Stress is one of the greatest problems facing modern societies. It is a scourge that weakens people physically and mentally, makes them unhappy, apathetic and exhausted and even leads to diseases. This scourge is defined as a state of psychological tension that causes a person to have a negative view of life, a decreased love of life and pessimism. Although it is not generally perceived as a serious illness, stress is a serious medical issue that can even result in death unless the solution to it is sought in the Qur’an.
How does stress affect the human body?
It lowers physical and mental strength
It makes one pessimistic
It leads to fatigue, weakness and worry,
It results in difficulty in concentration and attention,
It causes panic attacks,
It leads to a moody character,
It causes unhappiness,
It causes depression,
It makes people irritable and aggressive,
It weakens the immune system and makes the body prone to diseases,
Stress leads to overeating,
It encourages substance use (alcohol, cigarettes or drugs) on the pretext that these are ‘relaxing,’
It speeds the heart rate up and causes palpitations,
It causes shortness of breath and difficulty of swallowing,
It creates sleep disorders,
It can lead to headaches,
It can lead to high blood pressure by triggering salt retention in the body and thus an increased risk of heart attack,
Bone and muscle loss set in with increased and prolonged stress.
Stress has many more adverse effects on people. Societies are trying to solve stress through technical means yet stress and its attendant consequences are in fact the result of failing to abide by the path shown by God. That is because stress occurs when a person feels under pressure imagining that he can control everything in his life.
Imagine what kind of pressure would it create if someone who is unaware of the fact that God is the only Power, and that he is living by the destiny God created were told, “All responsibility lies with you. You are completely in control! You have to cope with this life all on your own!”
That pressure, stress in other words, is the result of a person imagining that the weight of his whole life is on his own shoulders and that he has to struggle desperately to win this fight for survival on a path with an uncertain end. The fact is, however, that God reveals in several verses of the Qur’an that people are not left to their own devices and that everything happens within a destiny ordained by Him. In one such verse He says, “Does man reckon he will be left to go on unchecked?”
(Surat al-Qiyama, 36). In another verse God says, “We have created all things in due measure.”
(Surat al-Qamar, 49).
Indeed, man is not an entity created in the world and left to his own devices. God creates everyone with a destiny. Not just human beings, but the entire universe was created with a destiny. Therefore, everything that happens in the world, everything that may appear positive or negative, is preordained by and under the control of God at every moment. We cannot know what will happen in the future; only God knows that. Therefore, when we genuinely believe that God creates everything with a destiny and that the end result will be the best thing for us, that creates all the necessary conditions for us to live comfortably in the life of this world.
For example, people are told, “Soap and water will make you clean, but mud will make you dirty.”
People believe that totally and never question it. They believe their hands will be clean if they wash them with soap and water. They have no doubt that when they wash a piece of fruit with water it will become clean enough to eat. Yet it is God Who creates soap and water and places them at our disposal. It is also God Who gives us the sense and feeling that they are clean and will make us clean, too.
People must have the same absolute and certain faith in God in the same way. God reveals millions of pieces of evidence that He created this world. We must therefore believe Him when He reveals that He knew every moment of our lives, from the first to the last, back into the infinite past and is in control of our lives at every moment. We will then see that all the causes of stress suddenly disappear, because stress is a scourge stemming from a failure to trust in God. When people are not properly bound to God with a powerful faith, that returns to them in the form of troubles such as weakness, fear, stress, tension, irritability, panic and unhappiness. The door will then be opened to psychological disturbances and nervous and physical disorders.
Do not forget that the only answer to stress is to have complete faith in and complete submission to God. If a person has a strong faith it will be as if a concrete wall has been lifted off his shoulders. He will be at ease both mentally and physically and will be able to begin using all his functions at the highest level.
The following example given by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi is deeply significant in terms of understanding people with complete trust in God and those without:
The states of those who trust and those who do not are like this story:
One day, two men with heavy loads on their bodies and heads bought tickets and boarded a large boat. One laid his burden down as soon as he boarded, sat down on it and began looking around; the other was both foolish and proud and refused to lay his burden down. He was told, “Put your burden down and let the boat take the weight.”
He said, “No, I will not put it down. It may come to harm. I am strong. I will keep my possessions on my head and body.”
Again he was told, “This boat that carries your weight and mine is much stronger and can keep everything safe better. You may become dizzy, or you may fall overboard together with your load. You will also become progressively weak. Your bent back and foolish head will be unable to bear that increasingly heavy load. If the captain sees you in that state he will say you are crazy, or else he will say, ’He has no trust in this boat. He despises us. Put him in irons.” And everyone will laugh at you. Because of your pride that shows your weakness and helplessness, you have become a figure of fun in the eyes of all those who think rationally.” That man then came to his senses and laid his burden down on the deck and sat down on it. “Oh! May God be pleased with you! I have been freed from that heavy load and being a figure of ridicule or being cast in irons,” he said.
O he who has no trust in God! You must think and come to your senses like that man. So that you can be freed from being a beggar to the universe, from trembling in the face of every development, and from being condescending, and a laughing stock and from a very bad position in the Hereafter, and from the prison of troubles in this world.’ (Treatise of Light by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Words pp. 284, 285)
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