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7 Resolutions to Revitalize Your Marriage

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By Dunia Shuaib

 

25_74

And those who say, “Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” [25:74]

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It’s a minute before midnight. January 1st, 2016… The palpable feeling of excitement of a new beginning, a fresh start sets in. Some wait for that moment to erase the mistakes of the past, and start over. “This year will be different. It’s going to be great! I feel it!” some say, as they think up resolutions. This lasts for a few days at best, before we begin to make excuses and say, “Insha’Allah next year, 2017.”

It happens to the best of us. Last night, my Facebook feed was covered in posts about change as my friends posted their new year’s resolutions varying from some form of weight loss or health goals to increasing organizational skills to spiritual goals. And though these are all great personal and individual aspirations, I thought to myself, with the growing rate of divorce amongst Muslims, why not create relationship resolutions?

There is no need to wait until the ball drops in Times Square. Your new year begins when you decide to make change, be it January 1st or March 21st. So why not now? Today is a perfect time to sit down with your spouse and set some resolutions for revitalizing and improving your marriage (or any other familial, social or professional relationship). These may be the most important set of resolutions you can make this year.

We need to know that it’s not going to be easy; like with everything else in life, if you want something great, you need to work for it.  Remember that we are doing this for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and with the intention of gaining reward from Him subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Insha’Allah we find the strength to overcome shaytan and our nafs, as shaytan is determined to ensure you don’t fix your relationship with your spouse.

Jabir reported:

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, Iblees placed his throne over the water and then he sends out his troops. The nearest to him are the greatest at causing tribulations. One of them says: I have done this and this. Iblees says: You have done nothing. Another says: I did not leave this person until I caused discord between him and his wife. Iblees says: You have done well.” [Sahih Muslim, 2813]

That being said, I sat down and made my own set of seven resolutions that I would like to share with you in hopes that insha’Allah they may improve, and maybe even save, your marriage. No matter where you are in your marriage journey, whether you have a happy and healthy relationship or are experiencing some difficulty, these seven resolutions are for you.

1. Forgive and FORGET

Muslim love

Many studies have shown that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who do not. A very wise person once said, “A happy marriage is a union of two good forgivers.” The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” [At-Tirmidhi]

We all make mistakes so, starting today, overcome shaytan’s whispers and strive to forgive your spouse as soon as they apologize. There are so many verses in the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) which encourage us to forgive. Don’t hold on to a grudge or bring up the past. Holding on to grudges harms your own health by acting as a chronic stressor. Just let go and forgive your spouse; do it for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Remember the man at the time of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who walked into the masjid for three days in a row and the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that he was from the people of paradise. Abdullah bin ‘Amr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) wanted to know what quality this man possessed that made the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) say that about him, so he spent three nights with that man. He noticed that the man did not pray the optional night prayers during any of these nights, but if he woke up during the night, he would simply mention Allah. So before he left, he asked him what he did that was so special that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) identified him as a man of Jannah. The man replied: “My deeds are nothing more than what you saw.” When Abdullah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) left, he called him back in and said: “My deeds are nothing more than what you saw, but the only thing I do is that I do not hold any grudge against any Muslim or envy anyone for what bounties Allah has granted them”; thereupon ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said to him: “This difficult quality to obtain is what granted you this rank.” [Ahmed] So start forgiving, as this will lead to a happier self, a happier marriage and ultimately Jannah, insha’Allah!

2. Spend More QUALITY Time Together

Unfortunately, many couples find themselves spending very little time together. Date night, breakfast together, cuddling on the sofa… All things which might have been something you did years ago, have now seemingly disappeared. Instead, you now sit in separate rooms scrolling through your phones/tablets/computers. It is time to turn off your gadgets (including the TV), and just sit, talk, and listen. Remember the key is to give your spouse your undivided attention. Whenever the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spoke to someone or when someone spoke to him, he would turn his body and his face towards them, and give them his undivided attention. He would often touch them and repeat what the person said, so that they knew that he was actively listening.

Invest, invest, invest! Research shows that in most happy and long-lasting marriages, couples spend at least 5 hours per week of quality time together. No matter how tired you are at the end of the day or on theweekend, remember to nurture your marriage by making time for each other. Even the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), with his busy schedule, made time every day to spend with each of his wives. Spend some time together every day. It can be doing something simple like going for a walk together, having a cup of coffee or tea together, going out on a formal date, or it can even just be a commitment to sit together on the couch and talk to each other without your devices for 15 minutes.

Whatever you do, make time for your marriage. Pick a day each week to do something out of the house, just the two of you. Make it a priority and don’t cancel that date. And if something comes up, take a moment to reschedule it. If you had an important meeting at work, you would do whatever it takes to move things around your calendar to ensure that you can make it.  Make time for your spouse and, ultimately, make time for your marriage. The more time you invest in your marriage, the more it will grow and flourish.

3. Say “I love you” EVERY DAY

Muslim love

Many times it is easy to assume that our spouse knows we love them. But there are so many different ways to say and show that you love them. This year, don’t let a day go by without saying it. Resolve to say, “I love you” in a special way every day. Before you leave to work, pair it with a kiss, send a text, leave a letter on your spouse’s desk or in their purse. There are so many ways to express your love… get creative and use your imagination.

It was narrated from Anas ibn Malik:

A man was with the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when another man passed by and he said: O Messenger of Allah, I love this man. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to him: “Have you told him?” He said: “No.” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Tell him.” So he caught up with the man and said: “I love you for the sake of Allah.” The man said: “May the one for Whose sake you love me also love you” [Sunan Abi Dawud, 5125].  In some reports of the hadeeth it says: “Tell him for it will strengthen the love between you” [Narrated by Ibn Abi’l-Dunya in al-Ikhwaan].  The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “If one of you loves his brother for the sake of Allah, let him tell him, for it does good and makes the love last” [Al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1199]

4. Criticize LESS Compliment MORE

When it comes to criticism,  most people dislike it immensely. No one wants to be criticized. Criticism can be hurtful when you spend a lot of time with someone. It becomes easy to overlook the things that are great about them and focus on bad habits. Unfortunately, that is when we start criticizing our partner and hurting them deeply. Instead of dwelling on your spouse’s bad habits and attacking their character, focus on what they do right and remind yourself of the reasons you fell in love with them. Then remind him or her! Couples who have been together for a long time tend to forget to compliment one another. Be generous in giving compliments. It’s amazing how a person will light up with kind words. Compliment your spouse on their looks, personality, and the things they do. When they do something right, let them know. That will bring out a genuine smile from your spouse. Try to reduce criticism and to compliment your spouse at least once a day.

5. Show/Communicate APPRECIATION

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “He has not thanked Allah who has not thanked people” [Sunan Abu Dawud, 4811]

It’s natural to fall into habits in a marriage and forget to verbally express your appreciation to your spouse. We all tend to do this from time to time, especially when we get so busy and consumed by everything else going on around us. We start to just assume that our partner “should” take out the trash or “should” cook dinner, instead of remembering to appreciate the fact that they did. Using words of appreciation seems like such a simple thing to do, but it slips away in many marriages. Make a resolution together to appreciate the little things you do for one other.  Do your best to show your appreciation for all the big and small things, and genuinely speak words of encouragement, thanks and love to your spouse.

There are many ways you can express your appreciation. Try a hand-written thank you note from time to time. Acknowledge them publicly. Give them a thank you hug. Make duaa for them. One of the most beautiful and simple duaa you can make for them is “JazakAllahu khairan.” The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “He who is favored by another and says to his benefactor: ‘Jazak-Allah khairan (may Allah reward you well)’ indeed has done his utmost to thank him” [At-Tirmidhi].

Thank them with a gift and remember, it’s not about the material value but, rather, it’s about the thought that went into it. Abu Huraira reported:

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Give each other gifts and you will love each other” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, 594]

This doesn’t have to be something huge and extravagant. Small tokens of appreciation, like their favorite chocolate, a thank you card with a personal note, or even making them something, will have a huge impact. Tell them right away. Don’t let a good deed go unnoticed. For the best effect, recognize them and thank them as soon as possible. If you wait too long, they may feel overlooked and unappreciated.

Be happy around them, as nothing shows appreciation like a genuine smile. Smiling is an impactful way to let your spouse know that you truly appreciate what they’ve done and that they’ve made your life better somehow. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “When you smile to your brother’s face, it is charity” [At-Tirmidhi] SMILE! Research has shown that smiling, even when you don’t particularly want to, will make you, and the person you smile at, happier.

6. Random Acts of KINDNESS

muslim love

Aisha, the wife of Allah’s Apostle ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), reported that Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “O Aisha, Allah is kind and He loves kindness in all matters” [Sahih Bukhari, 6528]

Happy and stable marriages have two key factors: couples treat each other with kindness and generosity, and they don’t keep tabs on each other. Don’t think of kindness as a trait you either have or you don’t; think of it as a muscle. We all are born with the kindness muscle, and though some are naturally stronger than others, strength is built by frequently and consistently using it. Although it is hard to be kind during disagreements or stressful moments, that is when it is most important for the health of your relationship.  Be generous with your kindness, your forgiveness, your love, your time, your hugs, your kisses and your words of appreciation and praise. Not only will your spouse love you more, but you will grow to love your spouse more.

I know our schedules are busy and it’s challenging to change, but try to be mindful of things your partner generally does and do it instead. This can be really easy: take out the garbage, do an errand, help the children with their homework, or simply bring home a dessert next time you’re at the supermarket.

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Every act of kindness is sadaqa. Part of kindness is that you offer your brother a cheerful face and you pour some of your bucket into his water vessel” [Al-Albani].

“Whoever does you a favor, respond in kind and, if you cannot find the means of doing so, then keep praying for him until you think that you have responded in kind” [Abu Dawud].

7. Get Rid of Unrealistic EXPECTATIONS

So now you’ve made your resolutions and you’re excited to start. But I’d like to remind you of an important point that’ll save your good intentions from going to the Resolution Archives – keep it practical. Any expectation of your spouse turning into Mr. or Mrs. Perfect overnight is impossible! Make your spouse feel valued and important along the way. Discuss plans and strategies to implement the change you want to see in your marriage. Realize that, like with anything in life, you need consistent efforts over time to see any results; these aren’t magical quick fix solutions! The good news is that insha’Allah the changes you do see eventually will be long-lasting and well worth the effort.

Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little” [Sahih al-Bukhari, 6464]

Time to GET STARTED… make the intention, start today and know that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will help you along the way, insha’Allah!

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“…If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them…”


 

Ustadha Dunia Shuaib holds a Masters of Science degree in counseling. She also completed Suffa Islamic Seminary and is currently working towards a doctorate in Islamic Studies. Dunia is a marriage educator/coach, radio show host of Deen with Dunia, lecturer and author. She combines her knowledge of Islam and psychology to help Muslims who are striving to create and maintain a harmonious relationship between their deen and dunya. Learn more about her at  http://duniashuaib.com and http://facebook.com/deenwithdunia.

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        Mental Health & COVID-19: Light, Guidance, & Much Love | Part 1

        Insha’Allah, you and your loved ones are safe & healthy. May Allah swt protect us all from COVID-19, Ya Hafidh, and open the way for our spiritual growth, Ya Fattah Ya Rabb. No doubt, we are living in very challenges times, and many in our community are suffering. As such, my intention for this two-part series is to provide some beneficial perspectives and practical strategies that will make your emotional journey safer & easier, insha’Allah.

        And a journey it surely is. We are on a very long hike up a very steep mountain. And we have only two choices about HOW we approach this challenge: unskillfully or skillfully. If we wear flip-flops, and fail to pack water and snacks, we will have a very difficult time reaching the summit. And if we do, we will be in very bad shape. If we wear good socks, sturdy hiking boots, and our backpack is well-stocked, not only are we likely to reach the summit, but reach it in great shape. This is what I want for our beloved community, insha’Allah.

        As Muslims, it is crucial to remember that the ultimate summit is the hereafter. Truly, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our goal and pleasing Him is our aim. Truly, everything we do or fail to do here has an impact there. For many people, this haqq is much more difficult to remember and actualize when their day-to-day challenges are daunting. This is why historically and traditionally, in times of crisis, Muslims have always sought the nasiha of wise elders. Imam Muhasibi, the father of Islamic Psychology, developed this crucial, beautiful science in response to the human needs of his students. Sadly, the loss of these teachings as a widespread living tradition has contributed in large part to the widespread mental-health problems that have been plaguing our community for a very long time, which have now been exacerbated by COVID-19.

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        The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

        Here’s a good metaphor. The science of nutrition teaches us about our body, the properties of different foods, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum physical health. Likewise, the science of mental health teaches us about our heart and mind, the impact of specific activities, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital psychological nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum mental health. Lack of knowledge about Islamic Psychology and the absence of the vital psychological nutrients have taken a huge toll on our community. The stories I hear would probably shock you. They would certainly break your heart. Especially the stories of our young people, who are my top priority. Insha’Allah, the wake-up call of COVID-19 propels us to reclaim en masse this lost part of our spiritual heritage, so we can reclaim our vitality and nobility as the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

        To continue with the metaphor. Working one-on-one with an experienced nutritionist is very different than reading a book about nutrition. With the former, your nutritional program is specifically tailored to your particular problems, challenges, habits, and temperament. The same is true when it comes to mental health. So I must manage your expectations honestly and honorably by saying that it is not possible for me to do in two articles for the general public what I do one-on-one in my private practice as a psychotherapist, life-coach, and spiritual mentor. Truly, there is a palpable, powerful, fitrah-based alchemy that can only happen when two human hearts link-up in real time. That said, in the same way that reading and learning about nutrition is very beneficial, so too reading and learning about mental health, especially now.

        Working Skillfully with Difficult Emotions

        No doubt, COVID-19 has unleashed a wide range of very difficult emotions. People are struggling with tremendous anxiety, uncertainty, fear, sadness, loneliness, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, confusion, grief, despair, and in some cases, a full-blown crisis of faith. So let me explain a little bit about emotions and how to work with them skillfully  

        One of the foundational principles of cognitive-behavioral psychology is called ‘reframing.’

        It is the process of deliberately thinking differently about our situation. Reframing it. The fact is, the lens through which we view our circumstances makes all the difference in the world insofar as how we feel. Thoughts are like the front wheels of the car and feelings are like the back wheels. We must be in the driver seat, steering intentionally. Whichever way the front wheels turn, the back wheels follow. So paying attention to our thoughts moment by moment, and making sure they are aligned with the Qur’an and Sunnah, is crucial. The mind is a like a muscle that MUST be trained through specific exercises, and our tradition is rich in the techniques for doing so. Truly, we must hit the spiritual gym regularly. The heavy lifting of muhasiba (self-reckoning) and muraqaba (mindfulness/meditation) are not optional. If these are not already a consistent part of your spiritual practice, NOW is the time to take them up. You will be so happy you did!

        Here’s a good metaphor. If you are a longtime couch potato, even a flight of stairs leaves you huffing and puffing. If you are in good shape, you’re able to jog around the block easily. If you’re in great shape, you’re able to leap over the hurdles like a gazelle. For many, COVID-19 has been like asking a couch potato to run a marathon. So we need to get in the best spiritual shape possible as quickly as possible. To that end:

        The Centering Exercise 

        Every time you notice that you are feeling sad, anxious, fearful, angry, hopeless, helpless, impatient, frustrated, confused, or depressed, here’s what to do.  

        • Turn off your devices and put them in another room.
        • Close your door and put a “Please do not disturb.” sign on the doorknob. Lay down.
        • Close your eyes. Turn your attention to your heart. Remember the Hadith Qudsi, “Heaven and earth cannot contain me but the heart of my faithful believer is where I reside.” Truly, Allah is closer than our jugular vein. (50:16)
        • Take some slow-deep breaths. On the out-breath, silently recite “La illaha.” On the in-breath, silently recite “il Allah.” After a few minutes, notice the shift in your state. Notice the deep connection between ‘self’ and ‘breath’, not just experientially, but also etymologically. They both derive from the same Arabic root, transliterated nfs.   
        • When you are centered, mentally review what you had been thinking about that gave rise to the difficult emotions.  Then do a ‘search and replace,’ deliberately and intentionally replacing your dark thoughts with the Light of The Qur’an or Hadith. Here is one example: Search: “I’ll never get through this.” Replace: “Allah never burdens a person with more than he is well able to bear.” (2:286)

        As individuals, we each have our own particular dark thoughts. NOW is the BEST time to fix them. I lovingly encourage you to get a blank journal, so that each time you do The Centering Exercise, you can make note of what you observed, what you learned about yourself. Write down each dark thought and then write down each Rx of Light from The Qur’an or Sunnah. Having a personal journal gives you a concrete means of reinforcing your new thought patterns. 

        We know from our neuroscience that the human brain possesses ‘neuroplasticity’, which is the capacity to be shaped, molded, changed. As such, the more often you do The Centering Exercise, the more your thinking patterns will change. This is how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created us, mash’Allah! It’s really quite amazing to realize that the Qur’an we’ve been given provides Light upon Light from The Lord of The Worlds. And the Sunnah is that Light fully actualized to perfection, mash’Allah. The fact is, no matter how dark a room may be, if we light just one candle, it illuminates the space. Mash’Allah!

        Parents, once you get the hang of The Centering Exercise, please please teach it to your children! Insha’Allah, make it the new normal in your household, transforming discord and upset into harmony and peace.

        Say “Ameen!”

        Divine Reminders

        Insofar as reframing COVID-19 in the broader sense, I offer you this lens, this Divine Reminder, with much love. May it shift your state from embittered to empowered. My beloved sisters and brothers, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our Rabb, our Teacher, and COVID-19 is the Test we’ve all been given. Every single human being on the planet. We all woke up one day, walked into the classroom of Life, and got handed a pop quiz. The purpose of which is to show us the places where we weren’t prepared. This is great! Because the trumpet is absolutely going to sound, and we surely want to be ready. As long as we’re breathing, we have time to prepare. This is great!

        Say “Ameen!” 

        Beloved ones, we have the incredible privilege of being students of The One Who Knows Everything, including The Future and The Unseen.  It is very bad adab to question the teaching methods of our Teacher or to complain that we don’t like the Test.

        This was the fatal mistake of Bani Israel that we are reminded 17x/day not to emulate. On the contrary, what we want to be asking ourselves is: “What must I do to pass this Test with flying colors, to ace this Exam?” Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between.” (38:27)  This pandemic is not some random event. It has a divine purpose. There is deep meaning in it. 

        There is also enormous rahmah in it. Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “…My mercy embraces everything.” (7:156) The Divine Physician has dispensed this bitter medicine to heal us. To heal the whole world from its longstanding imbalances and injustices. Surely, it is no accident, the timing of COVID-19 vis-à-vis the murder of George Floyd and the global response it has galvanized.  Surely, every human being wants to and deserves to breathe.

        COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the whole world. Ours to do as students is to be fully present in each moment, to practice mindfulness (muraqaba), so we can be deeply receptive to the Lessons we are meant to learn (muhasiba). Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11) Beloved ones, NOW is the time for global tawbah (repentance). As the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), this is our Divine Assignment, individually, collectively, institutionally. 

        My vision and personal commitment is that we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of this, insha’Allah. I can say this with great confidence because first and foremost, I know that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not out of business! The presence of The Presence, the power of the Names & Attributes, are as robust as ever. 

        We are being summoned to recognize our hubris and turn our hearts in humility toward The One Who Is In Charge, The One Who Calls The Shots, to The One Whose Decree we surrender. Humbly. Readily. Insha’Allah, NOW is the time to actualize the last part of Hadith Jibreel about qadr. The fact is, what’s happening around us is what’s happening, and this is always in the hands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). HOW we respond to what’s happening is entirely up to us.

        What I want for our community is the best possible response, the most skillful and beautiful response, the response that will be of maximum benefit here & hereafter, insha’Allah.

        I can also say this with great confidence because time and again, working with Muslim refugees who have been through horrific trauma, I have seen with my own eyes how absolutely amazing human beings are. How resilient. How courageous. How creative. How capable of transforming sorrow into joy, lemons into lemonade, compost into roses. This is what I want for you, my beloved sisters and brothers.

        No doubt, on any long and arduous journey, in addition to having the right equipment and supplies, having an experienced trail-guide makes all the difference. There is dangerous terrain you want to avoid, and beautiful vistas you don’t want to miss. In my experience over decades, I have observed that human beings thrive when we are given the right tools and the loving encouragement to master them.  So let me give you now some very practical guidelines to help you navigate skillfully, so you can extract from these precious days of your life what is meaningful & transformational. 

        Practical Strategies

        When it comes to protecting our physical health from the pandemic, there are certain steps we MUST take. Likewise with our mental health. As such, here are some practical strategies, culled from thousands of pages of research and decades of experience. My focus is on parents, whose job has never been more difficult. And with the new school year right around the corner, this guidance is extremely timely. 

        Boundaries: Set clear boundaries regarding where and when devices can be used. This applies to everyone in the household, kids and parents alike. Parents, as your elder who loves you, I am reminding you that YOU are the CEO of your home. YOU are the policy maker. YOU are in charge. NOT your kids or their devices. So take charge!

        • No devices for kids 0-3. These guidelines are from the American Pediatric Association. 
        • No devices at the dinner table* or in the bedrooms.
        • No devices until after Fajr. Better yet, after breakfast.
        • All devices put away 1-2 hours before bedtime. Plugged in in the kitchen to recharge.
        • Limit on-line entertainment and socializing to 1 hour/day MAX.
        • Schedule tech fasts ½ day weekly, and 1-2 full days monthly, on a weekend.
        • An occasional family-time movie is fine on the weekend. Choose something meaningful, uplifting, thought-provoking, heart-opening. Pop some popcorn. Make tea. Engage in a special time afterward to really talk together about your experience. *Getting in the habit of real-time-face-to-face conversations is crucial. If you start when your kids are young, it will lay a strong foundation for their teenage years, when they desperately need wise, trustworthy, caring adults who really know how to listen from the heart.

        Nature: Spending time in nature is the very best thing you can do for yourself and with your family. There are reams of data about the stress-reducing effects of being outdoors, especially in the woods. There are also reams of data about the benefits of exercise, not only for physical health, but for mental health. Given all the extra sitting everyone is doing during COVID-19, regular exercise is not optional. 

        Furthermore, if your kids are schooling from home and you are working from home, everyone will surely need some breathing room, some physical and emotional space from one another, some time every day in solitude, unplugged from their devices. Spending alone-time in nature is the perfect solution. 

        For family-time activities, unplug from your devices and enjoy these delightful experiences. They will engender tremendous awe (khushu’) and deepen your heart-connection with your Rabb, The One Who Created you and all the beauty around you. Subhan’Allah.

        • Take a 15-30 minute family-walk every night after dinner before homework.
        • Go hiking, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, kite-flying, or camping on the weekend.   
        • Set up bird feeders in your yard. Learn their names and identify their songs.
        • Go out nightly to look at the stars. Learn the names of the constellations.
        • Watch as many sunrises & sunsets, moonrises & moonsets as you can. 

        As Muslims, our worship is guided by the natural cycles Allah put in place. The sun is our clock. It tells us when to pray. The moon is our calendar. It tells us when the new month begins. Sighting the moon is an act of worship, mash’Allah.

        Divine Reminders

        Our beautiful Qur’an teaches:“We will show them Our Signs (ayat) in the universe and in their own selves, until it becomes clear to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth.” (Fussilat 41:53)

        In this ayah, we are taught the two beautiful gateways into the sacred: the macrocosm of the universe, and the microcosm of the self. Both of these gateways open into the direct experience of Allah’s presence. 

        As Muslims, we have been invited to spend time in this dunya in the company of The One Who is Love (al-Wadud). The One Who is Strength (al-Aziz). The One Who is Peace (as-Salaam). And on & on. What could be more beneficial during this time of crisis? Alas, calling upon our Rabb by His most Beautiful Names, with urgency & sincerity, is one of the Lessons we must learn from COVID-19.  My prayer for our community is that people do not squander the opportunity to connect in a deep, meaningful, intimate way heart-to-heart with Allah because they can’t put their phone down or turn their computer off. Insha’Allah, I will address the subject of digital addiction in the second article, as it plays a huge role when it comes to mental health issues.

        Closing Du’a

        Ya Habibi Ya Allah. Please grant us oceans of fortitude and mountains of strength Ya Sabur Ya Aziz. May we be dutiful beautiful students who strive with all our might in jihad al akbar to pass this test with flying colors, to ace this exam. May we, the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), love one another like he loves us, and strengthen one another every step of the way. May we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of COVID-19, reclaiming the standard of Insan Kamil as the Index by which we measure our lives. Ya Dhal Jalali wal Ikram.

        Say “Ameen!” 

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