Islamic Let's Talk

Dealing With Emotional Numbness and Making Dua – Lessons From Surah Yusuf

While we’re on the subject of the emotions wheel, I wanted to share a quick reflection prompted by a question on ‘emotional numbness and the impact it can have on our relationship with Allah’ from the @chitchatchai halaqah this Saturday. 

A couple of years back when I was going through severe depression, one of the things it robbed me of was the ability to feel. I became numb to everything and it’s really hard to describe that state to anyone unless you’ve been through it. It’s a state of lifelessness and shutting down where nothing penetrates, neither joy nor sadness. It sounds absurd but it really is a blessing to feel even pain, as difficult an emotion it is. I remember the first moments during my recovery when I was hanging out with a couple of friends and I was laughing and the thought entered my head, “your heart can feel this again” and I will forever be grateful for that memory Alhamdulilah.

So when I heard the question about numbness this weekend, I thought about how that phase of my life affected my relationship with Allah. 

Despair or emotional numbness hardens the heart and if you shut yourself off from processing pain or any other difficult emotion, you’re not only suppressing it, you’re blocking the means for you to experience other emotions like joy, contentment and love. It’s not a switch that works halfway, it affects everything from your relationship to yourself, other people and Allah SWT.  In thinking about Quranic guidance on dealing with challenges and emotions, I fell back (once again) on Surah Yusuf. No ayah in the Qur’an is accidental so I think about the significance of Allah SWT mentioning the sorrow and grief of Yaqub at losing his son. Yaqub AS is no ordinary man, he is a prophet and even then, he is not immune from experiencing intense sorrow. So what is Allah SWT teaching us? 

  1. We can’t process pain or any other emotion until we admit the reality of how we’re truly feeling. You have to be able to check in with yourself and be honest. It’s okay to say “This is affecting me”, it’s okay to acknowledge and say to yourself, “I’m in pain,” and it’s okay to say “This hurts and I need help.”
  2. If you can’t admit your feelings to yourself, you are most definitely not going to be able admit it to Allah. 

Yaqub AS acknowledged and expressed his emotions and he made dua to Allah.

Why is this important? 

There are many ways we can relate to Dua. It is a form of worship, it is a form of connecting with Allah but to me, Dua is also a way of breaking down my emotional barriers or the walls in my relationship with Allah. Praying with vulnerability and honesty is one of the most powerful ways of acknowledging and expressing emotion. One of my favourite names of Allah SWT is Al-Jabbar, The Restorer and Repairer. And the essence of the root j-b-r is the irresistible restoration of something. The name Al-Jabbar describes the nature of the One who is the ultimate restorer of soundness and wholeness. So sometimes we fall apart and allow our hearts to feel everything with all of its intensity because we trust in Al-Jabbar to put the pieces back together just like he did for Yaqub AS. 

I am sharing this reflection because we’re in the last 10 days, and for some people who are reading this, your emotional barriers about your worthiness or anything else will be blocking your ability to speak to Allah in the way that you are capable of doing but most importantly in the way that you need. Tonight is another odd night, so I want you to remember Yaqub and Surah Yusuf when you ask tonight. Cry if you must and then laugh, because the fact that you’re witnessing this night is already a gift from your Lord. 

Please remember be in your duas and I will be keeping you in mine. 

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