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I Struggle with Thoughts of Disbelief and Suicide

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil is asked about despair and contemplating suicide from being a lone Muslim.

I struggle with thoughts of disbelief and suicide. I have non-Muslim family members and feel so guilty when I spend time with them during Christmas and so on. I feel ashamed about telling them I am Muslim, because of ISIS.

I have so much uncontrolled anger because I am overwhelmed by my problems. Sometimes I wish I was not brought into existence. I wish for new type of prayer because I’ve been humiliated badly in grade 7, and whenever I want to pray, my mind starts to flashback and then I start to feel shy, embarrassed and then I stop praying,

Can I meet the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and ask him to reverse time? I have so many regrets. My grandfather died a Christian and I am so sad.

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us. Please forgive me for the delay.

Suicidal Thoughts

Dear questioner, you sound like you are in a tremendous amount of pain.

Do you have a plan to end your life? If so, I urge you to please seek professional help. At a very minimum, please contact a suicide or mental health hotline in your locality. You need to speak to someone compassionate, to help you break the cycle of despair in your mind.

Thoughts of Disbelief

It may be useful for you to seek out culturally-sensitive counseling to help you manage and eventually overcome these thoughts which plague you.

Please continue a daily litany of repentance and other duas to help protect you from these thoughts: Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long.

Please refer to these links to help start your journey towards healing:

Getting Therapy for Irreligious Thoughts
Having Seriously Evil Thoughts
Types of Thought, Blasphemy, and Sin

Uncontrolled Anger

Please read this resource about the Anger Iceberg. You are lugging around so much unresolved pain, which contributes to you feeling so triggered, so often. When you start to release that pain, then will slowly feel less angry.

I encourage you to try some calming meditations, specifically, Islamic Meditations by Shaykh Muhammad Mendes.

Prayer

I am so sorry that you were so shamed for praying in public while you were in Grade 7. May Allah help you heal from this, and increase you in reward for your struggles.

There is no way for prayer to be changed, but perhaps there are ways you can find a private, secure place to pray. Could you speak to your school counsellor about what happened, and ask him/her to facilitate a safe place for you to pray?

Past Trauma

I urge you to contact Sidi Zuhair Girash of Aafiyah Healing. He is a compassionate and wise Muslim holistic healer who can help you, insha Allah. He can help you loosen the grip of your past trauma, and help you live more easily in the present moment.

It sounds like beneath your anger lies deep feelings of shame, powerlessness and sadness. There are ways to overcome this, with the right help.

Reversal of Time

Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Sura al-Furqan, 25:70)

A wise high school teacher told me once that instead of a “rewind” button for life, Allah gave us something better – He gives us the gift of repentance. Please know that Allah can transform all of your bad deeds into good deeds.

No matter what happened in your past, know that Allah’s Mercy is greater than that. He loves you, even with all of your imperfections.

Non-Muslim Family Members in Hellfire

Only Allah knows where any of us end up in the Afterlife. Because you are already in a troubled mental state, I urge you not to dwell on the fate of your grandfather.

Trust in the Mercy of your Creator. It is not difficult for Allah to have created belief in your grandfather’s heart, before he passed away, for example.

Please seek comfort from this: How to Deal With a Non-Muslim Relative’s Death.

Christmas and Other Festivals

Please know that because you have non-Muslim family members, then it is very important for you to be part of their lives, and attend their festivals. Please attend the social aspects of these gatherings and avoid the religious components, as best as you can.

Please seek comfort from these answers Is Christmas Haram? Being Muslim in a Non-Muslim Family and Partaking in a Thanksgiving Dinner: Permitted or Not?

Meeting The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him

Narrated Anas, may Allah be pleased with him: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever has seen me in a dream, then no doubt, he has seen me, for Satan cannot imitate my shape.’ (Bukhari)

One interpretation of this is that one will see him in this life in one’s waking state. (Fath al-Bari)

I pray that you do see the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in a dream. Know that his heart is connected to yours, he feels your deepest acutely, and he is making dua for you. I encourage you to be open to the winds of mercy from God, even if they do not fit your current rigid concept. Rigidity comes from fear and pain – you have endured a huge amount of suffering. Flexibility and openness comes from surrender.

I pray that Allah eases your terrible burden of pain. Please know that you will will feel better, some day soon. It will not always hurt this much. Please choose to keep alive, so that one day, you will look back at your younger self with compassion and love.

You may not believe me right now, but because you have endured so much, you will be able to offer so much comfort to other broken-hearted souls.

Please write back if you need any more help.

Please also see A Reader on the Problem of Evil, Suffering, Destiny, and Allah’s Mercy and A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah.

Raidah

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Feeling Discouraged about Marriage

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil answers concerns about not feeling acceptable as a potential spouse.

I am an American college student trying to finish half my din. I have maintained haya all my life and avoided speaking unnecessarily with men, so I asked my parents to help me search. Unfortunately I’ve been met with rejection before I’ve even been introduced as a prospect.

Men have remarked on how they don’t want a hijabi, they don’t want someone with such dark skin, they are only attracted to Europeans, I am too religious, I am not religious enough, I am too educated, I am not educated enough etc.

I see girls much younger than me marrying remarkable men with ease. I feel like there is something wrong with me. How do I keep my head up? I always dreamed of being a wife and mother in my early twenties but it seems this is no longer possible.

I am not willing to stray from the din or remove my hijab to please a man, nor can I change the way I look and my race. Should I even continue to think of marriage? It seems I am unwanted.

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.

Self-doubt Trap

“And whoever submits his self to Allah and is good in deeds, he in fact holds on to the strongest ring. Towards Allah is the ultimate end of all matters.” (Sura Luqman 31:22)

Dear sister, please know that there is nothing wrong with you. You sound intelligent, kind, and most of all, God-fearing. Your future husband will be so blessed to have you as his wife, and the mother of his children.

Please do not allow the comments of ignorant men get you down. You are a believer, and worthy of every good.

Unfortunately, many traumatized Muslim families produce sons who carry deep-seated feelings of post-colonial shame. They feel that lighter-skinned women who are not in hijab make better wife material. This is their baggage speaking, and it is not your burden to bear. This is not the kind of family you want to marry into.

Keep your heart focused on what pleases Allah, and know that He will never let you down.

Breaking Our Attachments

Many of us get attached to different ideas, and when they do not happen, we become heartbroken. I encourage you to let go of your hope to be a mother and a wife in your twenties, and instead, hold onto the fact that Allah will bless you with marriage and children when He deems best.

If this gives you any comfort, please know that I married my husband at 28. I had my first child when I was 31, and my second when I was 34. I would have been a terrible mother in my twenties even though I really wanted kids. Allah needed me to work through my issues before blessing me with my two little daughters. AlhamduliLlah, His Wisdom eclipsed my own short-sightedness.

Of course, this is my story. You have your own. Instead of wondering if there is something wrong with you, perhaps you can ask yourself a different question. What is Allah trying to teach you? What are some character traits you can improve? What are some gaps in your knowledge that you can fill in?

Preparing for Marriage

I encourage you to complete this course, while you have the time and energy. Marriage in Islam: Practical Guidance for Successful Marriages.

Please perform the Prayer of Need in the last third of the night, every night, for a loving husband who has both din and good character.

Please read Sura al-Waqi‘a as regularly as you can, with the intention of increasing your rizq, namely, husband and children.

Reflections on Seasons in Life

Dear sister, I remember being a single student of knowledge in Amman, ten years ago. I was in my twenties, and really wanted to get married.

A wise older friend told me that life comes in seasons. This season of your life may feel like a winter, when you so want it to be spring. So, make the most of your winter. Buckle down, and nourish yourself with the courses and podcasts on SeekersGuidance. May the good seeds you plant now come to fruition when the time is right.

Use the time and energy that you have now to be of service to your family and wider community. One day, I pray that you will be a wife and a mother. You will exhausted beyond imagination, but you will be content too, insha Allah.

In the meantime, everything you are learning now will help you in those roles. Trust in Allah’s timing, and in His Mercy. He knows exactly what you need, even if it may not be what you want.

I pray that Allah blesses you with the gift of marriage, motherhood, patience, and contentment.

Please see Love, Marriage and Relationships in Islam: All Your Questions Answered.

Raidah

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Celebrating The Arrival of Puberty With Your Daughter

Writer, women’s aid worker and mother of three, Jazmin Begum Kennedy has little patience for the sense of shame often attached to a girl experiencing puberty and menstruation. 
Puberty – yes, the dreaded P word – is such a daunting phase for parents, but it really shouldn’t be. Physical changes in the body, hair growth, body odour, and of course, the imminent first period, should be something to be celebrated, not an embarrassment. For girls, developing breasts and having their first period are major turning points in their lives; this is their transition from girl to womanhood, so why should there be shame attached to it?

Culture of Shame

In many cultures, society deems puberty for women as embarrassing, unclean and something no one should speak openly about. The physical changes in pubescent bodies can be traumatic and confusing for any girl, without having to face this stigma. Allowing our young girls to believe they should feel shame only adds to the stress and anxiety, possibly even leading them to despise their own bodies.
As grown women, we all know that menstruation isn’t exactly a walk in the park and so young, impressionable girls grow up dreading this life-changing event. It’s a crucial time and parents need to be actively involved in offering assistance and empathy.
balancing family

A Long List of Don’ts

In the South Asian culture I come from, we’re taught not to leave sanitary products in the family bathroom for fear of discovery by the menfolk – menstruation is a closely guarded secret of which the men must remain completely oblivious. A recent discussion on the Muslim Mamas page I help administer, revealed that many women were woken by their mothers for the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan (suhoor) while menstruating, even though they were religiously excused from fasting. If they didn’t join in, their father and brothers would know they had their period and this was an unthinkable option. Many lied about fasting and even pretended to offer the five daily prayers just to keep up the pretense.
It sounds ridiculous but it’s common in many cultures, not just mine. Menstruation is a fact of life. Every woman on this planet experiences it from puberty onwards so why all the secrecy?

The Example of The Prophet ﷺ

I read this remarkable story recently about Umayyah bint Qays (may Allah be pleased with her) a pre-pubescent girl who joined the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his army on their way to Khaybar.

“Then we set out with him. I was a young girl. He made me sit on his she-camel behind the luggage. I saw the bag had got traces of blood from me. It was the first time I had a period. Then I sat forward on the camel [to hide it] and I was embarrassed. When the Messenger of God saw what happened to me and the traces of blood, he said, “Perhaps you have had menstrual bleeding?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Attend to yourself. Then, take a container of water, then put salt in it, then wash the affected part of the bag, then come back.” I did so. When God conquered Khaybar for us, the Prophet took this necklace that you see on my neck and gave it to me and put it on my neck with his own hand. By God it will never be parted from me.” She wore the necklace her entire life and stipulated that she should be buried with it.

SubhanAllah, this young girl started her first period, on a camel, away from her womenfolk, surrounded by men including the greatest man that ever walked the earth. When the Prophet ﷺ saw the blood, he didn’t embarrass her nor shout, “Astaghfirullah! Haraam! You should be at home, with your mother!” Instead of ordering her to leave, as she was now mature, he taught her about purification at that moment in time. He didn’t scold her or accuse her of being a fitnah, nor tell her to cover up more; instead, he made this embarrassed young girl feel honoured and special by giving her a gift. How many men – or even women, do we know, who would react that way?
In contrast, we are mortified if the tiniest drop of blood leaks onto our clothing. We are often mocked, our self-esteem takes a hit and we become painfully self-conscious. In some cultures, menstruating women are even told they should keep out of sight.

Mass Re-Education is Required

I firmly believe that we need to educate people on the blessings of menstruation. During Ramadan, menstruating women are not handicapped in their attainment of rewards. The angels continuously write down their good deeds so long as the women are performing these in order to please Allah. It is the one time Allah has exempted us from obligatory prayers – this “break” is an ideal time to reflect and recuperate.
We can’t remove the stigma associated with menstruation overnight as it is the result of deeply ingrained attitudes in both men and women, but as parents, particularly mothers, change can begin in our own homes. Mothers are the first friends and teachers. It’s our role to guide our children – don’t leave this important task with the teachers at school.
We need to mentally prepare our girls, reassuring them that the changes are natural, and support them every step of the way. Instead of an awkward, uncomfortable time, we should make it a happy transition to womanhood. Yes, menstruation can be difficult for some but none of it is unsurmountable.

Be Prepared

Here are my suggestions as to how, as mothers, we can make the transition as smooth as possible.
1. Communicate: Talk to your daughter. You went through this yourself so you shouldn’t be embarrassed to openly discuss bodily changes. In this confusing and emotional time, she needs your experience, wisdom and gentle support. Her hormones will cause havoc with her emotions and it can all be overwhelming, so be there for her and explain it all in an easy-to-follow manner.
2. Pubic Hair: Show your daughter how to remove pubic hair and teach her how often, Islamically, she is required to remove it. Try several methods of hair removal to find the one that ismost comfortable for her. Discuss personal hygiene. Turn the issue of sweat and body odour associated with puberty into fun mother and daughter time as she tries out different products with you.
3. First Bra: Take your daughter for her first bra fitting. On the Muslim Mamas page, many mums said they found shopping for such personal items embarrassing. Many recalled their own experience of puberty as just being given vests and bras to wear with no explanation and so, they planned to do the same with their own daughters. Let’s break the pattern. Remember, Imam Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘Do not raise your children the way your parents raised you; they were born for a different time’.

4. Menstruation: Discuss all the dos and don’ts of menstruation. The average age for puberty used to be 11 or 12 but girls are experiencing it as early as 8 or 9 these days. Ensure you prepare her well in advance so it’s not unexpected and frightening for her. Puberty at this age is more difficult as children rarely think about personal hygiene, let alone the added responsibility of changing sanitary towels, keeping themselves clean and properly disposing of the pads. Lighten the load by instructing them carefully. Buy a separate bin for them and create a space for all their cleaning products.
5. Inform The Men. You don’t need to announce it to the world; we must still practice haya but fathers and brothers need to be aware of the changes in their daughter or sister. If she isn’t praying or fasting due to menstruation, then tell them rather than hide it. It’s much easier to inform them in advance than to have them ask about it. If you explain menstruation to a brother, then he’s far more likely to show his sister and other girls respect and not ask insensitive questions. It’s imperative that boys learn never to mock as doing so causes anxiety and self-consciousness.
6. Learn: Enroll into a Fiqh of Menstruation course. If your daughter is old enough, have her join you. Use this opportunity to bond with her and be sure to end it with dessert. Your daughter will always remember the sweetness of the day. Buy a comprehensive book on this subject. I would recommend Ustadha Hedaya Hartford’s Coming of Age, a book aimed at teenage girls. There’s also Imam Birgivi’s Manual Interpreted: Complete Fiqh of Menstruation & Related Issues. This book is the explanative translation of a major Islamic legal work on menstruation, lochia, and related issues. It provides accurate information and practical arrangement of charts and texts making it an important reference for every Muslim family.
7. Be Prepared: After having the ‘talk’ with your daughter, prepare a beautiful hamper containing things she will need for the coming of age phase. Here’s the First Blush of Womanhood hamper I created for my daughter.

It contains,

  • A Muslim Girl’s Guide to Life’s Big Changes
  • Dua book
  • First bra, crop vests, and tight, full briefs for when she’s menstruating
  • Girly nighties and pretty pyjamas
  • Pretty nightgown and slippers
  • Sanitary towels, both disposable and reusable pads. With the disposable pads, I recommend the cheaper brands as they don’t contain harsh chemicals.
  • Heart shaped hot water bottle to ease cramps
  • Chocolate for comfort
  • Himalayan salt and organic deodorants, body sprays, body wash set, intimate wash, and lots of organic facial cleaning products. Buy as many natural products as possible to avoid the harsh chemicals. I use Sunnah Skincare as their products are organic and reasonably priced.
  • Pretty flannel to match bath towels
  • Bath gloves
  • Pretty nail clipper set
  • Scented drawer liners
  • Sensitive hair removal cream, first shaving kit or hair trimmer

Make this hamper an exciting gift, and use it as an opportunity to show your willingness as a parent to involve yourself actively in this special phase of her life.

Jazmin Begum Kennedy (JBK) is a ‘Qualified Housewife.’ By day she is a mother, wife and teacher; by night she wages war against oppressors and writes books. She is an experienced teacher of primary and secondary education, an acclaimed professional artist (JBK Arts) and published author of Mercy Like the Raindrops, Blessed Bees, No School Today and the upcoming novel, Fifteen. Jazmin is an online counsellor specialising in domestic abuse, rape and child abuse. She also physically helps victims of domestic violence flee their abusive marriages. She is the co-founder of the Nisa Foundation, working as a women’s aid worker for victims of domestic violence. JBK currently homeschools her three children, whilst managing a network for Home Educators in the Greater Manchester area of the United Kingdom.

Mother and daughter by the lake, by Chris Wood.

 

Resources on puberty, parenting and related issues