How to Embrace the Power of Prayer

By Monique Hassan

Prayers are a time of reflection and submission to our creator, to Allah (glorified and exalted). We let go of this world, even if only for a minute. In this submission we find calmness, we release our emotions and the power of prayer impacts us. Prayer in itself is a gift, a blessing, a powerful coping skill, it is therapeutic and most importantly; it is an act of worship.

“Indeed, I am Allah . There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance” Quran 20:14

 

We know that we have 2 types of prayers. The 5 daily obligatory prayers when we are engaged in worship and submission as well as special duaa or supplications when we are asking for something. Salah and duaa help us to connect on a deeper level to our spiritual self and connect to our creator.

We must pray our 5 daily prayers, this is crucial not just for our religion, but also for our own mental state. Prayers are a time to slow down, rein our minds in and calm our emotions.

In trauma informed care they often encourage patients to meditate on a regular basis, prayer is a form of meditation is it not? If mental health professionals are encouraging this as part of a treatment plan then surely we must see the power of prayer for our own mental health and overall well-being.

Duaa can be done anywhere at any time. When we make duaa we are acknowledging that Allah (glorified and exalted) has the power to change the outcome of our situations. Some anxiety medications are often prescribed to be taken as needed or PRN, duaa is a prayer prescription which we can take as needed.

When we make duaa, 3 answers are provided for us.

  1. Yes
  2. Yes, but not now
  3. No. I have something better for you

Really take that in for a moment, imagine if this was our mindset when we feel anxiety or we feel sadness. We make duaa, seek counsel with our Lord who is As-Salam (the peace, the source of peace and safety, the savior).  In that moment of duaa we are submitting ourselves to trust in our faith. Whatever is the best outcome for us, will transpire. It is the will of Allah (glorified and exalted) and we accept that outcome. Alhamdulillah for everything.

In acknowledging the power of prayer and duaa, we find a greater sense of peace and awareness. Our optimism can increase and our perspectives on situations can become more positive.

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me. O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient” Quran 2:152-153

Increasing Sisterhood/Brotherhood

When we pray we all begin with Al-Fatiha and we all pray in Arabic, no matter what our native language is. We face the same direction and perform our 5 daily prayers with the same movements. During congregational prayer, we line up in our rows shoulder to shoulder; irrespective of race, culture or financial standing. We are equal and we are united as we all say ameen in unison.

Prayer is very multifaceted for us; it enjoins worship and spiritual awareness alongside unity. Those are not complete strangers on your left and right, those are brothers and sisters. One ummah. Although we may not always act like one ummah and some of us feel more accepted than others, ultimately we are one ummah. Prayer is a bridge to unite us and this goes for our families as well. We should be praying with our family, not always praying by ourselves. During moments of emotional upheaval or crisis, we come together with our families or with the congregation to pray as one.

 

Increasing Iman to Increase Emotional Resilience

Sometimes we hear believers asking how they can increase their iman, this is not a simple answer but one can always begin by holding fast to the five pillars. We know that salah is one of these five pillars and a very crucial one.

“Indeed the first deed by which a servant will be called to account on the Day of Resurrection is his Salat. If it is complete, he is successful and saved, but if it is defective, he has failed and lost” Sahih At-Tirmidhi 413

The power of prayer in Islam is unlike other prayers, we purify ourselves with wudu and our entire body is part of the worship process as we bow for rukoo and prostrate in sujood. It is a form of worship combining the body and mind. Our ummah is facing many hardships, but we can strengthen our resilience and ability to handle these if we strengthen our iman. By remaining steadfast in our prayers, we open ourselves more to Allah’s (glorified and exalted) infinite wisdom and infinite mercy.

As our faith grows we find ourselves more likely to say ALHAMDULILLAH instead of “why me” during hardships. Our hearts feel more grateful and full of love for our creator whether we are having a time of ease or a time of trial.

Final Thoughts

The power of prayer is more immense than we realize, it is the first act of worship we are held accountable for so this has to show the immense weight it bears. Prayer is an act of worship, but it runs deeper than just that. It is a blessing which reminds us 5x a day what our purpose is, to serve Allah (glorified and exalted). In that submission is tranquility and immense strength if we approach prayer with focus and from the heart. One of the most beautiful moments in our days is when tears hit our prayer mat; this is a sign from our hearts of sincerity. Just as our call to prayer reminds us, go to prayer and go to success.

7 Tips to Make Your Week More Productive

By Monique Hassan

Another work week is here, time for excessive amounts of caffeine and a jungle of sticky notes. We all love the feeling of a productive day, that sense of accomplishment when we really made the most out of our time.

A common mindset is that greater productivity means working harder and for longer stints of time. Although this works for some people, this can lead to burnout and a decrease in focus.

Work Smarter Not Harder. Time is Valuable.

Here are 7 practical tips to make this week more productive.

    1. Start out the day right. Give yourself enough time to do at least 10 minutes of exercise in the morning. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is great for this. Slow down during morning prayers. Eat a healthy breakfast aimed at fueling you.
    2. Positive Affirmations. Look in the mirror and tell yourself “I am successful, I believe in myself”. Be your own cheerleader!
    3. Schedule the day. Set goals for the day and outline when you will achieve them. Take this opportunity to set weekly goals as well. Be realistic and don’t overload yourself.
    4. Give up Perfection. We are often our own worst critic. Aim to complete your goals and take satisfaction in that. It is great to have high standards, but don’t burden yourself with unattainable levels of perfection.
    5. Stay Organized. Your environment can impact how you feel. An organized and clean environment is more conducive towards a productive and focused day.
    6. Take a Break. Downtime helps you re-charge. You can also assess what you have accomplished and what else needs to be done.
    7. Review Your Performance. Look back over the day and smile at what you achieved, make mental notes for what you can improve.

 

Increased productivity serves to boost your sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Don’t beat yourself up if you  don’t achieve every goal you set for the day, do the best that you can and keep moving forward. Reward yourself for accomplishments and identify areas you have room for improvement. The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

 

The Prophet  used to seek refuge in Allah  from laziness in the following duaa: “O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.”  Sahih al-Bukhari 6369

Sex, Porn & Paradise

I'm joined by Zeyad Ramadan, founder of Purify Your Gaze, to discuss sexuality and pornography addiction in the Muslim community.

We share reflections on why the opposite of addiction is connection. How porn is a drug and what damage it causes the mind, heart and body. Lessons on human struggles and sins. Why pornography addiction happens and how it can lead the sincere to Paradise!

We close our conversation with learning more about the cutting edge techniques of Purify Your Gaze and how it has helped many Muslims around the world.

Pledge a coffee today!
www.patreon.com/coffeewithkarim

Website
purifyyourgaze.com/

Resources
www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRJ_QfP2mhU

www.dailyinfographic.com/the-stats-on…-infographic

www.collective-evolution.com/2016/03/07…our-brain/

Arrogance in Muslims

By Monique Hassan

Arrogance is essentially a prideful attitude of superiority. The opposite of humility. Arrogance in Muslims is not only a negative personality trait, it is a dangerous path. Original sin stems from pride when we look at the story of Iblis (satan) refusing to bow to Adam (peace be upon him).

People are not born arrogant, this develops overtime. Success is wonderful, but it does elevate one’s risk for arrogance. In those moments of success and achievement, we must remember to give praise and thanks to Allah (most glorified, most high). This simple act of gratitude and worship keeps us grounded.

Some people act arrogant as a defense mechanism; look a little deeper and that person is actually insecure and they fear rejection. It takes a level of self-esteem and trust in order to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. An insecure person is putting up a metaphorical shield when they act arrogant.

Narcissistic personality disorder describes someone with an over-inflated sense of self-worth and importance. Their sense of entitlement is evident and they do not mind stepping on others to get what they want. Again, we may be seeing a highly arrogant individual on the surface, but underneath that hides levels of insecurity. This person NEEDS validation and praise so they demand it.

Fatima feels she is above other sisters because she wears niqab. Yusuf has the longest beard; he strokes it while looking down at the clean-shaven brothers. These two believers chose to embrace a beautiful act of sunnah, yet they forget to remember what that actually means . Islamic character is more crucial than Islamic garments. A sister in niqab must be mindful that our behavior is part of our cover, rude and arrogant sisters are displaying immodest attitudes. A long beard becomes an adornment of superiority when a brother forgets he is following the guidance of our prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him).

Dangers of Arrogance

We must be mindful of the dangers of arrogance. It is more than just a negative personality trait. We are warned about arrogance from Allah (most glorified, most high).

وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الْأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا

And do not walk upon the earth arrogantly. Indeed, you will never tear the earth [apart], and you will never reach the mountains in height. Quran 17:37

We are displaying a lack of Islamic character when we display arrogance and superiority complexes. This dark seed blossoms into a dangerous characteristic that can ruin marriages, disrupt families, tarnish career reputations and most dangerously; pull someone away from faith.

Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) said None shall enter the Fire (of Hell) who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of Iman and none shall enter Paradise who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride. Sahih, Muslim 91 hadith 172

Move away from Arrogance, take steps Forward

Humility in Muslims, the opposite of arrogance in Muslims, is attainable by even the most hardened narcissists. It is possible for someone to release themselves from the cage of arrogance with a degree of self-awareness and a willingness to move forward. This is not a fully inclusive list, but just a few examples of ways to improve.

  • Be more mindful of the people around you and respect their boundaries

Mindfulness is a popular phrase right now for good reason. Actively listen, listen to understand not to respond. Attempt to validate other’s opinions and offer real substance to interactions. Respect their boundaries physically and emotionally. Remember it is okay to disagree, but do it in a respectful manner. These actions will cause others to react more positively and promote healthier interactions. This can be practiced online in social platforms where one can feel less vulnerable.

  • Be charitable with your time

Giving money or material items for charity is a great deed, but one can benefit greatly from donating something we often consider invaluable, time. Don’t just donate money to the new Islamic school, show up and offer to help build or clean. Spend some time at a homeless shelter serving food or pick up litter from a kid’s park. We are encouraged to look at those in situations more difficult and less desirable than our own, instead of looking to those above us. This aids in creating a sense of humility and gratefulness.

  • Slow down in worship

Take a deep breath and center yourself before the initial Allahu Akbar of prayer. This is our time to worship, reconnect and ground ourselves in our faith. Scientific research supports the mental benefits of daily meditation. We do not need to spend extensive amounts of time in prayer, rather we need to make the most of that time. Quality over quantity. Focus on the words you are reciting and feel them. Focus only on your worship and ignore what is around you. Make sincere duaa and dhikr.

Self-Transformations are Possible

A degree of self-awareness, time and consistency can help us to achieve greater humility and back away from arrogance. Self-transformations are not an overnight process, stay consistent and moving forward. Please feel free to share your own personal insights into arrogance and humility.

May Allah (most glorified, most high) remove arrogance from our hearts and grant us greater patience and gratefulness. ameen.

Coping Skills: Know Them, Use Them, Enjoy Them.

By Monique Hassan

What do drugs, exercise, deep breathing, overeating, journaling and chocolate cake all have in common?

These are all examples of coping skills, albeit they are not all healthy coping skills (I do not condone some of those), but none the less they are all utilized by people as coping skills. What are coping skills you may be thinking, I am glad you asked!

A coworker at a behavioral health hospital once told me the difference between us (the staff) and the patients was one critical element, our coping skills.

 

A coping skill is essentially a method an individual employs to affectively minimize, control and handle stressful situations (or triggers, see more information on those here). You utilize coping skills without even realizing it, but to truly hone in on our coping skills enables us to have strategies to control our behavioral and psychological reactions to events. As my Mother likes to say, “it is not what happens to you that matters, it is how you react to it”.

 

We have all seen the clique movie scene where the heartbroken person listens to sad, depressing music and eats a pint of ice cream. This my friends is not a healthy coping skill, however, there are much worse that people utilize. Many drug addicts began abusing drugs to numb their pain instead of handling it. A young girl cuts herself in an effort to try and make her chaotic emotions manifest physically and signal to the world “I need help”. A man becomes aggressive at the stranger who accidentally bumped into him and wants to fight him, all because he had a bad day at work. A woman drinks herself into a drunken stupor to cope with the fight she just had with her husband. These are all examples of people using very negative and destructive coping strategies.

Maladaptive coping skills are not only dangerous to the individual, they can be dangerous to those around them, add stress to relationships, deepen emotional pain alongside guilt and create worse situations which lead to more negative coping skills.

An affective coping skill for me may not be as beneficial for you. We must identify our unique coping skills that suit our needs. During a stressful situation or trigger, the first step is to recognize and validate your emotions. It is okay to feel sad or angry, what is not okay is to lash out at others or yourself. Remove yourself from the situation if possible, take deep breaths and feel your emotions instead of running from them.

Look at what is upsetting you and try to see the bigger picture. Sure, it is upsetting for your car to be totaled in a car accident, but if you are alive then you have something to be thankful for. It is difficult to deal with a divorce, but this may open the door to a better marriage in the future and saved you from more heartbreak. If an exam comes back with a bad grade, look at the weakest subject areas and determine a better studying plan for next time.

Do you see the pattern here, look for the positives and focus on optimistic thinking. Become a master of positive self-talk and combat those irrational, negative thoughts with positive self-affirmations (hitting on cognitive behavioral therapy here).

 

After the immediate need to stabilize emotions and essentially self soothe, a variety of coping skills can come into play. This is a list of many positive coping skills, try to find a few in this list that can be beneficial for you or come up with 2 more of your own.

  • Painting
  • Read a book
  • Walking in a park
  • Exercise
  • Journaling/poetry
  • Listening to Quranic Recitation or Biblical quotes
  • Working with one’s hands on a DIY project
  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing and/or meditation
  • Prayer
  • Looking at pictures of favorite memories
  • Drawing flowers
  • Go for a drive somewhere scenic
  • Hug a friend
  • Aromatherapy
  • Perform a random act of kindness for someone else

Let me know in the comments below what coping skills work best for you.