How Islam Addresses Mental Health

I didn’t realize that I had been suffering from mental illness between somewhere in 2013 and in 2019. Overthinking and overly anxious, at least to my understanding, fall under mental illness. Thankfully, I wasn’t that extreme. Alhamdulillah, I slept and ate well. But the negative emotions caused emotional turbulence that saw me experiencing frequent mood swing.

Feeling bittersweetness was commonplace at that time. It was difficult for me to truly at peace in a relatively long period. Usually, it was either I was too happy or was melancholic. Or, there was something to be worried about; small or big causes.

Before you continue reading this, I’d like to say that I wrote this post for those who suffer from overthinking and constant anxiety. I couldn’t talk about mental illness other than these because alhamdulillah I don’t have any serious problems with that.

Ustadz Nouman Ali Khan’s “Whisper” couldn’t come in more proper time than in November last year. How subtle Allah swt helped me at that time. He wanted me to know what was actually happening during my process of getting over a devastating heartbreak. And He did that after I had come clean. It was a priceless reward after the struggle that I had been through.

For details about Whisper, you can read my previous post here.

Mental health has been serious topics among modern people. It’s a common thing to see people who look fine on the outside but we can’t tell what’s inside their hearts or minds until they suddenly commit suicide or do terrible things we can’t think of. You may look at the example from a psychological point of view or medical aspect. But, here, I would like to share from the Quranic perspective based on what I caught from the speaker’s retelling on the story of Adam AS and satan or devil.

You will find the Qur’an addresses the most fundamental emotional issue in such a simple but on-point way. Allah swt always presents roots that if going unnoticed, they can develop into minor to severe problems. The falls of Adam and Hawa AS from heaven tells us so much about many mental problems that most of us will deal with, some have to fight very hard.

We were born responsible creatures

We lived in paradise along with the prophet Adam AS and his wife, Hawa. He was the first among us to be sent down to the earth that had been created before that. Allah swt blessed each of us with aql that allowed us choosing whether or not we were willing to carry His plan in taking care of the earth. Allah swt beforehand described what kind of life would that be. He told us that each of us would face a real enemy called satan. In addition, our ruh at that time testified that there is no God other than Allah. As we firstly tasted how mesmerizing (beyond words actually) it was being in heaven, we agreed to live on the earth.

Thus, living on the earth was by choice. We held responsible for the choice that our ruh had made. Understanding this first and foremost should uphold our dignity as responsible creatures. We take in charge every direction, decision and choice that we make every single second in our lives. Unless for calamities that are entirely out of our control, we shouldn’t blame other parties on things that don’t work in our ways. If our ruh was eager to carry Allah’s mission, why on earth should we complain over small things that don’t necessarily matter in the next hour or next year?

Indeed, Satan is the real enemy for every Muslim

I learnt the second point the hardest way. I read about this many times as I read the Qur’an but the words just slipped by. Yeah, I know that ya Allah, as if my heart wanted to say.

During the painful heartbreak, His warning couldn’t slap my face any harder. When you have a major issue in your life that’s actually when your fighting against satan is at the hardest. And I experienced that for about seven months. Ustadz Nouman said that satan will pull us in four directions; right, left, back and from the front.

The experience told me that satan did attack me from two directions; front and back. From the backside, satan whispered me on happy memories that I shared with this once special man. Satan wanted me to stay in the past for good. He didn’t want me to move on. I came to moments that mattered so much for me simply because he was there. At first, I needed to pour all my energy to fight against the temptation. Alhamdulillah, by Allah’s help, fighting against that started becoming easier to bear.

From the front, satan wanted me to question Allah’s capability to meet me with someone’s new. I often wondered whether or not my heart would love someone as I felt to the one who was getting married at that time. Uncertainty started embracing my mind and heart.

That was my personal story. I’m sure each of you has different satan attacks. Our task is recognizing when that happens then seeks Allah’s refuge from it.

Is it my fault or His plan?

In one of his videos, the ustadz said that understanding a decree can prompt us into two things. Number one refers to Allah’s plan that is beyond our control. For example, you drive carefully and follow all traffic rules but suddenly another car hits you.

There are things that are entirely our decision and blaming Allah on our problems defy our good attribute as responsible creatures. For instance, I eat sugary food and drink for 10 years then suffer diabetes. That’s all my fault who don’t want to take care of my body. Some cases, on the other hand, occur that leave us in the darkness.

For example, I wake up late for Subuh prayer. A few hours after that, I don’t pass a job interview test. Some questions may arise. Is that all because I wake up late for Subuh prayer? Or is it entirely His plan that I won’t get the job?

For the third scenario, I need to have a positive assumption to Allah swt. No leaves fall on the ground except He says so. Getting rejected by the manager of the company is a good thing for me. That’s just how Allah swt tests my faith.

So, how do we keep our mentality healthy after knowing the three basics?

Knowing Allah

Now I know why the Qur’an begins with Asmaul Husna which roughly translates as the good names of Allah swt. I am touched by how Islam starts everything with appreciation and love. Each Muslim must internalize His 99 names into their everyday activities.

Internalizing the names doesn’t stop at memorizing them. But each Muslim must reflect how each of His names has been put inside their hearts. Simply put, practice what Asmaul Husna means in our lives. For example, treasure Allah as the Al-Alim as the One who loves knowledge as you read or write. Thank Him for His blessing that drives you loving knowledge and like to study.

By practising Asmaul Husna from small things, we know Him better. The more we know Him, the more we love Him.

Loving Allah

When we love someone, our heart becomes soft and more inclined to do as that person wishes. Imagine if we can do that with Allah swt. By loving Allah swt, we feed our ruh that was once in direct contact with Him when we were in our mothers’ wombs. Ruh is different from the heart. Ruh is the most pristine part of each of us. When we die, our ruh remains alive until the Day of Resurrection. Our heart and mind can overly fall into certain sides but our ruh remains pure and clean.

Ustadz Nouman said in one of his videos that loving Allah opens the door to self-love. When we love Allah for His good qualities, so will we do with ourselves. We start appreciating our physical and emotional attributes because Allah gives them. We begin taking care of our bodies well because we have to report to Him on the Day of Judgement.

This is the kind of self-love that won’t turn you into a self-centered human being. Everything will come naturally because it derives from gratitude.

Understanding Who You Really Are

Each of us is unique. Even if you are born as identical twins, no two human beings are exactly the same. That proves His intellect as can be read in surat At-Tin. Each of us has a distinctive quality that can either be our best buddy or enemy.

As in the previous article, I wrote that planning and thinking are the tools by which I can enjoy so much in this life. If it weren’t because of the two, I couldn’t survive until today. I accept that Allah swt gives me the two qualities that can either help or destroy me.

And I believe some of you understand your strengths and weaknesses. We shouldn’t deny our strengths because they can lead us to destruction. All we have to do is knowing them then coming to Him for keeping the qualities in balance. In turn, use the strengths for spreading His words.

Taming Your Arrogance

It took years for me to eventually realize that I was arrogant. There were times when I believed that all goodness in my life was because of my own efforts. Allah knew that very well then He took one of them bit by bit. Again, I learnt His priceless lesson in the hardest way.

He needed to clean up my heart until I realized He gave me invaluable and uncountable blesses in my life. The difficult thing on understanding our arrogance is that sometimes arrogance creeps silently. We may not realize this because we don’t always underestimate others. We don’t yell at people or curse them because they are stupid or poor. But we must take notice of our mind and heart, too.

Unless you tame your arrogance, your heart won’t be opened to His words. It will still be very hard for you to practice gratitude. You will always seek satisfaction from other human beings, status or materials. Pay attention to your heart. Act immediately when it can’t feel.

Connecting Your Ruh to Allah

Our job as a human being is understanding our physical appearance, emotional unique quality and finally our ruh. To get to know our ruh, we must constantly communicate with Allah. Ustadz Nouman said that Alqur’an is the rope that connects our ruh to Him.

That makes studying and even reliving the Book plays such a pivotal role. Our ruh always requires words and advice from Allah that is well-captured in Alqur’an. When truly reliving the Book, it’s easier for us to filter and choose. Blurry lines gradually disappear. We become like the Qur’an as al furqon that is able to differentiate good and bad things then stand strict to it.

It’s not always easy to find the ruh inside ourselves. As my journey proves, I must conduct multiple layers to slowly grasp the ruh inside myself. Firstly, I must stand with justice, question many things that widely believed by society. I must thank Allah sincerely, ask for His forgiveness, admit all the mistakes and submit myself humbly.

Only then, I can start enjoying Qur’an and reliving His words. To this point, I still struggle to do all of these. Sometimes, I have to force myself to thank Him. My heart sometimes feels empty and hard. But at least I know when those things occur, satan plays big roles. It polishes my ego and I must seek rescue from Allah.

Reliving the Qur’an doesn’t mean reciting and memorizing all ayahs only. I have been trying to put the ayah into practice by looking at the sky, the sun, the stars, the cloud. My favorite is the plants and myself. The closest examination on Allah’s favor is our body. Try to count His blessings as our body functions every millisecond and find out that you can’t do that. He is extremely loving and caring. Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim.

He’s with Us All the Time

Our iman is everything. The words from the ustadz capture all things that we need in every single mental disturbance that happens in our lives. Our faith in His help will aid us during our battle against pessimism, depression and overly anxiety. Our belief in His assistance will accompany us when we feel afraid.

And my most favorite is He is with me all the time. He knows and feels what I feel when my tongue can’t speak any words about it. My feeling is valid even if no one knows it. Sometimes, believing that He knows everything is more than enough for me. Most importantly, earning His guidance is what this beautiful life is all about. Submitting with unshaken trust for Allah swt.

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