Posts

Abusive, Toxic, and Mentally Ill Mother

 

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am a Muslim woman in her early twenties, living with my parents and I have always had trouble in my household. I have grown up in a toxic and violently abusive environment with consistent emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, and at many times physical abuse. I am an only child, and my mother is extremely mentally unwell. My parents have been fighting for as long as I can remember.

My mother needs to admitted to a psych ward because her mental illness has gotten so bad. We can hospitalize her, but no one, even family members seem to understand the extent of it so they’ve advised that we do not. I want to, but will I be punished for forcefully admitting her into the psych ward because her condition has gotten so bad? How will I live in her house peacefully, while my mother is in the hospital?

The constant torment, physical abuse and the walking on eggshells around her not knowing if today will be a bad day or a horrible day. I don’t think I can remember the last time I was burden-free. It has come to the point that my own mental health is so greatly affected that I cannot tolerate anything anymore, the slightest thing will trigger me and I become so enraged I cannot control it. I am starting to have similar episodes like her because apart from genetically being predisposed to her mental health issues, being raised in such a toxic environment has solidified the manifestation of those illnesses within me, guaranteeing that I may be like this with my family in the future.

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.

Obligation towards parents

Dear sister, please know that I am so, so sorry to hear about the huge burden you are carrying. I wish I could be next to you, hold your hand and tell you, in person, how brave you are. You have endured such terrible pain.

Please know that you are not alone. You have never been alone. Allah is always with you. I am so grateful that Allah moved your heart to contact us. I pray that my advice will soothe your troubled heart.

Hospitalization

Please perform the Prayer of Guidance about whether or not to hospitalize your mother. I would suggest that as an absolute last resort, but a necessity if she continues to harm herself and those around her.

Modern psychiatric medicine is strong and does have side-effects, but there is a place for it, in extreme cases. When your mother stabilizes, then she will be more open to holistic remedies.

Spiritual and Emotional Abuse

Narrated Anas, may Allah be pleased with him: Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Bukhari)

Even though your mother is unwell, she is still hurting you deeply. You must protect yourself. That is obligatory upon you. You must take care of your own sanity and your own soul. Please do not let your mother break you, because you matter to Allah.

Please plan to move out of your family home. Ready your financial situation and search for trustworthy roommates. You cannot change your parents or their deeply troubled dynamic. But you can change your living situation, and focus on healing.

By leaving your home, you are actually doing your mother a favor. In her moments of lucidity, she will no longer be accountable to Allah for hurting her own daughter so terribly.

Your parents will be deeply unhappy with your decision. Expect it and prepare for it. You must still be respectful to them, and take the time to contact them and visit them as often as you can handle. When the abuse begins, then politely take your leave.

Over time, and with healing, they will not change, but your response to them will. It will get easier and easier to be around them, insha Allah, as impossible as it might feel right now. Give yourself time. It is impermissible to cut ties with them, but in your case, it is perhaps even obligatory for you to build some distance between yourself and your parents.

Gift of Pain

Dear sister, you may not believe me right now, but because of your years of suffering, when you heal, you will be a tremendous source of comfort for those around you. You will have empathy for other survivors of childhood abuse. Children with non-abusive parents cannot imagine what you and I have gone through. Your priority is to heal yourself, first, before you can help anyone else.

I speak from experience. My own family dynamic carries many wounds. Alhamdulillah, Allah sent me the help I needed, and I had to also make many hard decisions as a young woman. None of it was easy, but it helped me become who I am today.

Spiritual Medicine

Please soothe your heart with regular and protective Qur’anic recitation, and duas such as these: Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long.

Please perform the Prayer of Need as often as you need to, especially in the blessed time before the entry of Fajr.

I encourage you to read Al-Shifa and the Shama’il, as a means of healing through the barakah of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.

Emotional Medicine

I strongly encourage you to seek out a culturally-sensitive therapist to help support your healing. Your rage is merely the top part of the Anger Iceberg. A kind therapist can help you empty out your full emotional backpack.

I pray this is useful in the meantime: Emotional First Aid. I encourage you to also look up Hakim Archuletta and Hafsa Hasan.

Marriage as Medicine

Insha Allah, when you are more healed, and when the time is right, I pray that Allah will send you a loving and righteous husband – one who will value you for your strength and love you because of your scars. Please do not hide what you have gone through from your prospective husband. The right man will see your strength, and celebrate it. A safe and loving marriage is also a powerful medicine for you.

However – and I cannot state this enough – you need to heal sufficiently for you to recognize a good man when you meet one. Often, unresolved childhood trauma can cause women and men to select unsuitable romantic partners – neglectful and abusive ones – because it is a familiar pattern.

Motherhood as Medicine

When you become a mother some day, because of your own trauma, please know that your own child is likely to trigger you. When your child behaves likes a child – cries, shouts, tantrums – it is likely to cause you to overreact, because your mother overreacted to you. You are likely to be overwhelmed by rage and lash out at your child, but know that you can heal, and get better at staying calm.

Your own mother’s neglect and abuse of you has left you with deep pain, and our own children have a way of triggering these sore points. You can use this as growth point, and choose to respond from a place of calm, instead of lashing out the way your mother does. It will take practice, but you will get better at it, insha Allah.

Please know that you are not doomed to hurt your family the way your mother has. You have insight, and motivation to change. I pray that with dua, hard work, and self-compassion, you will make an incredible mother.

Inherited Pain and Resilience

It is possible that your mother is so traumatized because of her own childhood. Perhaps she is repeating the cycle of abuse that she endured. And perhaps your late grandparents carried their own trauma.

You have the choice to break this pattern, and to gift your children with a mother who loves, protects and guides them – the way you deserve. It will be hard at first, but as you choose love and calm, your brain will rewire, and it will become easier and easier.

Rights of Parents

When you are ready, please aim to complete Excellence With Parents: Muhammad Mawlud’s Birr al-Walidayn Explained: Your Parents’ Rights and How to Fulfill Them.

Shaykh Rami’s course has been transformative for me, and for other children who have had childhood trauma. My biggest takeaway from this course is this – even abusive parents must be treated with respect and kindness. The key is knowing how to keep yourself safe and grounded when you do so.

I pray this has been helpful. Please write back if you would like further clarification. I pray that Allah eases your suffering, and transforms your outward state while you transform your inward state. You are beloved to Allah, and I know that there are wonderful things ahead of you. Have faith in His Mercy, and the transformative power of his Love for you.

Please see: Reader on Abusive Parents.

Raidah

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

 


 

All That Remained – Navigating Dementia With Faith

A student observes his grandmother dealing with dementia, and discovers the one thing that remains with her as her memory slowly fades.dementia

Dementia is a heartbreaking illness. It impairs a person’s ability to think, changes their personality, and can cause them to forget their most beloved ones. In times of hardship, when all else is stripped away, true character shines through. Some conditions, like personality changes, are not the person’s fault. But Allah is never far, and He manifests His mercy in amazing ways.

In the early 60s a pious woman, married a simple bus driver in Pakistan. Three weeks later, she relocated to the United Kingdom, where she is now the matriarch of over 30 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Now in her eighties and despite her age and her deteriorating health, she remains steadfast in her prayers and fasting, seems to constantly be in a state of Dhikr, and is often reading the Qur’an. She is always present for family events, whether they be weddings, funerals, mawlids or casual get-togethers.

For decades she would cook and serve food to the entire family, always offering to serve others. Her food was not just tasty, but had a lot of love and baraka in it.

But dementia has taken its toll on her life, and she is unable to do many of the things she once enjoyed. She recently asked one of her daughters, my aunt, “How many children do I have?” and on another occasion, “How many children do you have?” In addition, I once overheard my uncle say that it’s difficult to plan trips and outings, because she will forget about it when it’s time to go.

When dementia strips a personality down to the bare bones, it reveals what lies underneath. The night before my brother’s wedding, she came to stay at our house, and Allah showed me her rank. I was reading from Sura al-Baqara, the longest chapter of the Qur’an, while she was lying down alongside me. She seemed to be dozing, oblivious to what I was doing. Suddenly, she shouted out and grabbed me on the arm.

At first, I was confused as to what she was doing until I rechecked the verse and discovered that I had mispronounced one of the letters. I reread the word correctly and she nodded and allowed me to continue. I thought it was a coincidence, or that maybe I had been reading a verse that she knew well. But a few minutes later, she woke up again when I’d made another mistake, and she corrected me again in the same way. She corrected me in the same manner that Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa corrects those who slip up while reciting a mawlid.

She has not memorized the Qur’an, nor is she a scholar of tajwid. Yet somehow, she sensed my mistake and been able to correct me. I always knew that she had a love for the Qur’an. It amazed me how Allah had beautifully preserved her memory for His Book, even as the memories of her own children faded.

My grandmother is now entering into the final chapters of her life. We pray that Allah grants her a good end and a felicitous entry into Paradise, by His Grace.

By Zaid Malik


This piece was written by a SeekersHub student. Looking to inspire? Consider writing for our Compass Blog! We are looking for individuals willing to submit feature pieces for publication. Share your stories with us. Contact [email protected] with your pitch and inspire and motivate hundreds – if not thousands – of others.


Schizophrenia – Fiqh Ruling

Shaykh Salman Younas is asked about the level or degree of religious responsibility of a person who is diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I have schizophrenia as diagnosed by a doctor who is not Muslim. Am I held responsible in terms of prayer, fasting etc?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

We ask Allah to grant you health, well-being, and the strength to cope with this test.

It is not possible to give a definite answer without knowing and observing the details of your condition, especially in light of the fact that schizophrenia is a spectrum disorder.

General Ruling

Generally speaking, being sane and in control of one’s rational faculties, as well as being able to understand the message of God, are conditions for moral responsibility. Someone who is not sane or suffers from deficits in cognitive abilities that renders him unable to understand and carry out divine commands is not under any responsibility to fulfill these commands.

If an individual suffers this condition on a temporary basis, scholars state that he will not be morally responsible for that temporary period. Thus, someone suffering from schizophrenia may find himself not morally responsible for long stretches of time, while he may be obliged at other times, i.e. when his symptoms subside and are not as severe, to perform his daily obligations.

One should note, however, that this is the legal ruling on the matter. From a broader perspective, we recognize that God is infinitely merciful. He is not an entity merely checking off requirements given to us in an exam. God knows the struggles people are undergoing, the challenges we face, the hardship, that we slip sometimes and succeed on other occasions, etc., and He approaches and judges us accordingly.

Suffering in This World

Suffering in this world may seem like an eternity, but it will pass and eventually the door to actual eternity will be opened, and it is here that our suffering will, in the words of one of our teachers, “dwindle to nothing before the next [world] not only quantitatively, because of its eternity, but qualitatively because of its nature.” The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, described this saying:

The person who had the most pleasing life in this world, of any of the people of hell, will be summoned on Resurrection Day and utterly plunged into the hellfire, then asked, ‘O human being, have you ever beheld any good at all; have you ever felt a single joy?’ and he will say, ‘No by God, my Lord.’ And the most miserable sufferer in this world, of any of the people of paradise, will be summoned and utterly plunged into paradise, then asked, ‘O human being, have you ever seen any bad at all; have you ever experienced a single misery?’ and he will say, ‘No by God, my Lord: I have never seen any bad or suffered a single misery.’ (Muslim)

All we are tasked to do is try our best in the situation we find ourselves in and in the little time we are given. One should not lose hope. We should continue striving as best as we can and continue turning to God.

Going Forward

Finally, in your case, I would advise you to connect with family, local scholars, members of the community, and mental-health professionals in your area. Having people around one who care and encourage us to live our lives meaningfully is important because it gives us the strength to persevere. Given the stigma surrounding your condition, this may seem challenging and intimidating, but finding a trusted group of people who support you will be invaluable and necessary.

We ask Allah to make things easy for you and give you the strength to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Salman

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Ghazali’s Science of the Soul – Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf

This is the third part of a talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf on approaches to depression and anxiety in Classical Islam. Here he talks about Imam Ghazali and his science of the soul.

Imam Ghazali [in contrast to Abu Zayd al Balkhi] is not a physician. He is a philosopher. He is a theologian. He is a jurist. And in each of those things at the first rank. He wrote the greatest works in all of these fields for 200 years on either side of him. But above all else he was a spiritual master.

The sum total of his of his life’s work is contained in the Ihya Ulum al Din, The Revival of the Knowledge of the Religion, of which it has been said, numerous times by scholars in his time and after, that were all the works of Islam to be lost, including the Qur’an and the books of hadith, and only this work remain, by itself it would be sufficient to renew the religion. It would bring back the religion from the brink.

The Biochemistry of Happiness

Why is that? Because the subject of that work is the human soul. And it is about the human soul attaining a state of felicity. This is most well and most precisely explained in the Persian equivalent. The Ihya is in Arabic. The Persian equivalent, written in a quite different way, is called the Kimiya al Sa‘ada.

Now given that this is a work about the human being and it’s called Kimiya al Sa‘ada, I think a perfectly fair translation for this is The Biochemistry of Happiness. Kimiya is chemistry. Sa‘ada is happiness. And it means ultimate happiness. Abu Zayd al Balkhi mentioned this. He said if the root cause of all mental distress is anxiety, the root cause of all mental health is happiness. That is to say, happiness is not merely the result of good mental health. It is also the cause of good mental health.

Ghazali focused on this point, taking from the philosophical traditions of Islam as well as from the more theological approaches to Islam. Ghazali, especially in the Persian equivalent of his work, focuses on something that always has been, from Greek times, a central theme in philosophy. Now when you ask today, what is the central theme of philosophy? People don’t really know because it’s kind of all gone a bit weird.

Happiness and Care for the Self

If you ask people in the 1700s, the 1800s, during the Enlightenment, what is the central theme of classical psychology? [sic] They would say, Know thyself. But one of the central themes, when you go back to Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and so forth, one of the central themes of the philosophers of those times was actually not simply know thyself, but take care of thyself; look after thyself.

There was a focus on care of the self. One of the things Ghazali borrowed from that tradition, but which he also found in the tradition of classical Islamic thinking, of which he was of course the foremost representative, is that happiness is something that is to be sought, not only in the Hereafter but in this life as well.

Happiness is not, however, in external things. Happiness is in your internal reaction to those things. As an example of this a student of mine came to me after one of my religious classes and said, I want to talk to you. I want to ask you a question. I said, Yes, what’s the question? I’ve got 15 minutes before the next class starts. She said, I want to ask you about locus of control. I said, Okay. In 15 minutes? She said, Yes.

The Locus of Control

What’s a locus of control? A locus of control is: Where’s your happiness button? That’s what locus of control means. If my happiness button is there. [Places phone in front of him and points.] Then that means my sadness button or my anger button is there. You can come along and go [presses button], and I’ll get sad or anxious or angry or whatever it happens to be.

If my button is here [puts phone close to himself] I can protect it. You can’t come along and press it. This is an internal locus of control. [Phone is close.] That’s an external locus of control. [Phone is further away.] People don’t come and press your buttons unless they’re not very nice. They don’t generally come and press your buttons. What presses your buttons? Circumstances, situations, press your buttons.

I’m driving down here knowing that Sophie and Mark are going to be wondering, Where is this guy? Is he going to do his usual thing and come late? And I hit traffic and I think, Oh my God. What has happened? Now this is a circumstance that is tailor-made to provoke anxiety in me. I know that I am going to have to look at Samina and she’s going to say, How do I get out of this traffic? It’s a circumstance, it’s a situation, that presses the button.

God Is The Root Cause

Why does it press the button? I said to my student: Look. You see this? [Raises phone.] Is this the button or is this the situation? She says, I don’t know. I said, It’s both. The problem with the external locus of control is you don’t realize that this is actually two separate things. There is the event. [Phone cover.] And there’s the reaction to it. [Phone.] These are separate from each other. You can’t control this. [The event.] But you can control this. [The reaction.] Simply put, you can’t stop it raining, but you can carry an umbrella.

Alright. What’s the problem that people who have an external locus of control have? It is that when it’s raining they go outside and they say, Stop raining! Stop! And it doesn’t stop raining. Eventually you get so tired of shouting at the clouds to stop raining that you give up and you say I can’t stop it raining. It’s trying to have control over something you can’t have control over. Why? Because you’ve linked these two things [the event and the reaction] together. They are one and the same.

She said, I did an online survey and I have an external locus of control. How do I deal with it? I said, Separate the emotional reaction from the event. Now what do you do? I said now you need to recognize that this event is not caused by the outside world. It’s caused by God. this is caused by God. It’s not caused by your nosy neighbor. It’s not caused by your troublesome mother-in-law. It’s not caused by the weather or the traffic or anything like that.

It is caused by God. A benevolent God, mind you. A benevolent and all-powerful God. So if you recognize that everything that happens to you in your life comes to you from God, and that God will send you sweetness and bitterness, both of which are there to teach you something about yourself, you can keep this button to yourself.

Surrendering the Locus to God

You can keep that button to yourself and you can control how you press it. What you’ll then find is that there is nothing on the table. The table is the world. There is nothing on this table. There is God and there is you. There’s God and you and everything else is simply an instrument. Once you understand that you have a completely external locus of control because now you actually say, Do you know what God? I’m gonna leave the button to You as well.

That is the beginnings of a religious approach to dealing with the questions that bring about distress, anxiety, and so forth. It is the beginning of an indigenous psychotherapy. A psychotherapy that is founded on the fundamental beliefs that you have. This is something that can be de-theologized. It is something that doesn’t need to necessarily be about your relation to a person or God.

It is a way of looking at how things happen and what things mean when they happen, and what you can learn from it. [It is] the difference between approaching something as a lesson by which you can learn more about yourself, and the alternative, which is that you are a leaf being blown on a wind, being taken wherever the wind leads you.

States, Traits, and Character

Abu Zayd Balkhi distinguishes between fixed human traits and emotional states which come and go. Recognizing at the same time that if you have a particular temperament and a particular state, it can sometimes become chronic, it can become part of your personality. However, he focuses primarily on states.

What Imam Ghazali focuses on is the development of internal character traits. God talks about the soul that will eventually return to Him and He describes that soul as the tranquil soul. (Sura al Fajr 83:27-28) The soul that is at peace with itself, as opposed to a struggling soul, which God describes as self-accusing. (Sura al Qiyama 75:2)

There’s an enormous difference between the emotional states of someone who has internalized external trauma, grief, sadness, and has started to accuse themselves, or to become their own abuser, and a person who has, by whatever means, broken free of that and is left in a state of tranquility.

The Ihya is a 6,000 page book, but that’s what it’s about. It’s about attaining tranquility. I’ll leave it at that. I hope what I’ve done here is give you a little bit of insight into two very different ways of approaching the question of mental distress that are nonetheless things that we would recognize as being valuable and beneficial today.

Photo by Charl van Rooy on Unsplash


This talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf was given at the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University, entitled “Approaches to Depression and Anxiety in Classical Islam.” This is not a transcript but an edited post based on the third part of the talk. The first and second parts can be read below.


 

Abu Zayd Balkhi on Depression – Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf

This is the second part of a talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf on approaches to depression and anxiety in Classical Islam. Here he presents the author and physician Abu Zayd Balkhi.

I want to move on to a couple of these therapists. I say therapists. That’s a Freudian slip. The first of them is called Abu Zayd Balkhi. He was a ninth century physician, so he was a doctor. He was from Afghanistan but spent most of his life in Baghdad, which was the center of the Muslim world at the time. The second is very famous: Imam Ghazali, the great Reviver of Islam, who is called the Proof of Islam.

They took different approaches to the question of mental health. I will more on Abu Zayd Balkhi because he is by far less well known, and yet what he had to say, I kid you not, it reads like a manual of psychology. Remember, we are talking about somebody who is writing 1,200 years ago, when the styles were very very different. If you read it, it is astonishing.

There was a paper published on this particular work. When it went to peer review they said: “We’re not going to approve this. We don’t believe it is genuine, because this is not written like 9th century manuscripts are written.” The reviewers then did about three or four years of background research to determine its veracity. Then they wrote back eventually to the people that wrote this paper and said: “You do realize we are going to have to rewrite the history of psychology?”

Abu Zayd Balkhi

So who is Abu Zayd? He is a polymath as many of these people were. He wrote on a whole number of different topics – religious and so forth. Primarily, however, he was a physician. His great work is called Mas’alah al Abdan wa al Anfus, which means: The ways of bringing about restoration of the body and the soul. He is unique among writers of that time.

There were many great works on medicine produced around that period, but he is unique among them in that he had a separate chapter at the end of the book specifically for psychological illnesses. And the way he approached those psychological illnesses was first to acknowledge their existence. To acknowledge that they were very important. And to bemoan the fact that many physicians of his period felt that these things did not exist. And that if they did they were just extensions of physical illnesses.

He said no this is a real thing and it needs to be tackled. One of the things I really got from reading his work was the seriousness with which he treats especially depression. He says that this is a really horrible illness. He distinguishes very clearly, very lucidly, between sadness, which he calls huzn in Arabic, and depression, which he calls jaza‘. Jaza‘ has the sense of being cut open, of being cut off from things, of pain, and of being unable to endure something.

Defining Depression

That is the basic meaning of the word in Arabic, and he coins what in his time was a neologism for what we would now consider to be depression. Something that goes way beyond what you would expect a person who is experiencing sadness to suffer. He also distinguishes firstly in very brief form, four types of mental distress. He says there is mental distress that relates to sadness; mental distress that relates to anger; mental distress that relates to anxiety; and mental distress that relates to obsessions, or obsessive misgivings.

Within each of those categories there is a normal variant and a pathological variant. They exist on a spectrum, but at some point on the spectrum it becomes pathological. There is a way in which you approach the normal variation and a different way in which you approach the pathological variation. They require different types of treatment.

Where depression specifically was concerned he is, I think, the first person in history to distinguish between endogenous depression and reactive depression. And again he does this very, very lucidly. He said there are two types of depression. One that has a clear cause, a clear precursor: some stressor has occurred, which has caused the person to feel like this. That needs a particular type of treatment.

Supportive Therapy and Treatment

There is another, however, where there is no apparent cause. This, he says, is down to an impurity of the blood or an upset of the humors, and what it requires is “supportive psychotherapy.” His words are “to talk to someone wise and loving who can give you comfort and allow you to put things in perspective.” That is supportive psychotherapy which he distinguishes from actual psychotherapy.

Very interestingly he said the other thing that helps with this is music therapy, i.e. singing. Get the person to sing the songs they know. Songs that remind them of happier times. This is very effective. However, the primary treatment for endogenous depression, he says, is medication.

Reactive depression on the other hand requires particular forms of psychotherapy. He mentions a number of different types that we today would recognize as cognitive behavioral therapy; rational emotive therapy; reciprocal inhibition; and interpersonal therapy.

Remember, these are things that have come about in the 20th century. He is describing them in the ninth century and he describes them very cogently. As I say, it is like reading a manual written in the 20th century.

The Root of Mental Illness

He also acknowledges the root of all mental distress. He said the root of mental distress is concern about the future, which he calls anxiety. He distinguishes anxiety from what he calls terror. When he describes the symptoms of terror, he’s describing a panic attack. He says this is different from anxiety. Anxiety comes from three sources. One is internal, one is situational, and one is about your history. That is to say biological, psychological, and social.

These manifest in the disorders of which he he mentions four. He doesn’t actually talk about psychosis at all. What we would now call a manic state. I don’t know why that is. I think that and the only person that I know of in in classical Islam who mentioned what we would now consider symptoms of psychosis like hallucinations and so forth was Ibn Sina who considered them to be neurological disorders.

Abu Zayd Balkhi has this fantastic approach. One of the amazing things he does is at the beginning of his work he talks about the importance of mental health. The second chapter of his work is about mental hygiene. What he says is that everyone is going to suffer with mental distress at some point or other in their life. Some people will experience minor symptoms, some people will experience major symptoms.

There are things to do with your temperament or your upbringing and so forth that might make you vulnerable to experiencing a major episode. But everyone will experience them to some degree or another and therefore there are certain things that everybody should be doing to preserve their mental health. What he describes is what we would today, in 2017-2018, call mental health first aid.

Mental Health First Aid

This is a very, vey new concept. The idea of steps you can take yourself, that your neighbors can take, your friends can take, to help to ward off a mental health crisis, or to bring immediate relief to you in a mental health crisis. Then he also talks about preventative medicine. He says that there are certain things that we need to all be doing. One of which is effectively banking good thoughts or banking positive cognitions.

He said all mental distress ultimately comes down to negative cognitions. When you have negative cognitions you need to be able to combat them with positive cognitions. But you can’t have positive cognitions when you are in the midst of a mental health crisis. So what do is you bank them when you are calm. When everything is good in your life, think about those good things.

Remind yourself constantly about the good things, so that when you then have a negative cognition that may trigger a mental health problem, you can immediately combat it with a positive cognition. He talks about a lot about independence. About not becoming dependent on counselors, but at the same time accessing expert opinion, expert advice, and expert treatment.

Internal and External Therapy

He talks about the internal and the external. Internal therapy is what you can do yourself. External therapy is what is needs to be done for you by a practitioner: someone who is wise. Someone who is an expert, who has had dealings with this in the past. Someone who you trust and respect. That is to say, someone with whom you have a therapeutic relationship.

He says that this is because one of the first things to go when you become mentally ill is your sense of perspective and your insight. Often you will find that people do not recognize how unwell they are. That is where you need someone.

What you need is somebody who can who can intervene, but in order for them to intervene, there has to be a pre-existing relationship or there has to be an acknowledgment by that person that this is an expert. They know what they’re talking about. I really should listen to them. It shouldn’t be a family member. It needs to be – he doesn’t use the word as there was no such thing in that time – but a professional.

He ends with his discussion of depression. How serious a problem this is and how important it is that people really get a handle on it and understand it. And how a person presents in the throes of a depression. They will not look like themselves. You will look at them and sometimes, he says, they will even appear to act like a madman. You won’t recognize them. What is critical to understand is that there is a person underneath that. And we need to bring that person back. You need to work with that person to bring them back again.

Hope and Spirituality

He ends there for a very hopeful note. And hope should be the stock-in-trade of mental health practitioners. If we can’t give hope then we are not going to get very far no matter what drugs, no matter what therapy, that person goes for. Abu Zayd talks about the worst symptom of depression being helplessness and hopelessness, because once you lose hope you feel helpless.

He also mentions but doesn’t focus too much on the spiritual aspect of these conditions. You can see from everything that I’ve said so far that Abu Zayd Balkhi is approaching the question of mental illness or the question of mental distress like a physician. His focus is on symptoms, models, treatments, and so forth.

But he says that one of his points is that it is important for you internally to do this but also for the therapist to reinforce that things are really bad at the moment; things are really terrible at the moment; something really horrible has happened to you; but you’re not meant for this world. You’re meant for the Hereafter.

Seen from Eternity

Focus on that put things into that eternal perspective. When you put things in an eternal perspective they look very very different. He thereby puts into context something very important which is the notion of pathological spirituality. That is to say or think: “Bad things are happening to me because God is angry with me.” I see this quite often actually.

The idea that this is happening to me because God hates me; my child died because God hates me; or because I’ve done something wrong; this is a punishment for sins. To which the response is: So how come God did the same thing to the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, who was sinless? Whom he loved.

Now if you reframe it as a test, as a trial, as an as an education, as a lesson to learn something about yourself, it is in adversity that we dig deep within ourselves and find a hidden strength that we did not know that we had. Abu Zayd Balkhi he leaves it at that but that theme is then taken up by Imam Ghazali.

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash


This talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf was given at the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University, entitled “Approaches to Depression and Anxiety in Classical Islam.” This is not a transcript but an edited post based on the second part of the talk. The first part can be read here.


 

The Human Condition and the Sira – Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf

This is the first part of a talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf on approaches to depression and anxiety in Classical Islam. Here he speaks on the holistic view of Islamic psychology.

I am going to be talking about the issue of depression and anxiety in classical Islam. My focus is on some of the ways in which depression and anxiety were tackled in the classical Muslim civilization. Primarily I will talk about two theorists who approached this issue in rather different ways. Both of them were actual polymaths. One of them lived in the ninth century, which is around the time of Charlemagne from a perspective of European history. The other one lived in the 11th century. He was born in 1066, which is the only year in history that any of us know anything about.

I want you to bear this in mind. We are talking about people who lived nearly a thousand years ago. Both of them have things to say about depression, about anxiety, and more broadly about the human condition. Because cultures vary and they vary vastly, lots of things are relative, but the human condition isn’t. The human condition is the same no matter who you are and where you go.

A Lovely Tale

There is a lovely tale about Shah Bahauddin Naqshband, the great Sufi spiritual master. It is said that some merchants came to see him for advice. They sat around waiting for their turn quite patiently, but he was busy with this, busy with that. Days go by and they’re not getting a chance to come and ask their questions.

Eventually they say, “Oh, you know the the shaykh is obviously very busy. We’ll go.” They get up to leave and the shaykh says: “Oh, where are you going? Come here.” One of them said, Shaykh, you’re obviously really busy. We’ll come back some other time.” The shaykh said, “No. The answer to your question is this. The answer to your question is this. The answer to your question is this. The answer your question is this.”

And they of course are flabbergasted as always happens in these stories. They are flabbergasted and amazed and astounded. And they said, “How did you know? Did you read our minds?” He said, “No. Every human is created from Adam. Adam was created from dust. We all come from the same source. We’ve all got the same issues, the same problems, and the same ways of dealing with them.” And there is a universality that underlies the issue of mental health, mental illness, and mental well-being, notwithstanding the many ways in which they manifest in different cultures.

A Wise Physician

I remember an old doctor, a teacher of mine. The old Indian ladies loved him and we didn’t know why. We all used to sometimes have clinics in South Africa in the middle of nowhere. You’d have 100 patients in the clinic and they’d all come out smiling. They’d love this guy. We asked him, “What do you do?” And he says, “Well, these ladies they all come to me and you know some of them have pains in their bones, and some of them have a heart problem, some of them have this, that, or the other. I give them all the same thing.”

I said “What?” He said, “I give them an antidepressant.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because that’s what the problem is.” And that’s when I learned what somatizing is. In that particular community you deal with emotional distress by converting it into physical distress, because that’s acceptable. It’s acceptable to have a pain in the elbow and a pain in the back and a headache. It isn’t acceptable to say, I am sad and I don‘t know why.

The Tradition and Its Sources

Both scholars come from the Islamic tradition. The Islamic tradition is a very rich intellectual, spiritual, and cultural tradition, with many many fluorescences and many manifestations over the centuries. All of it however derives its root from one source and that source is the scripture. and I want to talk very briefly at the beginning about scripture, because the Islamic Scripture, the Qur’an is actually quite a difficult book to read. It’s difficult because it doesn’t read like you expect a book to read. It reads like what it is, which is a series of messages.

Now there is a thematic unity to it, but you don’t get an “In the beginning” at the beginning of the book and “Here’s how it will all end” at the end of the book. It is written in a circular structure. The other version of Scripture which is the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, that consists of his ways, his dealings, his guidance, his acts, and so forth.

These are also difficult to navigate if you’re not used to it, because they are so scattershot in the sense that you have snapshots and photographs from the life of the Prophet Muhammad. And his guidance is often denuded of their context. So you have lots of sayings, but you don’t know what it was about unless you actually study it. What you get is quite a fragmentary approach. This is if you navigate this without having the benefit of a teacher.

These two things, however, come together, and where they do and you start to see coherence and a theme is actually in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. In the sea of what is called the Sira. This is where all this guidance and the scripture comes into context. It is in the life history of the Prophet Muhammad, about which we know a great deal, that you really start to see the human condition manifesting.

Not only in his own case. Not only in the case of his Companions. But in the case of those who opposed him also. In the case of those who just happened to be there. There are descriptions. Vivid descriptions like you would find in the Old Testament actually.

Conceptions and Misconceptions

I was in a retreat for faith leaders. It was about models of leadership. And one of the things we did is read the scriptures. The passage from the Old Testament was fascinating because it was Moses complaining to God about the Israelites, and it was all: “God why have you troubled me with these people? Am I their mother that I have to suckle them to my breast? When are they going to grow up?” It was exactly that tone. And I kind of sat there thinking, I know that Moses. That’s the Muslim Moses.

Then you got the Christian version of Jesus. It was the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus is very calm and full of wisdom. And you just think, I know that Jesus, too. Then I came to the one about the Prophet Mohammed, and I said to the people that I was talking to that I know the Moses, I recognized that Moses from my own scriptures. I recognized that Jesus. The great tragedy is that you don’t recognize the Prophet Mohammed. You don’t have any sort of conception of who he was. You don’t have an image in your head about who he was.

What that has led to in the world is the projection of Muslims onto the Prophet Mohammed. I remember when there was the whole stuff about the cartoons. I think this is an important point because of what I was saying about universality. I remember when there was this the big fuss about the drawings the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and I saw some of those cartoons. I said, Well, they’re basically drawing mawlanas like you might do when I was in madrasah. You know, after school, I might doodle a picture of the mawlana in the book and it would look exactly the same.

Projections of Empty Forms

All that’s happening is a projection. And I think for us to understand one another we have to get beneath some of the rhetoric and also some of the formalisms to the real characters underneath. It is really the human that we connect to. That’s the same sort of thing I see when I deal with patients with mental health difficulties. What I see is a temptation for staff, for clinicians, for family members, for carers, to see the person as their diagnosis as opposed to seeing them for who they are. Once you see the person as themselves it changes your entire outcome.

What we see in Scripture are very vivid descriptions of grief, of anxiety or fear, of bereavement, of joy. Many of them from the Prophet Muhammad himself. I will mention one thing that he said and he said this at the age of 62, one year before he himself passed away. 18 months beforehand he became a new father. His baby who was called Ibrahim Abraham was about 18 months old when he was struck down by a sudden illness and died. The whole city goes into mourning.

Now, this is a prophet who whose whole mission, whose whole temperament, whose whole outlook is about focusing people on what comes after death. Don’t just think about this world, think about the next world. It’s not a neglect of this world. It is a focus on what matters to your soul. What is his reaction? There are two narrations.

The Prophet on Grief and Loss

The first is that his daughter sends a message to him saying, “Please come. Your grandson is dying.” And he says to her, “Be patient. Be patient.” Be patient. Trust in Allah. Again she comes to him. She says, “Your grandchild, the child is very sick. Please come.” And he says, “Be patient.” And then the third time she comes, he gets up and he goes with his Companions. And it is these Companions who narrate this.

He goes to the house. He sits down with his daughter. He takes his baby grandchild, days old, in his arms. The child looks at him, and he looks at the child. Then the child expires in his arms. And the Companions who are with him, report that his the tears streamed down his face to such an extent that his thick beard became wet with with tears. They said, “O Prophet, what is this? You were the one saying be patient.” And he said, This is not impatience. This is compassion. And God puts it into the heart of whomever He wishes.”

When his own son passed away. When he buried his son. This is a 62 year old man burying his child. The sixth out of seven of his children that he has buried. He was left with one surviving child and that child – he knew because he told her – would pass away six months after him. This is the beloved of Allah. A prophet of Allah. He buries his child and again his Companions see that he is weeping. They say to him, “O Messenger of Allah, what is this? And he said, “The heart grieves, the eyes weep. But we don’t say anything that will not be pleasing to our Lord.”

The Human Condition and Its Expression

What we take from this is the following. In terms of bereavement, in terms of sadness and depression, there are three components to it. There is a physical component: a physical manifestation of it. There is an emotional component to it. And then there is a cognitive component to it. There’s a way that you think about what has happened to you.

The way you manifest your thoughts is with your tongue. What the Prophet is actually saying here, that he corroborated elsewhere in a less dramatic way shall we say, is that it is beneficial to physically manifest sadness. It is part of being human that you feel those emotions. However, how you think about what is happening to you is critical in how you process the grief. The cognitive approach that you take to de-stress is critical.

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash


This talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf was given at the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University, entitled “Approaches to Depression and Anxiety in Classical Islam.” This is not a transcript but an edited post based on the first part of the talk.


 

Faith is Believing, Not Feeling – Dr. Ingrid Mattson

There may be times when we feel that we aren’t benefiting from our faith. But true faith is when we still believe that Allah will do what He has promised. In this address, Dr. Ingrid Mattson explains this concept in relation to the believer’s heart, mind, and actions.

How can Faith Benefit Me?

If faith is so beneficial, why are so many Muslims hurting each other? And why are they hurting?

When we see people who have hurt, we need to realize that many people have developed habits to help them survive in difficult times. These habits could come in the form of anger, dependency, and distancing themselves from others.  Rather than rush to judge them, we should rush to support them in their physical, mental and spiritual rehabilitation. Furthermore, we should strive to change the difficult and unjust circumstances that made them the way they were. Our faith tells us that we have been created whole, not broken, receptive to Allah and what He determines to be good. We have the inmate potential to connect with Him, and feel like we are coming home.

Depression: A Spiritual Disorder?

One of the fruits of our faith, is that it gives us happiness and hope, both in this world and in the next. But does that mean that a person who despairs because of depression or a related mental illness, is sinful or has low faith?

No, because someone who loses hope because of a mental condition, is not the same as someone who believes that there is no meaning to life from a philosophical or intellectual viewpoint. A person can have faith and be depressed as an emotional state, but not a spiritual state. Depression is not a spiritual illness, but a psychological and an emotional one. The real test is for the ones who do not suffer from those conditions, to support those who do have them. The onus is on those who are capable, not on those who are not.


Resources for Seekers

How Do I Calm My Worries?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Are there any specific duas or Surahs I can recite to help me with my constant state of anxiousness, depression and paranoia that I have been feeling due to a multitude of heavy things and it’s been weighing me down.I just need a way of easing my difficulties.

Answer: Assalam ‘alaykum. Jazakum Allah khayr for writing into us.

If life gets overwhelming and we find ourselves always worried, then it’s a good time to take stock of what is happening in our lives, looking to see whether things could be done better, and most importantly, assessing where our relationship with Allah is.

Reading the Signs

Everything in life has a language and it takes patient observation and reflection to understand the language of each thing or event. When the physical body starts to become run down and needs a break, it shows signs of fatigue in order that the person may stop and take a break so the body can recover. If it is ignored, the body keeps throwing up other signs, such as ailments, in order to be heard.

Similarly, the mind and the soul throw up symptoms of distress when something is amiss and needs fulfilling. When one has constant stress, anxiety, anguish, or a feeling of emptiness, it is because the mind/soul is yearning for something that it needs. Sometimes the need is to simplify or prioritise one’s lifestyle choices, or one needs fulfilling intellectually, or one needs to connect spiritually, or perhaps all of these. It is because of these feelings that we so often turn to temporary ‘worldly’ solutions, such as food, wealth, entertainment etc. to fill the void.

Relationship with Allah

Of course, there is nothing more important than assessing one’s relationship with Allah Most High, as He is the One who has control of our affairs and the only One to change them.

Ensure the following:

1. That you are fulfilling your duties to Allah, particularly your daily prayers.

2. That you are avoiding sins in private and in public.

3. You have a daily reading of Quran each day, ideally with a translation if it is needed.

If possible, try to:

1. Wake up for Tahajjud, even for 10 minutes, pray two cycles of prayer and supplicate to Allah to lighten your burdens and ease your heart.

2. Depending on the causes of your conditions, seek out beginner courses on Islamic studies such as ‘aqidah, fiqh, seerah, and tafsir. It important to learn the religion properly, as knowledge shapes one thoughts and make one’s heart firm in one’s belief in Allah and the knowledge that he is the sole Doer of everything that happens to us.

Supplications

Recite the following supplications after each prayer and at Tahajjud time:


اللّهُـمَّ رَحْمَتَـكَ أَرْجـوفَلا تَكِلـني إِلى نَفْـسي طَـرْفَةَ عَـيْن، وَأَصْلِـحْ لي شَأْنـي كُلَّـه لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أنْـت
O Allah, I hope for Your mercy. Do not leave me to myself even for the blink of an eye. Correct all of my affairs for me. There is none worthy of worship but You.
[Abu Dawud]

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْهَمِّ وَالْحُزْنِ وَالْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَالْجُبْنِ وَضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ وَغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ

O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men. [al Bukhari]

اللَّهُمَّ لَا سَهْلَ إِلَّا مَا جَعَلْتَهُ سَهْلًا ، وَأَنْتَ تَجْعَلُ الْحَزْنَ إِذَا شِئْتَ سَهْلًا
O Allah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make the difficulty, if You wish, easy
[Ibn Hibban]

It is reported that Asma’ bint ‘Umays (may Allah be pleased with her) said, ‘The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to me, “Shall I not teach you some words to say when you feel distressed?
اللهُ اللهُ رَبِّ لا أُشْـرِكُ بِهِ شَيْـئاً
Allah, Allah, my Lord, I do not associate anything with Him
[Abu Dawud]

Action

There are many ways to go about relieving anxiety and stress. I will try to mention the most useful:

Expressing your thoughts:
First, it would be helpful to sit down and get all the thoughts and anxieties expressed outwardly. This is the first step in clarifying what is wrong. Expressing the concerns outwardly distances one from their own thoughts so it is possible to get some perspective on the issues. It also allows one to trace more clearly what is going wrong and what can be done, and to make positive and constructive changes.

One can do this by first writing down all the things that is on one’s mind, in no particular order. Then categorise them into groups e.g. family, work, relationships, personal etc. Then go through each one and try to identify what it is that causes the worry about that particular thing.

Next to it, write down all the possible solutions within your control, including what could be done to simplify the issue. For things out of your control make a separate list and next to these, write down any ideas of people who you can consult regarding the issue for advice, such as parents, close friend, local scholar, or even a therapist.

Once you have done this with all the issues, try to put each in action one by one. Of course it may not be possible to resolve all issues so simply, and the anxieties and paranoia won’t disappear just like that. but it’s a good start and having it all written out means you can refer to it when you feel overwhelmed and remind yourself of the solutions.

Therapies: If the above does not work, it may be useful to seek treatment for a while, as this will again be way to express your thoughts outwardly, and perhaps gain some perspective. Constitutional homeopathy or other holistic therapies should also be very useful, particularly if you suffer from depression and paranoia and natural, valium medication is needed.

Included in therapy is ensuring you are getting adequate exercise and nutrition. You may want to try simple meditation or relaxation techniques (see below for book reference).

Please also seek out the company of good friends, and not spend too much time alone. Joining hobby clubs and other team activity groups may be a good idea, if possible.

Book References

I highly recommend the following books which should help with both understanding anxiety and depression as well as give many practical advice:

1. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie
2. The Complete System of Self-Healing – Internal Exercises, by Dr. Stephen T, Chang

Insha’Allah these two resources will provide ample use to you. May Allah grant you the very best of states and tranquillity of mind and heart.

Warmest salams,

[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Concepts of Health and Disease within an Islamic Framework, by Shaykh Jamir Meah

In Shaykh Jamir Meah’s first article in this series, he discussed the importance of holistic healing for believers in the treatment of chronic disease. In this article, he specifically looks at the concept of health and disease, and how this understanding relates to our own religious states and practice.

 

The Concepts of Oneness, Duality, and Plurality

One of the first thing that attracted me to homeopathy was that every single homeopath that I had ever read about, or met, believes in a Creator. The reason for this is that homeopathy demands the practitioner to observe not only the world around one, but also the inner world within one. The only conclusion any sincere seeker can come to, is that the universe, with its intricate order and balance, can only exist through a single Creator.

God created man, and from him, He created his pair, and from this pair, multiples were created. Allah tell us that, ‘All things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect,’ and the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.’ [al Bukhari]. Disease and cure are a pair, and it is the task of medicine to search the vast creation of Allah to look for the remedy to each disease in each person.

Traditional therapies hold that there is only ever one disease in the body at one given time. It is not possible to have two diseases in one body. Despite plurality of symptoms manifesting in the one body, whether on the psychological or physical level, these are merely manifestations of the one root disease, or central disturbance.

 

The Concept of Health

Ask a physician to explain the concept of health, and you’ll probably get an answer like, ‘feeling well in both mind and body’, or ‘being free from illness or injury,’ etc. which are all fine and true. However, it falls short of the concept of real health.

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, gave a magnificent description of health, when he wrote, ‘In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force, the dynamis that animates the material body, rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation … so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence.’ [Aphorism 9, The Organon].

This vital force that Hahnemann speaks of, the dynamis that animates the material body, is another name for the Qi, the energy force in Chinese Medicine. They are one and the same thing.

Another equally sound explanation of health is given by professor G. Vithoulkas, when he says, ‘Health is freedom from pain in the physical body, having attained a state of well-being; freedom from passion on the emotional level, having as a result a dynamic state of serenity and calm; and freedom from selfishness in the mental sphere, having as a result total unification with Truth‘. [The Science of Homeopathy]

We can see then that the two (homeopathic) definitions of health, though differing in words, carry the same meaning. The body is an instrument to help one fulfil their ‘higher purpose’ in life, which is of course explained by Allah Most High in his words, ‘I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.’ [51:56].

Before we move onto the concept of disease, it would be useful to briefly understand something about the Universal Law of Frequency and Vibration.

 

The Universal Law of Frequency and Vibration

Science, through the field of Quantum Physics, is showing us that everything in our universe is energy.

Everything has its own vibrational frequency, whether animate or inanimate, governed by The Law of Vibration. A chair may look solid and still, but in reality, there are millions of subatomic particles in motion, all moving with energy. Everything that appears solid is the frequency of the vibration of the energy that makes it up.

Everything, even our thoughts, feelings, and sounds have their own vibrational frequency. These vibrations set up resonance with whatever possesses identical frequency. This gives the phrases such as ‘good vibes’ or ‘negative vibes’ some basis. In other words, your thoughts are inseparably connected to the rest of the universe.

The Mantra preceding meditation for Hindus and many Buddhists is the word, ‘Om’. This word is believed by these religions to be representative of the ‘universal sound’, referring to an ultimate reality, or truth.

For Muslims, we have a much clearer, unambiguous and direct understanding of the focus of our thoughts and meditations, which is only Allah, Exalted is He. Allah tells us, ‘The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet ye understand not how they declare His glory!’ [17:44].

Everything in the universe is in remembrance and glorification of the Creator, whether it be from the kingdoms of plant, animal, or mineral, or the naturals elements of water, air, earth and fire. Everything praises Him, and it is only men who do not perceive this, and who chooses to praise Allah or be heedless of Him.

This praise of everything in the Universe for the Creator can be viewed in the context of the Law of Vibration. Given the above verse, it would not be far-fetched to say the universal ‘sound’ or ‘vibration’ of the created universe is one of remembrance of Allah.

In many chronic cases of disease (though obviously not all cases, especially when there is a clear reason for emotional or physical pathology), there is an inner turmoil within the human heart and psyche, which is usually a precursor to emotional and physical sickness, as we discussed in our first article.

From whence does this inner turmoil begin? Quite often, it occurs when the will of a person is not fully aligned to the Divine Will. For many people, inner conflict occurs because their desires, hopes, and thoughts are in contrast to the Divine Commandment and Decree, either desiring that which is not permitted, neglecting that which is commanded, or being discontent with Allah’s Decree.

In this conflicted state, there is usually inner restlessness and agitation in the heart, for it looks for inner peace and repose in that which Allah has not placed peace and repose in, namely created things. Two inconsistent attitudes cannot exist in one person without conflict, because ‘God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast’ [33:4]

Looked at in another way, man is a part of creation, not separate to it (were we not created from earth?). If man’s will is ill-directed will and he is in state of heedlessness (ghafla), then man’s frequency of vibration is out of sync with the natural vibration of the universe, which as we mentioned is in constant praise of Allah. When this occurs, man is in a state of agitation.

When a person aligns his will to the Will of God, and relinquishes the desires and opinions of his ego, fulfilling His commands, and keeping away from His prohibitions, and remembering and thanking Him, the inner turmoil disappears and one finds contentment and peace, even if the world around them is in turmoil. ‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.’ [13:28].

The goal then, is to return to a pure state, the fitrah, where the heart is attached and submits to, and is in praise of Allah Most High. This gives real meaning to the idea of ‘being as one with the universe’. In this pure state, man can truly take his place as God’s khalifah (viceroy) on earth.

This is one of the reasons why spiritual training is so important and why it works. In the course of training, the true spiritual guide is redirecting the disciple’s will to the Will of the Divine.

If inner conflict and restlessness is neglected for a long period of time and left unresolved, like a toxin, it spreads in the heart, the mind and the body, and disease occurs.

 

The Concept of Disease

Once we have understood the concept of true health, it’s easy to understand disease. In contrast to health, we may define disease as simply ‘bondage.’ Physical pain creates the bondage of the body, lower desires and passions leads to the bondage of the emotions, and the selfishness of the ego creates the bondage of the spirit. All of which prevents one from moving forward and fulfilling the ‘higher purpose’ of one’s existence.

In disease, one’s vibration is out of sync with the pure or natural order, as we have mentioned. This internal discord could have occurred during the person’s own life, or passed down through generations.

When inner disorder persists, it manifests in outward disorder. Inner chaos can lead to outward chaos. This can affect individuals, or whole societies. In a compensated state, inner chaos can make a person fastidious and leads to OCD and waswasa, as they try to control their outward environment in order to allay the inner disorder, which they are unable to control. Clinical experience shows that behind all of these states, there is almost always some underlying fear buried deep down, whether connected to worldly matters or religious matters, and these need to surface and be resolved.

Like a guitar that needs to be finely tuned, a person’s vibration, and in turn, their will, needs to be tweaked, altered and re-aligned. This is the job of two disciplines: 1) that of certain natural medicines, which align the individual’s vibration to the harmonious vibration of the natural universe, and 2) spiritual training at the hands of a genuine spiritual guide, which guides and enhances the individual’s will to submit to the Will of God.

For lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual health through the various stages of man’s life, to combine both natural therapy and spiritual guidance is ideal.

So far, we have been discussing the theoretical relationship between natural medicine and Islam. In our next, and final article, we will be looking at how the principles of natural medicine can be of practical benefit to people, as well as discussing the Law of Cure.

 

What Are the Islamic Rulings Related to Someone Suffering From Dementia?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

My grandma has totally lost her mind. She doesn’t know what she is saying, can’t eat, or relieve herself, so the family need to do everything for her.

a. Is she exempt from prayers?

b. Does she still have to cover herself in the presence of non-mehram man?

c. When taking her up the stairs to the bathroom, at times, I have to help lift her. There are occasions when we make body contact. Is it sinful?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

We ask God to grant your family health and ease.

Regarding your questions:

a. Based on the description you have given, it does not seem like the prayer would be obligatory on your grandmother as she is no longer considered morally-responsible (mukallaf) due to a deficiency in intellect (aql).

b. The basis is that a woman must cover her entire body in front of a non-mahram man except the face, hands, and feet.

However, in the case of an elderly woman who is no longer sexually desirable, a number of scholars stated that it is permissible to look at those parts of the body that are “generally” uncovered in front of her mahrams. This would include her face, hands, head/hair, feet, arms, neck, and shin. [Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni (9:491) & Sharh al-kabir (7:342); al-Buhuti, al-Kashshaf (5:31); al-Mardawi, al-Insaf (8:26)]

c. The general rule is that it is permissible to touch those areas of a woman that are not considered part of her nakedness (awra). The exception to this is (a) if one fears desire in doing so and (b) a non-mahram. In your cases, as your grandmother is your mahram, it would be permissible for you to touch the areas mentioned above. This is especially the case if there is no one else able to properly assist her as it would be a genuine case of need.

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.