Stress is the opposite of peace. Our Salam Mindfulness Series aims to help Muslims learn proven techniques to reduce immense stress and anxiety brought on by our modern, fast-paced lifestyles.
Enjoy exploring these mindfulness practices to have better mental, physical and emotional well-being. Peace be upon you.
What Is Meditation?
Speaking of meditation, we often visualize a monk or a zen master sitting cross legged in a state of bliss. But, what about Muslims?
Meditation is at the core of Islamic spirituality, but unfortunately is not often given the attention and focus it deserves. Meditation is the art of surrendering. It’s about being completely still and submitting to the will of Allah in a conscious state of mind.
It is a deliberate and self led mental activity. Meditation was practiced by our predecessors in several forms. They knew that these techniques enhanced their physical acts of worship, including salaah (prayer), fasting and dhikr.
When surrendering in meditation, we are letting go of our ego and realizing that we are not in control. We are practicing “mindfulness.”
In an article for Yaqeen Institute, Justin Parrot describes mindfulness as, ‘the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something, and more specifically, a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
There are various benefits for meditation, including helping to reduce stress, boost memory, enhance focus and concentration, decrease emotional reactivity and improve personal relationships.
The purpose of all of this is to grow in contentment. All types of Islamic meditation involve a form of remembering of Allah, and the purpose of this is to purify the heart of evil feelings and the mind from evil thoughts.
Here we look at the various ways we can practice meditation:
1 – Reflection (Taffakur)
Taffakur, means to think intentionally, constructively, purposefully and positively. How much time do we spend a day, reflecting on Allah’s greatness?
The practice of Taffakur is essential, because modern culture encourages constant entertainment and distraction. Usually there is no time to reflect and think, so we end up with unresolved thoughts, ideas, fears, and beliefs.
Consequently this can lead to stress, anxiety, and a lack of peace within. What we need to do is break away and free ourselves from the shackles which bind us to this world.
Start by sitting still for five minutes after your Fardh salaah. Tell yourself, this is your daily self love gift.
Close your eyes and think about how Allah is always watching you. It’s just you and Him at this moment. Ponder on how at this very moment he knows everything that is going on in your head. Your worries, your fears, your hopes and your dreams.
You don’t have to verbalize anything. This is not a time to be hard on yourself. Steer clear of negative thoughts debasing yourself. The hadith states that Allah is closer to you than your jugular vein, this is that moment. Your mind will always drift, It’s your nafs trying to take over, but bring it back to the center, bring it back to Him.
Your primary focus is on Allah, nothing else. Increase the time in small increments every other day as you master the technique.
Taking the time to reflect on Allah and the Hereafter will bring about an awareness, it will help us to be more grateful and also ease the daily stress of life.
2 – Gratitude
Many of us practice verbal gratitude. Perhaps we see abject poverty in our communities which will make us say, “I am grateful for what I have.” Our gratitude needs to be cemented into place on a daily basis. It’s something we need to do consciously do.
Umar ibn Abdul Aziz said,
“Speaking in remembrance of Allah Almighty is good, and thinking about the blessings of Allah is the best act of worship.”
I find that keeping a gratitude journal allows us to process the emotions of gratitude better. Use your time of journaling to sit still and reflect on everything that you are grateful for. If there is gratitude in your heart, there is no space for ingratitude.
3 – Seclusion
Seclusion is something which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) practiced before prophet-hood. He spent days in the Cave of Hira trying to make sense of what he saw around him.
After prophet-hood, he prescribed I’tikaf in Ramadan as something men and women should do as it has immense rewards. We can practice seclusion throughout the year.
Breaking away even daily from your spouse and children is liberating, like a balm for the soul. The wives of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) all lived separately, showing us the importance of alone time.
Seclusion comes with silence. According to the saying of the Prophet (PBUH),
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak goodness or remain silent.” Only in silence can we hear our hearts.
‘It is said that observing long periods of silence is the key to worship.” -Sufyan al-Thawri
Our practice of silent mindfulness will in turn enhance our concentration in Salaah (prayer) and other acts of worship.
4 – Dhikr
Dhikr is one of the most common practices of Islamic meditation. It is the repetitive utterances of words which praise and glorify Allah. This common meditation practice is often done robotically without thinking.
By making Dhikr, in a state of meditation, you will increase the effectiveness of this wonderful practice. The act of rolling beads helps us to concentrate better. I find wooden beads help, being sourced from nature, they have a more calming effect than synthetic plastic beads.
5 – Qur’an Recitation
Reading the Qur’an is one of the most powerful and rewarding forms of meditation. It’s also one of those things we can practice during our work days.
If you are having a particularly bad day: break away, make wudu and recite the Qur’an. The Qur’an is referred to as a remembrance, a renewed sense of positive energy comes from reciting it.
Meditation practices do not replace any compulsory acts of worship, but their purpose is to enhance our acts of worship which in turn lead to a balanced spiritual life.
Fahmida Zeidan, founder of Yan Taru Learning Centre, says
“The core principle of meditation practices is realizing that whatever comes your way is coming from Allah, and therefore you have nothing to fear. Meditation gives you the ability to face the world and whatever it throws at you.”