Daily Archives: May 11, 2023

green and white tidal waves

Islam, Muslims and Mental Toughness

 Many people today are facing a lot of challenges:

  • Some have lost their jobs or their source of income.
  • Others are being overworked and underpaid.
  • Some are struggling with their physical or mental health.
  • Some are facing difficulties in their relationships
  • Others have lost loved ones, close friends and family

The youths today have additional struggles to content with

  • climate change and a sustainable future
  • technology competing for our jobs
  • the spiraling costs of living
  • and increasing scarcity of resources
  • There’s the social issues of how groups identify or relate by race, religion and gender.
  • And of course, in the midst of all this, we are seeing international conflicts and competition like Russia-Ukraine, Palestine-Israel, and the rising BRICS alliances.

All the while the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and everyone feels like they are in the matrix, and want to escape this life of economic slavery and poverty.

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Where do we start if we want to fix our situation? First thing we recognize is that success is about attitude, its 90% attitude 10% physical. And attitude takes you a great part of the way towards achieving your goals and objectives.

To that end today we are seeing online a range of different individuals and characters who are speaking to that issue and exhibiting traits or characteristics that persons are gravitating towards. We are seeing a lot of content feature from persons like Andrew Tate, Jordan Peterson, David Goggins, characters like Thomas Shelby and even political figures in the international arena.

Content on these and others show huge viewership online and massive interest in what they have to say, people are searching for a way out of this matrix and the shackles of economic slavery.

The messages we hear are around the need for resilience, keeping the faith setting a goal and striving towards that goal, as the means to success. Content repeatedly resound on perseverance, patience, endurance, staying humble and staying committed, staying focused…

A lot of what we are hearing by way of solution are elements of mental toughness –

and by that we mean the ability to face challenging environments and stay focused, and continue to perform.

People who have mental toughness are able to survive and function in different situations,

  • provide for dependents, and
  • create an enabling or safe environment.

That person can achieve goals,

  • is better able to source and organise resources,
  • overcome setbacks or failure,
  • stay healthy physically and mentally,
  • control their emotions and behaviors, and
  • and generally maintain a level of order in a volatile environment – faster changes with deeper impacts.

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Where does Islam fit in all of this?

It is expected that every single practicing believer is mentally strong. Every single one. Male and female. If you are following Islam you don’t have a choice. Mental toughness is inevitable. You cannot escape it.

We are told in the Quran that we will face trials in life:

We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops… but give glad tidings to the patient (patiently persevere) (Quran 2:155)

We are told also in the Hadith in Tirmidhi

Those whose religious commitment is strong, will be tested more severely, and the trials to the Prophets were strongest

You probably heard of this in the saying the strongest soldiers get the hardest fight. And we have many examples of this in the lives of the Prophets of Islam.

  • Some were tempted (e.g. Yusuf by the Governor’s Wife).
  • Some were ignored by their family and community (e.g. Nuh and his family; Hud and the people of Ad).
  • Some were betrayed by their companions (e.g. Isa)
  • Some were persecuted and driven out of their communities and their societies (e.g. Prophet Muhammad at Hijra),
  • And some were tested repeatedly (e.g. Ibrahim as a child, or when ordered to sacrifice Ishmael; Prophet Muhammad on the death of his sons).

In the same way Almighty Allah tells us we will be tested, He also gives us a number of assurances, a social contract, if you will, in writing, in the Quran. And these help us to frame our psychology and thoughts in facing difficulties:

We are told in the Quran for example we will not be given more than we can bear (2:286)

And we are told in a Hadith: When Allah wants to give you more, He tries you (Bukhari)

“Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate some of his sins on account of his patience.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

In fact, we are told in the Quran “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (Qur’an 94: 5–6).

We are taught to build a direct relationship with God – we don’t need any intermediary, a priest or a pundit or even an imam. The Quran (33.3) tells us:

And put your trust in Allah; and sufficient is Allah as a disposer of affairs.

We are taught to ask Allah for anything we need or desire, even if it is a broken shoe lace.

Let each one of you ask his Lord for all his needs, until he asks for the straps of his shoe when it is broken.

Allah tells us when we put our trust in Him, He will provide for us from sources we never expect, and He will never let us down. (65.3)

And [We] will provide sustenance from sources he never imagined.

There are many ways Islam helps us to achieve success in this life, and build the mental toughness and resilience to not only survive but to thrive.

1 is salaat.

Pray 5 times a day. Winter or summer. Rain or shine. Tired or energized. Once it is binding on you, you have to do it. And we hear in the call to prayer Hay yaa allal falah Come to success…

Salaat brings discipline. It brings commitment to duty. It brings reliance on Almighty Allah, and helps us to persevere in our struggles. If we are struggling with a problem and 5 times a day we turn to Him and pray for a resolution, for ease, do you think He will let us down? Ignore us? No!

We are told in the Quran (2:186)

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.

Another institution that helps build mental toughness is fasting in Ramadan.

Abstain from all food and drink and sexual relations from break of dawn to sunset, everyday for the month.

What happens when we fast?

Fasting helps us to build willpower. By obeying the command of Allah, we are putting ourselves through a difficult process whether we want to or not. I’m sure there are days when we just do not want to fast. Why cant we skip a day and make up for it afterwards. But we are told to fast for the month. Through fasting we learn that we do what we need to, and not what we feel to.

Fasting helps us to establish discipline in our time management and our lives. We have to wake up for suhoor to start the fast, we have to hasten to break the fast, observe the times for salaat (or else all our fasting might be in vain), all these help us to establish discipline and adhere to a schedule.

Fasting helps us to adjust and refine our attitude. Avoid backbiting. Slander. Cursing. Succumbing to temper – we have to show patience, and not allow provocations to overcome us and spoil our fast. And knowing that it gives us extra blessings is one thing, knowing that if we do not guard our conduct the fast might be spoilt, we learn to be patient in those trying situations we face.

Fasting teaches us perseverance. From the start of fasting, we know the time that it ends – at sunset. The duration may be 9 hours, it may be 14 hours, or even 20 hours. Whatever it is, we have to endure the period. And it gets difficult during the day – especially at the times we are accustomed to having a meal. But we have to endure, and we are given the reward for it – we are told in a hadith one of the 2 happiest times for a believer is when he has broken the fast.

Fasting teaches us contentment and helps us to identify with those less privileged, and be more humble. Some persons are accustomed to having elaborate feasts, or living in the lap of luxury. In Ramadan they too have to endure the humbling process of abstaining from food and drink and sexual relations. They too know what it feels like to be hungry, and there is nothing that can be done about it. A simple thing as a sip of water is a luxury when you are thirsty. We learn how to function when we are going without. And it makes us more sympathetic to those less fortunate, and more inclined to help them. And when fasting is completed, we can better appreciate whatever we were blessed to have, and enjoy it.

When we follow the tenets of Islam,  

  • Physically our bodies undergo transformation, from the diet to habits, and time schedules.
  • Mentally we build endurance, patience and perseverance, and adjust our attitudes to our lives, to others, and to Allah.
  • Spiritually we become more devoted and humble, and more aware of what is and is not in our control.

By doing these, we become stronger. And by obeying the commands of Allah, we are in fact helping ourselves to become better, stronger and more resilient versions of ourselves that we were before we started. We are stronger for it, and set the stage for us to do more. Be more, and reach further in life.

May Almighty Allah allow us to obey his commands, and embrace them, and benefit from them, and grow through them, and be better able to cope with the changing conditions of life that we may experience, and through these grow closer to our Lord.

Faheem Mohammed is a Director at MAI Institute (Markaz al Ihsaan), and is an Entrepreneur, Business Consultant and Educator by profession. To contact him you can email admin@maiinstitute.com.