بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
فِيهِ شِفَاءٌ لِّلنَّاسِ
…feehi shifaa‘un li-nnasi
…in which there is healing for people.
(Surah An-Nahl, Quran 16:69)
The Prophet (pbuh) said there are two blessings, which most people do not appreciate until it is too late. There are two blessings that most people take for granted. What are those two blessings?
Health and free time.
You think that these are a right of yours. But once you become unhealthy, you truly realize the value of health. Once you become busy, you truly realize the importance of free time and what it means to have free time and how to make use of your time. We live in a time which has an unprecedented impact on our health.
There was the sahabi, a companion of the Prophet, who asked him, “Should we seek cures or should we just depend on Allah? Should we seek a cure for ailments or should we place our trust in Allah?” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Do both.” The Prophet (pbuh) said that Allah has created a cure for every illness. Allah has created every illness, and He has created a cure for every illness. So we should seek that cure.
As Muslims, we understand health to be holistic. It’s not just physical health, but spiritual health is also important. Social health is also important. And on top of that, mental health is also important in combination with physical health, and we know that all of these factors are connected. As Muslims, that is a part of how we understand this world. That is a part of how we understand this life. What is the number one New Year’s resolution that people make? They say, “I want to get healthy.”
How do we define health? Is it simply physical health or is there much more to it? I would argue that yes, there’s much more to it than simple physical fitness, although that plays an important part. In our deen, we are taught about taking care of ourselves. We are taught about the value of our health. So how can we improve our health from all the different angles? Not just from any one angle but from all those angles – our spiritual health, our social health, our mental health, our physical health?
I’d like to start by talking about mental health. Because it’s something that unfortunately, in our communities, has become something you don’t really talk about. It’s become something that’s taboo, something that you just pray away, or that we can make dua and Allah will make it go away. But the thing is, just like how we have to maintain our physical health, we also have to maintain our mental health. We all know that if we don’t brush our teeth every day, there’s going to be problems. The dentist tells us when we go to the dentist, “you have a cavity, you need to take care of it, before it becomes a root canal.” So we realize that if we leave health problems to linger then they can become more and more severe. It’s the exact same with mental health.
The Quran talks about this. In Surah Yusuf, we see that Yaqub (as), just over the sheer stress of losing his beloved son Yusuf, becomes blind, that his mental health has an impact on his physical health. The Quran talks about the nafs and talks about the conscience. The Prophet (pbuh) teaches us about intention, and the importance of niyah. What is niyah? It’s our mental state. Do we have a positive mental state that thinks positive and good thoughts? Allah rewards us for having good thoughts. Subhanallah. He rewards us for having good thoughts. But if we have bad thoughts, he does not hold us accountable. He says “only if you act on it.” Whereas if you just think a good thought, then you get rewarded just for thinking it. If you act on it, your reward gets multiplied by so many times. That’s how we are encouraged to have good intentions and to take care of our mental health.
The first psychiatric hospitals, and hospitals for psychology, were amongst the Khilafah. It was in Baghdad and in Cairo, hundreds of years before psychiatric hospitals were established in Europe. The great scholars of medicine, the earliest scholars, were Muslim scholars. One of the books that became like the Bible that was depended upon for medicine was Kitab al-Tibb, the book of medicine by Ibn Sina. In Europe, they call him Avicenna. In his book, as a part of health, as a part of Tibb, as a part of medicine, he includes chapters on personality, on mental health. That is a part of our tradition. It’s something that we cannot ignore, something that we should not take away from our tradition.
So what is mental health?
A reminder – mental illness is not something that’s extreme. A lot of times, when we think of mental illness, we think that someone is hearing voices or someone is going through an extreme mental illness where they have to be hospitalized and isolated from society, and that they’re a danger to those around them. A lot of times that’s the common misconception but actually mental illness is a range. Just like your toothache is a range. Because you didn’t brush your teeth yesterday, or didn’t floss, now you have a toothache. Or it could be a cavity, or you need a root canal. It could range in its severity. Similarly, mental illness can also range in its severity.
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What causes mental illness?
Even mild forms are caused by some kind of trauma, some kind of significant life change – the death of a family member, divorce, even marriage. When I was doing training as a first responder I was surprised that at the top of this list was marriage. Marriage is something that can cause a significant life change which could lead to a mild version or more of mental illness. That’s just because it’s a significant life change. That significant life change can lead to mental illness SubhanAllah. So whether we view something as positive or negative, it is a significant life change. When I used to teach in Dallas, we used to have students coming from all over the country. They were moving, leaving their homes, coming to this new place where they didn’t know anyone, having to find an apartments, having to go to this new program to study Islam and to study Arabic. That was a big stressor for a lot of them. Just the fact that they had to leave their homes, for many of them, for the first time.
So significant life changes, family conflict, other life stressors, these all lead to mental illness. Once we recognize that, how do we deal with that? Prayer is a part of dealing with that. Coping with our religion is a part of that. Connecting to Allah is a part of that. But it is not the only way. A lot of times the misconception is that if we pray enough, then it will go away. But tell me, for any other illness, do we say that prayer is enough?
The Prophet (pbuh) told us to seek the cure. He told us that, if there is a problem, actually go and seek the cure. So it is a part of our religion to go out and seek help, if self treatment is not enough. So what are some things that we can do? We can turn to prayer, of course. We can turn to family support. But that’s why this topic is so important. Because I am certain that in our families, each and every single one of our families, there’s someone who needs listening to. There is someone who is reaching out for help. There is someone who wants to talk.
If we ignore that, then it festers, doesn’t it?
Anyone who’s gone off to college will tell you, right? If you’ve had a roommate before, and the roommate’s leaving the dishes around or not cleaning up after himself, and the other roommate doesn’t say anything – one month becomes two months becomes three months, then there’s a huge blowout because they weren’t able to communicate. In our families, it’s important that we offer that support. If someone comes to us in our family in confidence, we should not make fun of them. We should not shame them. We should not tell them to pray more. We should hear them out and offer our support.
Why are parents not allowed in youth groups anymore? Because in the youth group, a child asks a question, and the father says, “you don’t know this?” Then the child says, “Okay, never mind, I’m not asking this question anymore.” So that assumption that everything’s okay is not something we can take it for granted. We have to make sure that we provide that support when our family members need it.
If it’s beyond us, that then we can go and seek that external help as well.
Another way in which we can treat mental illness is gaining awareness of what it actually is. Attending workshops. For example, on Tuesdays, we have Mindful Tuesdays. But sometimes that self treating is not enough. We have to do more. So one thing that we can do is go to therapy. People think that therapy is only for other people. We don’t do that. But actually, like I told you, one of the earliest hospitals for psychiatry was in Baghdad and Cairo. Those were the earliest hospitals. That’s the earliest therapy that there was. So, there are ways to seek help. There’s even a Muslim youth hotline. If Muslim youth are in need of someone to talk to, and they can’t find someone to talk to, there’s a great hotline called Naseeha. It is a great Muslim youth hotline. If you don’t want to call them, you can text them, whenever you’re in need of some advice, and some guidance.
So we ask Allah that he helps us to deal with and helps us to take care of and maintain our mental health. Ameen.
So I ask Allah that He helps us to take care of our health in this coming year. I ask Allah that He helps us to build new habits for ourselves and our families and to offer that support to our families and the members of our families that He helps us to be physically healthy, spiritually healthy, socially healthy and mentally healthy. Ameen.
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.
What did you think? Please share your reflections and questions below.
And come back next week for another khutbah!
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