In the turbulent world of the 21st. century, it is not easy for many people to find peace. Conflicts, protests, struggles, natural disasters and human tragedies are spreading fast around the world, and most of humanity, especially since the start of the global financial crisis in 2007, are living in a state of economic fear and instability.
What will happen tomorrow?
In this environment where external peace is difficult to find, a Muslim can at least search for inner peace. There are many elements needed to reach a state of inner peace (al-nafs al-mutma’inna – the reassured soul – mentioned in verse 89:27 in the Qur’an), and knowing the main ingredients required for finding peace makes it easier to reach the right destination.
So what are the main ingredients of inner peace?
1- As regards day-to-day life, finding peace of mind is an important key for reaching a state of inner peace, and this involves many practical details such as lowering expectations of this worldly life, living a sustainable life free of debt and therefore free of worries, and other important matters to be detailed.
2- A believer’s attitude towards life, such as patience, and inner feelings, like thankfulness and contentment, are crucial for finding inner peace.
3- One’s relation with Allah, trusting Him, and doing one’s best to come closer to Him, are all required elements for finding peace, as at the end of the day, as mentioned in the Qur’an, (with the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace) (13:28)
The Practical Side of Daily Life
In Part 1, ten suggestions are given for finding inner peace, starting with the following question:
What are the most important worries most people have in their daily lives?
People have many worries, including debts, finding good friends, dealing with other people, dealing with injustice, not having enough time, too much work, worrying about the future, dealing with life’s problems, and in general being dissatisfied with what they have.
Each of these worries has a remedy, and the following ideas are reminders that aim to help us find inner peace and tranquility.
1) Get Out of Debt
One of the main concerns most people have is being in debt and being worried about how to pay the next due payment, whether for credit card debts, bank loans, or similar obligations. Today’s consumer society encourages us day and night to buy new products, many of which we don’t really need, and through aggressive marketing campaigns many people find themselves gradually going into increasing levels of debt, month after month, and year after year.
Being caught in the debt trap takes away part of a person’s freedom, and when this happens one feels worried when there are too many debts to repay, and when monthly expenses no longer balance with monthly income. At this stage, one’s peace of mind totally evaporates, as worries can easily turn into a nightmare which disturbs the balance in life, and may reach the point described in this hadith “When a man gets into debt, he speak and tells lies, and he makes a promise and breaks it.” So the first important advice is don’t get into debt.
2) Keep Good Company
Meeting friends and relatives on social occasions and during weekends and holidays gives an important dimension to our social lives. By sharing and caring, one gets away from the daily routine of work and study, and gets involved with a wider circle of people one loves.
But be careful. A good friend no doubt helps his friend on the path towards Allah, and vice versa. So be very careful who you take as a close friend. The best friend is the one who reminds you of God when you forget, and encourages you to do good to others and live a decent life that pleases Allah. Keeping away from bad friends and company is therefore very important for finding inner peace.
3) Do Good to Others and Deal Kindly with People
We live in an age where most people don’t have time for others, and where violence, crime and selfishness prevail in many locations on our planet. In such an environment it is not easy to be unaffected, as what people around us do has a direct and indirect impact on our lives. In any case, as a Muslim it’s important to maintain good manners and to deal with people in a kind way, even those who are hostile towards us. This needs a lot of patience, but God loves those who are patient.
Doing good to others is a high priority to please Allah (SWT). A good deed brings light both to the heart and to the face. Doing good deeds results in being blessed in one’s sustenance, and the hearts of people are naturally attracted to the doer of good.
4) Don’t Get Angry
Another important ingredient for inner peace is to be patient with people and to avoid anger and negative reactions and feelings. Anger takes away part of our feeling of peace, and often makes a person act in an irresponsible way. Allah praised in the Qur’an those who are patient, and those who are able to control themselves and suppress their anger and forgive others. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a very calm and wise person, and he always advised his companions not to get angry.
If one day you do feel yourself on the verge of exploding in anger, try to make wudu’ (ablution), or if you are standing sit down and seek refuge from shaytan (Satan). When a person gets angry, Satan has a strong impact on him, as anger takes away part of one’s good manners and one’s sensible way of reasoning. So if you are searching for peace, do your best to be calm and patient
5) Forgive and Don’t be Unjust
Taking patience in dealing with people one step further, do your best to forgive and never be unjust. The path of injustice is a path which takes a person away from the path of God. If you are searching for inner peace, forgive and overlook people’s mistakes, and don’t take revenge for your personal satisfaction. Be patient and fair, and Allah will love you, bring you closer to Him and increase you in inner peace.
6) Slow Down and Don’t Overload Yourself with Responsibilities
We all have responsibilities in life, and in the modern world of today life gets more complicated each year, with more speed, new and faster technologies, and more stress all the time for most people. In such an environment one needs to find the right balance in order to live a life of peace, and taking on too many responsibilities is often counter-productive.
Try to reduce your daily load till you reach the right balance, and don’t be in a hurry, as it’s best to do a small number of tasks well than doing too many under stress and without perfection. Remember, this life is a mere transition, and we won’t take our wealth with us to the Hereafter, so live a balanced life if you are searching for peace.
Sometimes we go through weeks and months when we are running most of the day, either due to a high work load or too many engagements and matters to attend to, or both. When life gets too busy and you can’t find peace, try to slow down a bit. Driving when you are relaxed and not in a hurry is very different from driving when you are in a hurry and pressed for time. The same applies to all other life activities: walking to the train with serenity is not like running to catch that last train. All these details accumulate and at the end of the day one ends up either stressed or at peace. So try to slow down if you are searching for peace, it will certainly help.
7) Take Time Off
Take time off when you need it. After a busy time at work or studies for exams, it’s important to take some time off to recharge batteries; both spiritual and physical. Taking time off gives a chance for reflection and deep thinking, a chance to refresh one’s ideas and clear pending matters. Time off also allows for contemplation and being closer to God, the only real source of peace.
8) Take Life One Day at a Time
Sometimes we feel like there are so many problems to deal with this week, next month or next year, but we forget that each problem has a solution, and that we don’t cross our bridges till we get there. When feeling stress due to future problems, it is wise to unwind by taking it one day at a time. Yes, one should plan ahead and do one’s best, but at the end of the day it is Allah who decides what will eventually happen, so we need to ask Him to guide us to what is best for us in this world and in the Hereafter.
9) Look at the Positive Side of Life
Being positive most of the time is one of the ways which leads to inner peace. Each event we experience has its positive and negative sides. Sometimes the positives are greater than the negatives, and in some cases it’s the other way round. Even when a believer experiences a negative event, he/she is advised to look at its bright or positive side, as only focusing on the negative side leads a person to losing hope.
We must remember that there is always hope, and even if we can’t immediately understand the positive side of the matter we face, it is there, and by thinking and reflecting we can benefit from lessons learned, even after weeks or months, and gain more experience. So be positive and patient if you are searching for peace
10) Be Contented and Satisfied
Even if the external environment is hostile or hard, a content believer would still be happy.
Because happiness comes from the heart, it comes from the inside. If the external factors are good, this would help increase happiness, but if they are unfavorable if one is content one would still be happy. If you are searching for real peace and happiness, not temporary pleasures, start by refining your heart and coming closer to God, and when you become contented with what God has provided you and the many blessings you have you will find inner peace. An important way to achieve that is to lower expectations regarding worldly matters, and to remember those who have less than you and thank God for His many bounties and blessings.
Part 2 will look at a believer’s attitude to life, and elaborate on the last point above, how to be content and find inner peace …
(To be continued In-Shaa-Allah …)
By Tarek M. T. Ezzat