Navigating pain; From prayer to professional treatment

by | 25 Nov 21 | Body

Understanding where faith and professional treatment begin and end can be difficult to navigate. We are as an Ummah still growing to understand mental health problems and accept its presence in our lives, our families, and communities. As a result, many of us experience the confusing doubts and concerns about what mental health means for our Imaan. We often try to make sense of it and can become overwhelmed with doubts – Am I good Muslim if I feel depressed? Am I neglecting my religion if I’m unable to fast due to my eating disorder? Is Allah (swt) angry with me? These are just a few of the very common questions Muslims with mental health problems have. It is no wonder then, that many of us struggle to navigate through these problems in a way that serves both our spiritual and emotional needs, and that does not send us spiralling into negative self-talk. It is a common misbelief that faith and psychological treatment are of an opposing nature rather than complimentary, and that one who cannot manage their pain through prayer, is lost. This could not be farther from the truth, and is a real problem for the Ummah, and one of the greatest obstacles to Muslims seeking the appropriate support they need. We have no problem accepting physical illnesses, we don’t question them in such a way that we attribute it to our failures, or as displeasing Allah (swt). So why mental health illnesses? Islam offers many powerful tools for alleviating our stress and pain. Prayer, zikr, Quran, dua, and building on our faith and trust in Allah (swt) are all powerful tools to help regulate our emotions and understanding of the world. Of course, closeness to Allah (swt) is our absolute foundation and source of peace. However, we mustn’t forget that Allah (swt) is Al Kareem (the giving) As-Samad (the satisfier of needs) and gives in abundance. He (swt) has placed many more resources in our path to help us further, and He (swt) knows the emotional struggles we all experience in our lifetime. There are various external sources of relief, from medication to psychological interventions like counselling and mental health support groups, and in fact the Prophet Muhammed (saw) encourages us to seek benefit from those tools and experts around us. It is narrated in Sahihan Hadith that the Prophet Muhammed (saw) was asked if we should seek medicine/treatment and He (saw) responded saying “Yes, O slaves of Allah, seek medicine, for Allah has not created a disease except that he has also created its cure”. In another hadith narrated by Imam Malik; when an injured man called two doctors from Bani Anmar to examine him, the Prophet (saw) asked ‘Who is the best doctor among you?’. Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jauziyah explains that this it is clear from this hadith that the Prophet (saw) not only encouraged us to seek the cure to our illnesses, but also taught us to seek out the best experts to ensure we receive the most effective treatments for our needs. Therefore, if we experience mental health problems, we too should seek help experts in psychological treatment if we can benefit from it; and by the will of Allah (swt), we can find further support and relief from these resources. Navigating our way through these options may be a unique journey and each individual may benefit from different aids, but we should objectively explore our options to draw benefit from what we can. Just as we seek medication for a physical illness, we should be equally open to exploring our treatment options for mental health illnesses too. Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jauziyah explains in his book ‘Healing with the medicines of the prophet (saw)’ that seeking appropriate medicine/cure does not contradict dependence on Allah (swt) alone for everything ‘…Just as one satisfying his hunger, thirst, or reacts to being hot or cold does not contradict the dependence on Allah.’ He continues ‘The belief in Tawhid (Oneness of Allah) can only be complete by pacifying and responding to the various harmful elements in the manner and method that Allah has commanded and that which will help in such cases.‘ So how can we navigate our pain from prayer to professional, and when might it be needed? There is no one answer to this as we will all require different things, depending on our personal circumstances and mental health needs. However Our connection with Allah (swt) is a great starting point. If we are not praying, find peace in prayer as ‘Verily do hearts find rest in prayer’ (Quran 13:28). If we are not making dua, or we do not have a positive connection with Allah (swt), then we can increase in zikr to help calm and comfort our worries, or learn the 99 names of Allah (swt) to help us rely upon Him (swt) with more positivity and faith. You may also find it helpful to seek psychological support via your local IAPT service or your GP. If Allah (swt) has brought you here, He (swt) is guiding you to your healing. So, trust in Allah’s wisdom, and all the accessible aids He (swt) has placed in your path and know that faith and psychological support are a powerful combination Reference (to add) – Imam Ibn Qayyum Al-Jauziyah – Healing with the medicine of the prophet

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