Category Archives: Family

12 Ways to Care for Loved Ones with Depression


Support. Care. Understanding.

These are the most powerful ways that you can personally assist a person suffering with depression, which is perhaps the most misunderstood mental health problem in our community. Too often, family members and friends either neglect or don’t realize how critical their care and support are to their loved one who is experiencing depression.

Depression is an insidious condition that affects 1 in 10 Americans at one point in life. Approximately 8% of adults in Canada will experience major depression at some time in their lives. Over 121 million people globally suffer from some form of depression.

Thanks to the rising Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments in media, politics, and institutions, depression is certainly on the rise among Muslims living in the West. One Yale University survey found that about 50% of all Arab-Americans surveyed had clinical signs of depression.

Signs and symptoms of depression vary from person to person. While professional counselling and medical intervention are highly recommended for cases involving serious or chronic forms of clinical depression, there is a lot you can do to ease the situation that your loved one is going through.

  1. Understand depression. Acknowledge that depression is a mental health problem. Given the taboo surrounding depression and mental health issues in the Muslim community, hardly anyone talks about depression. It is easy to treat depression as just a temporary emotional imbalance or a spiritual problem. You need to spend some time learning about the symptoms and possible remedies involving depression.
  2. Be there physically. Show that you are there to help your loved one go through this difficult period together. Acknowledge the seriousness of the individual’s condition and offer full support. Don’t belittle their pain. Be there to hug. Be there to show how much he or she means to you and to others.
  3. Simply listen. Active listening is an art that requires practice. A depressed individual may not be interested in lengthy advice from you. Simply taking the time to listen to and acknowledge his or her problems and concern brings a world of psychological relief.
  4. Try doing something out of routine. Surprise your loved one with gestures of love. If he or she feels comfortable, go out  for a dinner, exercise together, take a stroll in the park, invite some intimate friends over, give a bouquet of flowers, or write a heart-felt card to express your love. Try different things on weekly basis to cheer up your loved one, but be careful not to overdo it.
  5. Show the bigger picture. Remind your loved one that things will get better sooner or later, God-Willing. “Surely, after hardship comes ease” (Quran 94:6). This is Allah’s promise. Sunshine is on the horizon as the dark clouds of sadness and depression move on.
  6. Be patient and don’t be judgemental. It is easy to get annoyed with a depressed family member or a friend and lose patience after a few days. A depressed individual often lacks energy and may find doing basic tasks difficult. He or she will test your fortitude and temper. Be ready for a range of mood swings. Do your best to remain calm and non-judgemental.
  7. Advise to limit bad news, and news in general. Majority of the local, national, international is bad news these days. Killing, accident, robbery, war, terrorism, hate-crime. It all adds up and brings our spirits down. Let your loved one know that he or she doesn’t have to listen to the depressing news to be an informed citizen. He or she can read instead and be selective to avoid further negativity.
  8. Share some good, positive articles, books, and lectures. There is a plethora of material out there, online, in print, and on videos, that can uplift your loved one’s spirit. It can be Islamic lectures or books on personal development. Positive messages and reinforcement are empowering during prolonged mental health situations.
  9. Encourage your loved one to engage in lot more Salah (prayer) and Zikr (remembrance). Remind them about Allah’s promise: “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (Qur’an 13:28). For some, a deeper spiritual connection, prayer, and meditation may be the most effective relief from sorrow, depression, anxiety, at least temporarily.
  10. Daily, read the Quranic verses and Duas (supplications) for healing prescribed by the Prophet, peace be upon him. Believe it or not, your sincere recitation of the verses from the Quran and Sunnah for protection, healing, and health in front of your loved one could go a long way in reviving hope.
  11. Introduce Mindfulness meditation. “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”1 This exercise will help your loved one slowly come out of the doom and gloom mode, which is often filled with regrets of the past and fears of the future.
  12. Seek medical help. Encourage him or her to consult a psychiatrist, especially if symptoms get worse. If the individual becomes suicidal, seek urgent medical intervention.

Having a reliable supportive network of family members and friends is critical to ensure speedy recovery from depression.

As you provide comfort, care, and understanding to your loved one suffering with depression, keep this beautiful promise of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in mind:

“He who relieves a hardship of this earthly life, for a believer, Allah will relieve a hardship of the Day of Resurrection for him; he who makes it easy for an indebted person, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter; he who covers a Muslim (his mistakes and shortcomings), Allah will cover him in this world and in the Hereafter; Allah will be in the servant’s (time of) need, as long as the servant is in his (believing) brother’s need” [Sahih Muslim].

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18 Ways to Achieve Greatness through Gratefulness

By Taha Ghayyur

Whether you consider yourself a positive, easy-going person or a demanding, hard to please person, these tips can help you become a more grateful, caring, and content individual.

There is much more to gratitude and Shukr (thankfulness) in Islam than a mere “Thank You” that our ears have become so used to ignoring. Discover how you can be more thankful to Allah and His creation.

  1. Stop Complaining and be positive! This is the first step towards being thankful to Allah and people around you. We have become a community of complainers and whiners, which has lead to a collective psychology of negativity and unproductively.Stop complaining about the economy, weather, politicians, traffic, or ‘the system’. Refrain from blaming your Masjid, Imams, parents, spouse, in-laws, children, or boss. If you think with an open mind, you may find more positives in your circumstances and the people around you than negatives.
  2. Say “Al-hamdulillah” (All thanks and praise belongs to Allah) often: A constant utterance of this phrase reminds you of the source of all blessings and happiness in this life. This practice of attributing all good actions to Allah keeps you humble and content and has a positive affect on your relations with people.Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, has instructed us to say “Al-hamdulillah” on daily basis: “Allah is pleased with His servant if, when he eats something he thanks Allah for it, and when he drinks something he thanks Allah for it” (Muslim).
  3. Respect others’ time and schedule: Part of ungratefulness is wastage of time. As a scholar once said, “Time is not just money. It is more expensive than gold, diamonds and pearls. Time is life itself!”Arriving late at a meeting or a class, cancelling appointments last minute, or starting off a program late, are not only a big waste of time and disrespectful to others, but also a lack of appreciation of others’ time on your part.
  4. Seize the opportunity while you can. Procrastination in offering your prayers, delaying a donation to a humanitarian cause, or filling your leisure time with unproductive or unlawful activities is ingratitude to Allah for the limited time and opportunity He has given you to do good and to achieve Paradise.Prophet Muhammad warned us, “Good health and spare time are two of the blessings of Allah with respect to which many people are deceived.” (Bukhari)Even if you live till tomorrow, what guarantee do you have that there won’t be any obstacles in carrying out a good action. The Prophet used to call on Muslims to take the initiative to do good deeds before any problems arise.
  5. Spend 15 minutes daily to think about things that you should be thankful for: Recall people in your life, whom you may have taken for granted like your parents, spouse, children, co-worker, or teacher, who were caring and loving.List some of Allah’s gifts that are not tangible or were not obvious to you before. Sulayman, a follower of the Prophet’s Companions, once said: “Remembering His blessings makes one love Allah.”This simple mental exercise not only makes you a grateful person, but also a healthy one. According to a 2001 research bythe Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL), based in Ohio, just 15 minutes a day focusing on the things you are grateful for will significantly increase your body’s natural antibodies, will make you less vulnerable to clinical depression, and will keep your blood pressure and heart rate stable.
  6. Be patient and grateful when disasters strike: The depth and strength of your gratitude is tested in difficult times. Allah wants to see how thankful you truly are when you loose your job or a loved one, or when you feel ill and or get injured.It helps to know that in times of calamity and distress, there will be some good for you, provided you respond appropriately. The Prophet said, “How wonderful is the case of a Believer! There is good for him in whatever happens to him -and none, apart from him, enjoys this blessing.” (Muslim)Sufyan al-Thawri, a famous early scholar of Islam, said, “He does not understand religion properly who does not count affliction as a blessing and ease as a trial.”
  7. Donate your time, talent, money, and advice to social work and non-profit efforts: In our profit-driven culture, it is burdensome to squeeze out time and wealth for others. Your selfless service and generosity towards people in need and non-profit organizations is a sure way of showing gratitude to Allah and to your community.The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him said, “People are dependants of Allah; the closest to Him are those who are most useful to His dependants” (Muslim).”As the blessings from Allah to a servant increase, so will the people’s needs of that blessed servant’s services. If the servant ignores their needs, it will cause those blessings to be removed” (lbn Hibban).
  8. Visit the sick, the terminally ill, and the disabled: Frequenting patients and families of the deceased, not only brings comfort to them and brings multiple rewards from Allah to you, it also helps you appreciate your own good health and opportunities you have in life to serve others.
  9. Share the message of Islam: If you appreciate the guidance of Islam as your most precious treasure, don’t hesitate to share it with others. If Islam has changed your life for the better, what’s holding you back from inviting your friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers to explore this message of hope and positive transformation?
  10. Recite and memorize the Duas of Prophet Muhammad: The most natural and beautiful way to thank Allah is the words of the Prophet himself.The Prophet told Muadh, “By Allah, I love you, so do not forget to say at the end of every prayer, ‘O Allah, help me to remember You and to give thanks to You and to worship You well’” (Ahmad and At-Tirmidhî).
  11. Fall in Prostration (Sajda) when you receive a blessing from Allah:Prophet Muhammad used to prostrate (Sajda) to Allah whenever he received something pleasant or was told good news to thank Allah for the grace he had received.
  12. Don’t consider any blessing too small: Treat all gifts of Allah with equal respect and gratitude, lest you lose it one day for good. Aishah said that the Prophet entered upon her one day and saw a small piece of bread on the floor, so he picked it up and wiped it, then told her: “O Aishah, treat the blessings of Allah with respect, for when it departs from a household it may never come back to them” (Abud Dunya).
  13. Use and display Allah’s blessings moderately. Part of being grateful to Allah is to look presentable and clean, and spend money on yourself with moderation.Abul-Akhwas nar­rated that his father said: “I came to the Messenger of Allah looking dishevelled and scruffy. He asked me, ‘Do you have any possessions?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He asked me what sort, and I told him, ‘I have all sorts. Allah has given me camels, horses, slaves and sheep.’ The Prophet said: ‘If Allah has given you all of that, then let Him see His blessing on you.’”
  14. Don’t be too picky and accommodate others! Some people express their discomfort (perhaps unintentionally) with anything that they are not used to. They may be too picky about their taste of food, clothing and furniture; they may get irritated easily in new environments; they may like meeting only a certain type of people; they may not like working with others.This insensitivity to other people’s preferences and inability to accommodate others is a sign of selfishness, arrogance, and ungratefulness. Be content in every situation and you will become grateful.
  15. Admire those below you and keep your expectations low:  A lot of times the reason for our ungrateful behaviour is that we are constantly comparing our material success with the wealthier, healthier, and more accomplished. In our race to ‘keep-up-with-the-Ahmad-family’ next door, we forget so many obvious blessings that others may not enjoy and we should be thankful for.The Prophet admonished us, “Look at those people who have less than you and never look at those who have more grants than you, this will ensure that you will not depreciate Allah’s favours” (Muslim).
  16. Thank people for littlest things: People like to be appreciated for little favours they do for us, which often get ignored in our busy routines. When was the last time you thanked your little son for taking care of simple chore for you? Has your husband heard a compliment from you lately?Take the time to thank them for their thoughtfulness. As the Prophet stated, “The one who does not give thanks for a small blessing will not give thanks for a great blessing, and the one who does not give thanks to people will not give thanks to Allah” (Abud Dunya).
  17. Compliments & recognition and motivate team members: Whether you are an employer or a manager at work, or lead a volunteer based project, or simply a team player, a personal recognition significantly boosts the employee or volunteer morale.As Stephen Robbins in his book “The Truth about Managing People” explains, several organizational behaviour studies have indicated employees and volunteers rate personal thanks and recognition from a superior for a job well-done as the most motivating of a variety of incentives; yet not many team leaders use this simple, cost-effective technique that works like magic! What kinds of personal recognition and group success incentives does your organization have in place?
  18. When you thank someone, make sure you mean it: When you say “Jazakallahu Khayran” (May Allah reward you the best) to your wife, does it come from your heart? Or is it received as another cold cliché?Be a little creative when you really want to express your gratitude to someone. Say it with a personal thank you card. Show it with flowers. Accompany it with a genuine smile. Charge it with emotions. Enhance it with a meal or a meaningful gift.


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10 Ways to Shower Your Spouse with Appreciation

By Taha Ghayyur

Whether you are married for just a month or for a decade, you often take your spouse for granted. Courtesy, gratitude, and care for each other wears off. The same person whom, once upon a time, you would thank for little things, now feels unappreciated by you for all that they do for you everyday.

Why is it that today if some “stranger” offers you a drink or holds the door for you, you jump to thank them even before their act of kindness is completed, and yet, you show no gratitude to your husband or wife’s hard work all day long?

What we fail to realize is that expressing gratitude benefits both partners in the relationship—the recipient and the giver. When you give appreciation, you often receive even more in return.

One researcher found on days when spouses felt more gratitude toward their partner, they felt more attached to him or her and more pleased even the following day. Recipients of gratitude also increased their satisfaction on days when it was expressed.

Researchers refer to gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Moreover, each unit of improvement in expressed appreciation decreased by half the odds of the couple breaking up in six months, based on Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage.”

Thank you to your spouseEvery day is filled with wonderful opportunities to tell the special person in your life, how grateful you are for this relationship. Here are some simple ways to shower your husband or wife with well-deserved appreciation everyday:

  1. Thank your spouse because they care, not because it’s their job. When your spouse helps with a chore, whether it’s doing dishes, taking out garbage, feeding the baby, or doing groceries, don’t think it’s their job. Moreover, don’t take their work for granted just because you do your share of chores also. Appreciate the care and thoughtfulness that your husband or wife invests in this day-to-day grunt work.
  2. Tell them why you appreciate their act of kindness. Your spouse would be delighted to know why you are grateful. Moreover, specifying what makes you thankful shows you are sincere in your appreciation. Say: “Thank you for cleaning the snow. It gave me some time to relax!” or “It was nice of you to take kids to play outside as I was able to work on my assignment in peace.”
  3. Be creative in expressing thanks. Learn and use different phrases everytime. If you keep using “Thank you” all the time, it looses its charm and meaning after a while. Try more personalized phrases: “I appreciate it”, “I love it when you….”, “I am grateful for…”, “May God bless you!”, “Jazakallahu Khayran”, “What would I do without your help”, “I will pray to Allah for you…”…etc.
  4. Appreciate the time and thoughtfulness, not only the results. Even when your partner goofs up and is unable to deliver up to your expectations, thank them for their effort and time. If your spouse forgets to buy an item from the long list of groceries, or if he or she burns the dinner, don’t make them feel all their work was wasted. “It’s not a big deal, honey. Thank you for your effort.”
  5. Look for positives to appreciate even in negative circumstances. How often you get upset when your husband or wife tells you: “Honey, I have to work extra hours next weekend to meet a project deadline,” or “I am running late tonight,” or “My mom is feeling ill and she will need my help this week.” Instead of whining, thank them for calling you and informing about the situation. This way, your spouse will do their best to reciprocate and make up for the inconvenience.
  6. Write and leave surprise “Thank You” notes. You would be surprised, how powerful these little acts of gratitude can be in making your husband or wife feel special. These can make their day. You can hide a note somewhere for your partner to discover, or send a quick text message on your way to work, or shoot a heartfelt email, to simply say “Thank You!”
  7. Thank you to your spouse Let them know how important they are to your success. Count your blessings and accomplishments in life, and inform your husband or wife about the impact they have in your success. Whether it’s your career, academic pursuits, parenting, community work, or spiritual growth, appreciate how your spouse contributes to the achievement of your goals.
  8. Praise and thank them in private and public. Many a times a husband or wife feels appreciated at home, but feel they are worthless when they step out in public domain. Some couples don’t think there is a need to thank their special ones in public. On the other extreme, some spouses only thank each other in public to show people how well-mannered they are, while they are abusive at home. When your gratitude is consistent and sincere in all spheres of your married life, you will see the positive impact of it in your relationship.
  9. Go out of your way when they need help. The true test of a grateful attitude is when you take initiative to make someone feel special and serve them when they need your care the most. If your wife or husband feels down or drained one day, be more thoughtful. Offer to do the chores rather than waiting to be asked. Let them take a nap, give them a message, or given them a break from children.
  10. Use the time-tested method to thank. Say thank you with a gift. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Flowers, or a box of chocolates, or a dinner out at a restaurant, or a custom engraved stationery, or a gift certificate to a spa.

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Building Bridges of Trust with Your Loved One

By Taha Ghayyur

So you are a newly-wed couple and wondering how do I earn by loved one’s trust?

Or you may be married for a while now and lately you feel your spouse has been getting paranoid and questioning everything you do.

Building, earning, and keeping trust, which is known as Amana in Arabic, is a daunting task that requires a life-long effort.

Building trust is like building a bridge. It requires multiple skills and steps: intention, determination,strategy, architecture, engineering, and gathering supplies. It involves labour and at times risks. Bridge building is not a one time task. It needs constant care and maintenance.

Why Trust Matters?

Building Bridges of Trust with Your Loved OneYou may be wondering, what’s the big deal about trust? Isn’t it something that comes naturally with love? Not necessarily.

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” – George MacDonald

It’s crucial to understand the role of trust in a relationship, especially in a Muslim marriage.

Trust is:

  • the basis of your Islamic marriage contract
  • what glues the hearts and souls of two different, sometimes seemingly incompatible, people together
  • what helps you understand your life-partner’s needs, preferences and annoyances
  • what keeps you and your spouse going when the storms of stress, arguments, financial distress, anxiety and external interferences hit your relationship
  • what Allah asks us to have in Him for final results, after doing our effort (Tawakkul)
  • what Allah told us to fulfill: “Fulfill your promises that you will be questioned about them.” (16:24)
  • something if broken, makes Allah displeased. Ali bin Abu Talib once said: “Breaking promises makes others unhappy as also Allah will be unhappy.”

Not surprisingly, truthfulness (Sidq) and trust (Amana) were the primary qualities that attracted Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, to the Prophet, peace upon him. The entire relationship of the first two Muslims in Makkah was founded on these remarkable qualities.

10 Ways to Build Bridges of Trust

Good news is, with a consistent sincere effort and an honest character, you can build and maintain bridges of trust and understanding with your spouse.

1- Never Lie to Your Spouse: Make sure to establish a truthful character in the sight of your spouse and children from the outset of your relationship. Have zero tolerance for lies, big or small, in your family. If you take “small lies” lightly, it may make your wife or husband think, if you can lie about something insignificant, what else would you be lying about? From small things to where you are going or what you ate today for lunch, to big things like your education, or immigration status, or family history, all require honest disclosure in order to nurture trust.

2- Never Deceive Others: While you may not be lying to your spouse, you may think it’s OK to lie to outsiders. For instance, calling in sick at work for some other reason; telling your spouse or children to lie to someone calling, “No, Mr. xyz is not home”; playing tricks on your business partner; or deceiving to your customers. When your loved ones witness your dishonest behaivour with outsiders, how can you expect them to trust you? A believer can never have one face in one setting and another somewhere else. This is what Prophet, peace be upon him, warned us about:

“Whoever has (the following) four characters will be a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. These are: (1) Whenever he talks, he tells a lie; (2) whenever he makes a promise, he breaks it; (3) whenever he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; (4) and whenever he quarrels, he behaves impudently in an evil insulting manner.” (Bukhari)

3- Be Proactive in Keeping Your Spouse Informed: Small things such as letting your spouse know what your plans are for the day, who you intend to meet and why, and what your school, work or travel schedule will be like, will help strengthen their trust in you.

4- Hear Out Your Partner: If your husband or wife feels insecure about or suspicious of some activity of yours, listen to what they say and the feelings behind their inquiries. Don’t interrupt or judge them. Let them finish before you speak up. Sometimes understanding their concerns is more important than lengthy explanations.

Keep in mind this advice from an anonymous person: “Without trust, words become the hollow sound of a wooden gong. With trust, words become life itself.”

5- Avoid Things that Make Your Spouse Feel Insecure: If there are settings that make your spouse uncomfortable or if there are certain activities that make them anxious and insecure, regardless of their reasoning, it’s a good practice to avoid these as much as possible. Of course, any action, environment, or company that displeases Allah and is against Prophetic teachings should be avoided to begin with. Make sure you are aware of the Islamic limits on gender interaction and social engagements, whether in person or in the virtual world of text-messaging, phone conversations, or chatting on Facebook.

Pray Together, Eat together, and Sleep together:6- Be There When Your Spouse Needs You: Whether it’s a grocery item your spouse asked you to pick up on your way home, or you are requested to babysit children at home while he or she attends a meeting or a class, make sure you fulfill their request in the best possible manner. And it goes without saying, being there with your physical, verbal, emotional or financial support, in times of illness, pregnancy, loss of loved ones, or financial crisis, is the real test of your love and trust.

7- Be as Transparent as Possible: Don’t make your husband or wife guess or wonder what you’re up to. Don’t make them feel guilty for asking questions or having doubts. Be clear about your financial situation. Let them know about any illness or emotional limitations, or criminal records, before your marriage. If you have developed a reputation of honesty in all spheres of life, you shouldn’t have problem.

8- Spend Quality Time with Your Spouse: Building trust requires making time for the one whose trust you are trying to earn. Giving them your undivided attention and love helps them develop a true bond of trust and understanding. Doing things or going out with them, even to places you may not find exciting, is vital to earning their appreciation and trust.

9- Pray Together, Eat together, and Sleep together: This may sound very obvious, but setting your schedule in a way that you both are available to do these things together, is very spiritually and emotionally reinforcing. A relationship that is based on a strong spiritual and moral foundation can only bear love, trust, and respect as its fruits. Keep in mind, families where spouses don’t find time to eat together, sleep at the same time, and pray together often, are usually subject to miscommunication, insecurity, mistrust, boredom, lack of feelings of love, mercy, and joy.

10- Remember Allah’s Trust in You: God is watching you at all times. A constant reminder of death and your accountability to God, will always keep you in check. You would be careful to not to break your husband’s or wife’s trust, whether by watching something you shouldn’t be watching, or engaging in extra-marital relationships, or not fulfilling a promise or your spouse’s needs, because you know you will be ultimately breaking Allah’s trust. Your wife or husband and children are trusts from God. Either you take care of this trust, or God forbid, loose it.

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Six Homeschooling Myths

By Shehnaz Toorawa

Parents often consider homeschooling but are held back by beliefs and concerns that, although valid, are usually false. Here are common myths about homeschooling: Continue reading

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