Posts

Is Seeking Counselling A Sign of Weakness? by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil, a core member of the SeekersHub Answers service, offers much-needed, effective online pastoral care – to those who seek help. What about those who suffer in silence?

Taha has reached rock bottom. Perhaps he is struggling with some form of addiction, or he is depressed. He has tried numbing his pain, but he knows that if he does not get help, then he may end up walking a path he will later regret.

He paces his room, thinking of his parents and his younger siblings. They all need him to be invincible. He doesn’t know how.

By the time he summons up the courage to speak to his parents, he is shaking from nervousness.

“Baba, Mama, I need to speak to you.”

Taha’s parents look at each other, worried. They have noticed that he has been distant lately. He barely speaks to them, eats poorly, and spends a lot of time in his room.

“I think I’m depressed,” he blurts. “I-I need to get help – I need to speak to someone.”

His parents gasp. Their firstborn son – depressed? This happens to other people, and to other families. Not their Taha.

Their fear for him takes on familiar, well-worn forms – anger and anxiety.

“When I was your age, I didn’t have time to be depressed. Who are you going to speak to? Dr Phil?“ his father snaps. “Stop being so weak.”

“You need to get married”

“You need to get married,” his mother says hurriedly. “That will help you feel better. What about Aunty Jasmin’s niece?”

Taha slumps in his seat, closes his eyes, and looks away.

Taha is a fictional character, but his struggle is very real. Many Muslims around the world today are tested by some form of emotional, mental, and/or spiritual imbalance.

Not enough families are equipped with the right tools to deal with this trial. Worried parents often blame themselves when their children come to them with their troubles. It is heartbreaking to realise that your beloved child is struggling with something that has no quick fix.

Parental worry can quickly transmute into impatience, because it hurts us to see our children hurting.  The harder, but more fulfilling path, is to stay present, see our children for who they truly are, and make space to seek help.

Prayer

Our Beloved Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) gave us a dua to guard against depression. Surely this, if nothing else, is a sign that mental, emotional and spiritual struggles are real, and something that can be remedied.

حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدُ بْنُ مَخْلَدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عَمْرُو بْنُ أَبِي عَمْرٍو، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَنَسًا، قَالَ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ، وَالْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ، وَالْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ، وَضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ، وَغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ ‏”‏‏.‏

The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) used to say, “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from worry and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from cowardice and miserliness, from being heavily in debt and from being overpowered by (other) men.” [Bukhari]

Counselling

Jabir reported Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) as saying: “There is a remedy for every malady, and when the remedy is applied to the disease it is cured with the permission of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.” [Sahih Muslim]

The dunya is a place of struggle. There is no shame in seeking help, and seeking a culturally-sensitive counsellor is one of the means of seeking help.  A calm and objective professional can help untangle difficult knots.

Practical steps

  • Renew our intentions daily.
  • Nourish our own spiritual lives through our connection to Allah Most High.
  • Stay connected to our children and build rapport from birth, and beyond. E.g. Create regular opportunities for authentic connection and honest conversation – do acts of worship together, play together, no phones at the dinner table, bedtime dua rituals etc.
  • Recognise when the problem is too big to handle alone and reach out for help.
  • Be part of a community that learns and grows together.

I pray that with education and a return to the Prophetic example of mercy, more Muslim families will see the wisdom in speaking to culturally-sensitive counsellors, and encouraging their children to do the same.

[cwa id=’cta’]

How Muslim Scholars Contributed To Mental Health Care, by Dr Rania Awaad

Join The Mindful Muslim Podcast’s Meanha and her special guest Dr Rania Awaad as they explore the Islamic history of psychology and the works of early Muslim scholars which is only now being rediscovered.

Islamic psychology or Ilm al-Nafs, (the science of “the self” or “psyche”), refers to the medical and philosophical study of the psyche from an Islamic perspective. The contributions of many Muslim scholars of the past on studying the mind and proposing treatments for mental conditions is extremely important and underpins many of our modern techniques.

Dr Rania Awaad is a practicing psychiatrist based at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She also completed a postdoctoral clinical research fellowship with the National Institute of Mental Health. Prior to studying medicine, she pursued classical Islamic studies in Damascus, Syria and holds certification (ijaza) in Qur’an, Islamic Law and other branches of the Islamic Sciences and is a Professor of Islamic Law at Zaytuna College.

Resources for seekers

The Emotional Brilliance of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

e·mo·tion·al in·tel·li·gence. noun. skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had a profound way of dealing with people with extremely varying personalities and emotional states, explains Ustadh Amjad Tarsin. His da’wah (way of inviting people to God) needs to be revived in a way that speaks to the realities faced by young people today. This khutba focuses on the importance of pondering his example ﷺ in the way we support and communicate with people spiritually and emotionally.

Support the programs and services of the Muslim Chaplaincy of Toronto by becoming a donor today.

[cwa id=’cta’]

Resources for seekers

Seeking Out A Culturally-Sensitive Counsellor, by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Working for the SeekersHub Question and Answer service constantly reminds Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil about the importance of looking after our emotional and mental health.

So many Muslims around the world are struggling with different forms of psychological imbalance. To name a few: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and so on. These inward fractures mirror the outward fractures we see in our troubled world today.
We live in stressful times, and many of our trials begin in our family homes. Many families lack the knowledge and training necessary to deal with these issues, hence, difficulties often escalate.
I feel like in almost every question I respond to, I encourage the distressed questioner and his/her loved ones to see a culturally-sensitive counsellor.
What does that actually look like? Does he/she have to be Muslim? Not necessarily. That would be ideal, but it’s not always possible.
Some aspects of a culturally-sensitive counsellor are:

Understanding

A counsellor who understands Muslims and what is important to us would be much more in tune with your needs. It’s exhausting to need to justify and explain your stance to an ignorant counsellor. Most people who are at counselling are already tired and stretched thin.

Open-minded

An open-minded counsellor is able to support you even if his/her values are different to yours. This applies to both Muslim and non-Muslim counsellors.

Empowering

Many people enter therapy believing that his/her counsellor will magically solve their problems. This does not solve the long-term issue of whatever caused the issue to begin with e.g. victim mentality, difficulty handling strong emotions etc.
The best kind of counsellor doesn’t tell you what to do. Rather, he/she will help you tap into your own values, and help you come to your own decision.

Good rapport

Trust your gut. If speaking to your counsellor makes you feel worse, then reflect on that. Is it because he/she is encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone? Or is it because she is being condescending? Not liking what a counsellor has to say can be a signal for growth, or it could be a sign of a mismatch. Be honest with yourself.

Empathy

The right counsellor feels for your pain, but does not do so from a place of sympathy and condescension. The right counsellor helps to hold you accountable for what you do, and believes in your ability to overcome hardship.

Finding the right counsellor

So now that we’ve covered some important qualities in a culturally-sensitive counsellor, how do we go about finding one? I wish I had an easy answer for that. The reality is that it’s a hit and miss process. Some counsellors will click with you, and others will not. Some people are able to find the right counsellor straight away, while others need to look for months, or even longer.
As with anything, start with asking Allah. Perform the Prayer of Need. When you do come across a potential counsellor, then perform the Prayer of Guidance. InshaAllah, Allah will make it clear to you.
To help you find the right counsellor for you, speak to Muslims who are working or volunteering in the mental health field. Ask your doctor. Do your research. Above all, place your trust in Allah, and in His promise that after every hardship, comes ease.
[cwa id=’cta’]

Resources for seekers

How Not To Let Stress Get You Down. Lessons From The Sunna – Dr. Rania Awaad

Ustadha Dr. Rania Awaad guides us through stress reduction strategies and techniques drawn from the way of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Reducing stress in our lives can put our minds and bodies in a better state, God willing, to take advantage of the manifold spiritual opportunities life offers.


Ustadha Dr Rania Awaad has received a traditional license (ijazah) to teach Qur’anic recitation (tajwid) in both the Hafs and Warsh recitations from the late eminent Syrian scholar, Shaykh Abu Hassan al-Kurdi. In addition to completing several advanced texts of the Shafi’i school (madhhab), she is licensed to teach texts of Maliki jurisprudence (fiqh), literature (adab), and spirituality (ihsan). She is also a physician. Her medical interests include addressing mental health care concerns in the Muslim community, particularly that of Muslim women. Other on-going endeavors include the compilation of a manual addressing female-related medical issues from a fiqh-oriented perspective as well as a manual on raising Muslim children in the West.
[cwa id=’cta’]

Resources for seekers

Finding Peace through "The Comforter"

Article reproduced with permission from MentalHealth4Muslims by Hosai Mojaddidi
We all are familiar with the 99 names of God, but many are not aware that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had over a hundred names. The Qur’an actually lists 77 explicitly and 121 in total if you include verbs. The hadith and other ancient literature take the count of names to 333. Imam Jazuli in the Dala’il Khayrat list 201 names. And still there are other sources that suggest anywhere from 1000 to 1400 names!
All of his names are beautiful and give us insight into who he is, which is why it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with them. One of his name’s that has always personally appealed to me is “The Comforter,” or the one who brings comfort. It is not among the more commonly known Arabic names because it is found in the Bible. Some people may be familiar with the Greek translation which is Paraclete or Parakletos.
There is something about the word ‘comfort’ that has universal appeal; we all love the idea of it and we want to be in comfort. Whether we’re home lounging around in our pajamas or driving almost fully reclined on our way to work, we seek comfort at every opportunity we can. Which is why we dress in comfort, we eat for comfort, we travel in comfort, we seek out relationships that make us comfortable, etc. We also need to be comforted, especially in times of hardship. No matter how strong or stoic a person may appear, they need comfort. Even the Prophet (peace be upon him) who endured so many hardships, one after the other, needed to be comforted at times.
So the idea that one of his names is actually, “The Comforter,” the one who brings comfort, just makes so much sense, especially when we look at the narrative of his life.
He has other names which are similar in meaning, like “Rahmat al `Alameen”, a mercy the worlds. God says in the Qur’an: “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (21:107)
There are also, “Rasul al-Rahma” (the Messenger of Mercy) and “Rasul al-Raha” (the Messenger of Relief).
newimage.pngSeeking Comfort in Dark Times
While all these names are beautiful, there’s something specifically about “The Comforter” that I find so beautiful. By the simple fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was given this name, it suggests to me that when we are in need of comfort, hope, consolation, solace, etc., to get through the hardships of life, we can turn to him.
We are living in very dark and perilous times. It’s evident by the injustices around the world, the violence, the poverty, the disparity between those who have and those who have not; it’s evident all around us. We’ve gone from a society where people could sleep without locking their doors and the only thing standing between them and danger was a screen door, to a world where double/triple locks, bolts, and chains are not enough to feel secure; people need full security systems like ADT or cameras strewn throughout their property to get a good night’s rest! Moreover, the world we live in now is one where children are taken from their beds while asleep, where people are kidnapped in broad daylight, where innocent women, children, and noncombatants are indiscriminately killed, raped or tortured as a consequence of unjust wars, etc. So, there is no doubt that we’re living in crazy times and that we need some type of comfort to avoid going crazy ourselves. We also need to seek comfort for our souls in order to bear life’s trials & burdens, some of which affect us every single day, like stress, health problems, financial issues, relationship issues, loss of loved ones, etc.
God, in His infinite mercy, gave us a very real and tangible solution; He gave us someone we could identify with, someone we could learn from, someone we could find comfort in. He gave us “The Comforter” (peace be upon him). Which is why in addition to praising the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), loving him more than we love our own souls, and feeling an incredible amount of indebtedness to him, we should also actively seek and find comfort in him, his existence, his creation, his words, his example, etc. Everything about him and his life was made with this intent, to bring us comfort and relief. So when we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, the burdens of the rat race of life we’re all caught up in, we should literally be able to breathe a sigh of relief just thinking about him and imagining him. Indeed, just reading his biography, and learning from the lessons of his life, there is something that every single soul on earth can find comfort in.
children-hands.jpgHow Can We Seek Comfort in Him?
1) He was an orphan. God, in His infinite wisdom, made him an orphan. Let us think about this for one moment and just imagine the millions of displaced, disenfranchised, impoverished souls throughout history who were either orphaned at birth or separated from their families. There’s no possible way to quantify those numbers throughout history but looking at the most current statistics UNICEF estimates the number of orphans at 210 million in the world today.
86 million orphans in India – more than the ENTIRE population of countries like Egypt & Turkey
44 million orphans in Africa by 2010
10 million orphans in Mexico
So, let’s think of these 210 million orphans throughout the world as well as the millions if not billions of people alive today who are in living in destitution, in absolute poverty or under oppressive regimes and let’s think of what it would mean to them to know that the most Beloved of God (peace be upon him) was also an orphan, was also poor and lived in that state up until his last and final breath!
Let’s also think of what it would mean to them to know what he himself said about the orphan:
“If anyone caresses an orphan by moving his fingers in his hair, doing so only for God’s sake, he will have blessings for every hair over which his hand passes and if anyone treats well ail orphan girl or boy under his care, he and I shall be like these two in Paradise,” putting two of his fingers together. (Ahmad)
There are 3 billion people right now, which is roughly 50% of the world population, who live on less than $2.50 a day. Let’s imagine what it would mean to them to know that he lived in extreme poverty, and that he too experienced famine and drought as they do, and that he starved like they do.
Let us imagine how much “comfort” all of these innocent and destitute souls would find in “The Comforter”, if only they knew, if only they knew!
2) He experienced loss in such degrees that most of us would literally lose our minds if we went through the same. There are people alive today who fall apart and go off the rails when their cars get scratched, their Louis Vuitton purse gets a stain on it, or they lose their Chanel glasses. There are thousands of people who are so attached to their possessions they are in therapy right now, some even on medication.
Then we have the Prophet (peace be upon him) who experienced unimaginable loss. He never met his father and lost his beloved mother at just 6 years old; he also lost his grandfather, his beloved uncles, the love of his life, Lady Khadija (may God be pleased with her), and his children! Out of 6 children he had to bury 5 of them himself! That is every parent’s nightmare and he experienced it not once but 5 separate times. His daughter Fatima (may God be pleased with her) is the only child who outlived him.
Let us just imagine for a moment any parent who has ever suffered the loss of a child, whether through war, disease, hunger, accident or otherwise, or any woman who has had a miscarriage, and let us imagine how they would feel if they knew the details of his life. Imagine if they knew that the Beloved of God (peace be upon him) understood their pain multiplied by 5. Think of how much “comfort” they would find in “The Comforter,” if only they knew!
3) He suffered by experiencing self-doubt when he first received the revelation and then by being mocked, tortured, ridiculed, ostracized by his own people. So for anyone who has ever been bullied or suffered through low self-esteem, imagine that the Beloved of God (peace be upon him) even after experiencing and witnessing with his own eye some of the most extraordinary things that have ever happened in this world doubted himself and doubted his abilities to succeed.
mothers_fg1rr_3868Let us think of all the kids out there every day who are ridiculed at school (1 in 7 kids, nearly 200,000, miss school every single day because of fear of being bullied), or people who are constantly mocked by their peers, family members, co-workers, and who suffer deep anxiety as a result, etc. Anxiety disorders are actually the most common mental health issue in this country affecting 40 million adults. So, let us imagine all the people out there who are on medication, including millions of young children! And let us remember that there are people walking around every day amongst us, they work with us, go to school with us, come to the masjid with us who have suicidal thoughts because they suffer this way: they are anxious, they have self-doubt, they’ve been ridiculed, ostracized, etc…for what? For simply being different than the status quo.
Now imagine, how these people would feel if they knew the details of the blessed life of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Imagine if they knew that he experienced the same emotions as they do, that he too went through a period of self-doubt and uncertainty! Think of how much “comfort” they would find in “The Comforter,” if only they knew!
4) In addition to suffering himself, he also removed the suffering of others by showing them compassion and mercy when others condemned them. Think of the man who urinated in the mosque and how the Prophet (peace be upon him) was able to dignify him even though he was doing the most undignified of acts.
We can only imagine what would happen if someone urinated in a mosque today. I’m pretty certain no one would just let him finish the act. That’s exactly how the Prophet (peace be upon him) handled the situation.
After the incident, the man said about the Prophet (peace be upon him): “May my mother and father be sacrificed for him. He did not scold or insult me. He just said, ‘We do not urinate in these mosques-they were built for prayer and remembrance of Allah.’ Then he called for a bucket of water to be poured on the ground.” — (Ibn Majah)
Sadly, we’ve become extremely unforgiving of people when they make mistakes. And that’s the irony, the more distant from God we’ve become as a community, the more intolerant we’ve become of others!
So imagine anyone who has perhaps embarrassed themselves by doing something “undignified” in their lives. And we all know someone, perhaps a relative or friend who has had some very low points and come under fire by others for behaving inappropriately; think of the drunk uncle at the wedding who is stumbling all over himself or offends a guest by speaking out of line. It doesn’t even have to be an extreme situation like that, it can be anyone who’s ever made a mistake in front of others and lived to regret it. Now imagine how when these people have suffered from the scrutiny, judgement, and intolerance of those around them, how they would feel to know that in the presence of the Beloved of God (peace be upon him) they would never be shamed! Imagine how much “comfort” they would find in “The Comforter,” if only they knew!
5) Think of Zahir bin Haram, who was a poor bedouin who often visited the Prophet (peace be upon him) and would bring him gifts. He was known for his poverty and for not being very attractive. One day he came to visit the Prophet (peace be upon him) but he didn’t find him so he went to the marketplace to sell his merchandise. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard Zahir was in town he went to find him and saw him disheveled, with tattered clothing and sweat pouring down his face. The Prophet (peace be upon him) came up from behind him and startled, Zahir began to shout, ”Who is this? Let me go! Let me go!” As soon as he realized it was the Prophet (peace be upon him) he instantly calmed down.
Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) teased him and said to the crowd gathered around: “Who will buy this slave?! Who will buy this slave?!” Zahir then looked at himself and thought of his extreme poverty, for he had neither wealth nor good looks and he said: “You will find me unmarketable, O Messenger of God.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “But you are not unmarketable with God. You are very precious to God!”
Now let’s think of every single person who has ever looked down at themselves for not being attractive enough or for not having enough wealth. Think of the millions of girls & boys out there who are starving themselves (up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder in the U.S.). Think of all the people out there fueling the billion dollar cosmetics industry to try to cover up their acne scars, lighten their skin, hide their cellulite, etc., or the guys who are taking steroids, hair loss pills, and who are lying about their salaries or running thousands of dollars in debt to live beyond their means because they’re insecure of how much they have.
Now, imagine how much comfort they would find in Zahir’s story, to know that one can be precious to God even if the rest of the world finds you have little value. Imagine how much “comfort” they would find in “The Comforter,” if only they knew!
6) Imagine all the women out there who are divorced/widowed or think they are too old or too heavy or too tall to be married and think of Sawdah (may God be pleased with her).
She was old, she was a widow, she was tall and heavy set, and she was not very attractive. After Lady Khadija (may God be pleased with her) passed away the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about marrying Sawdah. He was also asked about Aisha (may God be pleased with her) who was young and beautiful. He chose to marry Sawdah over Aisha.
So for all the sisters out there who are older and unmarried and feel conscious about their weight or their looks, just imagine how much honor his marriage to Sawdah gives you. After all, if the Best of Creation (peace be upon him) chose someone who looks like you or has a similar circumstance as you, then who is anyone else to demean you or make you feel unworthy?!
7) In many cultures across the world, you are shamed if you do not bear sons and only have daughters. Imagine how much comfort it brings to those men and women who are treated as outcasts or looked down upon to hear that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever raises two girls till they come of age, will be in the next world along with me, like my two fingers joining each other.” (Abu Dawud)
newimage.png8) One billion people in the world are illiterate. We know the Prophet (peace be upon him) was unlettered, but he was also the most brilliant and intelligent man to ever live and who ever will live. So, think of the billions of people who have never read a book in their lives and what it would mean to them to know that one can still be great without having the ability to read or possessing an education or degree.
9) Every day, there are millions of children who are emotionally, verbally, and physically abused. Many of them come from seemingly “normal” families but are spoken down to, neglected & disrespected every day. Their parents have no qualms whatsoever punishing them and humiliating them in private and in public. When they go to gatherings where there are adults, sometimes they are ignored completely. Imagine how these children would feel to know that the Beloved of God (peace be upon him) was known to love children. He would go out of his way to say salam to them, he would sit with them, and play with them.
We all need to ask ourselves, when was the last time we went out of our way to say salam and talk to a child? When was the last time we really spoke with them & gave them a sense of importance without any expectations from them at all? Sure, we can engage them when we need them to run and get us something from the other room or worse we pretend to engage them but we’re just nodding our heads while we’re distracted with our phones, computers, etc. And this doesn’t just apply to our own children, but to our extended families, our nieces, nephews, cousins, the children of our dearest friends and community members, etc. Do we really make an effort to put a smile on a child’s face in the same way the Prophet (peace be upon him) did?
He not only did that but he would play with them as well. He used to line up some kids in a row and say, “I’ll give such and such (i.e gift or so) to the one who comes running back to me first.” So they used to race and fall on his back and chest. (Ahmad)
Sadly, many of us are so busy these days, we don’t have time for our own kids let alone someone else’s. Yet we have to look at the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and wonder, “Is anything I am doing more important than the weight that was placed on his shoulders?” He made time to honor children, so we really have no excuse, do we?
Think of how these beautiful examples gives importance, honor, and dignity to every child in the world. And think of all the forgotten and neglected children and how much comfort they would find in the “The Comforter,” if only they knew!
Conclusion
All of these examples give us great insight into who the Prophet (peace be upon him) was and what he carefully, methodically, and so beautifully tried to teach all of us. We have to marvel at the fact that one man was created and fashioned to such perfection that he literally has universal appeal and that anyone…man, woman, child, can relate to him. We also have to wonder at the irony that while he was among the poor and illiterate, he was simultaneously the greatest leader to ever live! He was never at a disadvantage to anyone and yet he understood the disadvantaged! These are clear signs of the perfection of his creation!
Qasida MuhammadiyaFinally, the degree and amount of comfort that we can find in the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) doesn’t even stop with these beautiful examples from his life. He provides us comfort daily in real time when we reflect on the fact that we have been promised his intercession on the Day of Judgement:
“Allah gave me the option of choosing between the power of intercession or having half of my Ummah admitted to Paradise without any reckoning. I chose the power of intercession because that is more important and will be more useful. Do you assume that my intercession is for the pious Muslims? No, on the contrary, it is for those sinners who are steeped in sins and have committed grave crimes.” [Imam Ahmad in his Musnad from Hadrat Abdullah ibn Umar. Ibn Maja from Hadrat Abu Musa Asha’ari]
But all of the comfort we acquire from the life and example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is only possible because our Lord is the most-Merciful of the Merciful. He, without any doubt, knows what we need before we even know we need it. He knew that this ummah would suffer, whether we’re in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Europe, the U.S., or scattered throughout the world, He knew we would need solace to make sense of it all and so He gave us “The Comforter”. He gave us his life and example to learn from, so that we know how to respond to life’s trials and tests.
The challenge before us is, do we really know “The Comforter”? Have we truly studied his example and followed the course he has set forth for us? Do we truly know his value?
If only we knew….
On the Importance of Mental Health Support
As outlined above, the Prophet (peace be upon him) provided us countless examples to guide our life with which promote mental health and wellbeing. In fact, he fulfilled a vital role for his community during his lifetime by fulfilling their needs for mental health support. Many of his companions and community members would seek his guidance and counsel about every day worldly affairs. So, as a community we need to recognize the importance of and promote mental health support in this way; we need to accept that some people may need more support beyond prayer and reflection and encourage them to seek help and guidance from trained mental health professionals.

Discussing Intimate Details in Therapy Sessions

Answered by Sidi Wasim Shiliwala

Question: As a psychologist I am privy to a lot of personal and private information in sessions with clients, this occasionally places me in situations where people (i.e. who are not my clients but know my profession) open up to me and seek advice.

1) Is it permissible for me to find out about my client’s private/intimate life if it will assist in the therapy?

2) If someone who is not my client has called for general advice on a situation which involves sharing private information about a specific person/place, is this classified as a form of backbiting?

Answer: Walaikum As-salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

May Allah reward you for your service in counseling others!

Discussing Private Matters for the Sake of Therapy

1. Is it permissible for me to find out about my client’s private/intimate life if it will assist in the therapy?

Although it is usually discouraged to discuss the details of one’s personal life, this discouragement is lifted when such discussion has a clear benefit. This falls under the general rules of speaking outlined by the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak [that which is] good or be silent” [Sahih Bukhari].

Since disclosing intimate details is an important part of therapy, then the benefit from such disclosure makes it permissible and in fact encouraged if it can improve the patient’s health. Of course, this permissibility is limited to that which is beneficial: you should only pry into your patient’s private life to the extent needed for the therapy.

Is Disclosing Private Information About Others a Form of Backbiting?

2) If someone who is not my client has called for general advice on a situation which involves sharing private information about a specific person/place, is this classified as a form of backbiting?

Backbiting, as defined by the Prophet (peace be upon him), is to “say something about your brother [or sister] that he [or she] would dislike” [Sahih Muslim]. Muslim scholars ruled backbiting to be haraam except when there is a clear benefit sanctioned by the shari`ah, such as when one is demanding their rights in court, consulting others about a potential spouse or business partner, and similar situations [Nahlawi, Durar al-Mubaha].

Therefore, the sharing of private information depends on this rule of necessity and benefit. You must ask yourself: Is there a clear and beneficial purpose in disclosing this information? Is there any benefit in speaking about this specific person and what he/she did, or can I keep the person anonymous and speak in generalities?

Use your own professional judgment in deciding what is necessary and what is not, keeping in mind that the health of your patients is of utmost importance.

The Need to Speak About Personal Issues

As a closing remark, I want to emphasize the need for Muslims to have an outlet to discuss their personal issues. Mental and emotional health are often neglected in our communities, thereby causing great harm to many individuals and their families.

Alarmingly, many Muslims think that Islam sanctions such neglect. Rather, what Islam teaches us is that all problems, even those of an intimate and personal nature, can and should be discussed, but in an appropriate setting. The Prophet (peace be upon him) famously praised the women of the Ansar for asking him detailed personal questions and not letting shyness prevent them from learning the details of their religion [Sahih Bukhari].

It is therefore important for professionals like yourself to offer your invaluable services to your local Muslim community. Speaking about private matters might not be appropriate in a public setting, but it is absolutely necessary when counsel is sought. May Allah reward you for your efforts!

Jazakum Allahu Khairan,
-Wasim

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

Should I Tell My Spouse About My Relationships Before I Got Married?

Are There Valid Reasons to Reveal Sins?

Medical Conditions and Waswasa

Answered by Sidi Wasim Shiliwala

Question: I had a question regarding an abnormality I have been having. For the past year or so, I keep dozing off and falling asleep at the most random times of day. I have tried to get an accurate diagnosis but was unable to get a proper answer. I always fall asleep when listening to anything Islamic, I just find myself asleep within minutes. I feel like something is haunting me. I am always jumpy and feel like death is upon me. I am always paranoid of everyone around me to the point that I am now even paranoid from my own family. Alhamdullah I pray and do my dua’s, however I can’t explain why I feel like a curse is upon me or perhaps I’m possessed by a Jinn. I can’t explain it and when I do explain to anyone they think I am crazy or it’s all in my head. I do feel helpless and don’t know why these random sleep attacks, jumpy feeling, feeling that death is upon me happen.

Answer: Walaikum As-salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

Jazakum Allahu Khairan, and may Allah ease you of your difficulties and cure you of your affliction.

Seeking Proper Medical Attention

Before addressing some of your concerns related to jinn and waswasa (Satanic whispers), I first advise that you exhaust all medical options. See a physician to ascertain whether or not the problem is related to physical or mental health, and follow his recommendations. Ensuring one’s health is part of the religion, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) told us that after belief, Allah provides nothing better than health. [Tirmidhi]

So if you haven’t done so already, the first piece of advice I have for you is to seek the advice of a doctor. Just as we go to religious scholars for advice on our religion, we go to doctors for advice on our physical and mental health. In all cases, we follow the advice of the experts. This is the path of moderation, which is the path advised by the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Do Not Withdraw from Your Family and Others

Although you are inclined to stay away from your family and from other Islamic environments due to your affliction, I encourage you to resist this urge as much as possible. Maintaining positive and healthy relationships with your family is from the sunnah. Similarly, you can increase your faith and decrease any sinister influences upon you by attending religious gatherings: congregational prayers at the masjid, Islamic classes, halaqas, and similar events.

Even if you are unable to stay awake for the entirety of such events, you will still receive the benefit of attending them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) informed us that a special group of angels seeks out and attends gatherings wherein Allah’s name is invoked and praised, and that Allah grants mercy and forgiveness to all those who attend these blessed gatherings. [Muslim]

See the following answer for more advice on this issue: Satanic Whisperings Are Making Me Withdraw from Muslims

Increase in Prayers and Reliance Upon Allah

If the problem appears to be coming from sources that a medical doctor cannot treat – be they the actions of the jinn, black magic, or the whispering of Shaytan – then the solution is, for all cases, to seek Allah’s aid. Increase in remembrance and supplication, remove any haraam from your life, be firm in your religious obligations, and to establish the sunnahs as well.

For some specific guidance and supplications on dealing with these problems, see the following answers:

OCD and Jinn

Protecting ourselves from Jinn

Prayers for Driving Away Jinn

I am being menaced by a Jinn

Above all, do not despair of Allah’s mercy. Trials and tribulations are a part of life, and oftentimes they contain hidden blessings that we cannot perceive until after they are over. I pray that Allah gives you patience through this test, that He makes it easy upon you, that He cures you of any problems you may have, and that He makes this a means for your sins to be forgiven. And only with Allah comes success.

Jazakum Allahu Khairan,
-Wasim

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani