Occupying Oneself with an Activity or Useful Knowledge

Among the means of warding of anxieties arising out of nervousness and the preoccupation of the heart with some sorrowful things are occupying oneself with one activity or another, or with some useful knowledge. This is because doing that will distract the heart away from being immersed in its anxieties. It might even make him forget the things that caused him grief and worry, and he may even experience some happiness and become cheerful. This is also something that is common between both the believer and the non-believer. But the believer is different because when he occupies himself with he knowledge that he is seeking or giving, or with the good action he is doing – whether it be an act of worship, or worldly act in which he has a good intention of doing it to seek strength in worshipping Allah – when he does that, he does it out of belief in Allah, sincerity and seeking the pleasure of Allah. This in itself has the additional effect of warding off grief, worries and anxieties (by Divine intervention).

We have seen many people afflicted with sorrows and permanent anxieties, to the extent of making them very ill; their only cure was make them forget the cause of their sorrow and misery, and be preoccupied with normal activities. The activity to be preoccupied with should be something pleasing to the self, and one that it years for. This makes it more effective in achieving the desired goal, and all knowledge is with Allah.

Among the things that ward off worry and anxiety is to concentrate one’s attention and concern oneself with the affairs of the present, and to stop being anxious about the future, or grieving over the past. This is why the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, in a hadith recorded in Bukhari and Muslim, sought refuge in Allah from anxiety and grief. Grief is usually over past events that you can no longer bring back nor rectify. Anxiety is usually fear and concern over what will come in the future. Therefore a person should be the ‘son of the moment’, concentrating his energy and attention in the betterment of his existing events, and his present moments. Concentrating attention over the affairs of the moment is the necessary cause of their accomplishment, and it is what gets rid of grief and anxiety from the heart. When the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, asked something from Allah, or guided his community to ask a specific thing from Allah, he is exhorting them that together with seeking the help of Allah, and having hope in his favour, that at the same time they have to work hard and earnestly for the accomplishment of what they asked to be removed from them. Therefore making dua should go side by side with action. So the slave strives for what will benefit him in is religion and in his worldly life, and he asks his Lord to make him accomplish his need, and he seeks His help in that. As the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said,

“Strive for what will benefit you, and seek the help of Allah, and do not be incapacitated. And if something afflicts you, do not say: ‘If I had done such and such, such and such would have happened.’ But say: ‘This is the decree of Allah, He does what He wills. This is because ‘if’ opens the act of Shaitan.” (Muslim)

In this hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, exhorts us to join between two things. The first is to strive for useful things in all situations, and seek the help of Allah, and not to yield and surrender ourselves to incapacity, because that is harmful negligence. The second is to surrender to Allah over past events that have passed, and witness the decree of Allah in his predestination.

We see that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has delineated two categories of affairs. The first category is affairs that the slave has the ability to accomplish totally or partially, or those that he can avoid completely or at least lighten their burden. For this category, the slave should exert his utmost, and seek the help of his Diety. The second category is those affairs over which the slave has no power. For this, the slave should calm himself, and accept what came to him and surrender (to Allah). There is no doubt that this is a principle complying with which is a definite means of achieving happiness and keeping worry and grief at bay.

Useful Ways of Leading a Happy Life by Shaykh Abdur Rahman bin Nasr As S’adi Pages 16-19