BaKhabar, Vol 5, Issue 8, August 2012
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Ramadan boosts Emotional Intelligence, Part-1

... by Shakeel Ahmad <shakeeluae@gmail.com>

An introduction of Emotional intelligence and how Quran may be considered as the a guide book on emotional intelligence (and far more) was presented in the September 2010 issue of BaKhabar [reprinted by Milli Gazette of 16-31 July 2012], while how Eid Al-Adha can raise the EQ (a measure of Emotional Intelligence) was dealt with in the November 2010 issue of BaKhabar. In this article, an attempt is made to see how Ramadan and fasting could raise the level of Emotional Quotient (EQ) further. To start with, let us review some quotes from secular fitness experts that may reinforce our belief that fasting is actually a fast road to higher emotionally intelligence levels.                                           

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1. “Fasting is like being a gifted sculptor who knows how to take areas of fatness and thinness and give them proper form." Otto Buchinger, Jr., director of Buchinger Therapeutic Fasting clinic at Überlingen (Germany).
2. "Fasting creates a condition of low concentration of toxic wastes in the circulatory system. This is sensed by the plasma membrane of each cell and each cell will then let go of its load of toxic wastes." Ron Kennedy, M.D.
3. "I assert that fasting is the most efficient means for correcting any disease." Adolph Mayer, M.D., from his book Fast Cures - Wondercures
4. "I often observe in the fasting participants that by four days of fasting, concentration seems to improve, creative thinking expands, depression lifts, insomnia stops, anxieties fade, the mind becomes more tranquil and a natural joy begins to appear. It is my hypothesis that when the physical toxins are cleared from the brain cells, mind-brain function automatically and significantly improves and spiritual capacities expand." Gabriel Cousins, M.D. (psychiatry)
5. “Our data lead us to speculate that sporadic fasting might represent a simple, safe and inexpensive means to promote this potentially therapeutic neuronal response.” [In Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy, by Alirezaei M, Kemball CC, Flynn CT, Wood MR, Whitton JL, Kiosses WB, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.]
6. Fasting had a substantial impact on neural growth, and as new neurones grow, memory improves and the chances of getting depression decrease. [Doris Stangl, King's College, London]
7. Mark Sisson, fitness expert and author of The Primal Blueprint, cites numerous research works which prove that fasting improves memory, boosts Neuronal Autophagy, increases levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), increases production of Ketones, reduces chances of stroke, is also effective against physical trauma to the brain, helps recover from cervical spine injury, reduces chances of Alzheimer’s disease and enhances chances of recovery for the affected ones, can slow down progression of Huntington’s disease and basic age-related cognitive decline
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Mere physical fasting, with no spiritual connection, has been cited above, as carrying such incredible benefits that could improve the emotional levels as well as intelligence, apart from greatly improving health and fitness – and we know that a healthy body is the best fit for a healthy mind. This implies that physical fasting (abstaining from food and drink) alone could enhance the EQ levels greatly, by conditioning us in Goleman’s components of EI, i.e., (a) Self-awareness, (b) Emotional literacy, (c) Empathy and compassion, (d) Balance and (e) Responsibility.                                                         
Imagine how much value would get added by associating Quran, worship, and efforts to seek closeness to the One Who created emotions, intelligence, mind, body, and the soul, a perfect package of a human! Imagine being recipient of the immense amount of collective release of spiritual energy at the time of breaking of fast, in prayers, in rukoo and sujood, to which the angels add unlimited worth!
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Let us now look at some of the values added by a wholesome fast undertaken for the sake of Allah. Ramadan is not merely fasting the way we understand, that is, restraining oneself from food and drink. It involves fasting of the nafs - freeing from all carnal desires, trying to upgrade one’s nafs (self) to higher levels, e.g., from Nafs Al-Ammara to Nafs Al-Lawamma, and to Nafs Al-Mutmainnah.  top
Nafs-al-Ammarah (Quran, 12:53), or the tempting soul, is that which leans towards the bodily nature, tempts one towards unlawful carnal pleasures and lusts and, pulls the self towards lowest levels. It is the most desirable resting place of evil and source of culpable morals and mean actions. In its primitive stage the nafs incites us to commit evil: this is the nafs as the lower self or the base instincts.
Nafs-al-Lawwamah (Quran, 75:2) is an inner police (an alarm system or the self-reproaching conscience) inside us that inwardly alarms us whenever a wrongdoing is committed by us. This self helps resist wrongdoings and seek Allah's forgiveness by making us conscious of our wrongdoings. In this stage of self-realization, the right deeds get distinctly differentiated from the wrong ones; however the ability to reform is still quite weak. We start disliking our misdeeds (self-reproach), and enter a cycle of erring, regretting our mistakes, and then possibly erring again.
Nafs Al-Mutmainnah (Quran, 89:27) is the peaceful, satisfied soul, or the reassured soul (self-actualized self in psychology), or a soul in inner peace - that which believes in Allah as his Lord and Sustainer, and feels pleasure in following the way of life taught by the prophet, with full satisfaction of the heart, and without the least doubt about it, not unwillingly but with perfect conviction, endures any hardships with full peace of mind, without remorse on being deprived of pleasures of this world.
  
Fasting can act as a catalyst if we seek a transition from a lower level of self (lower EQ) to higher levels; by practising fasting essentials every day for a month, with due honesty, the transformation could internalize as a permanent change. This could become easier if our fasting involves:
a. Fasting of the mind: avoiding thoughts about things forbidden Allah, while focusing on ways and means to get closer to Allah,
b. Fasting of the hand: not touching/taking what does not belong to it, nor begging,
c. fasting of the nose: not sniffing or smelling unlawful things, so that smell of Jannah gets closer,
d. Fasting of the feet: not going places where sinful acts are propagated; rather going to places where the special mercy of Almighty rains in this month abundantly.
e. Fasting of the eye: to prevent it from seeing forbidden things, and to lower the gaze,
f. fasting of the tongue: guarding against lying, backbiting, slandering, reviling, abusing others, cursing, indecent conversation, swearing and false evidence,
g. Fasting of the ears: not to listen to idle talk, gossip, lyrics and notes that contain obscene and indecent things. Listening to the Qur’an bears the fruit of faith, guidance, light and prosperity,
h. Fasting of the heart: casting out from it the love of worldly things and by cleansing it of all corrupt material such as, false beliefs, evil suggestions, filthy intentions and degenerate thoughts, making room for the noor (light) of guidance.
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Apart from fasting in the month of Ramadan, in which Qur'an was revealed as guidance for mankind towards ultimate success, muslims make sure that they utilize maximum of their time reciting Quran, and trying their best to internalize its teachings by practicing what they learn. The impact of Quran on enhancing one’s EQ levels would be taken up in next part of this article, insha-Allah. It is becoming clearer, however, that Ramadan and fasting can not only raise our EI levels far more, but also enhance our social intelligence levels and our spiritual intelligence levels. I believe that if our fasting and other Ramadan engagements are properly aligned with the divine guidance received through Quran and Sunnah, we could actually become Heavenly Intelligent – after all, the ultimate goal of this life is to pave way for the heavens, right? And, it is promised by Allah:

Prophet (PBUH) said: “Allah says: “All the deeds of Adam's children belong to them, except fasting, which belongs to Me, and I will reward it. Fasting is a shield (against the Hell and sins). If one of you happens to be fasting then he should avoid sexual relations with his wife, and should avoid quarrelling. If someone quarrels with him, let him say: 'I am fasting.' By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better in the Sight of Allah than the musk.” [Hadeeth-e-Qudusi]

Fighting Burn-Out: Becoming A Well Balanced Productive Muslim
--- By Rushda Abraham
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Life is a prison for a Muslim and Allah sends down trials to human beings, which is clearly mentioned in the Qur’an:
Verily! We have made that which is on earth as an adornment for it, in order that We may test them (mankind) as to which of them are best in deeds.” [18:7]
Therefore, happy and sad moments are a natural part of our life. It’s essential to understand how to deal with unpleasant realities of living when they knock on the door of life.
Inability to cope with frustrating moments in life can possibly lead to burnout and depression.
Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental fatigue caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It develops when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands.
It also occurs when you are working towards objectives that do not resonate with you. This state can also be a real threat if you get on with your family members or co-workers poorly. As the burnout continues, you may lose the motivation that led you to undertake on a certain role in the first place.
Some personality traits that can contribute to burnout are: perfectionism, a pessimistic view of the self and the world around you, as well as having a type A personality or high achieving personality.
Is your target to live a well-balanced life? A lifestyle where you reach success in your chosen field and be emotionally present, and actually involved, in the lives of your loved ones? If so, then achieving inner balance should be your guide.
The following are steps to get you out of burnout and achieve inner balance:
Physical Exercise
The World Health Organization warns that by the year 2020, burnout and depression will be the second leading cause of death and disability in the world — mainly due to more stressful lifestyles, violence and poverty. Exercise helps us deal with a stressful situation and it prepares us to better cope with future burnout and fight depression.
In 1999, four health related studies were conducted at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The research studied how regular exercise changes physiological responses to stress from the brain, hormonal system and immune system. The results showed that regular exercise helps to reduce the negative effects of burnout and to improve the immune system. As we know, exposure to mental or physical stress increases our susceptibility to illness.
Physical exercise, on the other hand, can help keep stress levels under control.
Breathe to Relax
Allah (Subhanahu wa’tala) has blessed us with beautiful nature that provides us a pure way to activate our relaxation response. Taking a deep, mindful breath when we feel burned out can be a convenient way to bring us back to balance. It can also help shift our perspective. The next time you feel overwhelmed in a situation pause and take a deep, concentrated breath and allow the stress to melt away.
Take breaks between big tasks.
Burnout leads your body and mind to a weakened situation. It’s important to avoid jumping from one stressful, time-consuming task to the next. Give your body and mind time to recover. Without such a recovery you’re placing a burden on your mind and body without having a chance to recharge, it’s exhausting!                                        
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Spiritual Exercise
Sad moments and misery are among major causes of burnout.
Fortunately, Islam holds the answers to every worldly problem. Spiritual exercise is always the best way for a productive Muslim to fight any unpleasant state of mind and body, including burnout. The essential factor is an optimistic view of the self and the world. This is necessary to release us from such a state of burnout and any stressful situation.
Remember that the Prophet (Peace and blessings upon Him) related that Allah (Subhanahu wa’tala) said, ”I am with my slave’s thoughts about Me, so let him think of Me as he chooses.” The hadith emphasizes the importance of positive thinking in life.
The nature of this worldly life makes it impossible for human beings not to be intruded with some kind of adversity. This is a part of life. Realizing that any unpleasant moments or hardship strengthens our hearts, atones for our sins and helps to suppress an inclination towards pride and haughtiness will relieve our mind.
Furthermore, there are numerous scientific findings on the relationship between mental health and religion. Thayer, Newman, and McClain (1994) found that religiosity and spiritual strategies were particularly effective for reducing burnout, nervousness, tension and anxiety. Moreover, it loaded on a pleasant distraction factor which was found to be the most effective strategy for mood change.
If you sense that you suffer from burnout, first of all, stop insisting of yourself to keep going. Start listening to your body, and it will tell you what it needs. Take on some of the strategies mentioned above and keep the faith that Allah (Subhanahu wa’tala) is the best disposer of all human affairs.
As a Productive Muslim, how do you fight burn out? What tweaks and positive habits in your life help you maintain a balanced lifestyle? Share with us below!
References:
Joshi, Vinay (2005). Stress From Burnout to Balance. Tejeshwar Singh for Response Books.
Koenig, H. G., Cohen, H. J., Blazer, D. G., Pieper, C., and Meador, K. G., Shelp, F., Goli, V., and DiPasquale, R. (1992). Religious coping and depression in elderly hospitalized medically ill men. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 1693–1700
Thayer, R. E., Newman, J. R., & McClain, T. M. (1994). Self-regulation of mood: Strategies for changing a bad mood, raising energy, and reducing tension. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 910–925.                  

About the Author: Rushda Abraham is a French Muslim Woman Magazine journalist.
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Original Source: Cick here

When you thought I wasn't looking
A message every adult should read because children watch you and do as you do, not as you say.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my favourite cake for me, and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, and it’s all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I learned most of life’s lessons that I needed to know: to be a good and productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I looked at you and wanted to say,’ Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.
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