I recently read a fantastic poem on the Muslimah blog called “Don’t Ever Forget”. Two lines in particular stood out to me:
Nothing wastes more energy, than worrying.
The longer one carries a problem, the heavier it gets.
Its advice we hear very often, but rarely take to heart. Worrying is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
I’ve been a victim of incessant worrying since I was a child. I used to worry about the most bizarre things: meteors, black holes, volcanoes, earthquakes, all sorts of end-of-the-world stuff. Sometimes it would get so bad that I would have panic attacks. I stopped worrying about these massive apocalyptic events shortly before high school. My Dad taught me that there’s no sense worrying about something that’s beyond your control. He said the same thing to Mom during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when everyone was expecting a nuclear warhead to land in their backyard and erase them from existence.
From high school onward, I continued to worry, only this time about things in my life. Some of them were very personal, sometimes disturbing; I often thought “what is wrong with me?”. I worried I had multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, and, yes, STD’s even though I never had sex. Some of them came and went, some travelled with me for years.
When I became a Muslim, I finally was able to fight off these worries. I finally realized that these obsessive worries are from the Devil; it’s his job to make us obsess over things, to make the small seem big. It’s like we’re trying to make dynamite out of pop-rocks. I had bad thoughts throughout my teen years, and that’s why I thought I was schizophrenic or had MPD. But I now know that these are just whispers, promptings from the Devil to try and make us do bad things, or make us thing we’re terrible people. Even the Companions of the Prophet d had to deal with this.
The Companions came to the Prophet d and consulted him: “We surely find within ourselves things that one of us would consider an enormity to even speak about.” So he d asked, “And you have really found that [within yourselves?]“ “Yes,” they replied. The Prophet d said “That is clear faith.” [Muslim, Sahih]
Another hadith states, “Allah has pardoned my people for what they think in their minds as long as they do not speak about it or act upon it.” [Muslim, al-Bukhari]
Now, I’m not saying that because I became a Muslim I no longer worry. I’ve come to accept that it’s just part of who I am and I’m going to have to deal with it. But Islam has given me the tools to combat these whispers and worries before they spread like an infection. Excessive worrying wastes time and mental energies. The best way to combat worries is through dhikr (remembrance of God) and knowledge. If something worries you, learn about it. As humans, we fear what we do not know, or what we do not understand. When I was young I was worried about black holes suddenly appearing and swallowing up Earth—or worse, the entire universe. After I researched black holes and understood how they worked, I stopped worrying about them. I beat my fear by rationalizing it.
Our days on Earth are limited; don’t waste them by worrying.