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It’s Ramadan: Time for Change (Counseling Live Session)

Dear Brother/Sisters,

Due to the counselor’s limited capacity of answering questions, here are the 4 questions that our counselor has provided an answer for. We apologize for not answering all the other questions.

If you have not received an answer below at this time, please submit your question to one of our upcoming Live Sessions. Thank you for your understanding.

Question 1. OCD

I want to ask that I have very bad and sexual thoughts about Allah in my mind and I think that Allah will not forgive me I love Allah but these thoughts come every time and I want to ask that are we accountable for our thoughts in Islam

Salam Alaikom wa rahmatullah wa baraktuhu Dear Brother

Thank you for writing to us with your worries. I really understand your fears, and as you are quite young, masallah, I think taking this step shows that you are brave and have willingness to change. 

The effects of puberty

Actually, I would like to start by pointing out that according to your letter you are just in the middle of puberty, a natural transitional stage where huge hormonal and physiological changes take place in your body. On one hand, I think your sexual thoughts have to do quite a lot with these normal changes.

Puberty is the time when adolescents reach sexual maturity and capability to reproduction. This means the gradual increment of hormones – testosterone, among others – in your body. Testosterone has various roles, but one important role is the regulation of sex drive.

So, to put it simple my dear brother: as you grow, the more testosterone is produced in your body, the more intense your sexual desire would be. And desires would manifest also through your thoughts. This is a completely normal, natural and healthy process, and the vast majority of teenagers would experience its effects somehow.

On the other hand, I think there are some practical ways which could help you to regulate these thoughts, as you also have to understand, that exposure to sexual content could influence the nature of your desires.

Limit and filter content on screen

We live in times when even in countries where people still dress somehow modestly, due to social media, television and movies there are constant flow of images, videos, series that contain sexual and provocative elements. Research shows that TV display more and more sexual content: sexual behavior, kisses, nudity, talk or reference to sex, etc., even in programs designed for teenagers. Being exposed to sexual content would definitely affect your thoughts and desires, making them more frequent and intense.

I do not know how much time you spend on social media or watching films and videos, but I kindly advise you to consider limiting your screen time to Islamically acceptable content. If you are with other family members, try to watch together films, documents and series that are not love stories or romantic dramas. The same applies to your friends when you are together with your devices, please, try to avoid watching inappropriate videos, or even ads. 

Channel your energies

As a teenager you need time for recreation and physical activity as well, so I encourage you to spend enough time outdoors with your friends. Creative and spiritual activities would also help to channel your energies. The Islamic recommendation of controlling your desires is fasting, so you can try to fast some days and or spend time in the local masjid.

You cannot control your thoughts

Let’s speak about your disturbing and repetitive thoughts as well. First of all, I would like you to understand that from an Islamic perspective we are not accountable for our thoughts, as we cannot control them. If you want to learn more about this, please check or write to our Ask the Scholar section to receive a more detailed explanation.

So, while in Islam we are not accountable for our thoughts, we are accountable for our actions. My dear brother, I understand that you feel guilty for these disturbing thoughts but I want to reassure you that you are not accountable for them in front of Allah (STW) as long as you do not commit acts upon them that are not permissible in Islam.

At the same time, while you are not in control of your thoughts, you can learn to respond to them in a way that would reduce your distress and guilt. With other words, do not get overwhelmed by the feelings of guilt, as you are not guilty for your disturbing thoughts.  Rather concentrate on the thing you can control: your response.

When you next time experience disturbing thoughts try to stop them: start with Bismillah, take a slow, deep breath and imagine a big red STOP sign. Repeat this action slowly.  You also can distract yourself: change your position and engage yourself in some activity. Try to spend less time alone to avoid daydreaming when you can easily engage in fantasies. Furthermore, you can try the Prophetic recommendation and fast to control your desires.

In sha Allah, understanding the normal nature of physiological changes in your body, avoiding inappropriate content on screen, accepting that you are not accountable for your thoughts, and practicing some techniques to distract yourself will make you feel better.

However, if you try to implement these steps but you still experience repetitive thoughts and constant guilt you need to consult a psychotherapist who would make the necessary tests to determine whether OCD (obsessive – compulsive disorder) or other mental illness could be the reason for your concern. Also, in my response I assumed that you have not experienced any form of abuse and trauma that could seriously affect your mental health. If this is the case, please also try to seek help immediately: try to speak with a family member or doctor you trust to be able to start treatment and healing.

May Allah bless you; I wish you the best. Ramadan Mubarak!

Question: How to stay remain strong in faith despite grief?

Assalamu Alaikum. I am sort of having difficulties trying to understand certain things. I am a revert brother of several months and Alhamdulillah I have never been so happy in my life. I love learning about Islam and despite disapproving parents, I am still able to continue with acts of worship with limited hinderance. It may be presumptuous of me but I do believe I have strong faith in Allah.

Despite all this, I have been plagued with grief regarding a certain type of crime. I do not wish to be explicit in this question but it is in regard to rape. It has happened to me when I was a child but I do feel that I have overcome the trauma of it and have firmly placed it in the past, in an almost forgive and forget mentality. However, whenever I hear stories about rape victims on the news I feel so shattered. I understand that everything is all part of Allah’s plan and that we should remain steadfast in our worship to Him. This is something I strongly want to do but I fear not settling this grief may have negative repercussion down the line.

I feel as though I am being selfish. My emotions that arise from hearing about these victims are miniscule compared to what they feel likely like feel like but it still makes me so angry and sad. I am absolutely terrified of what could happen to my mum, future wife and daughters e.t.c. I make dua for them and for all people so that they may be protected for it. I really do want to maintain a strong faith in Allah but it just feels so rough. Maybe its because I am still yet to come to become a fully fledged Muslim per se but it just something I need to understand.

I have looked for answers online but nothing has eased me. I truly believe in Allah’s plan. I believe that with hardship comes ease. I believe that a soul is not burdened more than it can bear. But is rape really the way to test people. Of course, Allah knows best but it just disheartening. I understand that the evil from this world stems from the whispers of shaytaan but these victims… I do not even know how to word it. Please offer me advice on how to strive to put the troubles of this dunya behind me.

Salam Alaikom wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu dear Brother, 

Thank you so much for writing to us. Being honest, reading your letter made me feel the pain and sadness you are feeling; at the same time, your words also reflect so much strength, braveness, that is truly admirable, masallah. 

You are such a strong person with faith and wisdom despite your young age, masallah, and I am really sorry that you had to experience such a violent act, that none of us deserves to experience. 

In your letter you mention the terrible event that happened to you, while you are turning for advice for understanding the painful emotional reaction, sadness and guilt that arise when you are seeing other victims of the same crime on the News. 

Overcoming Trauma

Getting right to the point, what I would really like to convey in this answer is, that my dear brother, please, seek professional help to heal your wounds. Seeking treatment in case of rape related trauma is indeed a very important step, even if it seems very difficult to take.  

As I said before, your words reflect maturity and you state that you have overcome this trauma and firmly placed it in the past, almost forgetting and forgiving it. I understand that you are mentally strong and are able to comprehend certain aspects of what had happened, but I think – and according to your emotional reactions to other victims’ stories – emotionally you still have wounds left to heal. 

Rape is a very serious crime, and unfortunately could have multiple harmful effects on the victims’ emotional and mental health, and also could impact the future relationships, attitudes towards sexuality and sexual behavior as it could distort the beliefs about what normal sexuality and healthy socialization mean. I understand that seeking marriage is not your first concern now, but in order to minimize the negative effects of this traumatic event and recreate your healthy attitudes towards intimacy, some form of treatment would be necessary. The same importance is to address the guilt and shame that many victims feel – and in your letter you are writing about sadness and grief – and to prevent the onset of depression. 

The vast majority of rape victims fulfill the condition of PTDS – posttraumatic stress disorder- and in the long run often experience depression, guilt and strong fears, especially when a triggering image, or scene appears – just like the victims in the news you mention. The purpose of therapy would be to minimize the intensity of these emotional reactions and to help overcome shame and guilt accepting that what happened by no means was your fault. 

Open Up

I do not know whether any trustful and close member in your family or community knows what happened to you, and whether you have ever received any treatment regarding. If yes, that could be a good starting point, as you could count on their help – both emotionally and financially – to get further assistance. 

If not, it might be important to share it in order to ask for further help, as I assume that you are still not financially independent. If in your family there is no one around, or you fear any obstacles, please seek someone in the masjid: a mufti or imam living close to you. They probably are in contact with local Muslim psychotherapists.

If for some reason you feel that you are still not able to share your story “face-to-face” with your family or in your community, there are helplines available for Muslims, also for victims of rape and assault. Contacting a helpline could also help to get the right place with the right therapist, and also get alternatives for the financial aspect of therapy. 

In trauma – related cases contacting any helpline, or our platform as you did very bravely is the first step – very important and valuable one – to get professional help. These counseling services would offer some relief, reassurance and orientation; however, trauma generally necessitates constant and ongoing therapy, at least during a certain period. 

Power of Faith

In your letter you write about your faith in Islam, as you are a convert, just like me. I can 100% understand the transformative power of our religion in our lives, alhamdulillah. Keeping in mind that your identity of being a Muslim gives your hope and strength, I would advise you to seek Muslim psychotherapist who can assist you to make the best use of your faith in the healing process. I do not say that non-Muslim psychotherapist would not make an excellent job. If you have no choice, surely, I do not discourage you from asking help from non – Muslim professionals. However, if there is a possibility to seek someone who offers faith-based therapy it would be beneficial in your case, as it could equip you with tools that could connect your faith with the healing process and would deepen your connection with Allah.  

I do not know where you do live but I would share with you some directions in the UK that might would be useful for you: 

Amanah Counselling

Muslim Youth Helpline

Muslim Womenꞌ Network Helpline

This address contains a huge list of counseling services in the UK, and although primary it intends to help Muslim women, the 5% of their calls come from males and boys, so please do not hesitate to call any of the addresses you find on the list. 

Survivors UK

Rape Crisis England /Wales

Furthermore – if you think it is too early, then maybe after that you have started therapy- I would encourage you to join a support group for rape – victims, as sadly you are not alone. At the same time, sharing a common painful experience with others and having the support of each other would be very beneficial In Sha Allah.

Also, participating in voluntary work at some of these organizations where you are exposed to similar stories while helping those individuals would turn this traumatic event into the source of meaning and determination in life. 

The Wisdom of Allah

I know that it is so difficult to understand the plan and wisdom of Allah behind such terrible events and suffering. Sometimes we just can’t comprehend the positivity of these tragedies. However, sometimes these tragedies are turning points in the life of the victim as the huge impact causes them to stand up and work for a noble cause and save many people from suffering in the future. You might not know but often the founders of such organizations were victims themselves and what happened to them gave them inner strength and they heal themselves through healing others. And in the sight of Allah helping others is one of the noblest acts possible.

Your concern and compassion for other victims are gifts from Allah. I encourage you turning your compassion into charity by volunteering, fundraising and helping the vulnerable members of the Muslim community near you, or even through online platforms. Pain and suffering are so powerful driving forces my dear brother, and could inspire us to accomplish great achievement. So, instead of asking “why” happened, try to ask: what can I do with this experience, how can I transform this pain into motivation for good deeds and inspire others on the way.

Techniques for the Intensity of Emotional Reactions

I share some tips briefly that can help you reduce the intensity of the emotional reactions you mentioned in your letter.

Breathing and grounding: the purpose of these technique is to draw your attention back to the present moment and environment. When you are start feeling the overwhelming emotions, first just take a deep breath while you count slowly until 4, then hold your breath until you count 7; finally, slowly breath out pressing out all the air. Repeat this a few times. Then start with reminder yourself to the exact time and place where you are, look around and try to describe your environment detail by detail.

Combining movement with rhythm: have relaxing effect on your body and soul, just make sure that the rhythmic movement you choose is slow and calm, like for example observing the movement of your hands while walking around. You can implement Islamic meditative sounds, and dhikr of Allah and combine it with slow, repetitive motions.

I hope that in the remembrance of Allah your soul finds rest and peace. I wish you the best, may Allah bless you! Ramadan Mubarak

Question: Unaccepted proposal

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullah, I would like to ask for advice on my situation. I’m 28 years old Muslim with a proposal from a Muslim man but from different nationality. I have been involved with this man for quite sometimes now and we both are being patient for my family’s approval for our marriage. We have been constantly trying to persuade them especially my mother. My father died when I was young but I have 3 older brothers none of them are willing to support me. I really wanna be with this person but my family won’t let us to be together. What should I do? I’m hoping for your help for this. Jazakallah khair.

Salam Alaikom Wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu,

Thank you for sharing your concern regarding your marriage proposal. According your letter your willingness to marry this Muslim man – from different nationality – finds no support in your family. I understand that this is a disturbing situation and that you need advice on how to make the best out of it.

You mention that he is Muslim and has different nationality. Actually, in Islam this is not considered a valid reason for rejecting a marriage proposal, as you are might familiar with the well-known statement during the farewell sermon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on the Mount Arafat in Mecca: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor a Black has any superiority over a White except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”

This means that we are brothers and sisters in Islam, regardless of our nationality and origin. The only “superiority” in the sight of Allah is in piety, with other words in Taqwa. So, no matter where your future spouse is coming from, there is one thing to be concerned about: his level of religiosity.  

This means that only a pious man who practices his religion and is aware of his duties and responsibilities described for him in Islam, and fulfills them according to his best efforts is considered “superior”.

However, sadly the reality is that due to cultural customs some Muslims are not willing to marry someone with different nationality as they consider it not a common practice “traditionally”. Behind these rejections usually we find fears from the “stranger” culture rooted in lack of information and knowledge, and even prejudices.

So firstly, my advice would be to approach your family with kindness and highlight that in Islam there is no basis for this rejection and encourage them to seek the guidance of the religion instead of cultural customs. Also letting your brothers and your mother know your “fiancée” might help them to realize that behind these differences there are many similarities as well.  You are Muslims with the same religion and same values that is indeed very important in a marriage.

You do not mention whether there are other reasons for not finding support for this proposal in your family. In case there are, you also need to examine objectively whether these reasons have some validity pointing out real problems with the proposal. This could be related for example to finances, to his manners and character, and first and foremost to his religiosity. 

In this case it would be understandable that your family try to protect your interest and prevent you from conflict in your marriage letting you marry someone who does not fulfill the conditions of an Islamically ideal candidate for a marriage. If this occurs, please try to put aside for a moment your plans and emotions and reflect upon the reality of their concerns. Try to be as objective as you can and think about the negative consequences of a possible disappointment due to these incompatibilities. Also, remember that “Perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (Quran 2:216)

On the other hand, as a Muslim woman you have the right to choose your spouse. You cannot be forced to marry someone who you do not wish to marry. Your family would need to understand the importance of willingness in a marriage, as when both parties have interest in a relationship, it will be easier to build a successful marriage. If your family wishes you a content and happy life, they need to realize the significance of mutuality.

So as long as he would be an Islamically suitable spouse for you there is no real reason to deny this proposal, and their disapproval should not lead to breakdown in family ties. Surely, in Islam respect and obedience to our parents are in the frontline in terms of duties. At the same time, you as a child also have rights upon your parents and one of these is to consider your decision when it comes to marriage, especially if this marriage is not against the Islamic principles. 

However, you have to ponder upon the possibility that marrying someone without the approval of your family could lead to direct conflict and alienation from them, at least for a while. Try to reflect upon the consequences of this breakdown keeping in mind that probably with time ease would come, especially if they see that you are happy and satisfied in your marriage.  

To conclude, I would suggest approaching your family with respect and kindness, and examine the validity of their concerns. And if the only obstacle is his nationality, try to let them understand the Prophetic guidance on brotherhood in Islam and the importance of mutual willingness for a successful marriage.

I wish you the best outcome sister, may Allah bless you! Ramadan Mubarak

Question: I’m an athlete struggling to fast, the guilt is too much, what should I do?

I’m a track athlete and take my running extremely seriously. I train nearly every day and I’ve been working hard for months.

This is the first Ramadan I have been an athlete and have a standard to adhere to. I find it so difficult to stay to my standard that I sometimes break my fast just to get a little energy. I’m so worried about all my work going to waste.

I don’t want to keep lying about my fasts. Ramadan should be a happy time not a stressful one. What should I do?

Salam alaikom wa rahamtullah wa barakatuhu,

Thank you for sharing your concern related to fasting this Ramadan. You explain in your letter that as a track athlete with almost every – day training, and due to the hard work, you are not able to keep your fast. At the same time, you do not want to keep lying about your missed fasting days.

Sister, I understand your situation. It seems that you have steadfastness and perseverance to work for a goal that is important to you, in this case being an athlete. Doing regular sports and exercise at your age is so beneficial, as it definitely has positive effects on your physical and psychological well-being. I encourage you to keep up habits, like regular exercise and training that helps maintain your health. I am sure that you are doing well as an athlete, and you gain energy and motivation from successfully completing your daily standards and seeing your gradual improvement.  

Who is Behind Our Results?

However, being a Muslim also put obligations upon us. Everything that Allah has prescribed for us has multiple benefits on our well-being and physical health. First of all, our body and physical health is Amanah – trust- from Allah, so we have to make sure that we maintain our health according to our best abilities. Alhamdulillah, by doing sports you are keeping your body healthy!  But I would like to remind you, that all abilities, talents we possess are gifts from Allah; just like the results and worldly prizes we gain by the permission and will of Him. Allah is Al-Wahhab – the Giver of Gifts, so he deserves our praise and gratefulness for every single good result and achievement we get by His permission and mercy in our life.

I encourage you to reflect upon your good results and your motivation from this perspective. In Sha Allah you might realize that the first and most important thing is to fulfill your obligations towards Him and to be constantly aware of Him and His Mercy for all blessings you have in your life. He is also All – Aware, so there is no need to lie about your fasting, because the reward will not come from your parents, but from Him alone. You might avoid conflict at home but what about Allah, who knows everything?

Ramadan is a great reminder each year to develop this awareness – taqwa by fasting and worshiping Him. So, I would like you to emphasize that Ramadan – and generally your ibadah – should have priority in your life, whether we are talking about studies, work or sports, whatever.

Inspired by Muslim Athletes

In social media and in the news we each year see well-known and professional football players, athletes who publicly announce that they are fasting in Ramadan and sometimes they break their fast in the middle of the competition, at maghrib time. They openly express their pride for being Muslims and they pray and give thanks to Allah for each goal during the game. I encourage you to search for these images and find motivation in their success and example. Check this  article for inspiration.

I would give you some practical tips to make the best out of this situation in sha Allah. I understand that this is the first Ramadan that you are an athlete so you are just gaining experience on how to balance fasting with daily routine and sports. Surely, in the beginning it could be difficult to adapt your standard to this month that indeed tests all of us, because we eat and drink less, sleep less, and still have to maintain and accomplish our daily tasks.

Set Realistic Expectations

First, I would advise you that while setting your standard goals as an athlete make your plans keeping in mind the challenges of this month. Of course, you can easily feel frustrated if you do not consider them. Even your frustration would be double: for not achieving your goals as usual, and for not keeping your fast. Yes, you might tnot be as energetic as outside Ramadan, but you do not have to be! Lower your expectations for this month: you do not need to stop completely, but maybe this month is not about making the best tracking results ever. Try to set realistic goals and think about Ramadan as a month of maintenance and preparation for greater achievements after it is over.

Graduality and Good Timing

Try to increase your goals gradually during this month: each day you can do a little bit more towards your previous standard. Also, you might need to modify your training times: right before Maghrib, or after iftar for the intensive exercise. For the rest of the day leave the rather lighter, less energy consuming training, stretching, etc.  

Take care of your diet during iftar and suhoor

Make sure that you adjust your diet for this month. Probably, as an athlete you take care of your energy intake and diet during the rest of the year as well. However, you might need to consider more hydration during the evening hours: make sure to drink a lot of liquids containing vitamins, minerals. Better not to drink a lot at once; try each 20 -30 min a big glass of liquid: soup, shakes, energy drinks. You can take some extra vitamins at suhoor that might keep your energy up during the day.  Also, your meals would need to contain sufficient proteins and carbohydrates, also you use food supplements designed for athletes. Here is an article with more precise recommendations for fasting athletes.

InSha Allah with adjusting your schedule and standard, and with the right expectations you will feel less challenged during your training. And being conscious of Allah and His control over everything you might realize that there is no need to worry about your results, just need to be thankful for each and every achievement.

Keep up the good work sister, I wish you success from my heart!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Friday, Apr. 15, 2022 | 10:00 - 11:00 GMT

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