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Quit Smoking starting this Ramadan


 

Know that it will take effort to quit smoking. Nicotine is habit forming. Half of the battle in quitting is knowing you need to quit ..

By: IslamiCity Staff
IslamiCity* –

Gathering all the will power they have Muslim smokers who fast during Ramadan are refraining themselves from food, drinks and smoking during the daytime to fulfill their religious obligation of fasting during this month.

Owing to nicotine dependency, some smokers may experience withdrawal symptoms, like irritability, anger, restlessness, impatience, insomnia and difficulty concentrating. Due to the craving of nicotine, most smokers reach for their cigarettes after breaking of fast, some may even do so within a few minutes after consuming food or drinks.

Before the “addicted” smoker can quit, he must appreciate what addiction is all about and how he can be weaned off smoking. Ramadan provides an excellent opportunity to change one’s mindset and environment to quit smoking.

Understanding what tobacco dependence is all about can help the smoker change his habits. This is especially so because addictive behavior has a direct influence on the bodily chemicals that affect emotions and behavior.

Often, it is the emotional aspects that cause the smoking behavior to continue. And thus the multitude of excuses which smokers offer such as it gives “a surge of energy”, or “acts to reduce tension” or even “gives a feeling of security”.

What it actually amounts to is that smoking maintains a certain level of nicotine in the smoker’s blood, especially in the brain. 

This is, in fact, the key to understanding addiction as a result of nicotine inhaled from the cigarette. Under the influence of a high level of nicotine, all the above-mentioned excuses seem real. The smoker is emotionally satisfied by his smoking behavior.

However, after puffing on a stick of cigarette, the nicotine level in the smoker’s blood begins to decrease gradually. Over just about one hour, the level becomes almost negligible, seemingly resulting in a “loss” in energy, “increased” tension and “insecure” feelings. And the urge to smoke begins.

At this point, it is critical for the “addicted” smoker to find new strategies to distract himself from the urge to smoke. Try any one or all of these suggestions: 

Before the urge to smoke strikes (about 60 minutes from the last puff), start doing activities that make smoking physically difficult to perform. Examples include washing the car, weeding the garden, jogging, or taking a long shower. Almost any kind of physical exercise may help. Your smoking behavior may be ingrained and automatic. Anticipate this behavior and stick to your plan to quit. 

Check your watch (preferably one with the second hand) whenever the urge acts up. Fight it over the next one minute by keeping your eyes on the movement of the second hand. After one minute, your urge will certainly subside. Then continue for another minute. You will feel even better. Repeat for another minute if necessary.

Before the five minutes are over, the urge will pass. Most urges are short. Once you understand and experience this, you will be better able to cope and resist the urge. 

Because you are addicted, quitting smoking can prove quite challenging. The physical symptoms of withdrawal from smoking (like being irritable and edgy) may last between three to 10 days, with the intensity decreasing by the day. But the psychological aspect may last longer, weeks and even months. Over time, however, the urge will fade. 

Relapses can occur if you are not careful, particularly when you subject yourself to the environment that habitually make you “light up”. Be aware of this and the circumstances that will make you do so, such as after a meal or when getting in the car. Keep the cigarettes away as suggested in last week’s article. 

Most relapses occur within four weeks after a person stops smoking. The chief reason is most smokers are not prepared to make changes. The month of Ramadan should help Muslim smokers who want to give up. Fasting forces a smoker to change his mindset, his environment and his habit. Most routines are broken for a good part of the day over the next four weeks.

So, try to acquire new non-smoking behavior during the Ramadan. Unlearn smoking. Take it a day at a time. If you succeed on the first day, you are likely to succeed again the next day. Before your know it, you are already a non-smoker. 

The most vulnerable time, of course, is during meals, especially the breaking of fast.

Consider some of these Ramadan tips: 

  1. Break fast away from the smoking crowd. Stay home if you have to. 

  2. Avoid the drinks or foods that are normally associated with your smoking habit. During the fasting month, a variety of drinks and foods can act as alternatives. 

  3. Leave the table immediately after breaking fast if you intend to end it with a cigarette. Take a walk instead of lighting up. If you break fast at home, go to the mosque for prayers. 

  4. Look for new distractions wherever possible. 

In short, do whatever it takes to disassociate from the smoking routines.

Some other general tips to help quit smoking:

  1. Don’t smoke any number or any kind of cigarette. Smoking even a few cigarettes a day can hurt your health. If you try to smoke fewer cigarettes, but do not stop completely, soon you’ll be smoking the same amount again.

    Smoking “low-tar, low-nicotine” cigarettes usually does little good, either. Because nicotine is so addictive, if you switch to lower-nicotine brands you’ll likely just puff harder, longer, and more often on each cigarette. The only safe choice is to quit completely. 

  2. Write down why you want to quit. Do you want

    1. to feel in control of life? 

    2. to have better health? 

    3. to set a good example for your children? 

    4. to protect your family from breathing other people’s smoke? 

    Your strength of desire to quit smoking is very important in determining the success you will have in quitting. Smokers who live after a heart attack are the most likely to quit for good, because they’re very motivated. Find a reason for quitting before you have no choice. 

  3. Know that it will take effort to quit smoking. Nicotine is habit forming. Half of the battle in quitting is knowing you need to quit. This knowledge will help you be more able to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal that can occur, such as bad moods and really wanting to smoke. There are many ways smokers quit, including using nicotine replacement products (gum and patches), but there is no easy way. Nearly all smokers have some feelings of nicotine withdrawal when they try to quit. Give yourself a month to get over these feelings. Take quitting one day at a time, even one minute at a time-whatever you need to succeed. 

  4. Half of all adult smokers have quit, so you can too. That’s the good news. There are millions of people alive today who have learned to face life without a cigarette. For staying healthy, quitting smoking is the best step you can take.

May you have many spiritually fulfilling smoke-free days of fasting during Ramadan.

If you know someone who smokes, help them quit and forward this article to them.

References:
Try to quit smoking this Ramadan by The New Straits Times

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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Ethics of treating animals in Islam


 


By: IslamiCity
IslamiCity* –

The concept of animal rights in the west has evolved slowly over the centuries, following much the same course as that of children’s rights. Both involve putting the welfare of a being who cannot explicitly complain over the direct monetary and social needs of the person responsible for them.

In 1825, the House of Refuge in America was founded, which was the first institution in the US to help take care of severely abused and abandoned children.

After the Industrial Revolution had started to help people meet their basic needs with ease, they had the luxury to turn their minds to other issues, such as caring for those less fortunate. It is just around this time that animal welfare started to be discussed.

Long before “Animal Rights” was incorporated in our contemporary world; Prophet Muhammad established extensive guidelines to treat animals.

The Quran says that Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to the worlds. His kindness knew no limits, which included animals.

Before Islam Arabs, like all ignorant and illiterate people, were very cruel to animals. It was very common in Arabia to put a ring round the neck of a camel, but this practice was stopped on Prophet Muhammad orders.

When people needed meat for eating they used to cut pieces of flesh from living animals. This barbaric practice was forbidden by the Prophet. He also forbade people to keep animals in their working equipment for a long time and said, “Don’t make the backs of animals your chairs.” Animal fights were also made unlawful. Another custom was to tie up an animal and practice arrow shooting on it. This was also prohibited.

Once Muhammad saw a donkey that was branded on its face, and said, “God’s curse is on him who branded it.” As people had to brand their camels and sheep in order to know them, they were told to brand them on parts which were not so tender. Anas reported that he went into a herd of sheep and saw God’s Messenger branding them on the ears.

Once the Prophet was on a journey with his companions and they stopped for rest at a place. In a tree nearby, a bird had laid an egg. A man took the egg and the bird began beating her wings in a state of great distress. Muhammad enquired who had tormented the bird her by taking her egg. The man said, “O God’s Messenger, I have done this.” The Prophet told him to put it back immediately.

A companion who had some baby birds wrapped in a piece of cloth came to Muhammad . On enquiry, he told Muhammad , “I heard a noise from a bush, went there, saw these babies, and took them out. When their mother saw what had happened, she began to fly round my head.” Muhammad told him to go back and return the birds.

Once the Prophet saw a camel on the road, whose belly and back, through extreme hunger, had become one. He said, “Fear God in your treatment of these animals who cannot speak.”

The Prophet once told a story to his companions. There was a man who went on a journey and on his way he felt very thirsty. He found a well and went down into the well and drank water. When he came out of the well he saw a dog that was very thirsty and was licking the salty ground. He thought that the animal was thirsty like him, so he again went down into the well and filled his leather socks with water and gave it to the dog. God accepted this action of the man and sent him to Paradise.

Humane procedures to slaughter the animals for human food consumption were instituted by Prophet Muhammad . Animals were given water to drink before slaughtering and he told his companions to slaughter animals with the sharpest knife, causing the minimum pain and suffering to the animal. He also forbade them to sharpen the weapon in front of the animal or when the animal was ready for slaughter, but told them to do these preliminaries before the animal was brought for slaughter.

Muhammad showed people by word and deed to be kind and friendly to everyone. Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet as saying, “A believer is friendly (and kind).” Anas and Abdullah ibn Masud reported God’s Messenger as saying, “All creatures are God’s children, those dearest to God are the ones who treat His children, kindly.” A’isha reported God’s Messenger as saying, “God is gentle and likes gentleness. He gives for gentleness what He does not give for harshness and what He does not give for anything else.”  Abdullah ibn Masud reported God’s Messenger as saying, “Shall I not tell you who is kept away from Hell and from whom Hell is kept away? From everyone who is gentle and kind, approachable and of an easy disposition.

Muhammad , by his own example, had ingrained this kind of behavior in the hearts of his companions, who, after him set an example for other people. This is shown by the following.

It is reported by Abdullah ibn Jaffer that he passed by a grazing field and saw an Abyssinia slave guarding a herd of goats. After awhile a dog came and sat in front of the Abyssinian. He took of a loaf of bread and gave it to the dog that ate it. He then took out a second and third loaf of bread and gave them also to the dog which proceeded to eat all of them.

After witnessing this, Abdullah enquired from the slave how many loaves of bread he received every day from his master. The slave replied that he got as many as he saw. At this, he asked why he gave all his bread to the dog. The slave replied that was not the place the dog belonged and he must have come looking for food from a great distance, and he did not want his effort to be wasted.

Abdullah said that he was so impressed with his action that he paid the slave owner to free him, and along with that bought all the goats and the grazing field from his master, and gave it to the Abyssinian. The slave thanked him and prayed for him and gave all the goats and the grazing field to charity and went away from that place.

Adapted from ‘Muhammad – Encyclopedia of Seerah’ by Afzalur Rahman

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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Islamic Perspective in Stress Management


 


By: Shahid Athar, M. D.
IslamiCity* –

Islamic Perspective in Stress Management1

by Shahid Athar, M.D. 

While stress may be necessary for human survival, the excess of it certainly affects our health and productivity. It is claimed that in the United States nearly 20 million people suffer from stress in terms of attributing their illness or symptoms to it. Stress related compensation cost nearly $200 million per year. Loss of productivity and stress related illness directly or indirectly amounts to $50 billion per year. Many corporations and individuals are spending nearly $15 billion per year on stress management of their employees. (Newsweek 042588)

There is enough medical evidence to link stress to the causation of peptic ulcer disease, hypertension, coronary artery disease and depression. In addition, many common problems like tension headache, insomnia, impotency (in man), frigidity (in women), are stress related to causation of diabetes, suppression of immune system and development of cancer.

In our day to day life, stress affects peace at home, job performance at work, grades in school and even our eating and mating behavior.

Warning Signs Of Stress 

The earliest signs of stress are irritability, mood swings, difficulty in sleep, lack of concentration, abdominal distress, extreme sensitivity to criticism, weight gain of weight loss, fear of failure, poor appetite, or hunger, and increase dependence on tranquilizers or alcohol for sleep. 

Conditions  Which Cause Stress

Psychiatrists have identified some 50 stressors. In fact any change, good or bad, is stressful. A change in job, or job description, in school, residence, financial status, loss or gain of a family member or close friend, injury or illness, national calamity or news of riots or violence all can be extremely stressful. Muslims living in a non-Muslim society may acquire some additional stress. These may include such factors as preserving their identity, practicing Islam (i.e. in food matters or timing of prayer), defending Islam on a hostile media and settling conflicts between family members: the spouse, parent /child, and practicing / non practicing factions.

Who Are Prone to Stress

Although stress spares no one including children, certain professions get more then their share. They include the sales person, the stock broker, the secretary, the inner city school teacher, the air traffic controller, the medical intern, the police officer and those handling complaint departments. It is interesting to note that qualities like being ambitious, compulsive, high achieving, productivity oriented are looked upon as signs of efficiency by the employer, are also type A personality traits, so dangerous to our health. So the art is to have these qualities, with a cool type B personality in order to live happily and have a longer time.

Coping With Stress

Although we are all exposed to stress, why can some of us cope with it better then others ? Is it the way we deal with the stressor, or the way we are built? There is some evidence to suggest that some of us may be genetically predisposed to depression, or have deficiency in the level of neurotransmitters, the mood regulating hormones, or just do not produce enough adrenalin on demand. 

A person’s religious belief has an important bearing on his personality and his outlook in life. By putting the trust in God, a believer minimizes the stress on him by reducing his responsibility and power to control his failures. 

Proven ways to handle stress as being practiced now range from meditation, sleep, exercise, socialization, biofeedback, psychotherapy and tranquilizers. In this article we are going to discuss how to deal with stress in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. 

Psychologically the stress results from the following factors.

  1. Fear of the unknown, and our inability to recognize, foresee and control it.

  2. Loss of things, and people in our life dear to us, and our inability to recover these losses or accept them.

  3. Our inability to see through the future. In fact we might be more stressed if we do see the future.

  4. Conflicts between the mind, and the reality and our failure to accept the reality (i.e. the phase of denial). It is the lack of the inner peace due to our internal conflicts which leads to the external disturbances in our behavior and affects our health.

Let us examine how the Qur’an deals with such situations. Our losses are a part of trial for us:

“Be sure We will test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, but give glad tidings to those who are steadfast, who say when afflicted with calamity: To God we belong and to Him is our return. They are those on whom (descend) blessings from God and mercy and they are the ones that receive guidance.” (Qur’an 2:155)

Whatever we are given is a gift from God. We are not their owners. Everything belongs to God and returns to Him. So if we don’t own these things why mourn their loss or wax proud on receiving them.

  1. Only God knows what our ultimate destiny is. We cannot peek into our future. We do, however, have a limited free will; we are free to choose between good or bad, to believe in God or not to believe in Him, but we have no control over future not related to our ability to act in the present – whether my wife will have a son or daughter, whether his / her eyes will be brown or black, or whether I will have an accident tomorrow or not. Worrying over such things is of no use.

  2. Rejection of faith in the Qur’an is described as a disease, its cause being arrogance and reluctance to accept truth.

“In their heart there is a disease and God has increased their disease and grievous is their penalty because they lie to themselves”. (Qur’an 2:10)
 

Thus when a man lies to himself, he creates an inner conflict – between his heart and the mind. In order to contain that conflict, the mind sends signals to glands for secretion of hormones like adrenalin which leads to rapid heart rate, perspiration, tremor, the basis of a lie detector tests.

This conflict could be due to “small” crimes like theft or adultery, or big crimes like rejection of God.

Three Stages Of Spiritual Development Of Soul Age

  1. Nafsul Ammara: The Passionate Soul

    “I do not absolve myself. Lo the (human) soul is prone to evil, save that whenever my Lord has mercy. Lo, my Lord is forgiving; merciful”. (Qur’an 12:53)

    This soul inclines toward sensual pleasure, passion and self gratification, anger, envy, greed, and conceit. Its concerns are pleasures of body, gratification of physical appetite, and ego. In a hadith we are told, “Your most – ardent – enemy is your evil self which resides within your body”. (Bukhari)

    If this evil soul is not checked, it will lead to unusual stress and its resultant effects. 

  2. Nafsul Lawammah: The Reproaching Soul 

    “Nay, I swear by the reproaching soul” (Qur’an 75:1)

    This soul is conscious and full aware of evil, resists it, asks for God’s grace and pardon, repents and tries to amend and hopes to achieve salvation.

    “And (there are) others who have acknowledged their faults. They mix a righteous action with another that was bad. It may be that Allah will relent toward them. Lo Allah is relenting, merciful”. (Qur’an 9:102)

    “There are two impulses within us. One, spirit, which calls towards good and confirms the truth. He who feels this impulse should know that it comes from Allah. Another impulse comes from our enemy (devil), which leads to doubt and untruth and encourages evil. He who feels this should seek refuge in Allah from the accursed devil” (Hadith). 

    This soul warns people of their vain desire, guides and opens the door to virtue and righteousness. It is a positive step in spiritual growth.

  3. Nafsul Mutma ‘innah: The Satisfied Soul

    “O (you) soul in (complete) rest and satisfaction. Come back to your Lord, well pleased (yourself) and well pleasing unto Him. Enter you then among My devotees, enter you in My heaven”. (Qur’an 89-27-30)

    This is the highest state of spiritual development. A satisfied soul is in the state of bliss, content and peace. The soul is at peace because it knows that in spite of its failures in this world, it will return to God. Purified of tension, it emerges triumphant from the struggle and resides in peace and bliss.

What Should We Do In Panic And Despair? 

In panic situations non-believers behave differently from believers. They have no one to turn to, to ask for mercy and forgiveness, they know and believe not in nay life other then this worldly life, over which they have no control. Naturally they get more depressed which in turn leads them to even more wrong doing. If they were used to casual drinking, after drinking,  they will increase their consumption of alcohol and end up as alcoholics or habitual criminals.

In a state of depression a believer, on the other hand, is advised to do the following:

  1. Increase Dhikr (remembrance of God).
    “He guides to Himself those who turn to Him in penitence – Those who have believed and whose heart have rest in the remembrance of God. Verify in the remembrance of God, do hearts find rest”. (qur’an 13:27-28)

  2. Be constant in their prayers.
    “O you who believe, seek help with steadfastness and prayer. For God is with those who are steadfast”. (Qur’an 2:153)

  3. Pray to God for Forgiveness.
    “And I have said: Seek forgiveness from your Lord. Lo He was ever forgiving”. (Qur’an 71:10)

In addition to the above believers are also expected to constantly struggle to better ourselves.

“Surely God does not change the condition in which people are until they change that which is in themselves”. (Qur’an 13:11)

Qur’anic Recitation  In Reducing The Stress

“O mankind! There has come to you a direction from you Lord, and a healing for (the disease in your) heart, and for those who believe a guidance, and mercy. (Qur’an 10:57)

The echo of sound has a medical effect, and is now widely utilized. The recitation of Qur’an or listening to the same has a wholesome effect on the body, the heart and the mind. It is said that the letter ‘alif’ echoes to the heart and latter ‘ya’ echoes in the pineal gland in the brain. Dr. Ahmed El Kadi of Akbar Clinic, at Panama City, Florida, conducted and has published the effects of listening to the Qur’anic recitation on physiological parameters i.e. the heart rate, the blood pressure and the muscle tension and reported improvement in all, irrespective of whether the listener is a Muslim or a non- Muslim, Arab or non-Arab.2 Obviously it can postulated that those who can understand and enjoy the recitation, with a belief in it as word of God, will get maximum benefit.

Prophet Muhammad’s Prayer During Stress

All the prophets, being human beings, had to undergo tests and trials which resulted in temporary stress. They constantly remembered God and received peace through His remembrance. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), for example, himself used and advised his followers to use the following D’ua (prayer) in times of distress.

  • “Allah is sufficient for us, and He is an excellent guardian, and we repose our trust in Allah.”

  • “Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shell we return. O Allah, I beseech you for the reward of my hardship. Reward me, and compensate me for it with something good.”

 

Dr. Shahid Athar is a Clinical Associate Professor at Indiana University. He has written and published over 110 articles on Islam, authored “Peace Through Submission” and edited “Islamic Perspective in Medicine”. He is a frequent speaker at many Muslim institutions, mosques, universities and churches all over the USA.

  1. The above article was first published in Hamdard Medicus, Volume XII, No. 4, Winter 1989
  2. For more details, please refer to Dr. Ahmed El-Kadi’s article on this subject in this book. Islamic Perspectives in Medicine (pages 135 -140 )

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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Life and Beyond according to the Quran


 

Linguistically it is not possible in the Quran to talk about this life without semantic reference to the next ..

By: Muhammad Abdel Haleem
IslamiCity* –

In the Quran life in this world is an inseparable part of a continuum, a unified whole – life, death, life – which gives our life a context and relevance. In this context, the life of the individual is made meaningful and enriched inasmuch as it is full of ‘good works’. Life in this world leads to the afterlife, a belief which is fundamental in the Quran. The afterlife is not treated in the Quran in a separate chapter, or as something on its own, for its own sake, but always in relation to life in this world.

Linguistically it is not possible in the Quran to talk about this life without semantic reference to the next since every term used for each is comparative with the other. Thus: al’ula and al-akhira (the First and the Last life), al-dunya and al-akhira (the nearer and the further/latter life). Neither has a name specific to itself, or independent of the other. Consequently, the frequency of the terms in the Quran is the same, in the case of dunya and akhira- each appears 115 times.

There is a reference, direct or indirect, to one aspect or another of the afterlife on almost every single page of the Quran. This follows from the fact that belief in the afterlife is an article of faith which has a bearing on every aspect of the present life and manifests itself in the discussion of the creed, the rituals, the ethics and the laws of Islam. In discussing the afterlife, moreover, the Quran addresses both believers and non-believers. The plan of two worlds and the relationship between them has been, from the beginning, part of the divine scheme of things:

It is God who created you, then He provided sustenance for you, then He will cause you to die, then He will give life back to you. Quran 30:40

It is We who give life and make to die and to Us is the homecoming. Quran 50:43

He created death and life that He might try you according to which of you is best in works. Quran 67:2

According to the Quran, belief in the afterlife, which is an issue fundamental to the mission of Muhammad, was also central to the mission of all prophets before him.

Belief in the afterlife is often referred to in conjunction with belief in God, as in the expression: ‘If you believe in God and the Last Day’. Believers are frequently reminded in the Quran, ‘Be mindful of God and know that you shall meet Him’ (Quran 2:233) (used in this instance to urge fitting treatment of one’s wife in intimate situations). ‘To Him is the homecoming/ the return’ (Quran 36:83; 40:3 and passim). As a belief in the afterlife is so fundamental to Islam, it is only right that Muslims should regularly be reminded of it not only throughout the pages of the Quran but also in their daily life. Practicing Muslims in their five daily prayers repeat their praise of God at least seventeen times a day, ‘The Master of the Day of Judgment’ (Quran 1:4) . Being inattentive to the afterlife (Quran 30:7) or to the prospect of coming to judgment (Quran 32:14) are signs of the unbeliever.

All this heightens the believer’s sense of responsibility for actions in this life. In fact the principles and details of religion are meant to be seen within the framework of the interdependence of this life and the afterlife and to color the Muslims’ conception of life and the universe and have a bearing on their actions in this life.


Excerpted from “Understanding The Quran” by Muhammad Abdel Haleem

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2007 in Articles

 

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