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Mental wellness and Sunnah

Salman Rasheed

The writer is a Karachi-based research analyst and political consultant.

Regarding mental wellness or wellbeing, we can learn a lot from the life of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW). From the early revelations, we observe that Allah (SWT) was protecting the mental wellbeing of our Nabi (SAW), as this was the priority of most of the interactions between the Prophet (SAW) and Jibreel. There are ten things we can learn from the Prophet (SAW) to improve our mental wellbeing.

The first thing we learn is to talk about our feelings. As soon as our Nabi (SAW) receives the first revelation, he (SAW) runs to his wife Khadija (RA) asking her to cover him up, and begins to narrate his experience to her.  Khadija (RA) consoles the Prophet (SAW) explaining to him that Allah (SWT) would never humiliate him because he (SAW) is a good and sincere person. Then Khadija (RA) takes our Nabi (SAW) to speak to one of her relatives about his experience. Therefore, in a moment of crisis, it is better to talk to the people who love and care about us just as the Prophet (SAW) did instead of dealing with it alone.

The second lesson is to remain active. In the context of the Holy Quran, Surah Muzammil Ayat 1-2 commands the following, “O you who wraps himself [in clothing], Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little.”  Thus, the reaction to stress is to get up and get active. The essence of performing salat is both a spiritual and physical exercise as we must perform ablution, change our clothes, find the qibla and go to the masjid if we want to perform salat in congregation. This activity of our Nabi (SAW) was a constant attribute of who he (SAW) was.

The third point from the Sunnah is to eat well.  After experiencing childbirth alone in the middle of the desert, Allah (SWT) directs Maryam (Assalam Alaiha) to eat and drink, “So eat and drink and refresh your eye;” (Surah Maryam Ayat 26). This demonstrates that the nourishment of the soul is directly related to the nourishment of the body and stomach.

The fourth lesson is to avoid any kind of addiction.  One modern-day example of addiction inflicting us is social media, as we all have a difficult time separating ourselves from our smartphones. We must combat any addictive or compulsive behaviour.

The fifth thing to remember is to keep in touch with family and friends.  Note that the first people to accept Islam from the Prophet (SAW) besides his family were his friends.  We need to stay in touch with each other not just in the good times but more so in times of difficulty. Allah (SWT) tells us in the Quran (Surah Maidah Ayat 2), “Cooperate with one another in goodness and righteousness, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression.”  Furthermore, our Nabi (SAW) guided us to even connect with those who have disconnected themselves from us.

The sixth lesson is asking for help.  A great example of this is in the Quran when Musa (AS) is standing before Allah (SWT) at the mount and asks Allah (SWT) for help, “Moses prayed, “My Lord! Uplift my heart for me and make my task easy, and remove the impediment from my tongue so people may understand my speech, and grant me a helper from my family, Aaron, my brother. Strengthen me through him, and let him share my task so that we may glorify You much and remember You much, for truly You have ˹always˺ been overseeing us.” (Surah Taha Ayats 25-35). This is a noteworthy dua by Musa (AS) that despite having Allah (SWT) with him, he (AS) asks Allah (SWT) to provide another human being for help to share his burden.  This teaches us that we need to ask for help whenever we feel overwhelmed and fear that we are straying from Allah’s (SWT) path.  Why did our Nabi (SAW) have the Sahaba/companions?

To fulfill the dawah of Allah (SWT), the Prophet (SAW) needed companions as he (SAW) couldn’t do this alone. 

The seventh point is to take a break.  Our Nabi (SAW) took breaks from fasting by not fasting every day or month outside of Ramadan and never performed Hajj every year even after the liberation of Makkah.  Also, the Prophet (SAW) took time off from his family life.  There is nothing wrong with taking a step back and spending some time alone from your family and daily routine.

The eighth thing is to engage in activities/hobbies that we excel at.  These hobbies/activities can bring us solace and contentment be it activities like painting, writing, or photography.  The Prophet (SAW) enjoyed doing the things that he loved and would encourage the Sahaba to do likewise. 

The ninth lesson is to accept who we are.  All of us have certain limitations be it physical, cognitive, and/or spiritual and thus, we need to accept our limitations but exemplify our relative advantages and strengths.

The final point is caring for others.  The greatest stabilizer to our well-being is to bring good well-being to others.  Helping and caring for others gives us immense happiness and satisfaction, as this was the entire purpose of the joy given by our Nabi (SAW) to the world.  The Prophet (SAW) taught that bringing joy to another believer gives us great rewards and blessings.