Depression

Having met many people who suffer from depression I wanted to learn more about it and try to understand it better. It’s one of those complicated illness that not many people understand yet so many suffer from it. The world health organisation estimates that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression and that women are twice as likely to develop depression than men. Depression is also the leading cause of disability worldwide. So this is my notes from the course I attended.

Many people think that depression is solely a illness that’s “just in your head” yet when you look at what the professionals say, that’s not quite true.

Depression is a psychological, social and biological illness. So the cure also has to be psychological, social and biological. It has to be a combination.

So how can we help ourselves or someone we know that has depression? We firstly we have to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression. We have to be able to know the difference between someone being sad or upset and someone being depressed. Sadness is not depression, that’s a normal human emotion. It’s what happens when we go through a stressful situation or a hardship. But it does not necessarily mean that you are depressed. Although sadness is often what people associate with depression it’s not what depression is. So what is depression like?
Depression is like drowning, except you can see everyone around you breathing.

Some of the signs and symptoms of depression are:
You can’t sleep
You can’t concentrate
You can’t control your anger
You are no longer interested in your hobbies
You are no longer interested in eating food you normally like
You are always tired no matter how much sleep you get
It feels like everyone else is moving forward in life but you’re stuck in the same place
You feel hopeless and are unable to stop negative thoughts no matter how much you try
You have unexplained aches and pains

When we recognise these symptoms we should seek help. We can seek help from many places; from your local imam, your family and friends or your doctor or a therapist. It can be difficult to accept help from anyone but it is easier to overcome depression with help. They can support you and help encourage you.
There are 2 main ways of seeking help from healthcare professionals:
1) psychotherapy/counselling – there are many different types of counselling available and studies have shown that it can be as good as medication.
2) medication – there are many misconceptions about taking anti-depressants but studies have shown that taking medication increases your chances of helping overcome depression by 50-60% but it does take time for the medication to start working so you will have to be patient when you start taking them.

Along with seeking help from others you also have to help yourself. You have to change something in your life and break the cycle.

Depression leads to low energy/fatigue which leads to decreased activity and neglecting responsibilities which leads to increased guilt and hopelessness this then in turn make the depression worse. This becomes a vicious cycle.
To break this cycle you have to make a change, it doesn’t have to be a big change even something small can help to break it, but it has to be something you know will help you. it could be anything from taking a walk daily or exercising or reading or writing or even doing some art work.

One of the best things we can do to overcome depression is to follow the sunnah. The Prophet (saw) taught us so many things which teach good mental health. So doing things like spreading salaam, smiling at others, keeping family ties, being good to your spouse, avoiding the haram eg. alcohol, eating in moderation, being modest and giving gifts can help us to feel better within ourselves and so in turn help us to overcome depression. This is just a short list of things he (saw) taught us, we can find many more examples throughout his seerah.

We look at others “perfect” lives on social media and then we see all the horrors that happen around the world on the news. It’s like whiplash. We see two extremes and caught up in this. We spend time on social media looking at the “amazing lives” people are living but we feel we can’t attain this so we feel low. But this is only a snapshot of their best times. We don’t really know what their lives are like outside of social media.

Don’t dwell on the past, move forward towards your goals. Look to the example of the prophet (saw), he didn’t dwell on his persecution in Makkah. He moved to Medina but still smiled and carried on living his life. Look to those who are worse off than you, it will make you grateful for what you have and encourage you to help.

Don’t dwell, do.

Know it WILL get better. Depression can be cured.

Remember that we have an afterlife waiting for us.

Reading Surah kahf every Friday will give us a light from one Friday to the next. Learning the stories can help us. Look at the story of Khidr, we learn that something happens to you that you perceive as bad but we don’t know that everything ahead is good. Only Allah knows what’s ahead.

Verily with hardship there is ease. Verily with hardship there is ease. Quran (94:5-6)

This is the only place in the Quran that something is repeated. It’s addressed to someone who is going through hardship. These people may not hear the reassurance the first time so He says it again so that we can allow it to penetrate and hear it.

I Hear Whispers…

I hear whispers telling me that it’s okay to pray later that what I’m doing is far too important to leave halfway through. I hear whispers saying not to worry that I have loads of time to pray before the next salah time begins. He tells me to sit down and relax for a while longer. Then before I realise salah time is ending and I’m rushing to pray. 

I hear whispers even while I’m praying reminding me of all the things I need to do. He reminds me of things I had long forgotten. He tries to distract me, constantly making me lose focus on my salah. 

I hear whispers telling me that I shouldn’t give so much in charity because then how will I pay for the things I need? He tells me to give only a little or to give next time because I have bills to pay and things to buy. He reminds me of poverty and causes me to forget that Allah is the one who provides.

 I hear whispers reminding me of my insecurities and self doubts. He makes me feel as though I can’t achieve anything, that my success is limited. He makes me doubt my own abilities and tries to stop me from reaching higher.

I hear whispers telling me my mistakes are so big that there’s no hope for me. He tells me that I have no hope for forgiveness that I may as well not even bother trying. He tries to make me despair in the mercy of Allah.

I hear whispers telling me that my husband didn’t do it by accident. He did it on purpose because he doesn’t care about me. He tells me I should hurt him too. He tells me it will make me feel better if I argue with him. He tells me to scream at him. He tells me to say hurtful things to him. He makes me feel this is the only way to make my husband see that I’m hurt.

I hear whispers telling me that this person spread lies about me so I should do the same. I hear whispers telling me how unfair it is that others have what I want and that its okay to be jealous. I hear whispers telling me to treat others badly because they were mean to me. That this is the only way, that revenge is the best thing. I hear whispers that remind me of the hurt and betrayal by others. He tells me not to forgive them, that they don’t deserve it. He tells me that I should remain angry with them and break ties with them. That’s the only way to get them back. 

These whispers are so dangerous I don’t know how to stop it from affecting me. But I have to fight it. I can’t let it control me. I can’t let it ruin my chances of Jannah. This is the true jihad. Because these whispers come from none other than Shaytan and my own nafs (desires). They whisper so sweetly that they convince me that this is the right thing to do. But I have to keep fighting. I have to keep my defences strong. I have to pray and make dua and keep my dhikr consistent. Without these I am defenceless. I won’t be able to fight their whispers. Because even though it’s a whisper, it’s one of the greatest battles I will have to fight. 

Self Esteem 

Allah will not change a condition of a people until they change what is within themselves. Quran (13:11)

I recently listened to a really interesting lecture about self esteem and the islamic perspective. It was really interesting to hear as we all suffer from low self esteem in one way or another. So learning about self esteem will help us to increase our self esteem.

Self-esteem: The value you place on yourself, which enables you to love and cherish who you are and care for yourself accordingly.

Having good self esteem and self worth gives you self confidence. You have a positive outlook in life and are thankful for what you have. It’s so important to be grateful as the opposite of shirk is kufr. This in turn will help you succeed in life as you will be more resistant to difficulties and obstacles and be able to overcome them. Having good self esteem will help to improve your relationships, as you are comfortable with yourself you won’t feel jealous, intimidated or threatened by anyone else. For example the mother/sister in law can be threatened by the daughter in law, they sometimes feel that the daughter in law will “take” the son from them. Having good self esteem means that you are confident in your relationship so will not feel that a new person will destroy that relationship. One of the most important reasons for having good self esteem is that it will give you inner peace. You won’t be obsessed over the events of the past and keep blaming yourself for mistakes that can’t be changed. You will be able to accept whatever has happened and learn from it and move on.

None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself. (Bukhari)

This hadith is so important it teaches that we should feel good about who we are and be able to see the success of others and we should not feel jealous of what others have. When we constantly feel as though you deserve what others have more than them or you are jealous of their success it is as if you are questioning Allahs wisdom. Allah gave that person that success for a reason, but do we think we know better than Allah? Allah is al-Hakeem, the wise, He knows exactly what is best and for whom. We should remember that just as want certain things, we should also want others to have it too. But we need to have good self worth and self esteem to be able to want for others what you want for yourself.

So what does it mean to have good self esteem? The sister explained different components that make up having good self esteem.

1) Your personality – having a strong personality improves your self esteem.

2) Spirituality – you are true to what you believe. You are not easily influenced to change your opinions to match what others are saying. You live by your own values and standards.

3) Looks – you feel content with your looks. You avoid both extremes of being obsessed and letting go.

4) Sense of purpose – You know where you are heading

5) Sense of belonging and acceptance – You are at peace with yourself and accept yourself the way you are.

6) Sense of competence – you have proficiency in different areas and are aware of areas of self improvement. You are able to filter information in an empowering way.

7) Influence others – you are aware of the impact you have on others and you know when to take feedback from others.

So our self esteem is affected by many different factors in life.

There are ways to improve your self esteem and as we are all vulnerable to suffering from low self esteem at some point in our lives it’s important to know ways in which we can improve our self esteem.

1) We all do a lot of self-talking. We speak to ourselves in our head all the time. I can’t do this or what will people think if I did this? We need to change our self talk into one that is positive. Tell ourselves that we can do it, that we have the ability to achieve the goal. Motivate ourselves.

2) Surrounding yourself with positive people can make a huge difference in your self esteem. The type of people you surround yourself with affects how you think. So if the people you are around are always complaining, are ungrateful and always focus on the negative then you will be pulled into that type of thinking. And the opposite is also true. So it’s important to be careful in who you spend your time with.

3) Celebrate small successes. Don’t wait until the absolute end of a goal to celebrate. Celebrate each milestone, each step you took. Take the time to acknowledge each step and reward yourself for achieving it. It will help to motivate you and encourage you.

4) Volunteer for a charity. Sometimes you can’t see it from the inside so you need to start on the outside. The feeling you get when you help someone can help you a lot in making you feel better about yourself. It makes you more grateful and helps you see the good in your life by helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

5) Dress in a presentable way. The way you are dressed can impact the way you think about yourself. So even if you are at home all day don’t stay in your pyjamas.

So we should all work on our self esteem as there are many things in life which can affect it. But we shouldn’t confuse good self esteem with arrogance. Self esteem is appreciating what you have been give, being grateful. It is not feeling that you are better than others. There is no contradiction between good self esteem and being humble. Having good self esteem means you feel safe and secure about who you are

Live like a traveller in the Dunya

So I’m moving houses once again, this will be my third move in under a year subhanAllah. As I’m packing once again I have been thinking about how we get so attached to the place we live. We become accustomed to having things a certain way and we don’t like change. One of the most stressful life events is moving homes! Me and my husband are not just moving homes but we’re also moving far away from our family and friends. So I’m feeling really emotional. I’m excited and sad, I’m happy and stressed, I’m looking forward to it but also thinking I don’t want to move so far. I’m feeling everything at once.

But as I sat here thinking about how annoying it is to have to move again and again especially as I had just started to get used to where we live it reminded me of a hadith.

The prophet (saw) said: Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller. (Bukhari)

Moving home a lot actually helps us to realise that this isn’t our permanent home. That no matter how much we love to live in a specific place we will eventually have to leave it. So we should always keep that in mind and not allow ourselves to love our homes so much that we can’t bear to leave it if we need to. But that is really hard. We want to find a house where we can live long term, where we can build our home with our family, raise our children. We want to decorate our homes and make it look nice and beautiful. We spend lots of money in making a house our home. So then we don’t want to leave.

But it’s halal for us to have a nice home so shouldn’t we want to make it look nice? How can we balance between loving where we live and not being so attached to it that we can’t bear to leave? We want to have the things from the dunya but how can we stop ourselves from becoming materialistic?

Ali ibn Abi Talib said: Asceticism (Zuhd) is not that you should not own anything, but that nothing should own you.

So we learn from this that it’s okay to have a nice home but in wanting a nice home we shouldn’t allow it to control what we do, especially if it causes us to commit haram, like taking a riba based loan. Everyone wants a place that they can call their own and make how they want but it’s not worth using haram means as it will only cause us misery in the hereafter.

Being grateful for what we have is also important especially if what you want may be out of your reach. I had never imagined living in a studio apartment when I got married and going from a 3 bedroom home to that was really difficult initially but alhamdulillah I got used to it and enjoy living here now which is why I feel sad about leaving.

If we have to leave our home we should keep in mind our permanent home in Jannah is waiting for us and that always brings me comfort because I know that even if my home in the dunya may not be how I would like, my home in Jannah will be better than anything I could ever imagine!

Al-Hasan Al-Basri said: The dunya distracts and preoccupies the heart and body, but al-zuhd (asceticism, not giving importance to worldly things) gives rest to the heart and body. Verily, Allah will ask us about the halal things we enjoyed, so what about the haram!

Hijama

So about a week ago I had my first experience with hijama (also known as cupping). I have to say I was so nervous and didn’t know what to expect. But alhamdulillah it is the best appointment I ever made!
I have several health conditions which means I suffer from chronic back pain which spreads through my legs and shoulders. I was struggling to maintain my day to day activities and standing even long enough to cook the dinner was some of my most difficult tasks. Spending the day going out somewhere that involved walking for long periods was out of the question. And I literally survived off painkillers, having to take several daily. The doctors had reached a point where they had said aside from major spinal surgery there isn’t a lot we can do. Just keep taking your painkillers. So for a long time I just dealt with the pain and continued the best I could. I had thought about hijama several times but was always to nervous to actually go for it. But recently a lovely sister I know became certified to do hijama so I thought okay let’s go for it.
So she came to my house to do the hijama which was a plus as it was much more comfortable than going to have it done somewhere else. She discussed in detail my health conditions so as to provide a good treatment and then we started the hijama. It was actually nothing like I had imagined. I barely felt any pain, it was more of a scratch and I didn’t feel light headed at all. I had the hijama done on my back and feet. Afterwards I was sore due to the hijama for that evening but the next day I barely felt it. She also advised me on sunnah foods to eat to help my health conditions. I have to say it was a really good experience. Alhamdulillah.
But the way I felt after the hijama was just amazing! The only pain I felt in my back since having the hijama is an ache and I generally feel great. I have much more energy to do things and my daily activities are so much easier to do. I can now cook dinner much easier and I even took my cousins to the park and played tag with them! Something I haven’t been able to do in years! I don’t feel so exhausted when my husband comes home from work so I can spend more quality time with him and I am able to do a lot more in my day. It has been a week now since I had it done and I’ve not had to take a single painkiller since. Some of you may be thinking that these things are just “normal” but trust me I had long given up thinking I would ever see a day when I would not have take tablets to be able to get through a day or even be able to spend the day out or play with my cousins. For me these are great accomplishments. But my greatest achievement of all was to be able to pray standing for all my prayers. To be able to make ruku and sujood properly was just amazing! As I now don’t need to take my tablets so often during the day to control my pain I am hoping that this Ramadan will be easier than my last inshaAllah.
This one session of hijama has helped me more than the many appointments I have had with my consultants, physiotherapists and GP. Of course we do need to seek medical help but we shouldn’t rely on this alone. Alhamdulillah I am so glad I tried hijama now I can use this to help with my health conditions rather than relying on drugs and more drastic medical treatments.
Hijama is something that the prophet (saw) told us to do and having now experienced it myself I can truly see why he has told us to have hijama done. There are many hadith which show the great importance of having hijama done. I will share a few with you:
The prophet (saw) said: Indeed the best of remedies is cupping. (Bukhari)
The prophet (saw) said: Indeed in cupping there is a cure. (Muslim)
The prophet (saw) said: Cupping on an empty stomach is best. In it there is a cure and blessing… (Sunan ibn Majah)
I would definitely recommend everyone to have hijama done, whether you have a physical health condition, a mental health condition or you suffer from bad eyesight, poor memory or anything else. Hijama is a cure for all problems. Alhamdulillah.
If you live in London then I would definitely recommend having your hijama done from them, they have a brother to do hijama for any brothers who would like to have it done. The best thing is they travel to your home and I believe they also travel outside of London to clients. 

Alhamdulillah!

And if you were to count the blessing of Allah never will you be able to count them.
Quran (14:36)
Allah gives us countless blessings, He gives and gives, so many in fact that we can’t even count them. Yet how many of us remember to thank Allah for our blessings? We take what Allah gives for granted, we think that it’s due to our hard work that we have achieved something. We become ungrateful because we forget that we can’t do anything without Allah and all that He gives us. 
This ayah really amazes me as it says blessing, in singular, Allah tells us we can’t even count one blessing. For a long time I didn’t really understand what it meant but as I learnt more I realised that from one blessing comes countless others. Our sight is a blessing and from the blessing of being able to see we have so many blessings as a result of this blessing for example We can read the Quran. Without the blessing of sight we wouldn’t be able to see the words in the Quran and recite it. Allah gives us so much that we can’t even begin to count just how much he gave us. 
So which of the favours of your Lord would you deny? 
Quran (55:13)
This ayah is repeated 31 times in Surah Rahman. Every time Allah says this it is preceded by a favour, a blessing given to us by Allah. Allah is telling us about so many blessings bestowed on us, blessing after blessing so how can we deny these? We should be grateful to Allah that He has provided everything for us even though we haven’t done anything to deserve these countless number of blessings. We need to constantly express our gratitude to Allah. It is so easy for us to forget all the blessings we have especially when we are faced with difficulties so we need to learn ways to be grateful and give thanks to Allah for what we have.
We should make a habit of saying Alhamdulillah all the time, whether we’re in a time of hardship or ease. Allah loves those who are grateful so in consistently saying Alhamdulillah we will reap many rewards and success. 
As Allah says: And remember when your Lord proclaimed, “if you are grateful, I will increase you in favour. But if you deny indeed, my punishment is severe.” Quran (14:7)
Ensuring we pray our salah consistently and on time is probably one of the best ways to show gratitude to Allah. Making dua to Allah and asking only from Him. What better time to show how grateful you are than in sujood. Being consistent in our salah and dhikr Allah will give us a great reward, so much more than we could possibly imagine.
As Allah says: whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life and We will surely give them their reward (in the hereafter) according to the best of what they used to do. Quran (16:97)
All and every blessing and favour we have is from Allah so when we are faced with difficulties we turn to Allah and ask Him to help us. We beg Him to remove the difficulty from our lives and grant us ease. Yet when Allah answers us and removes the difficulty we forget to turn to Allah. We are selective in turning to Him, only when we need to. We act as though the good came from your own hard work. We need to remember that the ease was only through the blessing of Allah, and He can give and take as He wills. So if we are grateful He will increase us and if we are ungrateful aren’t we at risk of having the blessing removed from us?
As Allah says: And whatever you have of favour – it is from Allah. Then when adversity touches you, to Him you cry for help. Then when He removes the adversity from you, at once a party of you associates others with their Lord. Quran (16:53-54)
We should try and have positive thoughts whatever situation we are in and try to positive in what we what we say. What we think and say has a huge effect on us. If we think negative thoughts then we will become ungrateful but if we remain positive then we are more likely to be grateful for all the blessings we have been given.
We know that Allah is not in need of our worship, it is in fact us who are going to benefit from worshipping Allah. Allah gives us so many blessings, that’s for our benefit and us being grateful for the blessings is also for our benefit! So in showing our gratitude we are only going to get more blessings from Allah.
As Allah says: And when (Suleiman) saw it placed before him, he said, “This is from the favour of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for (the benefit of) himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is free of need and generous. Quran (27:40)
Being grateful for what others do for us is also a way of showing gratitude to Allah. If someone does something nice for us or gives us a gift we should be grateful no matter how big or small it is. Saying thank you and letting the person know you appreciate it is a way of showing gratitude to Allah. As we know the prophet (saw) said, that whoever does not thank people does not thank Allah. So if we are not grateful to the people in our lives then we are in fact being ungrateful to Allah. 
We should remember that Allah is Ash-Shaakir, the rewarded of good and Ash-Shakoor, the appreciative. He recognises and appreciates our good actions and ibadah and rewards us greatly for even the smallest of actions. His reward is far greater in proportion to the gratitude we show. When we realise this then we can begin to appreciate just how many blessings we are given.
And lastly I will leave you with some food for thought: “Saying alhamdulillah deserves another alhamdulillah in itself, to thank Allah for allowing us to give thanks to Him.” SubhanAllah!

Am I too skinny?

Being told you’re too skinny is just as soul destroying as being told you’re fat. Trust me.

Although I have now accepted that I’m slightly underweight and will probably remain this way for at least a few more years, due to my fast metabolism, I did at one time feel like there was something wrong with me for being so skinny. Before I got married I was constantly told I’m too skinny, so skinny that my wedding dress won’t look nice on me and that my husband won’t find me attractive. People told me I looked anorexic even though I wasn’t. It made me feel quite insecure about my body, I started to believe what people told me. I know I shouldn’t have but when your constantly told something it does affect you. After I got married it took some time for me to accept that my husband thinks I’m perfectly fine the way I am. Alhamdulillah for my husband, when I told him how I felt he told me that’s ridiculous and made me feel like I’m the prettiest girl in the world (to him anyways). Just like we wouldn’t say to someone you’re so fat your husband won’t think your pretty, we also shouldn’t say it to someone who is skinny. 
I’ve come to realise that no matter what size you are you will always be the wrong size. There’s no winning. So I learnt to accept it and be happy with the size that I am. Yes I know I am slightly underweight but my doctors aren’t concerned so there really is no problem. If people spent less time worrying about other peoples dress size and more time on themselves the world would be a much happier place. I mean how is my dress size going to affect anyone else’s lives? Now I know some people are genuinely concerned but then you need to be tactful in the way you handle the situation. Yes some people need to lose weight for health reasons and yes some people may have an eating disorder causing them to be severely underweight but is saying you’re too fat or you’re so skinny that you look ugly going to help? Instead how about you focus on them and their wellbeing rather than their image? Why do girls become anorexic? Because society says you need to be super skinny to look pretty. Well how about the society focuses on more important things rather than a dress size. Seriously!
And lastly I want to remind myself and anyone out there who’s been told they’re not the “right” dress size that Allah has created you perfectly. You are exactly how Allah intended you to be and and you are perfectly unique and special to Allah, no matter what anyone else says. Allah created every single person differently, right down to our fingerprint so then why would we want to look like someone else? And remember that there is wisdom in why you were created the way you were and it is exactly the way Allah intended you to look. And what could be more perfect than the way Allah wanted you to look?

We have certainly created man in the best of stature. Quran 95:4