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Seeking Out A Culturally-Sensitive Counsellor, by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Working for the SeekersHub Question and Answer service constantly reminds Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil about the importance of looking after our emotional and mental health.

So many Muslims around the world are struggling with different forms of psychological imbalance. To name a few: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and so on. These inward fractures mirror the outward fractures we see in our troubled world today.
We live in stressful times, and many of our trials begin in our family homes. Many families lack the knowledge and training necessary to deal with these issues, hence, difficulties often escalate.
I feel like in almost every question I respond to, I encourage the distressed questioner and his/her loved ones to see a culturally-sensitive counsellor.
What does that actually look like? Does he/she have to be Muslim? Not necessarily. That would be ideal, but it’s not always possible.
Some aspects of a culturally-sensitive counsellor are:

Understanding

A counsellor who understands Muslims and what is important to us would be much more in tune with your needs. It’s exhausting to need to justify and explain your stance to an ignorant counsellor. Most people who are at counselling are already tired and stretched thin.

Open-minded

An open-minded counsellor is able to support you even if his/her values are different to yours. This applies to both Muslim and non-Muslim counsellors.

Empowering

Many people enter therapy believing that his/her counsellor will magically solve their problems. This does not solve the long-term issue of whatever caused the issue to begin with e.g. victim mentality, difficulty handling strong emotions etc.
The best kind of counsellor doesn’t tell you what to do. Rather, he/she will help you tap into your own values, and help you come to your own decision.

Good rapport

Trust your gut. If speaking to your counsellor makes you feel worse, then reflect on that. Is it because he/she is encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone? Or is it because she is being condescending? Not liking what a counsellor has to say can be a signal for growth, or it could be a sign of a mismatch. Be honest with yourself.

Empathy

The right counsellor feels for your pain, but does not do so from a place of sympathy and condescension. The right counsellor helps to hold you accountable for what you do, and believes in your ability to overcome hardship.

Finding the right counsellor

So now that we’ve covered some important qualities in a culturally-sensitive counsellor, how do we go about finding one? I wish I had an easy answer for that. The reality is that it’s a hit and miss process. Some counsellors will click with you, and others will not. Some people are able to find the right counsellor straight away, while others need to look for months, or even longer.
As with anything, start with asking Allah. Perform the Prayer of Need. When you do come across a potential counsellor, then perform the Prayer of Guidance. InshaAllah, Allah will make it clear to you.
To help you find the right counsellor for you, speak to Muslims who are working or volunteering in the mental health field. Ask your doctor. Do your research. Above all, place your trust in Allah, and in His promise that after every hardship, comes ease.
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Resources for seekers

Du’a – Supplication for one whose affairs have become difficult

Du’a – Supplication for one whose affairs have become difficult

An authentic Prophetic supplication for ease and facilitation:

Dua for ease.jpg

“O Allah, nothing is easy except what You make easy.

And You make the difficult, if You wish, easy.”

See:
Qur’anic Reflections: Divine Tests and the Great Virtue of Steadfast Patience

Qur’anic Reflections: Divine Tests and the Great Virtue of Steadfast Patience

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful

Divine Tests and the Great Virtue of Steadfast Patience

 

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Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an:

“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 distress strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the truly guided.” [Qur’an, 2.155-157]

It has come in hadith from the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) that, “Whoever says ‘innaa li’l Llahi wa innaa ilayhi raji`un (We are Allah’s and to Him is our return)’ in distress, Allah will reward them for it and grant them good in exchange.”

It has also come in hadith that once a lamp got extinguished, so the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said “innaa li’l Llahi wa innaa ilayhi raji`un (We are Allah’s and to Him is our return).” A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) remarked, “It is only a lamp!” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded, “Everything that displeases the believer is distress.” [Abu Dawud, in his Marasil]

The Meaning of ‘innaa li’l Llahi wa innaa ilayhi raji`un’ (We are Allah’s and to Him is our return)

It is explained in Tafsir al-Jalalayn that this means:

(We are Allah’s) as His property and servants, and He can do with us as He wills. (And to Him is our return) in the Hereafter, where He will recompense us.

Realization of Slavehood

This is a realization of one’s slavehood (`ubudiyya), that Allah is both one’s Creator and Sustainer; that everything is from Allah; and that one’s responsibility and opportunity is to accept things insofar as they are from Allah, and to turn to Him in both ease and distress in the ways most likely to be most pleasing to Him.

The Meaning of “Give good tidings to the patient”

Patience is to remain firm on what is pleasing to Allah.

Ibn Ajiba states:

(Give good tidings to the patient) namely, those who remain resolute in their seeking. They shall attain unto everything that they long for, and will reach that will they set forth for. They are those when faced by obstacles or impediments realize their neediness as servants of Allah, and attach themselves to the Power of His Lordship. So they return to Allah in all matters. And He thereby grants them shelter from all things. This are the ones who have particular concern from their Lord and those whom He draws close. (And it is those who are truly guided) to close proximity to the Beloved. [Ibn Ajiba, al-Bahr al-Madid]

Shaykh al-Islam Abu Su`ud said in his Qur’anic exegesis,

Patience is not merely uttering this statement of return (“innaa li’llahi…”) with the tongue. Rather, it is to affirm its meaning with the heart (at well), such that one brings to mind what one was created for; that one is returning to their Lord; reminding oneself of Allah’s blessings upon one; and to remember that what remains of these blessings is many times greater than what was lost (in the difficulty). If one does this, then the distress will become easy to bear, and it will return to submission.”

He continues by explaining that the good tidings are what is mentioned after: it is such steadfastly patient individuals are those who are truly guided to all that is correct and true–which is why they surrender, submit, and return to Allah in accepting His Decree (qada’). And it is these people who succeed in attaining their religious and worldly goals, because anyone who attains unto their Allah’s concern, mercy, and blessings will not have missed out on anything worth seeking. [Tafsir Abu’s Su`ud]

Ibn Juzayy states:

A point of benefit: Patience has been mentioned in the Qur’an in more than seventy places, because of the tremendousness of its place in religion. Some of the scholar have said that all good deeds have known reward except for patience, because the reward of patience is beyond measure–because Allah Most High states, “The patient shall be granted their reward beyond measure.”

 

Related Entries:

SG Blog: The Qur’an on Patience, Steadfastness, Resolve, Mindfulness, and Success – 3.200

SG IslamCast: Patience (sabr)–its virtues, reality, and manifestation – Faraz Rabbani – Khutba

Guidance of the Prophet Muhammad on the Virtues of Patience (and Thankfulness) in Tribulation and Hardship

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani

Family Problems: Maintaining Conviction in Allah During Difficulty & Tribulation

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badrudduja

Question: I recently discovered that my husband is cheating on me and I am greatly disturbed and upset by this. He is unrepentant and is telling me I have to live with it. I have been very patient and am constantly making du`a to Allah, but his family and him continually slander me after we have agreed to a divorce when I sought legal counsel and scholarly advice. However, I am losing hope that i will receive any justice in this life, which is taking a toll on me and my children, especially since the community I live in treats divorce very negatively. Please advise me.

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

May Allah ease your difficulties and grant you a quick relief from them.

Alhamdulillah, it is very good that you are seeking legal advice and working with local scholars to deal with this situation. It is essential that you have legal, spiritual, and emotional support in this trying situation.

It can be very difficult to see the wisdom in hardship when one is in the thick of tribulations. The lessons one learns and the ways in which one grows by enduring trials is a change that occurs over a long period of time. They may only become clear to you after everything has settled down. But you should have conviction that Allah will give each person their recompense. There is no question about this. We believe it without any doubt, because Allah says,

“On that Day will men proceed in companies sorted out, to be shown the Deeds that they (had done). Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.” [Quran 99:6-8]

Your patience and honorable behavior will be rewarded. Likewise, anyone who has wronged you shall see the result of their dhulm (oppression). The Prophet, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, as reported in Sahih Muslim, said, “Oppression will be layers of darkness on the Day of Judgment.” It is clear in Islam that adultery and wrongful accusations of infidelity are among the greatest sins. There are abundant references to this in the Qur’an and Hadith.

The Prophet, may Allah’s bless him and give him peace, informed us that the du`a (supplication) of one who is wronged has no veil between it and Allah. Your consistent and sincere prayers will be answered, whether it is in a way that is understood by our limited abilities or not, for Allah is infinitely Wise and Just.

May Allah grant you ease.

wassalam,
Sulma Badrudduja

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Istikhara – A Powerful Prayer When In Need Of Guidance

What is the istikhara prayer and how does one perform it?

The istikhara prayer is a very simple prayer of seeking guidance.

  • One prays two rakats at any time that is not disliked, after which one recites the supplication of istikhara.
  • It is best to recite it before sleeping, though in no way necessary.
  • Like other duas, it is recommended that one face the qibla.
  • It is recommended to open the dua of istikhara, with praise of Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet ﷺ and to close it in this manner, too.
  • It is disliked to ‘hasten’ in seeking the answer to one’s istikhara, like other duas, because the Prophet ﷺ said, “Your prayers are answered, unless you hasten, saying, ‘I prayed, but no answer came.’”

The Prayer in Arabic

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي

Transliteration

Allâhumma inni astakhiruka bi ilmika wa astaqdiruka biqudratika wa as’aluka min fadlikal-azimi, fa innaka taqdiru walâ aqdiru wa ta’lamu walâ a’lamu wa anta allamul ghuyubi. Allâhumma in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra khayrun li fi dini wa ma-ashi wa aqibati amri faqdir-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fihi wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra sharrun li fi dini wa maâshi wa aqibati amri fasrifhu anni wasrifni anhu waqdir liyal-khayra haythu kâna thumma ardini.

Translation

“O Allah, verily I seek the better [of either choice] from You, by Your knowledge, and I seek ability from You, by Your power, and I ask You from Your immense bounty. For indeed You have power, and I am powerless; You have knowledge and I know not; You are the Knower of the unseen realms. O Allah, if You know that this matter is good for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then decree it for me, facilitate it for me, and grant me blessing in it. And if You know that this matter is bad for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then turn it away from me and me from it; and decree for me better than it, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.”

Looking for signs

One should suspend one’s own judgement or inclination about the particular matter, and wait for Allah to show one a sign or to make things happen in a way that indicates what to do. When one is not clear about the result of the istikhara, the fuqaha mention that it is recommend to repeat it, up to 7 times if necessary (usually done on separate occasions). [cf: Radd al-Muhtar].

Shaykh Nuh Keller mentions that the more one prays the istikhara prayer, the clearer its answers become to one. He prays it for all matters, even things one would not imagine doing istikhara for.

It is not necessary that you get a dream or even a “feeling.” Rather, the istikhara is a prayer that Allah guide you towards that which is best (khayr) for you. If you do the prayer of guidance (istikhara) with the proper manners, the most important of which is to truly consign the matter to Allah and suspend your own inclinations, then Allah will make events unfold in the direction that is the best for your worldly and next-worldly affairs.

When unable to offer salah

In general, when it is not possible to perform the istikhara prayer itself (such as when one is out on the road, or in one’s menstrual period), it is recommended to simply read the dua itself. [Radd al-Muhtar]

For even the smallest things

The great Hanafi scholar and hadith expert from Aleppo, Shaykh Abdullah Sirajal-Din mentions in his book on the virtues of prayer that it is the way of many Sufis, including Shaykh al-Akbar Muhiyyuddin Ibn al-Arabi (Allah sanctify his secret), to pray the istikhara prayer at the beginning of their day, after sunrise, asking Allah to guide them in general to all good and to keep away all evil from them.

Istikhara gives the best answer, for one’s worldly and religious life (not worldly life alone), when coupled with another essential sunna: istishara (seeking sound counsel) of those worthy of being consulted and taking the sound means of assessing the situation at hand.

Imam al-Nawawi mentioned that before the istikhara prayer, one should seek advice from those whose knowledge, wisdom, and concern one is confident. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and others mentioned that one of the benefits of this is to further distance oneself from the desires of one’s own egotistic inclinations.

The istikhara prayer may be made for a specific matter or be made for a general seeking of all that is best. Some scholars, including Imam Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha`rani and Ibn `Arafah before him saw this kind of istikhara prayer as being superior. Others, including Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi, recommended performing a general istikhara prayer for all that is good every day, ideally at the time of the Duha prayer (after sunrise).

One should be pleased with what Allah chooses for one, and not seek to follow one’s whims after the answer to one’s supplication becomes clear. We ask Allah to give us beneficial knowledge, and the success to act upon it in the way most beloved to Him, on the footsteps of His beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Listen to Shaykh Faraz debunk common misconceptions about istikhara in this SeekersHub podcast, including

  • Misconception 1: Istikhara is a prayer in matters of marriage
  • Misconception 2: The signs come in the form of dreams
  • Misconception 3: A sinful person must ask a pious person to perform the prayer on his behalf
  • Misconception 4: Istikhara is only for the big decisions, not small matters

Resources on istikhara and other related matters