As you are in the midst of the last days of Ramadan you need to make sure that you are completely cleansed in every aspect. Many of you have prayed long rakats sincerely asking for forgiveness, read Qurʾān while shedding many tears and engaged in many acts of charity feeling renewed. The one area that you may have overlooked is your emotional baggage. Many times you are so consumed with worship and acts of charity that it is easy to overlook your emotional issues. So what is so important in dealing with them? As long as you just fast, pray, read Qurʾān & give sadaqah (charity) it’s enough right? WRONG.
As a psychologist I recognize that your emotional and psychological states have a huge impact on your spiritual well-being. If you are depressed, anxious, holding a grudge or feeling jealous then you will be in an emotional turmoil – your focus and attention will shift toward your problem and you will not be wholeheartedly attentive to your acts of worship, only your issues. In order to free yourself from the toxins of the emotional hazards you need to do an EMOTIONAL DETOX to rid yourself of all harmful and potentially deadly baggage. Think of it as spring cleaning of your mind and heart before completing Ramadan.
TOXIN # 1 HOLDING A GRUDGE
Is there someone in your life that has hurt you, lied to you, cheated on you or abused you and you are holding a grudge? Are you angry and feeling depressed because of it? Whenever you are in some way oppressed you have the choice to either play the victim role and feel sorry for yourself or you can accept it and move on. Grudges are like heavy suitcases you carry with you everywhere you go, weighing you down. Learn to let go and liberate yourself.
No matter how negligent you have been, how selfish or decadent you have lived your life there is always hope in making a change. First forgive yourself of past mistakes- there is no limit to Allāh‘s forgiveness- the door of repentance is always open.
Hadith Qudsi : “O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Forgive your parents, your spouse, your siblings and anyone else who has ever oppressed you. Instead of being angry at people, realize that there is divine wisdom in everything that happens. It is the difficult tests in your life that shape you and make you a stronger person. Embrace your past and your present so that you can truly liberate yourself.
Whoever suffers an injury and forgives , God will raise his status to a higher degree and removes one of his sins” (Al-Tirmidhi).
It is like a wrestling match with your nafs (ego) – fighting the evil within to purify your hearts. Overcome your innate desire to hold a grudge. The Prophet inspired us with this practice when he said to his followers:
“God had ordered me to maintain ties with those who sever ties with me to give to those who deprive me and to forgive those who oppress me.”
The Prophet and his companions went beyond altruism. They had immeasurable generosity towards people who had tortured them and they were forgiving and merciful to the worst oppressors. The essence of true forgiveness is to forget. Not bringing up the past mistakes of others is one of the most dignified and mature things you can do.
Think about the man who was promised paradise because he forgave everyone before he slept – how easy is that? It doesn’t cost anything and it doesn’t take any effort. You only need to make a decision to forgive.
TOXIN # 2 ANGER
Anger is a natural human emotion which can motivate you to take action. If anger is not channeled properly it can be the leading cause of health & psychological problems, violence and even divorce. Learn how to control your anger or else it will control you.
The Prophet said, “The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the one who controls himself while in anger.” (Bukhāri).
Several things are attributed to overcoming anger. When you accept your destiny and truly realize that everything that is happening to you right now is the best for you, then you will gain more control over your anger. Another very important ingredient to overcoming anger is having emotional leadership and acting like an adult at all times. It is critical to take ownership of your feelings and stop blaming others. You are the only person who has the power to decide whether you will be angry or not. If you have a long list of buttons that people can easily press – DEACTIVATE YOUR BUTTONS. Don’t show sensitivity so that people will stop pressing your buttons.
When the Prophet was asked for advice he said Don’t get angry – he was asked a second and third time and he repeated don’t get angry. The reason he put so much emphasis on not getting angry is because anger leads to many problems and sins. When a person gets angry they can hurt other peoples’ feelings, gossip, physically hurt others or take part in other destructive behavior. The best way to prevent anger is to take time out, do deep breathing, make positive affirmations while doing istaghfar (asking for forgiveness).
TOXIN # 3 ANXIETY
The danger of having anxiety is that it consumes you and makes you feel overwhelmed. When a person is feeling overwhelmed they no longer can focus, feel at peace or have trust in their heart. This can really effect peoples’ faith and their productivity. Many times people feel immobilized when they are overcome with anxiety.
Most people live in the remorse of the past or the fear of future which creates an excessive amount of anxiety. The only way to prevent the anxiety is to live in the here and now. If you are focused on the present without worrying about the past or future then and only then can you start living a fulfilling and meaningful life. In order to achieve this you really have to believe that Allāh is al-Hakeem (the most wise). Everything He does is for a reason and if you trust Allāh and accept your destiny then you will have no anxiety. Take control of what you are saying to yourself because your self-talk can either help you to attain peace or lead you to massive anxiety. Instead of saying, “ Oh no, I don’t know what is going to happen to me” say: “I know that everything will work out for the best and I will be able to cope with whatever happens inshā’Allāh.”
I have had clients with extreme anxiety disorder and individuals who have had nervous breakdowns who have learned how to cope with their anxiety in order to live a peaceful lives. As the saying goes: it’s all in your head -so if you think you are going to lose it you will and if you think you will be in control and remain calm you will be equipped to deal with the worst catastrophes. The best way to ease your heart is to seek Allāh‘s help in prayer to help you be patient.
And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allāh] Surat al Baqara 2:45
TOXIN # 4 DEPRESSION
Usually people are depressed because things did not work out the way they had planned. They feel somehow hopeless or helpless for not having control over their lives. When a person experiences depression they are overwhelmed with grief, hopelessness and apathy. They are incapable of doing anything for themselves and they no longer can contribute to society. The depression takes complete control over the persons’ life and they can’t be productive in any way.
Majority of my clients suffer from depression and the way I help them overcome it is by focusing on the many blessings they have and increasing their daily gratitude. As they become more grateful I teach them to accept their circumstances. No matter how difficult the situation, I tell them that it is a test that they have to accept in order to pass.
Some of the best ways to combat depression is to push yourself to take part in activities even if you don’t feel like it. Get together with friends, exercise daily and attend classes. This way you can ensure that you will avoid the downward spiral of depression. The quickest way to overcome depression is to help those in need. The more you are involved in tending to the needs of the less fortunate the more you will feel gratitude for your life.
TOXIN # 5 PESSIMISM
If you choose to look at life with pessimism it will prevent you from appreciating all the blessings that you have and make you a chronic complainer which will in essence make you and everyone around you miserable. When you are pessimistic you will search for what is wrong in everything and everyone, you will lose all hope and lack enthusiasm for the future. A believer can only be optimistic because they believe in the power of their creator and they are certain that everything that happens is for the best. They don’t question the past or the present because they know that the Most Wise would not have them suffer in vain. Always search for what is good about your situation and reframe to look for the wisdom in each event.
The Messenger of Allāh : “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Narrated by Muslim, 2999).
TOXIN # 6 JEALOUSY
When you feel jealous it is like fire inside your heart that prevents you from being peaceful or content. The problem of jealousy arises when you start comparing yourself to others. This comparison can leave you feeling inadequate, unattractive, poor, unfortunate and miserable. Anyone who feels jealousy does not understand the concept of predestination (qadr). Allāh is the one who distributes wealth, health, status & everything else; therefore, if you feel jealous wishing you had what another person has or wanting to look like someone else, then you are implying that you know more than Allāh (authobillah). No one would have the audacity to question Allāh, but if you constantly complain & think it’s not fair then you are doing just that.
Jealousy is a disease of the heart that needs to be overcome. Focus on the many blessings that you already have and stop comparing yourself to others. The only people you should be comparing yourself to are the ones who are worse off so you can fill your heart with constant gratitude.
And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” Ibrahim 14:7
Realize that every blessing is a test. If there is something you don’t have then it is a form of mercy. Start showing gratitude for all the things you don’t have because if you had them you could have gone astray.
TOXIN # 7 LOW SELF-ESTEEM
Low self-esteem can effect your life tremendously. If you don’t feel good about yourself you will feel depressed and you will not be able to achieve your goals. Sometimes you can be your own worst critic. Try to minimize destructive thinking. People talk to themselves 600 words a minute which 85% is negative. Give your thoughts a makeover. Start thinking positively and surround yourself with positive people. Provide yourself with opportunities to have small accomplishments and celebrate your successes.
TOXIN # 8 BEING JUDGMENTAL
Being judgmental of others is the quickest way to push them away and create distance. Each time you look at a person with judgmental eyes evaluating their level of commitment, their clothes, the way they choose to wear the hijab or the activities they take part in you create a barrier. The person being judged will feel extremely rejected and they will have very negative emotions towards you and Islam. The only way you can be an effective representative of Islam is by being accepting and non-judgmental. Don’t look for spiritual clones of yourself & label others as losers. Try your best to be accepting and tolerant of all people.
Unfortunately, the more religious people become the more critical and judgmental they become. It is really a shame if you start feeling arrogant because you are more religious than someone else. This is only from the mercy of Allāh that you are on the right path and He could take you off that path in an instant if you continue to look down on others and turn them away from Islam with your harsh, judgmental style.
TOXIN # 9 TOXIC RELATIONS
There are certain people you may be in contact with which are toxic for your life. These individuals may be pessimistic, heedless or completely oblivious to their purpose in life. As you spend time with individuals like this you will be effected by their poison and slowly but surely you will be completely infected. Try to avoid them if you can or limit your time with them. Counterbalance the negative effect by spending time with highly positive and committed people. If the toxic people in your life are your family members try to understand the wisdom in having them in your life and limit your time with them as much as you can without offending them.
TOXIN # 10 HATRED
If you have hatred in your heart it is best to cleanse yourself from it this Ramadan. Harboring feelings of hatred releases poisons, kills your spirit & makes you cynical. Understand the reasons behind your hatred and try your best to overcome it by accepting your destiny and trusting in Allāh‘s plan. Remember that when the hating ends the healing begins. Fill your heart with love and make supplications for the people you dislike in order to soften your heart and earn rewards.
Make it your goal this Ramadan to rid yourself of all the toxins by doing the emotional detox so that your heart will be fully cleansed and ready for the rest of the year. If you put forth the effort in ridding yourself of one toxin at a time you will improve your overall spiritual and emotional state while enhancing your relationships with others inshā’Allāh.