15 Cures For Sadness
Everyone has a story of sorrow to tell. Whether the individual at hand is a thief or the subject of theft, a traitor or the subject of betrayal, single or married, rich or poor, healthy or otherwise, know very well that there is not a single individual who is an exception to this rule.
Sadness, however, if left unmanaged and undealt with appropriately, can escalate until it claims the individual at hand, for sadness occupies one’s heart, weakens one’s body, paralyses one’s resolve and, for many, locks them within a vicious cycle of constant crying and never-ending anxiety. Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said:
“The term ‘sadness’ is only ever mentioned in the Qur’ān in the context of prohibition, like the āyah ‘Do not be sad’ or in the context of negation, like the āyah ‘there will be no fear upon them’. The secret behind this is that sadness holds one back from progressing and brings no benefit to the heart. There is nothing dearer to Shaytān than to sadden the believer in order to interrupt his journey to Allāh and to halt him from the doing of good deeds.”
With that said, I will present 15 pieces of advice. May Allāh make them a means of comfort, relief and recovery for the brokenhearted and troubled, and a means of victory for the individual battle that every one of us fights.
Never forget that the One who has chosen for you your calamity is Allāh, and that the true meaning of ʿUbūdiyyah (being a slave to Allāh) is to surrender to that, having accepted with contentment what He has accepted for you.
“No disaster strikes except by permission of Allāh. And whoever believes in Allāh, He will guide his heart.”
Elaborating on this, ‘Alqama said,
“This āyah is in reference to a person who is struck with a calamity, but realises that it is from Allāh and so he surrenders to it and is pleased.”
Remember that the One who chose this difficulty of yours happens to be The Most Merciful who cares for you more than your own mother does. He is also the Most Wise and wants to benefit you in ways that you cannot comprehend. The Prophets realised this, thus we are told,
“And remember Ayyūb, when he called to his Lord, “Adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.”
What about Prophet Ya’qūb who, upon losing his son, said,
فَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ حَافِظًا وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
“Allāh is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of those who show mercy.”
Remember who is testing you; A Merciful and Wise Creator who does not want to devastate or destroy you, but wants goodness for you more than you want it for yourself.
Realise that your difficult circumstance is in fact a medicine that Allāh has generously sent in your direction. Bitterness is the nature of medicine; embrace it and do not display displeasure at Allāh and impatience, otherwise its healing properties will be lost.
Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said,
“Whenever Allāh wants good for a person, He will give him a drink of medicine in the form of tests and trials, causing such a person to vomit out dangerous illnesses that were within him, until he is shaped, cleansed and purified, thus qualifying him for the highest grades in Dunya; the worship of Allāh, and the highest rewards in the Hereafter; The seeing of Allāh and His closeness.”
Often an arrogant, prideful and chronic sinner is stopped in his tracks through a disaster that collapses him. Thereafter, he has been forced into humility, having transformed into an individual of Salāh, Qur’ān, Duʿā’ and righteousness.
Rest assured, for the medicine of calamities will rid you of illnesses that you may not be able to see, but are illnesses that need to go.
Remember that those who suffer the most are those closest to Allāh. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was asked,
“Who are tested the most?” He said, “The Prophets, and then those who resemble them the most, then those who resemble them the most. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If his Deen is strong, the test will increase, but if it is fragile, he will be tested accordingly. A person continues to be tested until he ends up walking on the earth without a single sin to his name.”
This is why some of our predecessors said:
“Whoever is afflicted with a trial has been placed upon the path of prophets.”
Your difficult circumstance is a sign that Allāh wants good for you. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“Whenever Allāh wants good for a person, He will hurry for him his suffering in this world, but when Allāh wants otherwise for a person, He will withhold from him the suffering so that He may deliver it to him in full on the Day of Judgement.”
Al-Fudail Ibn ‘Iyād said,
“Allāh cares for His believing servant through trials, the same way that man cares for his family through goodness.”
And he said
“One will not attain the true state of īmān until he views trials as a blessing and ease as a calamity.”
To realise that Allāh may want for you a particular grade in Paradise but your good deeds do not qualify you for it, therefore He helps you attain it through the sending of trials. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
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“If Allāh has decreed a specific grade in Jannah for a servant of His despite not possessing the sufficient good deeds for it, Allāh tests him in his body, wealth or children and then inspires him to be patient and so qualifies him for the grade that Allāh has decreed for him.”
Were you to realise that your anxiety and difficult circumstance is in fact your elevator in the Hereafter, such anxiety becomes much easier to deal with.
To remember that the biggest burden there is in life and the afterlife is that of sin, and this circumstance of yours actively wipes them away. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“Never is a believer struck with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief, even worries, or even the pricking of a thorn except that Allāh erases some of his sins.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“When a person falls ill, Allāh sends to him two angels and says to them, ‘Listen to what he says to his visitors.’ If he praises Allāh to them and speaks well of Him, they inform Allāh of this – despite Him knowing – so Allāh says, ‘Therefore my slave has a promise from Me that if he dies, I will give him Jannah, and if I cure him, I will replace his flesh with better flesh and his blood with better blood, and I will erase his sins.”
In fact, our predecessors would congratulate one another after recovering from an illness, as Muslim b. Yasār said, and they would say to each other,
“Congratulations for the purification.”
Not only do such difficulties lighten our load of sin, but they add to our account of good deeds as well. In one of the most profound narrations in this regard, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“When those who had lived lives of ease see the reward that Allāh will give those who had suffered in the life of this world, they would wish that their skins had been clipped with scissors.”
For this reason, some of our predecessors would say,
“Were it not for calamities, we would meet Allāh penniless.”
In fact, Imām Ibn al-Qayyim speaks of a woman who was known for her worship who lost a finger in an accident but was seen smiling during the scene. She was asked,
‘You smile despite the losing of your finger?!’
“The sweetness of the reward caused me to forget the bitterness of its pain.”
Imām Ibn Qudāma said,
“If a king said to a poor man ‘Every time I hit you with this small branch, I will give you 1000 dinars, such a man would wish to be frequently hit, not because it does not hurt, but because of the outcome which he aspires for, even if the hits become painful.”
Remember that what has befallen you is due to your sins. Allāh says,
“Whatever calamity befalls you is because of what your hands have earned.”
So ensure that rather spending your time grieving, channel that effort towards repentance, for this is one of the chief ways of repelling trials and calamities. ʿAli (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said,
“Every calamity that arrives is due to a sin and it will not depart except through repentance.”
Realise that what has befallen you had to happen and it could not have been any other way. It is a matter that was written thousands of years before the very creation of the heavens and earth, and so allow your heart to rest. Allāh said,
“There is no disaster that befalls the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before we bring it into being – That is easy for Allāh!”
In fact, the first creation of Allāh was the pen and then He commanded it to write. When it enquired as per what is should write, it was told:
“Write down the decrees of everything until the day of Judgement.”
Therefore, whether we panic or relax, scream with displeasure or submit, the decree of Allah had to come to pass, so do not add to your existing calamity yet another one; the calamity of losing out on the reward of being patient, as ʿAli (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said:
“If you show patience, the decree of Allāh will come to pass and you will be rewarded, but if you show impatience, the decree of Allāh will still come to pass but you will be sinful.”
Deal with your worries by benefiting people in whatever way you can. If life seems unbearable, search for a poor person and feed him, loan someone a sum that he needs, console those who are sad. In fact, even something as small as making space for your brother to sit next to you within a busy room plays a major role in opening up your heart with joy.
“O you who believe! When you are told to make space in the assemblies, then make space, Allāh will make space for you.”
Make space in the lives of people, Allāh will make space within your heart, in your wealth, in your health, and in your grave.
Exert an effort in being present within the gatherings of knowledge and remembrance. When we feel down, we have a tendency to isolate ourselves from the people and places of goodness, which only ends up widening our injuries. The tranquility that you complain of having lost is found in the Masjid. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam),
“Whenever a people gather in a house from the houses of Allāh, and recite the Qur’ān and study it together, tranquility will descend upon them, mercy will envelop them, the angels will cover them and Allāh will remember them.”
Whenever you feel like the weight of anxiety has become overpowering, call up a friend and invite him to the Masjid for the purpose of reciting Qur’ān together and to read from a book of Tafseer together, and simply observe the change in your heart.
Make the remembrance of Allāh a fort that you retreat to. Every believer will testify to the paramount importance of this in combating anxiety. Allāh said to His messenger:
“Indeed, it is We who have sent down to you the Qur’ān in stages. So be patient for the decision of your Lord and do not obey from among them a sinner or ungrateful disbeliever. And mention the name of your Lord in the morning and evening. And during the night prostrate to Him and exalt Him a long part of the night.”
Speaking about these āyāt, Ibn Taymiyya said:
“Allāh commanded his Prophet to remember Him during the morning and evening, for His remembrance is the greatest assistance in bearing the burden of patience. He was also commanded to show patience by praying at night, and so his night prayer will act as assistance for the tasks that are ahead of him by day and an ingredient for his strength.”
Imagine the worries involved in the mammoth task of approaching the Pharaoh of Egypt for Da’wah, a man who, at the time, claimed Godhood. And now think to how Mūsā and his brother were advised to cope with such worries. Allāh said:
“Go, you and your brother, with My signs and do not slacken in My remembrance.”
This was the weapon that they were given to confront the world’s most sinful tyrant. Shaykh As-Sa’di said about this:
“For the remembrance of Allāh provides assistance in every matter, it eases them and lightens their load.”
It could be that Allāh has tested you in order to push away from you something far worse that was making its way to you. You have no idea what is being planned for you.
The scholars narrate a story of a king and his minister. The latter was a righteous man who, in the face of every disaster, would always repeat the phrase الخيرة فيما اختاره الله / “Allāh only chooses what is best”. They were once eating together when the king cut his hand badly. As usual, his minister said, “Allāh only chooses what is best”. The king however saw this as an insult, as if the minister was gloating at his suffering, and therefore imprisoned him. The minister reacted to this by saying “Allāh only chooses what is best”.
The king used to spend much of his recreational time hunting which he’d usually do with his minister but seeing that he was now behind bars, the king went out hunting by himself. As he pursued an animal, he failed to realise that he’d crossed the boundaries of his land and entered into a land of idol worshippers. He was caught by them and escorted to their greatest idol with the intention of offering him as a sacrifice. They lowered him to the ground and brought the knife to his neck when they realised that his hand was wounded. With this flaw, they considered him unworthy of being offered as a sacrifice and thus they set him free.
The king returned to his palace. Having realized that Allāh only chooses what is best, he immediately freed his minister and told him what had happened. He said to him, “I now see the good that came from my wound, but when I imprisoned you, again, you said ‘Allāh only chooses what is best’, so what good was in that?” The minister said, “Who is it that usually accompanies you when you hunt?” The king said, “You” The minister said, “So, had I not been imprisoned, I would have been sacrificed instead of you.”
In the face of every disaster that befalls you, let your slogan in life be “Allāh only chooses what is best”. As Allāh said,
“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allāh Knows and you do not know.”
The problem is only as big as you make it. There is an Arabic proverb that says هونها وتهون which translates as ‘Make the mountain into a molehill’, the opposite of the famous English proverb. In other words, shrink your problem to its smallest possible size. This can be achieved in the following ways:
a) Shrink it by remembering what is worse. A woman who had suffered for a prolonged period of time but never buckled was asked, ‘How are you able to express such patience and remain composed?’ She said,
“Whenever I am afflicted with a calamity, I remember the hellfire and at once, my calamity diminishes in size until it becomes in my eyes as small as a fly.”
b) Shrink it by thanking Allāh that your calamity itself was not worse. If you have lost an eye, thank Allāh that you did not lose both. If you have broken an arm, thank Allāh at once for it not being your spine.
The famous worshipper Muhammad Ibn Wāsi’ was afflicted with a skin ulcer. His friend was horrified at its sight and so Muhammad said to him,
“Alhamdulillāh that it wasn’t on my tongue or the edge of my eye!”
A poor, ill, blind and handicapped man was heard repeating,
“Praise be to Allāh who has preferred me over so many of His slaves.” So a man said to him, ‘May Allāh have mercy on you! What has Allāh preferred you with?’ He said,
‘He has gifted me with a tongue that remembers Him, a heart that praises Him and a body that is patient with calamities.’
c) Shrink it by thanking Allāh that your calamity was not in your Deen. ʿUmar b. Al-Khattāb said,
“For every calamity that befalls me, I see within it four blessings: (1) That it was notin my Deen (2) That I was not prevented from being content with it (3) That it was not worse and (4) That I hope reward for it.”
d) Shrink it by counting the favours of Allāh upon you. How sad it is when we become blind to the countless blessings we have been showered with and can only see the one blessing that has left us. Is this fair?
When ‘Urwa b. Zubair’s foot was amputated, Ibn Talha said to him,
“Allāh has kept for you the majority of your parts; your mind, tongue, eyes, hands and one of your two feet.” ‘Urwa said,
“No one has offered me better condolences than you.”
Some have complained of limited finances, and so they were asked: “Would you sell your vision for £100,000?” To which the reply was, “No”. “What about your hearing?” The response was the same. “Your ability to talk? Your mind?” and each time the answer was “no”. So it was said, “Well, in reality you are a multi-millionaire, so how can you still complain of poverty?”
e) Shrink it by remembering that, much like a summer’s cloud, it will pass. Contemplate over those who were previously tested with certain illnesses or the loss of loved ones. How were they at the time? Some perhaps doubted that they would ever recover, but with the passage of time, they did recover, they moved on and what was once a heart-wrenching tragedy became a distant memory.
All those whom you see around you at present smiling, laughing and enjoying their lives, did they not cry with pain at one point in their lives? They did, but with the passage of time, it all changed.
Shaykh ‘Ali al-Tantaawi said,
“As for those who are suffering due to an illness that has depressed them, or poverty that has saddened them, or an oppressive imprisonment that has restricted them from their family and children, or a sinful tyrant who harasses them during the mornings and evenings, a day will come when all of this shall become a memory and chitchat during gatherings with friends.”
f) Shrink it by simply looking around you. You will quickly come to realise that everyone is suffering in one way or another.
Do not expect Dunya to be what it was not created for. It is common knowledge that exams are rarely an easy experience, and what is this world but an exam? So, what few restful days you experience in life, consider it an exception to the default, an anomaly of a day. That is because Allāh said,
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ
“We have certainly created man into hardship.”
Hardship during pregnancy, during labor, during your pursuit of education, work and then marriage, hardship of raising children, hardship of bad health, of old age and then the pangs of death. Whoever expects a trouble-free life or perceives that he is the only one suffering or imagines that he is suffering the most is mistaken, for everyone is being examined.
As Ibn ‘Uyayna said,
“This world is grief, so on the odd days when you are at ease, consider it a bonus.”
In fact ‘AbdurRahman AnNaasir, one of the greatest governors of Andalusia, used to take note of the days in which he felt at ease. He lived a life of immense hardship and struggled enormously against those who sought to destabilise him. When he died, they looked at the days of ease that he had taken note of. They amounted to only 14 days, despite him having governed Andalusia for over 50 years.
Thus train yourself to accept Dunya for what it is – a temporary examination theatre – and to constantly remember the answer which Imām Ahmad gave to a questioner who asked him, ‘When will we relax?’
“Immediately following the first step you take into Jannah.”
I ask Allāh to allow us to take that step, but up until we do, brace yourself for every potential circumstance that life may throw at you. This is the Dunya and we are all in the same boat.
May Allāh make these 15 points be a means of relief and comfort during our short-lived journeys to Him and the home of the Hereafter.
It really is from Allāh’s mercy upon our weak selves that He has not connected absolute happiness to anything other than Him. Not to wives, husbands, jobs, children, countries, wealth, health or anything else, as these matters, if lost, can be replaced, or at least partly replaced. But, if Allāh is lost in the life of a person, what can replace Him?
True misery is not in losing any of the above, but when the irreplaceable One is lost.
“Whoever does good, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a happy life..”