Allergies

Every February I find myself with itchy eyes, non-stop sneezing, a scratchy throat, tight lungs and a little skin bubbling to boot. Allergies come early in Damascus.

When I was a child I had an allergy test. The doctor scratched my back up with innumerable substances to determine what I was allergic to and what I was not allergic to. The conclusion: I was allergic to almost everything that floated around in the air; pollen, dust, animal dander etc… There were two choices – remove all dust, animal dander (get rid of the dog!), and plants; or take shots. My parents chose the latter and I embarked on an 8-year series of shots meant to cure me of my allergies. They worked great as long as I stayed within a ten mile radius of my hometown, but the spring I moved away found me with raging allergies once again. The new air was an enemy to my allergy-shot ridden body. Sigh.

Allergies are strange things; our bodies react to harmless substances by totally and completely freaking out. The person standing next to us remains clear eyed, clear headed, and able to breathe, taste and smile; while those of us with allergies begin a four-month trek into oblivion.

Such strange occurrences in the material world usually get me thinking about our spiritual world. What is my spirit allergic to?

Here is not the world of halal and haram, but rather the world of comfort and wherewithal. This is not where we think about what is right and wrong for Muslims, but rather what is right and wrong for us.

So what am I allergic to? What makes my skin crawl? What makes me feel stuffed-up? What makes me feel as though it is difficult to breathe?

I am personally allergic to hovering. I’m not a hover-er and I don’t react well to people hovering over me. It makes my spirit itchy. I also start to have mental sneezes that erupt in temper and crabbiness. Hovering is not a bad thing; indeed it could be argued that it is a positive thing (and I can think of at least one person that I love very much who has tuned her hovering skills into an art of caring for the people around her to great reward and benefit), but I know myself well enough to have recognized it as a spiritual allergy. So I take my antihistamines, and nasal spray, try to build up resistance, and avoid the allergen when possible.

One of my students is allergic to traveling. Traveling for her means going by someone else’s schedule, insecurity, and chaos. It chokes up her spiritual breathing airways and puts her in a rotten mood. In general she stays away from the allergen by not traveling; when necessary she must also reach out to her own antihistamines and bottles of drops and spray.

Finding out our spiritual allergies needs a scratch test. Once you’ve recognized what you are allergic to, the next step is to avoid the allergen whenever you can in the interest of spiritual health. In the case of a full-blown allergy attack, the medicine is simple.

Antihistamines:
1. Quran: Quran works to ease the effects of allergies by easing the symptoms. When a crabby mood descends upon you, Quran sooths the ugly feelings. When a temper threatens to erupt; Quran quiets the storm.
2. Dhikr: Keeping your tongue moist with the dhikr of Allah (z) helps to cool the itchy and watery spirit.

Allergy shots:
1. The concept behind an allergy shot is that you take on a little of the allergen so that your immune system learns to fight it without producing crazy symptoms. Do the same with your spiritual allergens. In my case that has meant learning to allow people into my space – little by little. For my travel-shy student it means taking little trips with people she trusts. What can you do to help your spirit develop an immunity to that which irritates it?
2. Of course allergy shots also hurt like the dickens; so be prepared with a salve for your nefs as you foray the world of immunity.

Drops and Sprays:
1. Wudu: Since the symptoms of a spiritual allergy generally show themselves in temper, bad mood, bitterness, and sulking – wudu and ghusl are excellent ways to wash them away. Making wudu is recommended by our prophet (s) in fighting anger – and it fights all other nasty tempers as well.
2. Shukr: Forcing drops of thankfulness into your heart and head will help to fight the spiritual burning of allergies.

Spiritual allergies can make our lives miserable and unproductive. Know your allergies so that you can deal with them appropriately. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the happiest and 1 the saddest, what would you say your mood is most of the time?
2. Who or what affects your mood most in a positive way?
3. Who or what affects your mood most in a negative way?
4. What makes you feel irritable or touchy?
5. When do you find other people irritated by you?

Once you know what your allergies are, it is time to start working on reducing the effect they have on your life. May all of us be protected from the sneezing spirit and ‘stuffed up’ soul. Happy spring to all ☺.

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