Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Ultimate Dua(Prayer) for First World Problems

A phrase which crept up out of nowhere on social media and has been the subject of many memes, jokes and gags is the often hashtagged "First World Problems" (#firstworldproblems). Anyone that has a Facebook page or a Twitter feed has probably seen and chuckled at different examples of "first world problems". In the last year or so, the phrase has circulated to the point of being accepted in common everyday lingo. defines the phrase as:

First World Problems

Problems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at.
In other words, "first world problems" are the magnified complaints of the spoiled--gripes from people that are made significant despite having easy daily access to basic life necessities of food, water, clothing and shelter. 

Now no one is immune to inconveniences, they are a part of life. But when people make a huge fuss about gas going up two cents, forgetting their phone when going to use the restroom so they have nothing to read or their coffee going cold before they can finish it as if it's the second coming of 9/11, that's cause for concern. The ridiculousness of first world problems is brilliantly lampooned in the video below:

The problems of life come in all forms with varying levels of severity. Some of those extreme cases of hardship are universal: death, disease, hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, physical pain. These troubles are universally seen as tragic and sadly are all too common in the rough areas of the world.

The majority of you who are reading this, Alhamdulilah, Allah has blessed enough to not have experienced any of these horrible things. If anyone has a right to complain about how rough they have it, it would be those who are going through the calamities listed above. People in places like Gaza, Darfur, Kashmir, Syria etc. But that doesn't mean that we don't deal with potentially crippling hardships while living comfortably in the West.

Actually, I believe there are true legitimate first world problems we Muslims are challenged with while living in prosperous nations. And no, I'm not talking about being upset that you have an iPhone 5 when the iPhone 6 is out. I'm talking about REAL first world problems: debt, anxiety, laziness, cowardice. At face value, they may not seem like big deals, but these elements are no joke and should be taken very seriously. They impact even the best of Muslims.

What's so wonderful though, is that these issues were addressed by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He recognized the detrimental effects these traits had on people so much so that he would regularly recite this dua, which is one of my favorite duas I recite daily.

للّهُـمَّ إِنِّي أَعْوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الهَـمِّ وَ الْحُـزْنِ، والعًجْـزِ والكَسَلِ والبُخْـلِوالجُـبْنِ، وضَلْـعِ الـدَّيْنِ وغَلَبَـةِ الرِّجال

Allahumma inni ‘audhubika min al-hammi wal huzan, wal 'ajzi wal kasal, wal jubni wal bukhl, wa dala'ad-dayni wa ghalabatir-rijâl. 

O Allah, I seek refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.

I find it amazing how perfectly this dua applies to modern times despite being first uttered in the deserts of Arabia 1400-plus years ago. It is these elements the dua mentions which hold a person down and keep him from progressing in life--be it financially, economically, spiritually or physically. These are real-deal problems which can only be combated and conquered with the help of Allah, hence why this dua came to be. 

Anxiety & Sorrow:

The dua starts off with anxiety and sorrow which is pretty telling considering how things are today. PEOPLE ARE FREAKING OUT! No one's immune to it. Folks are anxious about getting laid off at work, students are biting their fingernails when exam time rolls around and trying to meet high expectations. Youngsters are worried about finding a mate or dying forever alone. The rent is due. 'My parents/job/spouse/children/friends are pressuring me to do such and such'. Everyone hates Muslims and we're under a magnifying glass.  The sky is falling. I wish people would just relax but it's easier said than done. Being wealthy doesn't help either because they usually are doubly anxious. We can see it when celebrities and such are dying left and right overdosing on drugs. 

Treatment for anxiety and depression is a multi-billion dollar industry. There's no denying how crucial a subject this is with today's generation. Rather than turning to a pill to numb those feelings out for you, turn to Allah for help. This dua is asking Allah for relief so we can chill out and not have anxiety and depression overtake us to the point where we can't function. 

Weakness & Laziness:

This two headed beast is definitely thriving in this age of instant gratification. When anything you want is delivered to you at the click of a button, it's pretty natural to not want to exert much effort in accomplishing productive goals. Laziness holds people back from an enjoyable career, a fruitful relationship with a significant other (or with Allah) and from contributing to society. Laziness pretty much breeds weakness. In society, if you don't stand up for a good cause or for yourself or others when there's wrongdoing being done, that shows weakness.

These two illnesses stagnate a person to the point where they feel that nothing is progressing and they are just stuck in a never-ending cycle of mediocrity. For a Muslim, this is something we should desperately try to avoid. It's crucial to be active in all aspects of life and the only way to do that is combat weakness and laziness. With Allah's help, it is possible.

Miserliness & Cowardice:

I am what you would call a frugal person. I'm not raking in big bucks by any means so I try to be very conservative with my funds and budget. But sometimes, I can border on being miserly and that's when I have to check myself. 

For example, at Friday prayer sometimes when I am about to pass by the donation box or when I'm commuting to work and see some homeless guys on the side of the road, part of me doesn't want to reach into my wallet to pull even a few measly dollars out because I fear I might need that money later for something or the other. (Like what? Some Taco Bell?) I also make myself miss out on many beneficial experiences and programs--be it for a spiritual boost, career development skills, or to increase my knowledge on something I'm interested in--solely because I don't want to part with my hard earned money.

Now being a new father, the fear of not having enough money increases because of another "mouth to feed". When I get into this unhealthy way of thinking I remind myself of what I read about the times of Jahiliya(ignorance) where fathers were killing their children because they feared poverty to the point where the Qur'an explicity outlawed this cowardly act. It's the prime example of cowardliness and miserliness at work. Mentioning these illnesses in the dua is important because we need courage and assurance that Allah is Ar-Razzaq and we shouldn't fear poverty because He will take care of us.

The Burden of Debt & Being Overpowered by Men:

These days, there's nothing more stress enducing than the burden of debt. The economy is in shambles because people are being overwhelmed by tremendous debt and this even effects us on a larger scale where the US government owes trillions to different nations. This is something a lot of the young generation are being introduced to much sooner in life with dreaded student loan debt. Statistics show the average student owes an average of $30,000 dollars. You can include myself in that category. Debt is enslavement and it's something nearly everyone struggles with in some form or fashion.

I remember watching a documentary a few years ago called "Maxed Out" and it was about the financial crisis brought on by the epidemic of debt and it covered the ruthlessness of the credit card industry and collectors. You wouldn't believe the lengths they go to harass folks, demanding payment. The tactics they used: humiliation, aggressive language and threats drove people--young and old--to commit suicide just to escape the torture. That's where the being overpowered by men part comes in.

Being debt free is something we all should strive for and the only way we can get out of it is being smart and responsible with your money, living within your means and of course, the help of Allah. We need Allah's help to continue working hard and not breaking down because of the burdens of debt and the intimidation tactics of people we owe.

If these things were removed from our lives, imagine how enriched we'd be as individuals. Imagine how developed we'd be as members and leaders of our families and how our Ummah(community) would be.

First world problems of this magnitude are nothing to laugh or roll your eyes about. So if you're ever feeling overcome with them, remember this dua and hopefully those #firstworldproblems can be a hashtag of the past.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post. FWP!!! Bwahahah. Anxiety is my no. 1 problem and not just because I ran out of milk and want cereal. I like to think it's residue of the crushing guilt from my days as a Catholic, but it is probably just my fitrah telling me to be more mindful of Allah. Thanks for the reminder and the much needed dua.