My mother says that “two things cannot exist in the presence of each other. Where there is fear, there cannot be faith in God.” You might balk at this statement, thinking it’s too simple. But doesn’t Allah guide us to the same truth? Through numerous examples, He pours courage into our hearts like water on a thirsty plant.
How do you describe peace? Can you feel at peace if you feel threatened? No. True peace comes from a sense of security. What better source of peace and security is there besides Allah? To fear is human, but we cannot internalize it and lock ourselves up in our homes.
1. Leave Home Without It
Allah has promised you His Mercy:
“When Allah decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over my wrath.” (Muslim, Bukhari, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah).
He is aware of everything that occurs to you, and will reward you for being patient:
“For any trouble, illness, worry, grief, hurt, or sorrow which afflicts a Muslim, even the prick of a thorn, Allah removes in its stead some of his (minor) sins." (Hadith Qudsi)
He knows that you enjoy life and above all, that you don‘t want to die:
“...I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.”(Hadith Qudsi).
2. Know Your Limitations
Are you really the master of your own destiny? Happiness lies in understanding the difference between those things you can control and those things which are beyond your control. The concept of Qadr (predestination) is central to this understanding:
'No slave of Allah will truly believe until he believes in Al Qadr, its good and bad, from Allah, until he knows that what has befallen him was not going to miss him and that what missed him was not going to befall him.’(Tirmidhi)
The Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Ibn Abbas: "if the whole nation were to gather together to benefit you they would only benefit you with that which Allah had already written [for] you, and if the whole nation were to gather to harm you they could only harm you with that which Allah had already written to harm you. The pen has been lifted and the ink has dried". (5)
Psychologists also realize that an excessive need for control can lead to anxiety and a paralyzing fear:
“There is basically one thing that stands out from my research, anxiety," says Dr. Les Parrott III in an interview in the October 2000 edition of Psychology Online Journal. Anxiety is the fuel that runs the engine of every control freak. That translates into fear... that leads them to become over-controlling.”
3. "Fear" The Creator Only
“(False) security and despair are ways leading out of the folds of the community of Muslims. The right attitude for the people of the Qiblah lies between the two. That is to say, a slave should remain between fear and hope. For, the right and the approved kind of fear is that which acts as a barrier between the slave and the things forbidden by Allah. But, if fear is excessive, then the possibility is that the man will fall into despair and pessimism.”(from the article Salvation Lies Between Fear and Hope by Imam Ali Ibn Abi al `Izz al Hanafi).
Consider the verses of the Quran and the Hadith below.
"Be ye not afraid of them, but fear Me, if ye have faith." [3:175]
“A man sinned greatly against himself, and when death came to him he charged his sons, saying: When I have died, burn me, then crush me and scatter [my ashes] into the sea, for, by Allah, if my Lord takes possession of me, He will punish me in a manner in which He has punished no one [else]. So they did that to him. Then He said to the earth: Produce what you have taken- and there he was! And He said to him: What induced you to do what you did? He said: Being afraid of You, O my Lord... and because of that He forgave him.” (Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nasai and Ibn Majah)
“Call upon Him with Fear and Hope.” [7:56]
4. Increase Your Worship
We all fall short, in one way or another. One Muslim may excel in salaat but forgets about charity. Another fasts easily, but doesn’t read Qur’an. We could all use some improvement, especially myself. The further “behind” I am in my worship, the more fearful I am of death. I’m like a basketball team, down by 20 points with three minutes to go. The clock is ticking down. When there’s time, they’re hopeful. But, when the clock reads 0:00, time is up. They are watching the clock so much that they can’t shoot straight. On the opposite side, the team that’s leading by 20 points is not afraid of the clock. They are calm, because they’re not playing catch-up. Only Allah knows our final “scores” but we know how many prayers we’ve missed, how many frivolous things we’ve bought instead of feeding the poor, and so on.
We become acutely aware of the “game clock” during times of war and danger. These times force us to check our own internal scoreboards. The further behind we are, in our own assessment, the more we will fear 0:00. Increase your worship so that you feel balanced; neither self-righteous nor despairing of Allah‘s Mercy, but doing your best to please Him:
Allah the Almighty said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. 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. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it. (Tirmidhi)
5. Avoid Things That Make Your Angry
Fear and anger go hand in hand.
He who can overpower others in wrestling is not really a strong man. True strength is in that individual who can control himself at the time of anger’ (Bukhari)
“Remember that anger stems from fear and a sense of helplessness...," writes Dr. Tom G. Stevens in his book You Can Choose To Be Happy. "You may not want to admit feeling hurt or fear. (You may think such an admission is a sign of weakness.) Yet these are the underlying feelings that will help you identify which values and goals are being threatened.”
6. Stay Informed
Ignorance increases fear. It may also make you fearful of the wrong things, thereby placing you in more danger. But, see tip #5. Turn off the TV if the pundits are insulting Islam, making you feel angry. Listen to international radio and read news from various sources (internet, etc.)
7. Speak Up!
Always let someone know what your plans are for the day. If you plan to go somewhere after school or work, it is important that you let someone know beforehand. This is not a limitation on your freedom, but a protection for all of us, both males and females. In discussing your plans, the other person may point out something you forgot, reminding you “there's a game this afternoon, so the subway might be crowded with people who have been drinking."
Besides planning, it's good to share your thoughts (and fears) with others who understand your point of view. Arrange a halaqah to study or just invite a few Muslims to your place for a discussion. It's good to talk with others. They need you to listen, too. Don't keep things bottled up inside.
8. Stick Together
We are commanded to stick together and to watch over each other, especially in times of danger:
"And hold firmly to the rope of Allah together and do not disunite." [3:103]
“When you (O Messenger Muhammad(SAAS)) are among them, and lead them in prayer, let one party of them stand up (in prayer) with you taking their arms with them; when they finish their prostrations, let them take their positions in the rear and let the other party come up which has not yet prayed, and let them pray with you taking all the precautions and bearing arms...” [4:102]
Teamwork gives each of us a greater sense of comfort and security.
9. Forget About It
Fear can lead to depression. One of the best cures for depression is to throw yourself into service on behalf of others. Whether it be organizing a masjid donation to help refugees throughout the world, or putting in a few hours at your local hospital, helping other people is a very soothing activity. Offer to babysit for a sister with small children. Little kids will keep you so busy that you won't have time to worry about anything else...
10. Create A Contingency Plan
Accepting Allah's Qadr does not mean that you should become careless. You should accept His Qadr, but still look both ways before crossing a busy street. These things are not mutually exclusive. Instead, the instinct for self-preservation is one of the things that Allah has given you to protect yourself. Creating a contingency plan is a little like doing your chores. Once you get this mundane thing out of the way, you can go ahead and enjoy yourself.
Continuing to be fearful after you have prepared yourself as much as possible is a sign that one of two things is wrong; (a) either you haven't organized your "chores", or (b) you have an unrealistic view of your own powers.
Organize your "chores" by making a list. Write down everything related to protecting yourself that you feel you can control. This may include small things such as fixing the lock on your screen door, or deciding not to travel alone for a while. Developing a realistic view of your own powers is possible through prayer, reading the Qur'an, staying in touch with other Muslims, or simply paying attention to the examples around you. Pay attention to nature, watch the sunrise, feed the squirrels, and notice how life marches on, no matter what we humans do.
The Prophet (saas ) said: "Verily, the greatness of the reward is tied to the greatness of the trial: When Allah (swt ) loves a people, he puts them to trial. Whoever accepted it, will enjoy Allah's Pleasure and whoever is displeased with it, will incur Allah's Displeasure." (Tirmidhi)
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