not travelling). I often used to hear him saying: ‘Allahumma inni a’oodhu bika min al-hamm wa’l- hazn wa’l-‘ajz wa’l-kasal wa’l-bukhl wa’l-jubn wa dala’ al-dayn wa ghalbat al- rijaal (O Allah, I seek refuge with You from distress, grief, incapacity, laziness, miserliness, cowardice, the burden of debt and from being overpowered by men).’”
This du’a is very effective in preventing distress before it happens; prevention is better, and easier, than cure.
When one is worried about what may happen in the future, the following du’aa’ is very beneficial. Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet ﷺ used to say,
| Allahumma aslih li deeni alladhi huwa ‘ismat amri wa aslih li dunyaaya allati fihaa ma’aashi wa aslih li aakhirati allati fihaa ma’aadi w’aj’al al-hayaata ziyaadatan li fi kulli khayri w’aj’al al-mawta raahatan li min kulli sharr (O Allah, make me adhere properly to my religion, on which all my affairs depend; make this world good for me in which is my livelihood; make my Hereafter good for me, in which is my ultimate destiny; make my life increase in every good thing and make my death a respite from every evil).
When distress and pain befall a person, the door of du’a is always open to him; it is never closed. When one calls upon the Most Generous, He will respond and give. Allah ﷻ says (interpretation of the meaning),
|“And when My slaves ask you concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led alright.” [al-Baqarah 2:186]
One of the greatest du’as which take away distress and anxiety and bring joy is the famous du’a which the Prophet ﷺ encouraged everyone who hears it to learn it by heart:
|The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “There is no-one who is afflicted by distress and grief, and says: ‘Allahumma inni ‘abduka ibn ‘abdika ibn amatija naasyati bi yadika, maada fiyya hukmuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadaa’uka. As’aluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltahu fi kitaabika aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista’tharta bihi fi ‘ilm il-ghayb ‘indaka an taj’al al-Qur’aana rabee’ qalbi wa noor sadri wa jalaa’ huzni wa dhihaab hammi (O Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your maidservant; my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which, You have named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the Unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety),’ but Allah will take away his distress and grief, and replace it with joy.” He was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, should we learn this?” He said: “Of course; everyone who hears it should learn it.”
This important hadeeth indicates the following: the slave should admit that he belongs to Allah and that he cannot do without Him and has no other master than Allah; that he should be a slave to Allah, announce his submission to Him, obey His commandments and heed His prohibitions; that Allah is directing and controlling him as He wills; that he should demonstrate his submission to Allah and his acceptance of His decree; that he should pray to Allah, using all His Names, then ask for what he needs.
A number of other du’as to do with distress and anxiety have also been narrated in the Sunnah. They include the following:
Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ felt distressed, he would say,
| Laa ilaaha ill-Allah al-‘Azeem al-Haleem, laa ilaaha ill-Allah Rabb al-‘Arsh al-‘azeem, la ilaaha ill-Allah Rabb al-samawaat wa Rabb al-ard wa Rabb al-‘Arsh al-kareem (There is no god but Allah, the All-Powerful, the Forbearing; there is no god but Allah, Lord of the mighty Throne; there is no god but Allah, Lord of heaven, Lord of earth, and Lord of the noble Throne)
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was distressed by something, he would say,
| Yaa Hayyu yaa Qayyoom bi rahmatika astagheeth (O Ever-Living, O Eternal, by Your mercy I seek help)
Asmaa’ bint ‘Umayr said,
|“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to me: ‘Shall I not teach you some words which you can say at times of distress? ‘Allah Allah rabbee laa ushriku bihi shay’an (Allah Allah is my Lord, I do not associate anything with Him)’”
Another of the beneficial du’as which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ taught us is the one he told us about when he said,
|“The du’a of the person who is in distress is: ‘Allahumma rahmataka arjoo fa laa takilni ilaa nafsi tarfat ‘ayn w’aslih li sha’ni kullahu laa ilaaha illa anta (O Allah, for Your mercy I hope, so do not leave me in charge of my affairs even for the blink of an eye; rectify all my affairs. There is no god except You)’”
If a person thinks about the meaning of these du’as and prays with concentration and a sincere intention, doing all those things that can help to bring about a response, Allah will fulfil his hopes and do the things asked for; He will turn his distress into joy.
If the du’a comes from a heart which is filled with faith, it will dispel worry and bring comfort. The scholars have mentioned many stories of people who prayed to Allah in times of calamity and distress, and Allah responded to their prayer and saved them from an enemy, or from drowning, or from starvation or disaster. One example is the story of what happened to the great Sahaabi al-‘Alaa al-Hadrami, who was one of the most prominent scholars and devoted worshippers, one of the close friends (awliyaa’) of Allah whose du’as are answered. During the campaign against the apostates of Bahrain, he pitched camp, but before the people could settle down, the camels bolted, carrying away all the provisions of the army, including their tents and water, leaving them with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. It was night- time, and they could not restrain even one camel. The people were filled with indescribable distress and alarm, and some of them began making wills to one another (because they felt that death was inevitable). Al-‘Alaa’ called the people together and said, “O people, are you not Muslims? Are you not striving for the sake of Allah? Are you not the ansaar (supporters) of Allah?” They said, “Of course.” He said, “Then be of good cheer, for Allah will not forsake anyone who is in your situation.” When the time for Fajr prayer came, he called the people to pray and led them in prayer, then he knelt up, and the people did likewise. He started to pray (make du’a), raising his hands, and the people did likewise. They prayed until the sun rose, and the people began to look at the mirages caused by the sun, shimmering one after another, all the while fervently praying. When he reached the third, Allah created a great stream of fresh water beside them. [‘Alaa’] walked towards it, and the people followed him, then they drank and washed themselves. Before the sun had reached its zenith, the camels started to come back from all directions, bringing the supplies loaded on them, so the people did not lose anything at all, and they were able to give water to the camels. This is one of the signs of Allah witnessed by the people during that campaign. [Al-Bidaayah wa’l-Nihaayah: Dhikr riddat ahl al- Bahrayn wa ‘awdatihim]
Praying for the Prophet ﷺ (i.e., saying “Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad,” etc.)
This is one of the greatest ways through which Allah ﷻ may relieve worries:
Al-Tufayl ibn Ubayy ibn Ka’b reported that his father said, “When two-thirds of the night had passed, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ got up and said, ‘O people, remember Allah, remember Allah. The first blowing of the Trumpet has come, and will be followed by the second blowing. Death has come, with all that it implies, death has come with all that it implies.’ I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I pray a lot for you. How much of my prayers should I devote to you?’ He said, ‘As much as you want.’ I said, ‘A quarter?’ He said, ‘As much as you want, and if you increase it, it will be good for you.’ I said, ‘Half?’ He said, ‘As much as you want, and if you increase it, it will be good for you.’ I said, ‘Two-thirds?’ He said, ‘As much as you want, and if you increase it, it will be good for you.’ I said, ‘I will devote all my prayer to you.’ He said, ‘Then your worries will be taken care of and your sin will be forgiven.’”
Relying upon Allah and entrusting matters to Him ﷻ.
When a person knows that Allah is able to do all things, that He alone makes choices for His slaves and runs their affairs, that the way He runs His slave’s affairs is better than the way the slave would do it for himself, that He knows better about the slave’s interests than the slave does, that He is more able to achieve them, that He is more sincere and more merciful towards His slave than the slave is to himself; and also knows that he cannot progress or regress any further than the limits that Allah has decreed for him, for nobody can change the will and decree of Allah – when a person knows all this, he will submit himself to his Lord and hand over his affairs to Him, throwing himself before his Lord like a weak slave throwing himself before a mighty and powerful king. Allah deals with His slave as He wishes, and the slave has nothing to do with it. Only after he has submitted thus will the slave feel relief from his distress, worries and regrets. He gives the burden of his needs and interests to One Who is not concerned about how heavy or great the burden is. Allah will take care of it, instead of him, and will show him His kindness and mercy, without the slave getting tired or worried, because all his concern is now focused on Allah alone. His worry about his needs and interests in this world has been lifted from him and his heart is now free of this concern. How good his life is now, how blessed his heart and how great his happiness and joy!
But as for the person who insists on running his own affairs and making his own choices, whose concern is only for his own share and not for his duties towards his Lord, Allah will leave him alone with the choices he has made, so he will be surrounded by concerns, worries, distress, grief, fear, exhaustion and depression. His thoughts will be confused, none of his deeds will be pure and none of his hopes will be fulfilled. He will gain no respite, and will enjoy no pleasure. He will never feel joy or contentment. He will be labouring like a working-animal, with no hope of gaining anything that could help him in the Hereafter.
When a person relies upon Allah and puts his trust in Him, he is not controlled by bad illusions. He trusts in Allah and hopes for bounty from Him, which protects him from distress and worry, as well as many psychological and physical diseases. Thus his heart gains indescribable strength, relaxation and joy. The one who is truly free from problems is the one whom Allah has freed and helped to strive against his own-self (jihaad al-nafs) by seeking beneficial means of strengthening his heart and dispelling anxiety.
Allah ﷻ says (interpretation of the meaning),
|“… and whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him…” [al-Talaaq 65:3]
I.e., He will take care of everything that is of concern to him, whether it has to do with his religion or his worldly affairs.
The person who relies on Allah is strong in heart and is not adversely affected by illusions or things that happen, because he knows that this is a sign of weakness and fear that is unfounded. He also knows that Allah has guaranteed to take complete care of the one who puts his trust in Him, so he trusts Allah and has confidence in His promise. Thus his worries and anxiety disappear, hardship is replaced with ease, sadness turns to joy and fear turns to a feeling of security. We ask Allah to keep us safe and to bless us with strength of heart and steadfastness through complete reliance on Him, for He has guaranteed all goodness and protection from all evil and harm to those who put their trust in Him.
Other ways of dispelling distress and anxiety include paying attention to what is beneficial, focusing on what matters today and no longer worrying about what may happen tomorrow or regretting what happened yesterday.
Hence the Prophet ﷺ sought refuge with Allah from worry and regret: regret for things that have happened in the past which one cannot go back and change, and worries about what may happen in the future. The slave should think only about the present, focusing his energy on doing his best today, because this is what results in perfect work, and helps him to forget his worries and regrets. When the Prophet ﷺ prayed a du’a, or taught it to his ummah, he encouraged them not only to seek the help of Allah and hope for His blessings, but also to work hard and strive to achieve the protection they prayed for, for du’aa’ goes hand-in-hand with effort. Thus the slave will strive for whatever benefits him in his religion or his worldly affairs, and will ask his Lord to grant him the result for which he is aiming.
He asks Allah for help, just as Abu Hurayrah reported,
|“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, and both are good. Pay attention to that which could benefit you, seek the help of Allah and do not feel incapacitated. If anything befalls you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such, such a thing would have happened.’ Say instead, ‘It is the decree of Allah, and what He wills, He does,’ for saying ‘if only…’ opens the way for Shaytaan.”
Thus the Prophet ﷺ established a link between, on the one hand, his command to strive for beneficial things in every situation, seeking the help of Allah, and not giving in to feelings of inadequacy which the harmful kind of laziness, and, on the other, giving in to regret for things in the past which are over and done with, and thinking about the will and decree of Allah. He described things as being of two types: things which the slave can strive to achieve either in totality or as much as he can, or can protect himself from them, or lessen their impact, by making an effort and seeking the help of Allah; and others about which he cannot do anything, so he should accept them and be content. Undoubtedly, paying attention to this principle will bring about happiness and dispel worry and distress.
The hadeeth quoted above indicates that one should strive to eliminate the causes of distress and bring about causes of happiness, by forgetting about bad things in the past that cannot be changed, and by realizing that to spend too much time thinking about such an impossible task is a foolish and crazy waste of time. So one should try not to think about it, and try not to feel anxious about the future or imagine fear and poverty that may or may not lie ahead. We should realize that the future, whether good or bad, is something unknown; it is in the hands of the Almighty, All-Wise, not in the hands of His slaves, and all they have to do is to strive for the good things and protect themselves from bad things. The slave should know that if he distracts his mind from worries about the future and puts his trust in his Lord, then Allah will take care of it and his worry and anxiety will disappear.(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.)