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Everyday Mental health in Islam Overview

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Tarek Kareem Harris

Channel: Tarek Kareem Harris

Episode Notes

Episode Transcript

© No part of this transcript may be copied or referenced or transmitted in any way whatsoever. Transcripts are auto-generated and thus will be be inaccurate. We are working on a system to allow volunteers to edit transcripts in a controlled system.


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Assalamu Aleikum,

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Doctor, I can't stop worrying. Doctor, my faith is very weak because I can't stop doing some things that I know are sinful.

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Am I mentally unwell doc? I just don't feel right in my mind. Doctor, how do I look after this person with mental health problems? How do I restore my relationship with them? Doc, I can't think properly, I can't get things done. I'm confused. My memories bad.

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I feel like I'm being punished Doc, am I going mad?

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Sometimes I think I can hear voices.

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I hide from other people, Doc, because I'm terrified. They're gonna judge me badly.

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I don't feel like I'm worth anything. As Allah abandoned me.

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Sometimes Doc, I feel like such a burden on people. In the face of deep feelings of sadness and despair, the prophet muhammad sallallahu alayhi. Salam himself offered this prayer. Allah, I'm your servant, and the son of your male and female servants. My forehead is in your hand. You have control over me. Your judgment upon me is assured and your wishes for me are as you see fit. I asked you by every name that you have revealed in your book, talk to your creation and kept by yourself. In the knowledge of things known only to you, I asked you to make the Quran, the joy of my heart, and a light in my chest, and the banisher of my sadness, and the reliever of my distress. I mean, when

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we're feeling lost and full of sadness, or worry, how better than the words of the Prophet himself. In this series, I'll be looking at mental health issues for Muslims. I'll be giving you information which inshallah will be correct, helpful, and objective. In this age of information, which we currently enjoy. Even the internet, which is usually full of so much information on anything, gives us very little objective information to help people with accurate information in an everyday sense, about how to deal with mental health issues. I look around and I see pages written by counselors with dubious qualifications. I see people claiming to have found a way forward because they

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themselves recovered from a mental health problem. And they want to share their secret with the world. I also see some good work by academic journals, full of wonderful research on mental health problems in Muslims and Muslim countries. But I see very little that actually helps everyday people with how to deal with these issues in everyday life.

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So I set out to make this mission.

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My name is TK Harris, and I'm a doctor.

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I trained in medicine in England in Oxford, and then I began to specialize in heart surgery. But I got the sense that there was something more complex in need of my attention, mental illnesses. So I became a specialist in that area, and Alhamdulillah I have spent 25 years researching and treating 1000s of people with mental health issues in secular society.

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Then two years ago, I realized that I wanted to help Muslim men specifically. So I set off to write about these things, to create books and media that would help everyday Muslims to reclaim their mind their happiness, and to improve their well being and to know how to look out for and how to treat mental health issues.

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Contrary to popular belief, actually, Islam has a lot to offer to mental health. The problem we face today is that many Muslims suffer with mental health problems, just like many other communities, and many communities see mental health problems is off limits. But there's also a flip side to this, which is actually more powerful than the negative side.

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The true Islamic approach to mental health, mental well being and how to regard yourself as a psychological thinking, feeling being is actually really beautiful. So I've made it my job to tell people about this to translate what is a complex matter into something more straightforward. So listen on. First, a quick lesson in history. It's a myth that Muslim communities are backward or know little about mental health as such. The world's first mental health hospital was opened by a Muslim doctor called ultra z in Baghdad more than 1000 years ago, and it was a place of much learning of sanctuary of gentle surroundings and many treatments which would impress even the modern

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doctor, talking therapies, outdoor activities, techniques, which looked at nutrition and diet medicines and potions to help with sleep. And so there are plenty of us Muslims in the modern world who get it who understand, but many of us don't feel confident to speak out. And yes, some of us are misinformed. The most common thing to hear which makes me sad is when people say mental health problems are your fault or that they are caused by lack of faith and ask anyone with a mental health issue, how they feel when they hear something like that. Frankly, it's fake news. Mental health problems are no more your fault than if you have eczema or if you get

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chest infection or if you have diabetes. But it is right to say that if you have a problem in your mind, it's better if you take responsibility for admitting that it's there, and learning about what to do about it, and how to prevent it in future. I'm going to tell you two stories that help you to understand what I mean.

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The first story is about Celine. Celine is 31. He's married. And somehow Celine has got COVID-19 he collapsed while at work. And unfortunately, it's quite a bad case because he finds himself waking up in hospital on a drip. And there's a little pipe going up into his nose, giving him extra oxygen to help him breathe.

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And now he's sitting up reflecting on how this all happened.

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He thinks it might be a punishment from Allah for sins from his past. Is he right? Well, no, it is wrong for anyone to tell you that any misfortune was definitely because Allah was punishing you for something that you did. It's nonsense. We are not to read aloud intentions. These things are beyond us. Allah has told us himself that he will put righteous people through difficulties. And he can also choose to leave bad people alone to enjoy a seemingly easy life. And he'll reckoned with them in the afterlife. So we're not to judge these things. That way. We are judged simply on how we deal with the difficulties that we have.

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Any wise person will tell you that a difficulty is often the thing it took for them to discover something truly wonderful, or that it brought them something that in the end was a massive benefit. So let's go back to Celine, he didn't deliberately go out to see COVID. But it happened. The COVID isn't his fault. But it is his responsibility to deal with it properly. So he was brought to the hospital unconscious, but now he finds out he is COVID. And so he gets to make some decisions. Maybe he was a little bit suspicious about the COVID when he had a cough coming on for a few days before he collapsed. Maybe he was so anxious to keep earning money from his job. He was a taxi driver. And

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he was so anxious that he was in a bit of denial about the problem. He didn't want to lose earnings. Maybe he didn't want to be judged badly by others, or stopped from going for Salah in the masjid.

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Now, he still needs to earn money, so he could technically leave the hospital and carry on with his work. The doctors can advise him to stay but they can't force him. But he thinks well, if he leaves now, he knows well, with COVID, he could start spreading it and infecting other people. He's also given medicines to take, he could choose to stick to them or not. The point is this. It may not have been his fault that he got the disease. But he is responsible for dealing with it now. He would be wise to learn if there were things that he did that made him more vulnerable to catching COVID. And going forward, there are things that he could do to help get better more quickly. And in the future,

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there may be changes he could make that would make him less likely to become ill again, prevention is better than cure, after all.

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How he chooses to deal with his problems is something he may well be judged on by Allah.

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Supposing he got COVID, because he failed to wear a mask, or do social distancing? Well, maybe he was lacs about social distancing, when he kept going to the masjid to pray Gemma

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or maybe it was nothing to do with the rules. Maybe he didn't even know what the rules were. The doctors have told him that he does have a mild diabetes coming on as he gets older. So maybe that made him more vulnerable to catching COVID. Even if he stuck to all the rules. Let's also turn to his family for a minute Alhamdulillah. They're a close knit bunch. And they're proud of Salim because his job as a taxi driver actually pays very well. Because he worked so hard. It has meant that they could buy nice things. So maybe even if some of them spotted his cough, but they didn't want to say anything in case he stopped working and the family income fell.

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And now they start thinking about how lacks they were in social distancing. They were visiting each other from house to house because as is true in many Muslim communities. For us, we are much more defined by our larger group. And we've don't find it easy to isolate, compared to I guess, more secular societies. So we tell ourselves, it's going to be okay, until something like this happens. So what are the family thinking now? Are they going to visit him? And when he comes back home, are they going to support him? When he slowly recovers? Will they do what it takes? Will they help him to go to the toilet if he needs to?

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Or they're going to hide their story from others in case shame comes to the family. Again, they may have contributed unknowingly to tell him becoming ill. But now they have a responsibility to themselves and to him which is in much clearer focus. Are they going to inform themselves and do what needs to be done? Will they support

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him when he's at his lowest, and will they support him in future, this is what they will be judged on, and rightly so, by Allah. Now, let me tell you about the second story, which is much shorter. It's about Sophia. Sophia is 34 also married a homemaker who makes cakes and other treats that she sells to make a bit of extra money. Now Sofia, it turns out, took a whole load of painkillers because she felt terribly sad for a number of weeks since her marriage started to suffer. She doesn't quite remember doing it. But remember this feeling very hopeless at the time.

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Her husband recently lost his job. And there have been arguments at home because they were both in the house together the whole time now.

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And now she wakes up in hospital on a drip.

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And after the doctors have talked to her about this overdose, they say that she has a case of clinical depression. Now maybe she was in denial before. She did feel herself slipping, and she lost her concentration. Sleep was all over the place. And she started having horrible thoughts of ending it all. Her husband wasn't helping. As far as he was concerned, she was being spiteful to him, not pulling her weight at home, neglecting herself and neglecting her duties.

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And so over the past few weeks, things got worse and worse. They weren't talking to each other very much. And one day, Sophia seemed to feel a switch going off in her head, she suddenly felt very calm. It was as if she had stepped outside her own life. Then she somehow began to think that actually, she was being punished by Allah. And it was because of all of her failures, she was no good as a mum as a wife, and that she could escape this pain. She stopped fearing that suicide was a sin. In fact, she already felt sure somehow that she was destined for hell. Because she was such a bad person. There was no hope for her in the first place. So taking her own life seemed quite

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obvious. So she waited for the kids to go to school, told her husband she was going for a walk. And then she sat in the park taking one pill after another.

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Now, Isabella, what a terrible tragedy. But nonetheless, I know that some people out there will understand what she felt like. And now she's awake in hospital, she suddenly realizes that she's very glad she didn't succeed in this attempt. life seems very real again, sure she had problems at home. But how could she have thought about leaving her children? Surely that wasn't right.

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The nurse tells her that she should consider taking the medicines prescribed by the doctor. And that she should also consider seeing the counselor, the psychologist to help talk about her feelings. It also turns out she's told that the feelings of being punished and feeling that her faith was weak, was actually very common in clinical depression. So this wasn't her fault as such. Looking back on it, I would even say that the suicide attempt was not her fault, because I can tell you for a fact that more than 90% of successful suicides have clinical depression as the cause. And at that stage, there is complete loss of insight in this state of mind, alone wouldn't punish a person for the act

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because they are not themselves at all. They are no longer of sound mind if they believe there's no hope for them or their children, or that they're being punished by Allah, or possessed by shaytan or jinn. By this very definition, Allah excuses people have unsound mind from even religious duties such as Salah. Think for yourself. This is how carefully and mercifully, Allah regards the issue of one's mental health. So it comes to us to ask what would allow one to see from here on in? Well, it seems that she has regained some sense of her state of mind and wants to recover from this state. And Sophia is now responsible for taking a good course of actions. She has decisions just like Salim

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did. She should consider the medicines as brightly as saline considers the medicines for his COVID.

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The depression wasn't her fault. But she didn't seek help early enough when she felt something might be wrong. Maybe she felt trapped or ashamed. Or she didn't want to tell her friends or her sister about the issue. Why worry them?

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She's thinking now maybe she should rethink that. As for a husband and wider family. They also have decisions and obligations to think about that Allah is going to judge them on.

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Her husband reflects and thinks that yes, he was angry with her and they weren't getting on. But underneath that he did think something was going wrong with her mind. He was however too proud to step outside of his anger and help. He also realizes that he'd been too uninvolved in her life. Yes, you

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He's lost his job, but he could have helped with the children more. But he chose to wallow in self pity, letting Sophia carry all the burden. Wearing herself out.

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The wider family have to think, are they going to be ashamed to talk to Sophia? After all, isn't suicide a terrible sin? Or are they going to do their best to inform themselves of the facts? And to talk to her, and to a doctor's to learn the wiser truth that she'd completely lost her mind and her ability to make decisions for herself?

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And will they volunteer to help, perhaps offer some money to the couple to get through the financial hardship? Will they offer even perhaps to pay for marriage counseling to encourage them to go?

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Or were the family happy enough to just live in denial of these issues and realities? After all, they've got their own problems to live with. Ask yourself, what would Allah be happiest to see them do? And in the end, will they be able to face a lot and say, Yes, I did what I thought was correct. I thought about it properly, and I realized I should be doing a, b, and c.

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So the point of these stories is to help make some things clear. There is a lot of beauty and benefit in Islam when it comes to mental health. The first point is that mental health issues are as common and understandable as any other health issue. Compare the COVID to the depression, for example. And there is no reason to be afraid or ashamed of them any more than one is ashamed of a rash or a broken arm.

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Islam was once ahead of the curve, a true pioneer in this area, with ultra z in the first mental health hospital. So you are totally right, to reclaim that advantage. And take it further. The second point is that Allah has given us rules to help us to seek help. We are not godless folk, who believe that our bodies are to do with as we wish, Allah has lent us our bodies and minds. And if somebody lends you something very special, you don't neglect it. You don't take liberties with it, you know, you have to return it at some point. And if you can't fix it, or if it breaks, you seek help for that, because it's not yours. And allow would be pleased if you tried to look after it as

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best you can, with whatever assets and limitations you had. So if you don't know whether you need help, it's better to ask, than to regret the consequences of not asking. One key question that could help you to find this answer out is, if you saw someone else in the same condition as you, would you think that they could do with some help? And if you think the answer is yes, then you should seek help. The third point to make is that Islam demands that we have respect for ourselves, and that we accept our faults and vulnerabilities. We must love ourselves as much as Allah loved us from the moment he made us. And if we fail to love ourselves, or if we begin to think we are permanently

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unworthy, then this is a sign of problems, and we must try to revise our thinking. But if we don't succeed, then we know we have to seek help.

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Finally, Islamic life is community life. We have plenty of fahrrad on how community unlike many other communities, for example, when it comes to attending important events, such as funerals, Islam demands that we clubbed together as a community. Now at its worst and community life means suspicion, gossip, shame, concealment, and so on. Is that what Allah wants from us? Of course it isn't. We need to reclaim the benefits of the community, as a source of support and joy, and both shared joys and shared problems. Next time and throughout the series, I will talk you through examples and techniques to understand and delve into mental health from an Islamic point of view.

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And I'll cover such things as Islamic psychology, neuroscience, the role of Imams and doctors and spouses and children and the teachings of the Hadith and Quran where the health and well being of people are concerned. You might want to keep the knowledge as a reference point, in which case you can find my books online or find me on youtube or social media. Whatever works. Just have a poke around online and if you're struggling with something which is quite urgent in mental or general health, stand up for your deen and allows instructions, ask your local doctor, ask your local man or drop me a DM or an email. I'll try to get to it inshallah. Alhamdulillah I'll speak to you next

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time. blessings be upon our Prophet, his family and all the prophets and their families.

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And let us praise Allah The most glorious.

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May we all find a route to improve our health, happiness and fulfillment as would greatly please Allah, whilst also giving thanks for every challenge and blessing that comes our way together. I hope over this

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But we can discover how to achieve this. I mean, this has been Dr. tk Harris wa Salaam