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Share Your Struggle (Counseling Live Session)

Dear Brother/Sisters,

Thank you for participating in the session with your questions.

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Here are the 4 questions our counselor provided an answer for.

If you haven’t found yours below, please submit it again for an upcoming session. Thank you for your understanding.

Question 1. Sadness

So, I had a question! I have been feeling very sad and alone lately. Since I lost my brother, I have had this empty and numb feeling for a very long time. I feel so overwhelmed by school, sports and other things and I don’t really know how I feel and how I am doing. Sometimes I’m happy, but then I regret expressing joy. It feels like everything takes a lot of effort. How can I deal with this Islamically?

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Answer:

Salam alaikom wa rahmatullah sister,

Thank you for sharing your struggle due to the loss of your brother. I am sorry that you are going through this painful experience, sister.

First of all, I want to reassure you that what is happening is part of the mourning process. The feelings you are experiencing after the death of your brother are really common reactions to the loss of a loved one. Emptiness, numbness, sadness.

Also, that you regret expressing joy. Many people feel remorse because of positive feelings and happy moments after the death of a loved one. It feels like it is “not fair” or “not right” as it might mean that you are forgetting about the person you lost. Or if it would be scary, that you “got over” them by feeling good sometimes.

You are asking how to deal with this Islamically. Let me give you some tools, as our religion, alhamdulillah, has some very powerful aids for these times.

You know, death has a very special place in Islam. We, Muslims, are constantly required to think about the afterlife, death, and be conscious of the fact that we are uncertain and completely out of control about our time on this earth and about the death of others. If you think about it, the Quran and the Sunnah are full of examples and reminders about death and the afterlife.

So, I think, as for believers, the question of death and dying is rather familiar, “natural” and not something to be scared of. As this world is a temporal. “No more than play and amusement. But the Hereafter is indeed the real life, if only they knew.” (Quran, 29:64) Death is naturally part of our lives.

If we accept the qadr of Allah, we also accept that for some of us a shorter time was prescribed, while for others the experience of losing someone suddenly or earlier than “expected”.

And we also know that we are going to be tested with loss:

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allāh, and indeed to Him we will return.” (Quran 2:155-156)

“Give good tidings to the patient” who says “We belong to Allah and indeed to Him we will return”.

My sister, Allah, asks us to be patient. He is Al-Mumeet, (The Giver of Death). He gives us life and takes it away; and to Him we will return.

The wisdom of patience is known from a psychological perspective as well.

Bereavement has several stages, and those who mourn usually go through these stages until they adjust themselves. There is no strict time period for each stage.

You may even wave between them, but most likely you will experience all of the following: shock and denial (especially if it was a sudden death), anger and bargaining (towards Allah (SWT), for example, “why Allah let him die” or “it was my fault”), depression. These stages are followed by an upward turn when your intense feelings of pain and anger are more calmed and you start moving forward with the reconstruction of your life and, finally, acceptance and hope.

Your Relationship Continues

The last stage is when you are able to embrace the fact that this was the Qadr of Allah. You will create an inner connection with your loved one and “continue” your relationship in a transcendent way while “outwardly” continuing your life.

This transcendent connection will exist forever through your memories, through inner conversations, maybe dreams with your brother.

Contribute to His Legacy

You can help in the development of this connection Islamically:

  • Try to do good deeds in his name.
  • Start an ongoing charity in his name.
  • Give regular donations in his name (not necessarily monetary)
  • Do voluntary prayers in his name.

You contribute to his legacy in this way and gain more reward in the afterlife in his name. These are noble acts that may give peace and acceptance of Allah’s will.

You can also do the following things:

  • If you feel that you still have things to share with your brother, write a journal or a letter. Just write them down. It can be a goodbye letter as well, when you express your gratitude by collecting and listing all the blessings you shared together. Nice moments, events, etc.
  • You can ask for forgiveness for unfinished conflicts between you, if you had any. 
  • I am not sure whether you experience guilt for his death. If so, please understand that the death of someone is beyond our control and happens by the will of Allah. 
  • See if there is something you can continue in his name. Something he always wanted to do, or something he loved to do. Try to complete it if you can.

Seek Support

Social support is very much encouraged in Islam in times of crisis. Do you have anyone around you who you can turn to and talk to?

It depends on your personality, but you may feel better if you can share your pain with others. Others simply cannot talk about it. Do it when you feel ready for it. Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, writing down your feelings could bring some relief.

You can find a group for those who are dealing with recent losses. There, you can be surrounded by those who have gone through the same. You can help each other during the stages of bereavement towards the acceptance of Allah’s will.

If long time happens and you still feel that you cannot cope with this, please seek professional support through counseling. You may involve your parents and learn together.

Read more here and here about how to deal with loss.

May Allah give you strength and peace.

Question 2. Struggling to get away from committing Zina

I watch porn and masturbate to escape from sexual desires and commit Zina. Is this approach good from the point of Islam

Answer:

Salam alaikom wa rahamtullah brother,

Thank you for sharing your concern. Your question is the following: you ask whether porn watching (and masturbation) is a good approach Islamically to escape from sexual desires and commit zina.

To answer briefly, no, brother, it is not the right approach.

Porn has explicit sexual content involving multiple people who are not married, naked and participating in sexual intercourse. Porn is haram, participating in these scenarios is completely haram, plus zina in itself, so how could it be a good approach to see the haram actions and zina of others from an Islamic point of view?

Brother, I understand that you are struggling and trying to stay away from a major sin. But zina does not only mean a sexual relationship between you and someone else. There is zina of the eye and zina of the ears, among others, that harms your soul and leads you towards committing even more serious haram actions. This means that looking, hearing, and talking about the sins of others are also sins, and you have to try to avoid them.

Furthermore, from a psychological perspective, the more you expose yourself to sexual content, the more intense your desires will be. In other words, contrary to what you say, you won’t “escape” from sexual desires but even increase them. So, it will be even harder to resist. 

Remember the wisdom behind the command for men to lower their gazes:

“Tell the believing men that they should lower their gazes and guard their sexual organs; that is purer for them.” (Quran 24:30)

It means avoiding exposing yourself to images that trigger desires in you.

So, the Islamic approach is to try to do everything to avoid unwanted feelings and desires by staying away from these images, situations, and day-to-day relationships with the opposite gender.

What can you do from an Islamic point of view?

Consider the option of marriage. I do not know what possibilities you have, but remember, the Prophet recommended simplicity in our nikah and asked to make things easy for each other: “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them” Sahih Bukhari:6125

Increase the days of voluntary fasting:

“We were with the Prophet (ﷺ) while we were young and had no wealth. So, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e., his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.” Sahih Bukhari 5066

Lower your gaze, also on social media. If you avoid the opposite gender in real life but you keep watching them online, you are still in the trap of zina of the eye. Unfollow, restrict content, and make certain sites and contents unavailable to yourself.

Good company

Also, stay away from friends who talk about sex, or sexual content, even only for fun. Try to find company who keeps you on the straight path.

Repent and ask for forgiveness

If you really want to make a move forward, you need to repent from your heart and realize that this is not the right path. Ask forgiveness of Allah and try to forgive yourself by accepting that this struggle is indeed challenging for you. It is OK to feel this way. The question is whether you make an effort to clean your heart and mind and gain strength to resist.

Distract yourself when you feel triggered

Identify your triggers and the moments when you most find it hard to resist. Make conscious efforts to distract yourself with something that makes it difficult to engage in porn watching.  Make wudu, do some extra rakats, read the Quran or make dua. You can also choose to go out, do exercise, meet people, go to the masjid.

Try to change your habit and find another instead

You may resist for a couple of days, but then you relapse. Please know that to get rid of a habit takes at least a month. So, you need to make the decision to keep your willingness until at least then.

You can try to switch to learning a new habit: learn two verses a day, or a new skill, do some sports each day, check out halal content and share it to gain rewards, etc. Be consistent and gradual, just step by step.

Addiction

You also need to reflect upon whether porn watching and mastrubation has become some sort of addiction in your life. Porn addiction is unfortunately becoming more and more common, and it harms the lives of people, even married couples.

If this would be the case, you need to seek treatment for addiction and treat the underlying issues behind. 

Here is a video by Sr. Abeda Ahmad, you may find useful.

I hope these tips can help you.

May Allah give your strength.

Question 3. Fear of committing kufr or shirk

Assalamualaikum

My problem is I am afraid of accidentally committing kufr or shirk. For example, if there is a song that has kufr and shirk and I feel if I accidentally utter those I will be a kafir. I have acknowledged that when a person commits kufr they need to renew iman and shahada so I am in constant fear that if I say anything kufr I have to renew my iman and marriage..So what I feel that taking shahada is easy but renewing marriage is not that easy as people will question why I am doing this. Sometimes i feel to take divorce from my husband so that I don’t need to worry about it anymore. Though I am happily married but I always feel I have done something that invalidated my marriage and I am committing zina. I am going through psychological problem because of this.

Answer:

Salam alaikom dear sister,

Thank you for writing to us.

As I understand, you are afraid of accidentally committing shirk and kufr, especially in your thoughts and feelings. So, you are constantly trying to renew your faith and also your marriage, to protect yourself from disbelief and zina (by continuing the marriage while you are in “disbelief”).

You are even thinking about a divorce, though you say that you are happily married.

Sister, according what you describe in your letter, this can be a mental illness, namely, religious scrupulosity. This is a form of OCD, which means an “obsessive and compulsive disorder involving religious or moral obsessions.”

The Arabic term for this condition is “waswâs al-qahri”, “overwhelming whispers”. You can read more about it here.

It is different than the common “waswasa”-whispers that most Muslims experience to an extent. But while waswasa diminishes with religious and spiritual practices, “waswâs al-qahri” is a mental disorder and needs treatment.

Religious scrupulosity not only affects Muslims, but people of other faith as well. It can manifest in various forms but usually in relation to the following: faith and blasphemy; specific religious rituals, like prayer; purity, for example, wudu; hell, etc.

Some examples are obsessive thoughts (constant fear of falling in disbelief) and compulsive behavior (constantly repeating prayer or wudu out of fear that it is invalid).

Seek Therapy

Sister, I cannot set up a diagnosis, but I kindly advise you to seek therapy where you will be properly assessed and diagnosed. If there is a presence of OCD or some other mental health condition, you can follow a treatment plan which would be very useful in your case.

I recommend finding a Muslim mental health professional who provides faith-based therapy.

Your Control

Sister, in Islam we are not accountable for our cognitions: thoughts and feelings. Why? Because we can hardly control them. Thoughts of any nature may pop up in our minds constantly, and feelings follow them instantly.

But we are not accountable for them until we act upon these thoughts and feelings, either verbally or through our behavior.

So, dear sister, if a thought of kufr or shirk appears in your mind, you are not a disbeliever until you actually act upon this thought or say it.

This means you won’t be able to invalidate your marriage or commit zina solely through your thoughts. If you want to know more about this, please write to our section, Ask the Scholar.

With this being said, I would encourage you to seek professional help to find out whether there is a mental health condition behind.

During therapy, you can practice responding to these thoughts in a “healthier” manner, decreasing your worries and stress related to your fears of falling into disbelief.

If this is treated, you will feel better and you will be able to control your response to these thoughts by not getting overwhelmed by them.

May Allah help you with it,

Question 4. How can I stop being a burden on those around me?

Assalamu Alikum,

I think it is important for me to start with background information. I grew up in a practicing family household, but my parents never got along. There were daily fights, and we oftentimes witnessed this growing up. Both parents vented to us about the other spouse, and we would be reprimanded if we disagreed with their point of view. The constant fighting left a damaging effect on us- there was no love in our household for anyone at all. We were never praised-only reprimanded and subjected to daily, brutal fights. Still, I love them both dearly, and am indebted to them for having taught me Islam. I usually found my refuge in masajid and with other Muslims.

I got married to an amazing husband who does nothing but good for me, but my mental health and low self esteem are still Having an effect on me. When I married my husband, I moved to a new country in Europe. It was helpful to leave the toxicity of my home. However, in this new country, Islam is challenged. I am not free to work with Hijab, and the language barrier has made it difficult for me to connect with other Muslims. As a result, I feel incredibly lonely and as though my safe Islam space has been ripped away from me. I see no future, as this country ripped that possibility away from me due to their anti-hijab laws. On top of this, I was diagnosed with infertility and the inability to have pleasure during intimacy. I spend all my time at home-with no ambition for the future. I am finding difficulty finding gratitude and pleasure in my life. My past low self-esteem haunts the way I look and feel. Those around me say that I am choosing to be unhappy and to be a burden on them. I don’t know if this is true. The fact that they feel and acknowledge that I am being a burden makes me very upset. I am tired of being unhappy. I am tired of feeling alone and useless. I don’t understand why Allah (swt) placed me here. What is He trying to teach me? How can I hold on to my faith and remain positive and hopeful in a world that keeps pushing me away? How can I be more positive and less depressed so that I can fix my relationship with others?

I am a practicing Muslim. I know Allah will not leave me alone. Please help me, as I don’t want to lose my faith.

Answer:

Wa alaikom salam dear sister,

Thank you for writing to us.

You mention multiple concerns, and to be honest, each of them would necessitate a separate, in-depth answer. That might be beyond my capabilities, even though I would like to do that.

I will try to tackle all the issues a little bit, one by one, with the hope that I can offer at least some kind of orientation.

Family background

Your description was very useful indeed. You are right: early experiences, those we had with our closest family members and parents, are very important as they strongly influence our way of perceiving things and dealing with them.

Unfortunately, you are not coming from a place of unconditional love, according to your letter, but rather a place of constant fighting and reprimand. You, masallah, seem to be aware that it had a negative effect on your overall state and wellbeing. I say “masallah”, because having awareness of a problem is a huge blessing and the precondition of any future work towards healing.

Low self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love can be direct consequences of an upbringing that could be called “authoritarian.” This means that the “demands” are not balanced with positive affirmations, praise, and love, and that you receive constant criticism and reprimand.

Unfortunately, these critical words and reprimands could become our “inner voice,” and although we do not hear them from our parents anymore, we do repeat them to ourselves again and again.

And this could create a variety of negative feelings, like feeling incapable, unworthy, or unlovable, leading us to depression or other mental health problems.

If you had mentioned “only” this concern in your letter, sister, I would say that this solely is “enough” to struggle with depression and unhappiness.

As you start with a heavy “package” like this, I would say that first and foremost you need to unpack this in order to be able to deal and cope with issues that are in your present life and can appear in the future.

So, I would like to ask you to seek counseling where you can get professional help to discover and transform unhealthy thinking patterns related to your core beliefs about yourself and your worth. Cognitive behavior therapy is a very useful option in these cases.

If you can connect to a Muslim therapist or find CBT for Muslims, that would be great, although this approach is quite faith-neutral, so you do won’t need to worry about compromising your faith in therapy.

I am saying this, because it seems to me that all these trials helped you to gain a strong faith and connection with Allah, and this is a huge blessing and a real powerful aid in times of struggle.

I encourage you to keep up with it. You are right: Allah will not leave you alone. These are tests, and I am sure that you can make it!

Europe, Islam and Hijab

You say that you moved to Europe after your marriage, and you face multiple barriers that are limiting you and contributing to your mental health condition. You are not free to work with hijab, and you face language barriers to connect with the local Muslim community.

Sister, I live in Europe, so I know what you are talking about. In certain countries, the situation is slightly better, while in others, the environment is much more hostile. It can even differ depending on whether you live in a bigger city or a smaller one, with less diversity.

There are studies about the negative mental health consequences for Muslims of this Islamophobic attitude. So, unfortunately, you are not alone. 

On the other hand, there are Muslim women, who work in hijab, there are Muslims who you can talk to and there are many people who love or at least accept Muslims and respect our identity. It depends on what you want to (or can) notice.

I also know what you mean about language barriers to connecting with other Muslims, as I have also experienced them.

Sister, probably the way you approach your current challenges is influenced by your depressed mood, so it seems much more challenging to cope with them.

What I want to say is that is up to you whether you see them as barriers or as motivational forces or guidance to help you move towards your real goals.

Remember:

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11)

Think about it: it was decreed by Allah that you would live in such an environment. You said that it helped you to move away from the toxicity of your family. For example, it is a blessing.

I kindly suggest you seek alternatives, as there certainly are, and with time, you will realize the wisdom of Allah in placing you there.

If the language barrier affects your workplace opportunities and social connections, please seek a course where you can learn the language. Normally, there are opportunities, even for free, run by local authorities, to integrate foreign residents.

If you cannot connect with local Muslims, try to do it online. There are some very good and inspirational groups, courses, and gatherings for Muslimas online, so you do not need to lose contact with other sisters. Try, for example, the group of Sr. Haleh Banani.

Start to make contact with others online. If the masjid is an important place of “refuge” for you, keep going to the local masjid to pray, but maybe not for the purpose of social connections. Do not give up the things you like to do, just change your expectations.

Seeking job with hijab

Regarding jobs: yes, I know that it is not easy, but again, try to find alternatives: online work, small businesses run by Muslims, etc.

Besides, there are many workplaces and jobs that, at some point, will clash with your Islamic lifestyle. Think about the way that Allah is just trying to keep you away from these places and trying to guide you towards a better position.

Explore the option of studying something that has a halal “outcome” and gives you more opportunities. You can start with some voluntary work for some ONG or association that works with Muslims. Or even think about a career path, like social work, that would naturally lead you towards Muslims and a more inclusive workplace.

Health condition

You said that you were diagnosed with infertility and the inability to feel pleasure during intimacy.

Sister, I am very sorry to hear that. Again, this is an issue that alone would necessitate counseling not only for you but probably for both of you and your husband.

You do not mention what exactly this condition is, and I am not sure whether this is something permanent or if there is any chance for improvement. For example, endometriosis is a health problem that affects the physical and mental health of many women. But many cases, with operation and treatment, there could be a significant improvement.

So, I kindly suggest you seek information about your treatment options and best outcomes, and do not lose hope.

You do not mention how this affects your relationship with your husband. But if he is a loving and “amazing” person, as you said, you might share your struggle with him, and seek alternatives together.

A marriage counselor would be a good option, or someone with whom you can sincerely speak about intimacy issues. You can get some alternatives about how to maintain intimacy in a way that both of you can find pleasure in it. You can try to find online sources as well. 

Intimacy is a very important aspect of a relationship and affects it on a much deeper, more emotional level. I recommend sincerity and openness about these struggles with him, to avoid the rise of conflicts and confusion on these levels. You can face this challenge together as a team by sharing your challenges and seeking solutions together.

And, I would say the same about the question of infertility and this overall health condition that probably affects you on a multiple level and is connected to your depressive, pessimistic state.

Sister, I do not want to belittle these topics by mentioning them so briefly. I think that it is rather the opposite: all need more in-depth attention and work. These issues are connected and contribute to your condition.

I see that there are some underlying issues as well as real challenges in your present life. But I also see that Allah, the Source of All Help, gifted you with resources, alhamdulillah: with a loving husband, who can support you and a healthy home. I believe that there are options to find more support around you, but let yourself see them.

That is why I recommend you get counseling and therapy.

First, to treat your possible depression and to help you create a more “positive” mindset. If you are equipped with the right skills, a healthier self-esteem and love, you will see, you will be more open to another perspective regarding your current challenges and you will be able to cope with them.

May Allah help you, and give your strength to overcome these struggles!

Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 | 06:00 - 07:00 GMT

Session is over.
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