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A Scintillating Secret To A Successful Marriage

A study published in the journal Personal Relationships has suggested how just a little display of gratitude between spouses is the key to improving a marriage.[1] It is not just one study, rather several that have found such levels of effectiveness of gratitude in one’s marriage. According to Dr. Katia Sol in her Tedx talk on gratitude, The Gottman Institute, renowned for their  work on marital stability and divorce prediction, found that the number one predictor of success in marriage is the level of gratitude the spouses express to one another.[2]

What does gratitude, Shukr شُكْر, really mean?

  • Linguistically: It is that which is apparent (هو الظهور).
  • It is taken from when the Arabs used to say (شكرت الإبل).[3] “The camel has expressed gratitude,” meaning, the camel ate a lot of good food so it grew and it was apparent on it the effect of the food it ate.
  • Technically: It is when the blessing is apparent on the one it is bestowed upon (ظهور النعمة على العبد).

And there are three pillars to correctly be grateful and had we not fulfilled all three pillars then we would not be considered truly grateful for that blessing:

  • Internal: sense, feel and believe that you have been blessed. You simply do not take that blessing for granted.
  • Verbal: express your appreciation verbally, especially to the bestower.
  • Physical: express your appreciation physically by utilizing that blessing in a pleasing way to its bestower.

Indeed, Allah is ultimately the Bestower of all blessings but remember that He uses certain beings to facilitate for you these blessings. Hence, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “مَنْ لَمْ يَشْكُرِ النَّاسَ لَمْ يَشْكُرِ اللَّهَ” “Whoever is not grateful to the people, is not grateful to Allah.” [At-Tirmidhi].

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Diving deeper into each of the 3 pillars of gratitude:

1) Internal: Sensing the blessing:

Do you recognize your spouse as a blessing? Do you feel and believe that your spouse has done any good to you?

Please realize that sensing and believing that we have been blessed with a specific blessing is the first step towards expressing true gratitude. Without it, our verbal and physical expressions of gratitude become very much ineffective and insincere.

But how can we sense that we’ve been blessed, that someone is a blessing in our lives?

Use the technique which Allah has taught us in the Quran to be grateful towards Him where He said:

  • “…وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّـهِ عَلَيْكُمْ”
  • “And remember the favor of Allah upon you…” [5:7].

Start recalling the good that person, your spouse for the purpose of this article, has done for you. Recall all the blessings that have been brought to your life because of Allah and then your spouse.

Disclaimer: You know best what good your spouse has done to you and what they have sacrificed for you. However, provided below are some examples that may be applicable to some married couples and you can customize examples of your own to help you maximize the benefit of feeling and sensing the blessing of having your spouse.

Realize how Allah described the relationship between husband and wife and how it is one of Allah’s signs and miracles which you should ponder upon; Allah said:

“وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ”

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [30:21]

Yes, my respected brother and sister, give it some thought…

Your spouse knows you inside out, the good and the bad. Allah described the spousal relationship as:

“هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ”

“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” [2:187]

Remember my brother, the good your wife has done to you and perhaps to your children and family; carrying your child for so many months, multiple times! To some and perhaps to you, it is she who takes care of the house, cooks, cleans and spends more time than you with the children. Have you truly appreciated her efforts?

Brother, it is true that your wife has shortcomings but so do you and so does she have good qualities. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“لاَ يَفْرَكْ مُؤْمِنٌ مُؤْمِنَةً إِنْ كَرِهَ مِنْهَا خُلُقًا رَضِيَ مِنْهَا آخَرَ”

“A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” [Muslim]

Remember, brothers and sisters, how the spouse is the purest source of having the sexual desires fulfilled in the most permissible and pleasing way to The Creator whereas others struggle and go as far as committing a major sin. May Allah guide and forgive those who do.

Remember my sister, how much of your husband’s life is spent providing a livelihood so you and the children can live with as much of your needs fulfilled as possible. or perhaps remember his contributions to the home: when he mows the lawn, or takes the trash out or wakes up at night when the baby is crying.

Sister, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“لا يَنْظُرُ الله إِلَى امْرَأَةٍ لا تَشْكَرُ لِزَوْجِهَا ، وَهِيَ لا تَسْتَغْنِي عَنْهُ”

“Allah does not look (with mercy) at a woman who is not grateful to her husband when she cannot live without him.” [As-Silsilah As-Ṣaḥīḥah].

Brothers and sisters, it is very critical that we spend some time recalling the good our spouses have done in order for us to feel and sense that we have been blessed.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the greatest husband of all time, was grateful to his spouse and recalled the good she has done even after she has passed away! It was narrated in the collection of Imam Ahmad how Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would frequently remember and then praise his wife Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) after she has passed away. He would recall the good she has done to him and say: “She believed in me when the people have disbelieved. She assisted me with her wealth when the people refrained. And Allah has blessed me with children through her when He refrained me from getting children from other women.”

Do your best to make it a habit to recall the good your spouse has done to you especially when things are not going too well.

2) Express your gratitude verbally: Thank you! Merci! Gracias! May Allah reward you with goodness!

William Arthur Ward said: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”[4]

When was the last time you sent a random text to your spouse saying how much you love them and thanked them for their support and existence in your life? When was the last time you walked slowly towards your spouse without them noticing and gently wrapped your arms around them and said: “I am so blessed to have you.”

Please, do not say the following, implying there is no need to verbally express your appreciation: “Well, my spouse already knows that I love them and appreciate what they do.” Regardless, we need to verbalize these feelings. A man was with the Prophet ﷺ when another man passed in front of them, the man with the Prophet ﷺ said: “O Messenger of Allah! I love this man.” The Messenger of Allah ﷺ then asked: “Have you informed him?” He replied: “No.” He said: “Inform him.” He then went to him and said: “I love you for Allah’s sake.” He replied: “May He for Whose sake you love me love you!” [Abu Dāwūd]

If that was Prophet Muhammad’s advice to two companions then isn’t our spouse even more worthy of hearing such words?

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did not just make it clear to his wife, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), that he loves her but he would not shy away to let the people know how much he loves her and how much she means to him had he been asked. Amr ibn Al-As (may Allah be pleased with him), the commander of the troops of Dhat-us-Salasil, asked Prophet Muhammad ﷺ: “Who is the most beloved person to you?” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “’Aisha.” Then Amr asked: “From among the men?” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Her father.”… [Al-Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“مَنْ صُنِعَ إِلَيْهِ مَعْرُوفٌ فَقَالَ لِفَاعِلِهِ جَزَاكَ اللَّهُ خَيْرًا فَقَدْ أَبْلَغَ فِي الثَّنَاءِ”

“Whoever some good was done to him, and he says: Jazaka Allahu khairun (May Allah reward you with goodness) then he has done the most that he can of praise.” [At-Tirmidhi]

Indeed it is painful when our “Thank you” and our “Jazakumullahu khairun (May Allah reward you with goodness)” is mostly said to strangers, friends and neighbors but rarely to family members.

Be sure to express your thanks with beautiful words on a consistent basis. If our spouses are shocked and start questioning our intention when seeing a text message from us with an emoji of a kiss or a flower then possibly that is a sign that we do not do it often. However, it is never too late to begin such a beautiful practice, in shaa Allah. If you are not in the habit of expressing your gratitude verbally to your spouse then try applying the following tip: add to your calendar a reminder that says something along the lines of, “Give Thanks to (Insert your spouse’s name)”. Time the reminder to appear on your phone screen at a time when you are about to get home from work or so. Upon seeing it and entering the house, you should know what to say ; be sweet and creative. Keep such reminders and continue to tweak them until it becomes a habit of yours to always verbalize your gratitude.

3) Express your gratitude in action! The Epitome of Gratitude!

A man would tell his wife: “I love you” and in return she’d say: “You are a liar.” He asks: “Why would you say that!?” She says: “Because I do not see it.” He then sarcastically asks: “Do you want me to write it on a board for you or text it so you can see it?” She finally clarifies and says: “I do not see it in your actions!”

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“مَنْ آتَى إِلَيْكُمْ مَعْرُوفًا فَكَافِئُوهُ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَجِدُوا فَادْعُوا اللَّهَ لَهُ حَتَّى تَعْلَمُوا أَنْ قَدْ كَافَأْتُمُوهُ ‏”

“Whoever does you a favor, then reciprocate”, and if you cannot, then supplicate for him until you think that you have repaid him.” [Abu Dāwūd]

Seek to give back to your spouse for the good they’ve done to you. For example, did your spouse cook you a meal? If yes, then why not cook them a meal in return? Would you destroy the kitchen if you attempted to do so? Then invite them to their favorite restaurant, not yours. Once again, seek to find examples that best fit your marriage for maximum benefit. At minimum, we need to include our spouses in our prayers!

The epitome of gratitude is when we utilize a blessing in a way that is pleasing to the bestower. Allah said about the family of Dāwūd: “اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرًا ۚ وَقَلِيلٌ مِّنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ” “Work, O family of David, in gratitude.” And few of My servants are grateful.” [34:13] Of the best ways to thank your spouse for a gift they’ve given you is to utilize it in a way that is pleasing to them.

I will end with this story: As I was teaching a weekend class on gratitude and began talking about gratitude between spouses I noticed an older gentleman starting to cry. The more I spoke about that specific topic and mentioned reasons of why one should be grateful to their spouse, the more he cried! At the end of the class, on Friday night, that brother came up to me in tears and started to thank me for sharing the Prophetic teachings and scientific research on the importance of showing gratitude between spouses.

The next day of the class, on Saturday, I saw him again. During our break, after the first session of the class, he requested to speak to me privately. He started to explain to me his marital situation: he and his wife have abandoned each other for three months, sleeping in separate rooms, hardly communicating with one another and when they do communicate it mostly ends up in a fight in the presence of their children. As a result, he has decided to divorce his wife very soon. However, he told me that after last night’s session on gratitude he felt that he has been a very ungrateful husband and that he only focused on his wife’s shortcomings and overlooked some of her great qualities and the good she has done to him and the children. So he approached his wife that night with a sense of remorse and apologized over how ungrateful he was towards her. He shared with her what he has learned about gratitude and wished to always have an attitude of gratitude. He started expressing his gratitude by verbally recalling some of the many great things she had done in the past and is still doing for him and the children. In return, his wife was very touched by his words, accepted his apology and was regretful for her shortcomings as well. They had a blessed and emotional night after they had reunited once again since three months ago. He said that they woke up the next day feeling very happy and rejoiced. He freshened up and was very impressed at how his wife took good care of herself and how she prepared a delicious breakfast for the family. As I was hearing this great news I could not help but hug the brother tightly with tears of joy and thank him for sharing such great news as I was very happy for him, his wife and children. He too got emotional, teared up and informed me that his wife and children are going to come soon to attend the remaining talk on gratitude, God-willing. Upon their arrival, he introduced me to his family and they expressed their appreciation for learning such content and how having such attitude of gratitude makes one’s life meaningful.

My favorite part of the story is when he called me after perhaps weeks after the class ended and expressed how his family has been very united since and how blessed they all feel to have such an attribute of gratitude. I pray to Allah that He keeps him and his family steadfast and to grant you and I this attitude of gratitude towards people, especially our spouses.

 

[1] The power of thank you: UGA research links gratitude to positive marital outcomes https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uog-tpo102115.php

[2] The transformative power of gratitude: Katia Sol at TEDxMission The City2.0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VcN1kgN3eI

[3] لسان العرب Lesan Al-Arab by Ibn Manthur

[4] http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/189187-feeling-gratitude-and-not-expressing-it-is-like-wrapping-a

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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.

Majed completed a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Windsor, a Bachelor’s in Islamic Studies in Islamic Jurisprudence and Legal Theory from Al-Madinah International University, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Wayne State University. As he travels worldwide lecturing about different aspects of Islam, Majed works full-time as a mechanical engineer and teaches with Al-Maghrib Institute. He currently lives in Michigan with his wife and children.

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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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    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).

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    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!

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    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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