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Therapy through the Qur’an

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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 6th April 2020 09:47
Therapy through the Qur’an Series
Aalimah S. Ahmed
Zaynab Academy Online
Session 1 – 27th March 2020

Aim of this Series
Disclaimer: This series will not focus on major mental health problems like suicidal thoughts, clinical depression, etc and does not replace medical treatment.

The series will focus on minor mental health problems and learning how to cope/manage, mentally and emotionally through practical and spiritual solutions. The focus will be on understanding and changing our thinking patterns (caused due to life experiences) because thoughts affect our emotions, which in turn affect our actions.

Therapy through the Qur’an
One’s beliefs and values can change the thought process. What we learn in the Qur’an is theoretical, and this series is about how can we incorporate it into our thought process and overcome and break the mental health problems.

At present we are living in an unprecedented time of a pandemic – unprecedented in terms of being globally affected. With physical illness, families being closed in together in homes where there may be arguments, issues, etc., together with anxiety, fear and an uncertain future, mental health problems are likely to increase especially for people already suffering from anxiety and depression and for women who need to be strong to hold the family together. It is therefore very important to understand mental health especially through the Qur’an.

The introduction session will cover understanding mental health, how to deal with minor mental health problems and how to approach mental health.
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#2 [Permalink] Posted on 8th April 2020 09:07
Part 1 - What is Mental Health & What is our Reaction to it?

Humans have a mind, body and soul and therefore we have mental health, physical health and spiritual health. Each has different forms of staying healthy and each can lose the quality of health. Just as a person can lose the quality of their physical health i.e. through an illness or injury, and would seek treatment for it, similarly, a person can lose the quality of their mental health. The heart can hurt after traumatic experiences and a person can get emotionally worn out and just as people need physical therapy for an injury, they need emotional therapy for mental health.

Mental Health & Fear of Stigma
Unfortunately, our community is naïve about mental health. When a physically sick person seeks medical help, we think nothing of it yet if someone we know tells us they are depressed or are having therapy, our reactions negate their feelings. Our reaction would be to make a judgement and tell them to pray more, make Sabr, recite the Qur’an or make Dhikr or say things like, “If you pray then you shouldn’t feel anxious or depressed”. Some even mock or make fun.

This fear of being judged and stigmatised creates fear in people and some remain quiet about their mental health and carry on for years coping by themselves which worsens the state of their mental health and it becomes a never-ending cycle.

We should realise that different people have different levels of stress and also different levels of coping with it. Some stress out earlier than others and some have stress in one aspect of their life while others have stress in other aspects. These differences in people can be due to being affected by their environment or having had trauma in childhood. Some may genetically be happy go lucky. Not having had emotional trauma or bad life experiences, they deal with problems better. Others need to work hard to be able to cope with problems.

There is therefore, a crucial need to change our mindsets and destigmatise mental health therapy.

Avoiding talking about mental health problems will not take the problem away and until people can talk about it without fear, they will suffer in silence and suffering in silence is the worst type of suffering.

What advises do we find in the Qur’an?
The story of Maryam AS

فَأَجَاءَهَا الْمَخَاضُ إِلَىٰ جِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ قَالَتْ يَا لَيْتَنِي مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَٰذَا وَكُنْتُ نَسْيًا مَنْسِيًّا
Then the labour pains brought her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She said “O that I would have died before this, and would have been something gone, forgotten.” [Surah Maryam verse 23]

Maryam AS was about to deliver baby ‘Isaa AS. She was naturally anxious, worried and fearful about facing the people so much, so that she said she wished she had died before that moment, having gone and forgotten. Alone and without any support, as she faced labour pains, in a moment of extreme anguish she wished she was dead.

What was the response to her emotions? Verses 24 – 26:

فَنَادَاهَا مِنْ تَحْتِهَا أَلَّا تَحْزَنِي قَدْ جَعَلَ رَبُّكِ تَحْتَكِ سَرِيًّا
Then he called her from beneath her: “Do not grieve; your Lord has placed a stream beneath you.
Jibra’eel AS called to her from below the hill upon which she sat telling her not to grieve as Allah ta’ala has created a stream beneath her. [Verse 24]

Abdullah bin Abbas RA says that the stream began to flow when Jibra’eel AS struck his foot on the ground. Another narration says that there was a dry stream nearby which Allah ta’ala caused to flow and a wilted date palm which Allah ta’ala caused to bear dates.

وَهُزِّي إِلَيْكِ بِجِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ تُسَاقِطْ عَلَيْكِ رُطَبًا جَنِيًّا
Shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards yourself and, it will drop upon you ripe fresh dates.
[Verse 25]

Jibra’eel AS told her to shake the trunk of the date palm which caused fresh ripened dates to fall on her. This was also miraculous because normally even a strong man will be unable to shake a date palm, let alone a weakened woman in labour. She was able to shake the tree so that dates fell.

فَكُلِي وَاشْرَبِي وَقَرِّي عَيْنًا ۖ فَإِمَّا تَرَيِنَّ مِنَ الْبَشَرِ أَحَدًا فَقُولِي إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنْسِيًّا
So eat, drink and cool your eyes. Then if you see any human being, say (to him), ‘I have vowed a fast (of silence) for the All-Merciful (Allah,) and therefore, I shall never speak to any human today.’”
[Verse 26]

She was then told to eat and drink which are simple pleasures of life and to cool her eyes. The new born child will be the coolness of her eyes i.e. a source of comfort to her.

Response to Maryam AS’s feelings of Anguish & Grief
Her feelings were not negated or belittled. She was not told, “Oh Maryam! You are a Siddeeqah. How can you feel this way?” She was not told to continue her ‘Ibaadah or to have Tawakkul.

Instead she was told not to be sad and many times that is all a person feeling down or depressed needs to hear.

Thereafter she was told to be proactive. Allah ta’ala could have made the dates fall but she was told to shake the tree so that ripe dates would fall. Physical activity can often eradicate feelings of anger, depression, etc.

This teaches us that the way to help someone who is overcome with grief, sadness, fear, etc. is to say comforting words, show ways to be proactive and provide them with some resources.

Consolation for the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam
Surah Kahf: verse 6

فَلَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَفْسَكَ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ إِنْ لَمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا
So, (O Prophet) perhaps you are going to kill yourself after them, out of grief, if they do not believe in this discourse.

Despite the various miracles and replies to their innumerable questions, the Jews, Christians and the Mushrikeen adamantly refused to accept. Their disbelief greatly grieved the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam. Allah ta’ala knew that even after listening to the account of the people of Kahf, they would still not believe. Therefore, before revealing the story of the people of Kahf, Allah ta’ala first consoles, pre-empts and prepares the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam by saying that it should not be that you destroy yourself after them in grief because they do not believe.

In Surah Dhuhaa, Allah ta’ala first reassures and then consoles him,

مَا وَدَّعَكَ رَبُّكَ وَمَا قَلَىٰ
Your Rabb has neither forsaken you, O Muhammad, nor is He displeased [93:3]

وَلَلْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنَ الْأُولَىٰ
Certainly the later period shall be better for you than the earlier. [93:4]

These episodes show the emotional states of Maryam AS and the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam. They were human and experiencing human emotions and the response was comforting and consoling to them in their grief.

Save a life
It is very stressful to deal with someone with mental health issues however if someone’s mental health state can be changed from a low dark spot to hope and comfort then that person will forever appreciate it from their hearts because coming out of mental health problems is like starting a new life and Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an,

وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity [Surah Maa’idah: 32]

We do not know what trauma people with mental health problems suffered in childhood and what they are suffering in silence so we should try to be patient and do what we can to relieve them of their suffering.

Trials will come
Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an,

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
Do the people think that they will be left alone on saying "We believe," and that they will not be tested? [Surah Ankaboot: 2]

Spiritual Solutions
• Seek help through Sabr & Salaah in times of difficulties,

وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
Seek help through patience and prayer. It is indeed exacting, but not for those who are humble in their hearts, [Surha Baqarah: 45]

• When some difficulty occurs, reflect on why/how this happened since calamities can befall us due to our sins;

وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ
And whatever befalls you of (the) misfortune, (is because) of what have earned your hands. But He pardons [from] much. [Surah Ash-Shura: 30]

Ask yourself, how can I change?

“If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.” [Abu Dawood]

• What should I read? There are various Du’a, Wazeefah, Dhikr, etc. for different occasions and this is all ‘Ibaadah.

In this way a person does Muhaasabah, taking account, and this is part of our Deen. With this method the problem itself may not be removed, but the anxiety/stress/fear will be removed.

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُمْ بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
Those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort [Ar-Ra’ad: 28]

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#3 [Permalink] Posted on 10th April 2020 10:54
Part 2 - Self-help Therapy for minor mental health problems

People have a remarkable ability to adapt and we see this in our current situation of the global pandemic.

Since no one can change their circumstances, people have to change themselves according to the circumstances and these sessions are about self-help therapy; knowing how to help ourselves practically, learning how to cope/manage the everyday problems mentally and emotionally i.e. to understand the problem (what are my thinking patterns and how are they causing the problem?) and then changing them. This is what Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an;

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
The fact is that Allah never changes the condition of a people until they intend to change it themselves. [Surah Ra’ad: 11]

Allah ta’ala changes the external conditions when we change our internal condition. For example, the pandemic we’re all in now, maybe Allah ta’ala is forcing us to look deep within ourselves and change our internal condition (negative thinking, diseases of the heart, etc.) To change our condition, we have to understand our own selves.

There are different scenarios regarding stress:
 A person has problems and stress
 A person has problems and no stress
 A person no problem and no stress
 A person has no problem but has stress – many people say they are stressed but have no problems as they have everything they need.

The Power of Thoughts

Surah Hujuraat: verse 12
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ
O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime

الظَّنّ refers to any thought which is negative or wrong. Therefore, avoid it, push it away, protect yourself from it. This verse shows the power of thoughts.

A person’s thoughts result in their thinking pattern which develops into their emotional pattern (mostly in childhood).

Example: a child has a bad experience in school so mum gives him a chocolate. Next time the child is sad he is given an ice cream and this develops into emotional eating.

Some people go shopping to feel better. In extreme cases especially among youth, they harm themselves by cutting, scratching or slashing themselves. They do not do this to die but according to psychological research, their pain is so deep that to numb the internal pain they bring upon themselves, physical pain.

Our awareness of mental health issues is so low that we cannot see the suffering behind the actions and call them crazy. We cannot judge people with mental health problems who need help. When a child complains and refuses to go to school because someone made fun of them, we should not dismiss it and negate their emotions. We have to see it from their point of view and have empathy. We can use different approaches to make them feel better and continue going school i.e. saying, “If you don’t go to school then you’re letting them win. Don’t let them win. Go to school and work hard and win.” This will change their thinking pattern.

The Cognitive processes

Beware of thoughts as they affect your emotions which lead to actions - (TEA)
• Identify your thoughts – be aware of yourself and this is also part of Taqwa (Being aware/conscious of Allah ta’ala is the higher level)
• Change your thoughts
• Changing thoughts will change your emotions
• Changing emotions will change your actions

1. A person fears failure and thinks to himself, “I can’t do this, I’m not good enough” - he will give up
2. Viewing it as a challenge - will change his feelings and use them to grow

Both these responses affect the actions.

Therefore, ظَنّ and safeguarding one’s self from negative ظَنّ is very important. Be aware of your thoughts and negotiate with yourself.

Self-care, self-awareness and self-help work together for better minor mental health issues. This is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Following definition taken from
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. It is used to help treat a wide range of issues in a person’s life, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems, to drug and alcohol abuse or anxiety and depression. CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and their behaviour by focusing on the thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes that are held (a person’s cognitive processes) and how these processes relate to the way a person behaves, as a way of dealing with emotional problems.

Beliefs & Values
One’s beliefs and values can also change the thought process. They can overcome and break the mental health problem caused due to life experiences.

Emotions such as anger, jealousy, etc can also be overcome through self-awareness and self-help
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#4 [Permalink] Posted on 15th April 2020 12:19
Session 2 – 3rd April 2020
The Anger Games – Dealing with the toughest emotion

The session is titled “anger games” because anger is something which requires different tactics, strategies and techniques to control it, much like a game.

Anger is an emotion on which a lot has been written and is a widespread problem in all spheres; public and private. In work places it is somewhat subdued due to the professional environment however it is at its worst in domestic cases. Some people are extremely nice in public however, they have extreme anger issues in private.

It is important to understand that Anger is a necessary emotion and it is not bad in itself. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam also felt anger. It is mentioned in Hadith how, when the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam was angry, his face changed colour however he did not react angrily in word or act and he became angry only for truth.

Positive anger is a combination of fear and anger which results in courage. Negative anger is the uncontrolled, destructive anger which controls a person’s life. To be completely devoid of anger manifests as cowardice. Therefore, it is not about subduing anger, but controlling it.

Imam Ghazali (Rahimahullah) says, "When anger is under control it results in courage. Its excess and defect lead to rashness and cowardice."

Anger is necessary to fight any wrong however it has to be applied with justice and righteousness. Imam Ghazali (Rahimahullah) says, “Anger is acceptable only at the right time, at the right place, for the right reason and with the right intensity.” Therefore, there are conditions attached.

In a commentary on Imam Al-Ghazali’s “The Forty Foundations of Religion” the author says,
“Anger is like a hunting dog that does not oppose the hunter who trained it. Anger is led, like a hunting dog, by the intellect and sacred law, abiding by their guidance. This is only possible after a great deal of spiritual struggle against the self and becoming habituated to forbearance and resisting those things that cause anger.”

Imam Birgivi (Rahimahullah) says there are two types of anger; excessive anger which comes out of stupidity and anger which is a sickness of the heart. Therefore, excessive anger is a sign of the person being stupid. Anger due to the sickness of the heart can flare up much like a physical illness which is fine at times and flares up at times.

Anger with one’s own self
Imam Birgivi (Rahimahullah) says,
“To be annoyed at yourself because you have been lax in worship or you realize that you have sinned is correct, so long as it is not excessive. When your anger leads you to decide to redeem yourself by good actions and extra prayers, it is commendable.”

Causes for Anger
There are many causes for excessive anger. It can be genetic or due to environment. Anger can be contagious and it can be a learnt behaviour. Children especially learn from the angry, aggressive behaviour of their parents.

Other underlying causes can be:
• Takabbur (Pride/arrogance) – leads to anger at being slighted or criticised even a little.
• Hirs (Desire) – leads to anger when things do not go according to desire and the remedy for this is having Tawakkul i.e. do we trust in Allah ta’ala’s plans or ours? Imam Ghazali (Rahimahullah) says,

“There is no cause for your anger except the denial that a thing occurs by the will of Allah rather than by your own will…the anger of Allah upon you is greater than your own anger, and the grace of Allah is greater…”

• Hasad (Jealousy) and jesting and mockery can make a person angry
• PMS - mood swings, fatigue and irritability lead to anger in premenstrual days

How to deal with Anger
In the present situation of the Corona virus pandemic, lockdown and social distancing, amid fear, uncertainty and stress, anger can become a great problem affecting relationships. How do we deal with anger when it erupts within ourselves or facing it in others?

Being aware one has anger issues and understanding why and when one gets angry, helps in dealing with it.

If facing anger in someone else, try to understand their anger i.e. a child may be showing anger due to jealousy of a sibling or a husband may be angry due to stress, an elderly person may be angry due to feeling unwell, etc.

Treatment of Anger through self-help Therapy
Remember TEA - thoughts affect your emotions which lead to actions

Pause to reflect. Avoid reacting immediately to any situation - Identify your thoughts. Analyse the cause of the anger.

Therapy through the Qur’an & Hadith
Restrain/control your anger

وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
And those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good;
[Surah Aali ‘Imraa:134]

“Swallowing/restraining/controlling” anger it is not that which gets stuck in the throat and later manifests itself into vengefulness. It is do Ihsaan, to overlook and forgive.

The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam said, “He who has the strength, the opportunity, and favourable conditions for success in expressing anger by violence, yet restrains himself, will be shown to the resurrected crowds on the Day of Judgment as an honoured servant of Allah and asked to choose his own rewards.” (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)

Understanding the verses of the Qur’an and absorbing them is very important as the message is brought to the forefront when required.

Umar ibn al-Khattaab RA was a powerful leader yet he welcomed criticism. He used to say, “May Allah have mercy on the one who shows me my faults.” Sunan al-Dārimī 649

Ibn 'Abbas RA narrated: "A man sought permission to speak to 'Umar bin al-Khattab RA, then he said: "O Ibn al-Khattab, you are not giving us much and you are not judging fairly between us." 'Umar was so angry that he was about to attack the man, but al-Hurr bin Qays - who was one of those present - said: "O Commander of the Believers! Allah ta’ala said to His Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم):
"Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish."
[al-A'raf; 199], and this man is one of the foolish." By Allah, 'Umar could go no further after al-Hurr had recited this verse to him, as he was a man who was careful to adhere to the Book of Allah." ['Fath al-Bari'; 4/304]

Ask yourself, is the anger for the sake of Allah ta’ala or is it for personal reasons?

It is related about Ali RA that once when he was in the midst of a battle, he was about to slay his opponent. As he rose to strike his foe, the man spat on his face. Ali immediately dropped his sword and left him.

When he was asked why he did not kill the man when he had full control of that situation, he replied that if he had killed the man after he spat on his face, his intention would not have been solely for the cause of Allah, but out of personal anger. Upon hearing this, his opponent accepted Islam.

Remind yourself, would I like Allah ta’ala to treat me for my shortcomings as I am about to treat my detractor?

Abu Mas'ood al-Ansari RA reported:
When I was beating my servant, I heard a voice behind me (saying): Abu Mas'ood, bear in mind Allah has more dominance over you than you have upon him. I turned and (found him) to be Allah's Messenger (ﷺ). I said: Allah's Messenger, I set him free for the sake of Allah. Thereupon he said: Had you not done that, (the gates of) Hell would have opened for you, or the fire would have burnt you (Muslim)

Having humbleness in the heart
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
True servants of the Compassionate (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant people address them, they say: "Peace;" [Furqaan: 63]

Forgiving - Yusuf AS was thrown in a well and abandoned at a tender age yet he forgave his brothers
قَالَ لَا تَثْرِيبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْيَوْمَ ۖ يَغْفِرُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
He said, “No reproach upon you today! May Allah forgive you, and He is the Most- Merciful of all the merciful. [Yoosuf: 93]

Yoosuf AS did not remind them of their evil action or reproach them and instead made Du’a for forgiveness for them saying Allah ta’ala is Most Merciful of all the merciful.

Some practical tips to keep anger under control:

• Diffuse the situation by:
 Keeping quiet - "If any of you becomes angry, let him keep silent." Sahih al-Jami'
 Reciting the Ta’awwudh - "I know a word, the saying of which will cause him to relax, if he does say it. If he says: 'I seek Refuge with Allah from Satan' then all his anger will go away" Bukhari
 Walking away
 Changing posture - “When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down.”
Abu Dawood
• Perform Wudhu – “Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created of fire, and fire is extinguished only with water; so when one of you becomes angry, he should perform ablution.” Abu Dawood
• Apologising
• Remind yourself that this is but a test from Allah ta’ala and was written in one’s Taqdeer
• Breathing exercise
• Keeping a journal to vent feelings
• With children, changing the way of talking i.e. talking in whispers or playing a game i.e. each person thinks of 3 things to do shukr for – puts family in better mood

Shukr brings contentment and Dhikr brings peace. A peaceful heart will not be an angry heart.
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