Navigating Mental Wellness As A Muslim

by Helmy Sa'at

We have been through so much for nearly two years now since the emergence of the, still ongoing, world health challenge — Covid-19. As the pace of recovery picks up with the cautious and gradual reopening of physical borders, that does not mean we are unshackled from the pains of having to deal with the pandemic emotionally.

One major concern which none of us has escaped unscathed is the infliction of “pandemic fatigue.” According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), pandemic fatigue refers to “people … feeling demotivated about following recommended behaviours to protect themselves and others from the virus.” This encroaches into mental health where we are constantly battling negative feelings and emotions which could very easily overwhelm us. It could potentially envelop us in a bubble of darkness and depression, if we do not remain vigilant.

Go Back To Basics

We are constantly pulled in many different directions based on our unique familial and societal roles and responsibilities. Before we are fully capable of taking care of others in our lives, we need to make sure that we are well. Start small, with our daily habits.

Adhere to a balanced diet. Exercise regularly. Get sufficient sleep. Heard it all before? As a Muslim, we would have also heard such additional advice, mostly without knowing the rationale behind it: Perform the ablution before sleeping, especially when you are facing some sort of distress, and sleep facing your right.

Such advice stems from the emulation of Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ sleeping habits. As narrated by Al-Bara ‘bin `Azib:

The Prophet ﷺ said to me, “Whenever you go to bed perform ablution like that for the prayer, lie on your right side and say,

اللَّهُمَّ أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِي إِلَيْكَ، وَفَوَّضْتُ أَمْرِي إِلَيْكَ، وَأَلْجَأْتُ ظَهْرِي إِلَيْكَ، رَغْبَةً وَرَهْبَةً إِلَيْكَ، لاَ مَلْجَأَ وَلاَ مَنْجَا مِنْكَ إِلاَّ إِلَيْكَ، اللَّهُمَّ آمَنْتُ بِكِتَابِكَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلْتَ، وَبِنَبِيِّكَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلْتَ

O Allah! I surrender to You and entrust all my affairs to You and depend upon You for Your Blessings both with hope and fear of You. There is no fleeing from You, and there is no place of protection and safety except with You O Allah! I believe in Your Book (the Qur’an) which You have revealed and in Your Prophet (Muhammad) whom You have sent.”

[Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 247]

Complete such sleeping routine with the following prayers – Surah Al-Falaq and Surah An-Nas. Narrated ‘Aisha:

حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا الْمُفَضَّلُ، عَنْ عُقَيْلٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ إِذَا أَوَى إِلَى فِرَاشِهِ كُلَّ لَيْلَةٍ جَمَعَ كَفَّيْهِ ثُمَّ نَفَثَ فِيهِمَا فَقَرَأَ فِيهِمَا ‏{‏قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ‏}‏ وَ‏{‏قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ الْفَلَقِ‏}‏ وَ‏{‏قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ‏}‏ ثُمَّ يَمْسَحُ بِهِمَا مَا اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْ جَسَدِهِ يَبْدَأُ بِهِمَا عَلَى رَأْسِهِ وَوَجْهِهِ وَمَا أَقْبَلَ مِنْ جَسَدِهِ يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ ثَلاَثَ مَرَّاتٍ‏.‏

Whenever the Prophet ﷺ went to bed every night, he used to cup his hands together and blow over it after reciting Surah Al-Ikhlas, Surah Al-Falaq and Surah An-Nas, and then rub his hands over whatever parts of his body he was able to rub, starting with his head, face and front of his body. He used to do that three times.

[Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 5017]

Let’s Talk About Me, For Real

It is the first step to nurturing healthy minds. Talk to a friend, write in your diary or share it on your Twitter account. Get it off your chest. Usually the first step is the most difficult to start with, but it is worth it. Help ourselves by lifting some of that emotional weight off our shoulders which has been draining us emotionally and physically for so long.

This is in alignment with what the WHO has identified as one of the key strategies in combating pandemic fatigue: Acknowledge and address the hardship. Find that support group in your community. We need to realise that what we are experiencing could very well be unique to each individual; however, such experiences are shared by the global ummah which cut across physical and cultural boundaries.

Validate our feelings and take that step towards healing ourselves emotionally. Get professional medical assistance, if need be. Check out support groups in your communities.

Contextualise Your Blessings

Finland has, once again, emerged as the world’s happiest country. One way social scientists have measured the all elusive concept of happiness is by studying social support which has an impact on mental health risks based on how governments respond to crises, particularly the pandemic. One reason that propelled Finland to the top being “high levels of trust in the way the COVID-19 pandemic was handled.”

However, this does not mean that every Finnish is skipping through the fields of Oulanka National Park in Kuusamo, avoiding depression, for instance. Besides such tangible governmental support system, another opinion has surfaced which argued that “one has to experience one’s life as meaningful” in order to be truly happy.

Happiness rooted in one’s meaningful life. Complicated? Yes. A priority? Yes. Achievable? Absolutely!

As a global Muslim in today’s climate, our sense of being and worth is usually tied to our identity. We thrive in an environment that provides opportunities for growth, not only for friends and family, but ourselves. Find that passion and follow it. Be it volunteerism, painting or learning more about Islam; no passion is too trivial if it makes you smile, brings you happiness, invigorates your soul and helps in finding that right balance for you in life.

Mental wellness is something we need to constantly nurture and not let ourselves, and others (psst! share this article with someone else and encourage them to do the same), be swept away by the routine monotony of daily life. We deserve happiness through a peace of mind.

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