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The Importance of Holistic Healing for Believers, by Shaykh Jamir Meah

In this series of articles, Shaykh Jamir Meah explores the importance of holistic and natural medicine in the treatment of chronic diseases, and how the principles and practice of natural therapies not only complement our Islamic values and aspirations, but can often promote our own religious practice and spiritual growth.

The Relationship between Mind, Body, and Spirit in Chronic Disease

Imam al Haddad tells us in The Book of Assistance, ‘God never mentioned the inward and the outward in His Book without beginning with the inward. And the Prophet used to pray (may blessings and peace be upon him), ‘O God! Make my inward better than my outward, and make my outward virtuous.

Mankind has been preoccupied with disease and healing since time immemorial. The ancients, and nearly all nations throughout history, right up to the last great native nations and tribes, understood the concept of man as a being with an inward and outward dimension. They understood the reality of man’s destiny, and because of this, their philosophies, discoveries, and even everyday life, bore the profundity of man’s existence in mind.

Medicine was no exception. The purpose of treating man at times of sickness meant promoting healing in both the body and spirit. It was Plato who said, ‘The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.’

We also acknowledge that the disbelief and rejection of God, the soul, and its final destiny, has also existed since ancient times. However, with the rise of brutal colonial powers, the horrors of the World Wars, the industrial revolution, increasing corporate capitalism, and most alarmingly, the rise of atheism, mankind, specifically ‘western’ man, entered into a new, unprecedented psychological posture, and with it, religious truths gave way to a new breed of science and an insatiable appetite for the material.

With man’s technological and scientific advances, increasingly secular agendas, and major shifts in world wealth and power, God, the hereafter, and the fate of man’s soul were consigned to the past.

Western medicine inevitably followed suit. Modern theories, advanced technological instruments and machines, supported by powerful chemical drugs, ensured that the role of the spirit, as well as the mental-emotional levels, were separated from the physical body, and no longer deemed necessary in the treatment of chronic disease. This is the reason why a depressed, suicidal patient with multiple sclerosis will be referred to two or more types of doctor rather than one, and given different medicines rather than one medicine, though the two symptoms are nothing but the same disease process.

Before the word ‘Medicine’ became monopolised and synonymous with only the western medical model (and everything else became ‘alternative’, ‘complementary’, or even ‘quackery’), and before ‘real science’ became the yardstick to measure and verify every human experience and observation (including the existence of God and religion), other nations, particularly those in the East, were healing people on deep and profound levels for thousands of years.

The Need for Holistic Medicine in Our Lives and in Our Communities

Modern medicine has many benefits, particularly in emergency situations and surgery. In these areas, it is invaluable, unsurpassed, and a blessing from God. Likewise, we should all appreciate and acknowledge the unquestionable sacrifice, devotion, and skill of many doctors around the world. However, it is true to say that modern medicine and its drugs struggle to deal effectively with the chronic diseases of man.

The simple reason for this is that humans are natural beings in a natural world, and treatment of such a being must not only follow the observed Laws of nature (we’ll talk about laws of nature in a later article), but the treatment must take into account the dimensions and subtleties of man’s constitution as a physical and spiritual entity.

As believers, and bastions of the last and complete message from the Divine, it is our duty to tend to both our physical bodies and our spiritual growth. In the treatment of human disease, it is essential that we also do not follow the pack and separate the two, or turn to unnatural solutions for our physiological, emotional, and psychological conditions. For to do so, would be abusing our God-given human nature, which is indeed a miraculous organism that deserves reflecting on. ‘We will show them Our Signs in the universe, and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this [the Quran] is the truth.’ [41:53]

Unlike most nations, for whom the afterlife seems to have receded into a distant memory, the Muslims, while fully engaging and benefiting from this world, have traditionally always kept the Hereafter at the forefront of their thoughts in all aspects of life. It is our duty to preserve this priority in our lives.

On the fundamental level, what is needed are three things:

1) A return to our religion, in both outward and inward observances, the starting point being our return to the Qur’an, and helping each other in building our relationship with the Book of Allah. Why is this so important? Because Allah Most High tells us, ‘We send down in the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe.’ [17:82]

This ‘healing’ of the Quran is explained by the scholars of Quranic exegesis, ‘The Quran, [whether in] small portions or large portions, is a healing from the manifest and outward sicknesses … And a healing from the inner spiritual sicknesses … And what is meant by ‘Mercy’, is blessings in this life and the next life.’ [Hashiyah al Khalwati].

2) Building strong and stable families and communities. In a world where the social fabric of people, Muslims included, is fast dissolving, with people feeling as isolated as ever, and mental health issues, in both children and adults, are on a meteoric rise, it is imperative that we unite and work towards creating cohesive, safe and resilient communities, which fulfil our worldly and religious-spiritual needs.

3) In times of sickness, both short-term and long-term conditions, it is important for us to utilise medicines and therapies, that can at the minimum, flow in the same direction of the innate healing mechanism and immune system that Allah Most High has created in us, and not oppose it.

The effects of hammering down our immune systems with endless supplies of anti-biotics, anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressants (as well numerous Inhibitors and Blockers), not only affects our physical health, but if taken over a long enough time, can deeply disturb our psychological and spiritual health. We must be pro-body and not anti-body!

Ideally, we should seek out potent, natural medicines and therapies, which can not only work with the body in a natural way, but that are able to reach beyond the mere physical level of man, and instigate healing on the non-physical level as well. Such systems of medicine do exist, and we will discuss examples in a later article. Optimally, such modes of treatment would be accompanied by the support and guidance of qualified and adept religious and spiritual persons.

An Anecdote

We leave you with a beautiful story of the relationship between emotional and physical sickness (as well as an exemplary model of bed-side manner that all physicians should take heed of!). A young lady, previously full of life, youth and beauty, suddenly, without apparent reason, fell ill. Much to her family’s anguish she began to wither away, pale and withdrawn in both body and spirit. The concerned family sought the advice of the best physicians in the town but none could make a diagnosis, nor find a cure, except that they knew that she was dying.

Finally, the family consulted the celebrated physician Ibn Sina, who agreed to come to the family house to see the girl. He sat with the girl, and proceeded to take her pulse. As he sat beside her, he spoke to her informally, asking her about the area she lives, how long they have lived there, and whether she knew this place and that person and so on. Upon mentioning a particular house, the girl’s pulse picked up a little. Noticing this, Ibn Sina asked the girl whether she knew the family, and again her pulse picked up a little more. He then inquired whether she knew the older children in the house. Her pulse started to pulsate. He then asked if she knew the son, and at this, the girl’s pulse started to race hard and fast.

The case clear, Ibn Sina turned to the family and said, ‘Your daughter is dying from a broken heart.’ And it was indeed true, for the young man she loved had married another.

Such anecdotes may seem somewhat crude, especially to the ‘scientific’ mind, however the principle is the same and holds true, in the same way that the physical and spiritual sicknesses that ail man today, are the same throughout history, because essentially, man is always the same.

The current writer’s own clinical experience, as well as those of his teacher’s, repeatedly attests to the fact that chronic diseases of the body are, without exception, preceded by disturbances on the spiritual and mental-emotional sphere. Outward symptoms of pathology are the pleading expression of the internal disorder. All we need to do is observe, listen, and have the right, gentle tools to answer that plea, not ignore or drown out its voice.

We hear the word ‘Holistic’ used everywhere now, from medicine, to eating habits, to child rearing and education, even in business strategies. However, in reality, being Holistic is nothing new, it’s just we forgot what it is to be really human.

In our next article, we will be discussing this idea of internal disorder more. We will also consider the concepts of health and disease, and how the philosophy and practice of natural systems of healing reflect the teachings, guidance and practice of Islam.

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

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Is Islam More About Peace Or Mercy? Ustadh Ibrahim J. Long

If you had to summarize Islam with one word, what word would that be, asks Ustadh Ibrahim J. Long. What word can express for you the beauty of Islam and the comfort it brings to your heart?

For many, perhaps, that word is peace (salam). This is due, in part, to the peace in our heart that we are seeking as Muslims, but also to the fact that both islam and salam share the same Arabic tri-literal root (S-L-M).
For those who don’t know, most classical Arabic words are composed of three root letters from which we derive the primary meaning of the word. Because the words Islam and Salam are composed of a seen (S), lam (L) and meem (M), many draw a linguistic connection and say: “Islam is peace,” or “Islam means peace.” For this reason, peace (salam) may have been your chosen word. But, despite these reasons, peace is not the quality I find most striking about our faith.
When I read the ayat of the Glorious Qur’an something else stands out to me. It is something I also see when I read about the life of our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions. It is something I also think about when I hear stories about the righteous women and men of Islam and when I interact with pious men and women within our community. This quality is mercy (rahma).
Consider when a student of hadith first sits with his or her teacher. It is customary that the first hadith they hear from the lips of their teacher, the first hadith that connects him or her through their teacher to an unbroken chain of narrators going back to the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) is:

The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said:
“The merciful are shown mercy by the Most Merciful (al-Rahman). Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from He that is above the heavens.”
[al-Tirmidhi]

My brother or sister, our Lord is the Most Merciful (al-Rahman) and His Messenger is the Messenger of Mercy (al-Rasul al-Rahma) and he has not been sent except as a mercy to all of the worlds.

But, how merciful are you and I?

If someone were to ask a friend about you, would they describe you as a merciful, understanding, or compassionate person?
What if someone were to ask your parents, your spouse, your children, your family, your neighbors, your class-mates, or your co-workers? Would they each describe you as a merciful person?
One of the miracles of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that we do not speak enough about is his constant state of mercy even when he experienced difficulty. Whereas many among us may attribute our poor behavior, lack of patience, or lack of mercy with each other to our “having a bad day,” the Prophet (peace be upon him) was always merciful even under the most dire of circumstances.

Even when mocked and stoned

After having been kicked out of Ta’if, the incident he later described as having been the most difficult experience he ever faced, and after having been mocked and had stones thrown at him so much that he bled, he was given permission by God to ask His angels to destroy the city. But, this was not the way of our Messenger (peace be upon him); he always had hope and mercy in his heart for others. Instead of being vengeful, he maintained hope that a generation of believers would arise from the very city that rejected him. And, his hope was not in vain; there has been a generation after generation of believers since.
Consider, as well, that during the Battle of Uhud a group of archers disobeyed the direct orders of the Prophet (peace be upon him); a mistake that contributed to the death of several Companions and the physical injury of the Prophet himself.

What would you have done?

How you would you feel in this situation if you had been in the Prophet’s place? How would you feel if you were risking your life along with your closest companions and family members and, just when it appears that you are victorious and that the battle is nearly over, the tables are quickly turned due to the actions of a few who disobeyed your instructions? How would you feel?  What would you do?
Consider my brother or sister that Allah choose to reveal to our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) at this difficult time the following ayah:
“Out of mercy from God, you were gentle in your dealings with them—had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you—so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them. Consult them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him.” (Q3:159)
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) was gentle with them and was commanded by the Most Merciful to pardon them and even ask forgiveness for them. And, on top on this, Allah commanded the Prophet to even consult them regarding their advice on matters. This is an amazing request that only a true Messenger of the Most Merciful could have fulfilled. Not only did he forgive them, but he still requested and took into consideration their opinion and expertise in matters despite their past mistakes!

A greater degree of mercy

Now, let us be honest with ourselves. Forgiving others can be very difficult; especially if we have experienced personal, emotional, or physical injury. Though, I am sure there are those of us who have a greater potential to forgive, or to at least try. But, to even go beyond that and to seek advice from someone who might have caused us pain; that takes an even greater degree of mercy.
The Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) always kept in mind the bigger picture: that he was guiding a people who had not been guided before. They were going to make mistakes, but through mercy they could be guided to that which is best for them and the Ummah.

Mercy toward our young and old

My brother or sister, these are not the actions of a normal man. His merciful character is a miracle and example for us to strive to follow. But how are you and I in our dealings with others? And, in particular, how merciful are we with our youth who are also in need of guidance and who are also going to make mistakes? If our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) was gentle with his Companions “who would have dispersed and left” Islam if the Prophet had been “harsh, or hard-hearted” (Q3:159), how can we expect anything more from our youth?
My brother or sister, you and I are undoubtedly familiar with the hadith of our Messenger (peace be upon him) stating that, “He is not one of us who does not show respect to our elders” [Ahmad; al-Tirmidhi]. And, of course, our elders are deserving of our respect. But I would like to draw attention to a lesser quoted statement of our Beloved Messenger (peace be upon him), “He is not one of us who does not have mercy upon our young” [Ahmad; al-Tirmidhi].
As our elders have a right to our respect, especially given their age, wisdom and life-experiences, our youth also have a right to our mercy given their young age, still developing understanding of the world, and their limited life-experiences.

“Speak to people in a way they will understand”

With this in mind, we need to also consider the advice of ‘Ali (May God be well-pleased with him) who said, “Speak to people in a way they will understand.” To which we may further add: Speak to people in a way that brings about that which is good for them. My brother or sister, take into consideration your words, the way you say it, and even your body language when you are seeking to guide our youth. Are you expressing mercy and concern?
If we truly want to help our youth we need to show wisdom and mercy. And, this means that when we ask them to listen to us, we, too, need to listen to better understand them. For, how can we speak in a way they understand if we do not first understand where they are coming from?
My brother or sister, what if no one is there to listen to our youth? What if our young men and women never felt like they could confide in their parents the trouble and pressures that they were facing in life? Who is it that could help them?

The wrong tools, for the wrong time

Some of you may be thinking that perhaps the only way to care for our youth and our children is to be tough on them. I don’t deny that sometimes our youth need clearer guidance and boundaries. But, we cannot be like poor carpenters who only carry a hammer; using it to fix all the problems we see.
Every problem is not a nail and every solution is not a hammer. Sometimes it is, but the default in our religion is mercy and so even when the hammer is wielded, it is used in a way that brings stability to a structure, not in a way that causes it to weaken and crumble.
Take a moment, my brother or sister, and reflect upon the mercy you have been the recipients of in your own life. Perhaps you have been forgiven by someone you love who you hurt. Or, perhaps you have received assistance from others when you really needed it. Or, perhaps you have had someone in your life who you could always call on. Haven’t these events made you want to be a better person like those who have helped you? Doesn’t the mercy of others push you and I to want to be better people?

He was not sent to curse and neither were we

One day one of the Prophet’s companions was going through an immense difficulty and asked our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) to curse those who were making things difficult for him. In response the beloved Messenger of God said, “I have not been sent to curse people; I have been sent as mercy to mankind’” [Muslim; al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad].
As followers of the Beloved (peace be upon him), how can we be a mercy to the world? As followers of the Messenger of Mercy (peace be upon him), how can we show mercy to our youth?
Ibrahim J. Long is a Muslim chaplain and educator. You can follow his blog at ibrahimlong.org

Photos by Michał Huniewicz and Dynamosquito

Afraid to get groceries? Ustadha Anse Tamara Gray on being a Muslim woman in today’s turbulent climate

Each time a high profile act of violence is committed by a Muslim or in the name of Islam, the fear of reprisal attacks rises acutely in Muslim communities. It has become almost par for the course, and the statistics prove the threat is real. Often, women who are visibly Muslim find themselves the primary soft target. Ustadha Anse Tamara Gray has been inundated with concerned messages from many who are directly and indirectly affected. From being afraid to leave the home to do basic, every day errands to fearing for their lives – this has become the sad reality for many. Ustadha Anse has some much needed advice.

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