by Dr Dr Z W Green-Thompson is a Consultant Psychiatrist and trained in London and Cambridge. His special interests include neuropsychiatry, genetics, perinatal psychiatry as well as the understanding of mental health through faith.
Ramadan is a month where all good deeds are magnified and just as importantly, it is the month of the Qur’an. A month where the Qur’an was revealed, a month where in the final year of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he recited it twice in full. A month where tarawih prayers are done both in congregation and alone.
A month where the message of the Qur’an resonates with the state of the Ummah and our own souls.
What is our state today?
We remember many of the people of Nuh AS who put fingers in their ears to avoid hearing his da’wah and covered themselves with their clothes. We remember that Nuh persisted. For just under a thousand years he did this, and he was of the successful. Some did listen and did follow the message of tawhid, the Oneness of God. His son did not heed the message and although Nuh and his family were promised safety, Nuh’s son’s deviation from righteousness rendered him no longer a member. The waves separated them and the son drowned.
Faith is thicker than blood.
Psychiatrists, through the waves of pandemic with attendant quarantines and lockdowns, have witnessed intimately some of our community’s struggles. Through this, a glimpse of what we hold as important, what we fear to lose and what we follow in times of stress. Compounding, and preceding, this trial of the very mental health of our Ummah has been tested through the so-called global War on Terror.
Surely we should turn to the Qur’an to guide us today?
The people of Ad, in rejecting Hud AS, were said to have disbelieved in all of the Messengers. Disbelieve in the Message from our Creator and you have disbelieved in all of the Messengers coming from Him. What, then, can we learn through the Qur’anic preservation of the example of all of the Prophets especially where their situation offers clues to our own?
The early days of the Message being refreshed amongst humanity, as the case with Prophet after Prophet, were often lonely. The true believers and those willing to act to defend one another in the face of oppressive forces were few. Those who declared their faith openly and acted early on, were unsurprisingly given a higher rank in the eyes of The Almighty.
Anxiety group disorders, ranging from Generalised Anxiety to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to phobias, arise in part due to fear that has become disproportionate. Falsely disproportionate to the extent a disorder is resultant. Therapy seeks to aid coping with but also understanding the true nature of such fears and, in so doing, dissipate the anxiety.
Fear, falsely exaggerated, is a powerful tool. Allah SWT reveals in the Qur’an that fear is a tool used by Satan to distract from the dhikr of Allah. To distract from the remembrance of God. Yet such power exists only insofar as the fear viewed as greater than it is. If we wonder who Satan’s minions today are amongst mankind – seeking to distract us – need we look any further than those who foment and mete out oppression and who attack Islam and Muslims? Yet Allah SWT reminds us in the Qur’an to not fear the disbelievers and, rather, to fear Him if need be, were we tempted to stray from the Straight Path.
Examining how the truly fundamentalist – secular fundamentalist – states of today engender fear in Muslims today evokes clearly the examples of Prophets from early days. The Prophets, whether moneyed or not, were generally from the noble families of their societies. Men of promise who were warned clearly when they began to preach the truth of the Oneness of God that their promised future was now in doubt. The Prophet Saleh AS, of the people of Thamud, was explicitly so threatened. Amongst other Prophets. Their status, careers, prospects threatened. And they had much to lose in the dunya, this earthly world.
But what remains of the earthly inheritance of Ad or Thamud?
Those of us with property and wealth today, with professional accreditations, with status or rank, have much to lose. And so are easily threatened. But such anxieties will not find solace in all Psychiatry has to offer. Medication for anxiety helps mitigate symptoms. Hyper ventilation, a racing heartbeat, agitation. Psycho therapy can help illuminate that the fear is overblown and encourage one to face it. Neither, however, can motivate to potentially sacrifice all for faith in an unseen God and the Message conveyed by a Prophet and Prophets we have never met. To truly understand the concept faith strengthening when saying “Allah is sufficient for us and the best disposer of our affairs” in the face of enemies we are told to fear.
Peace in the heart, sakina, is a gift of The Almighty alone. While Prophets were often chosen from those favoured in society, many of their first followers were found among the poor – thoose with little to lose. There is great opportunity for those with wealth and position in the early days when the Message first begins to emerge.
Abu Bakr RA, Uthman ibn Affan RA, Abdur Rahman ibn Auf RA amongst other companions of the Prophet Muhammad SAW accepted the Message early and sacrificed much wealth and used their rank and influence to aid Muslims and Islam. As did the Prophets themselves with whatever they had.
We are shown in the very first few Ayah of the Qur’an, at the beginning of the second Surah (chapter) Al-Baqarah (The Cow), that amongst the qualities of the successful are those who believe in the unseen, establish the salaat (prayer) and give of that they are provided… We are all blessed with something. Indeed, many things. Be it knowledge, power or influence, strength, time, money or talents. We are told throughout the Qur’an of the importance of both faith as well as good deeds. Good deeds and faith. Those who follow this path are the successful.
Those of us granted some education, wealth, influence or expertise strive to be successful and to encourage ambition in those we love. All of this can enrich our worship of The Almighty if we understand not simply success as above but also to be truly ambitious. Surah Al- Waqiah reveals that there are not simply two groups of people on the Day of Judgement but three. Those of the left hand destined for hellfire and those of the right for gardens of paradise, yes. But ahead of even the people of the right, those whose deeds presented in front of them. Who are foremost, drawn nearest to Allah SWT. Of whom there are many from early generations. Few from later generations.
That is ambition. And the more steadfast we are on the Straight Path regardless – and even fuelled by – what we may have to lose, it can only aid our pursuit of the prize of being near to Allah SWT.
Let us pray to walk with the Prophets in the Hereafter, to be near to The Almighty, to be of those He gives sakina in their hearts in this world even before the next. We have certainly been given the Message and the means.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)