Monday, June 11, 2007

Islamic Psychology: Treatment for Anger

Counseling & Psychotherapy from Islamic Perspective

Counseling & Psychotherapy from Islamic Perspective
Manzurul Haq
A characteristic of he delusions of modern man is his belief that the degree of material and technological development is the index of human development. This tragic fallacy of man is however, becoming more and more conspicuous with the growing awareness of his mental voids and the consequent increase in the rate of personality disorders, mental breakdowns and the resulting social chaos and conflicts. Various counseling and therapeutic practices developed so far as remedial measures have met only with limited and short-lived success. Difficulty with these practices is not that they are altogether wrong but being based on truncated views of human nature and potentialities, they are highly partials.
In contrast to this situation, is the Islamic world view which contains the totality of human nature and a complete code of human behavior. So, prior to an attempt at appreciating and identifying the principles and methods of Islamic counseling and psychotherapy, we should take into consideration the basic concepts of human nature and potentialities according to the Islamic perspective.
Basic Concepts and Perspectives
According to the Qur’an, man has been sent to this earth as vicegerent of Allah (2.30). This Qur’anic declaration epitomizes man’s nature, status and potentialities. As divine vicegerent, man’s nature is essentially transcendental and spiritual. His soul also, as a divine agent, is purely rational and possesses an unbounded reserve of divine attributes. However, this spiritual entity of man has been infused into an animal structure (15: 28-29). This interaction of soul with animal body has provided man with significant promises as well as special regards for his personality development.
Since man represents the Divine Being, His Fitra, or nature is also good. This is affirmed by the transcendental covenant he made with his lord (7:172). Moreover, as a vicegerent of the absolute sustainer, all the resources of the heavens and the earth have been made subservient to him for his use.
Closely related to the soul, is the spiritual organ, the Qalb or the heart. The Qalb is the supersensory organ responsible for higher cognitive functions, i.e., the realization of the ultimate reality, values, meaning and purpose in life. The Qur’anic verses and Ahadith confirm the cognitive functions of the heart: for the example, “Have they, then, never journeyed about this earth, letting their hearts gain wisdom and causing their ears to hear! Yet verily, it is not their ayes that have become blind, but blind have become their hearts that are in their breasts (Qur’an 22:46).
There are three major stages of personality development: An-nafs al-ammarah bilsu (12:53); An-nafs al lawwamah (75:2). And An-nafs al-mutmainnah (89:72). At the lowest level of an-nafs al ammarah, that is, the impelling self, animal instincts and passions dominate in man. This has a paralyzing effect on higher cognitive processes of the heart. The behavior at this stage of an-nafs al-lawwamah is the reproaching self, characterized by thoughtfulness and self-centeredness. The second stage of an-nafs al-lawwamah is the reproaching self, characterized by constant awareness. The self in this stage is engaged in a continuous striving to get rid of baser desires through constant examination in the light of reasoning. This stage maybe prelude to man’s transition to the final stage of al-nafs al-mutmainnah, the self at peace with the Divine Will; the realization of the Ultimate Reality and freedom from sensuous desires at this stage, emancipates man’s soul from all kinds of influences alien to his nature. Thus, personality is now free to develop and actualize all its latent attributes and potentialities along the line of his natural pattern. However, during this long course of development, man is not left alone in a vacuum of formlessness. Prophet Mohammed provided the perfect example and the concrete empirical norm to be emulated by all potential vicegerents….to be continued.
Dr. Manzurul Haq is Professor of Psychology at Dhaka University, Bangladesh.

Treatment for Anger

Treatment for Anger
This lecture, "Treatment for Anger", is a collection of three lectures of Hadhrat Moulana Hakeem Muhammed Akhtar Sahib Dâmat Barakâtuhum. The first lecture was delivered on the 29th of Shawwâl, 1407, coinciding with the 29 June 1987, Friday, at 11 am in Musjid Ashraf, Khânqah Imdadia Ashrafiyyah, Gulshan Iqbal, Karachi.
The second lecture was delivered at Dera Gazi Khan on the 9th Jamâdus Thani 1408, coinciding with 29 January 1988 when he was on a journey with Hadhrat Aqdas Moulana Shah Abrarul Haq Sahib Dâmat Barakâtuhum to Lahore, Faizalabad, Rawalpindi, Dera Gazi Khan, Multân and Peshawer.
The third lecture on the same topic, again, was delivered at Musjid Ashraf, Khanqah Imdadia Ashrafiyyah on 30th Ramadân 1408, coinciding with 19th May 1988, Tuesday, after Fajr. All three lectures have been collected in one book. It is really a very unusually benefitting topic and a most valuable prescription of the treatment of the illness of anger. This booklet was initially published in Urdu, but for the benefit of English readers, it has been translated. May Allâh Ta'âla bless it with acceptance.
Qurânic verse concerning anger
Allâh Ta'âla has explained three qualities of his special servants in this verse:-
1) Those who swallow their anger,2) They forgive the mistakes of Our Servants,3) They not only forgive, but do an act of kindness upon them, and Allâh loves such people.
Anger is not a bad thing, but to use it in a wrong place is bad. If anger is annihilated, then how will one make jihad with the kuffâr? Therefore, use anger in the right place, eg. in jihad against the kuffâr. When at such a time, someone comes and says, "I humbly present myself in front of you," it will be forbidden to treat him with humility, but rather say, "Is there anyone to confront me?" However, when anger is concerning oneself, then the following verse will apply to him, "Men of Allâh are those who swallow their anger and control themselves."
Many times, people request for some prayers whereby evil thoughts, inspirations and feelings do not occur to them, as the Urdu saying goes - "The flute must not remain, nor the flautist." This is childishness. Actually, perfection and intelligence is to trample the evil inspirations, not to act upon them, just for the pleasure of Allâh. Anyone who goes through a lot of difficulties and suffering for your sake, will you not think him to be your very best friend? Therefore, one has to escape from or overpower these demands, for if you cannot do this, then it is proof enough that you do not want to go through difficulties for the sake of Allâh. How then can this be a claim of love? One of the rights of love is that one goes through all difficulties for the pleasure of the beloved. Therefore, these demands and urges must remain, otherwise how will one fulfil his wife's rights in a permitted manner, which means not using one's urges in the wrong manner.
Moulana Thanwi Rahmatullahi Alai used to say that the intention is not to destroy bad habits, but to channelize them in the correct direction. For example, someone has anger in him which is a bad habit. Before his reformation he used it for himself, i.e if someone told him something unbecoming, or he was harmed by someone, he immediately lost control and let out his anger. But after he reformed, the direction of his anger changed. Now he gets angry on witnessing the disobedience of Allâh and his enmity is now directed towards the enemies of Allâh.
Reforming the Nafs
If after reformation, the 'SELF' (nafs) encourages towards sin, then he lets out his anger on it, saying he will not allow it to sin! So anger is there, but its direction is now changed, which is praiseworthy and a commendable action.
Now, let us see what is the difference of "Ghaiz" and "Ghadhab". Sometimes, the workers in the office speak amongst themselves that "today the boss is fuming with rage, perhaps he had a fight with his wife." Allâmah Âloosi Rahmatullahi alaih has explained that the meaning of "Ghaiz" is that when one is angered, he controls himself and holds back his frustration. In "Ghadhab" , one intends to take revenge. "Ghaiz" can be used only for the creation and not for the Creator (Allah) while "Ghadhab" can be used for both, the creation and the Creator. Allâmah Âloosi Rahmatullahi alaih has explained four ahâdeeth concerning this verse for only the one on whom the Qurân was revealed can explain the commentary of the above verse.
Ahâdith Concerning Anger
The first hadith is, "One who controls his anger inspite of having strength to enforce it, Allâh will fill his heart with Imân and peace."
This means that a person has full strength to enforce his anger and there is no obstacle preventing him from doing so, yet he swallows his anger and forgives the person only out of the fear of Allâh. Allâh will then bless such a person with the above reward. What a great reward for controlling one's anger! The elders have explained that one who swallows the bitter sip of anger which means that he controls it, Allâh will change all that anger into noor. Together with this, another commentary is given: That anger which takes place for Allâh or for the affairs of Deen is an exceptional type of anger, as Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam also got angry when witnessing the disobedience towards Allâh. His blessed face would turn red as if pomegranate juice had been sprinkled on it. Therefore, one should get angry on the disobedience of Allâh.
The second hadith is: "One who controlled his anger, though he was able to enforce it, on the day of Qiyâmah, Allâh will call him in front of all the creation and allow him to choose any "Hoor he pleases to have". This is the second reward of controlling one's anger.
The third hadith is: "On the day of Qiyâmah, Allâh will call out: "Stand up, whoever has a right upon Me." No one will stand up, except that person who forgave another's mistakes in the world. Whoever, earned this wealth and did actions of forgiveness only he will stand up to take his rewards from Allâh on that day."
The fourth hadith is: "Anyone who wants high palaces and high stages in Jannah, should forgive the one oppressing him, he should give to the one who deprives him, and he should keep up relations and communication with one who severs ties." Certain blood relatives are such that even if one does a million kindnesses to them, they do not do so in return. The rule for them is that even if they keep severing ties, one should keep maintaining ties with them and forgive them. We learn from this hadith that Allâh has promised beautiful mansions and high stages for the person who practises the above.
If a relative is troubling and harming one to such an extent that it is unbearable and through which one's world and hereafter is being harmed, one should take advice from the Ulema, because for such a person, different rules will apply. Another three ahâdith will be explained concerning anger.
The fifth hadith is: "Anger destroys Imân in the same manner that aloes spoil honey." Aloes are so bitter, that if stamped at a distance, the throat of another person becomes bitter. If a small pinch of aloe is put into a whole mound of honey, all the honey will become bitter. Similarly, anger makes the sweetness of Imân bitter which means an angry person does not enjoy the love of Allâh, and His ibâdat and tilâwat etc. because his anger has spoilt the perfection and noor of his Imân.
The sixth hadith is: "One who holds back his anger, Allâh will hold back His punishment from him." It is devious that one will have to tolerate difficulty in controlling one's anger, and this is tolerated for the pleasure of Allâh alone, then upon this one will be blessed with this great reward. This training of tolerance can only be made easy by the blessings of the company of the pious people.
Once a person wrote to Hadhrat Hakeemul Ummat Moulana Thanwi Rahmatullahi alayh that he has anger in him and that some treatment should be prescribed. Hadhrat replied that he should go to Moulana Muhammed Hasan Kakordi Rahmatullahi Alayhi who was the owner of Anwâr Book Depot in Lucknow. After some time, this person wrote back to Hadhrat Thanwi Rahmatullahi Alayhi saying: "My anger is gone. I keep going in the presence of Molvi Sahib and he never tells me anything concerning my anger, yet how is it that I have benefitted so much?" Hadhrat told him: "Because Moulana has a tolerant nature, he has within him the faculty of patience and tolerance, and this quality of his heart has been transferred to your heart."
The seventh hadith is narrated by a Sahabi Hadhrat Abu Mas'ood (RA) that once he was beating his slave when he heard a voice from behind him saying: "Abu Mas'ood! Allâh has more power over you than what you have over him (the slave)." This was the voice of Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
"The dead come to life hearing your voice." (Poem) The Sahabah's (RA) hearts would come alive hearing this voice and diseases would be cured. Allâh blessed them with guidance through the companionship of prophethood. Through the companionship of saintly people, a power and strength is created within us to act on piety. People who do not have the strength of staying away from a sin for forty years, should stay a few days with saintly people and see what happens. Look! so many drunkards have become pious through the blessings of the company of pious people.
True Repentance
A poet of Jaunpur by the name of Abdul Hafiz used to drink wine and shave his beard. On being informed that one truly becomes reformed at Thana Bowan, he set out and on his way his beard grew a little. On reaching the khanqah of Moulana Thanwi Rahmatullahi alayhi, he shaved off all the stubble of the beard and requested Moulana to allow him to take the "Bay'at" (pledge). Moulana told him; "When you came here, you had a little noor on your face. Now you have even removed that. Why did you do this when you had the intention of taking the pledge?" Hafiz replied, "Hadhrat, you are the doctor of the ummat and I am the most sick of the ummat. The patient should present his illness fully to the physician, so that the illness can be treated fully. I will never touch the razor again Insha Allâh."
Although this was not permissible for Hafiz, but because his intention was to reform, Hazrat accepted his sincerity and kept quiet. One year after this incident had taken place, Hadhrat went to Jaunpur for a lecture and there, he saw an old man with the sunnat beard. On enquiry about this man, he was informed that he was that very person who had come to Thana Bowan for reformation. Hadhrat was overjoyed on seeing him with a beard. His end was a very beautiful one. For three days, he cried with the fear of Allâh, tossing restlessly from one side of the room to the other, and in this condition he met his end. So, truly blessed is that servant who connects himself to the people of Allâh. When Allâh sees that a person has become the friend of His friend, then He, through His grace, makes him His own. Ones destiny changes by the company of the people of Allâh.
One Who Sits in the Company of the Pious is Not Deprived Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam has said: "One who sits in the company of the accepted servants of Allâh, can never remain wretched. Allâh changes his wretchedness into auspiciousness." There is a lengthy hadith, a part of which is, that a person was passing by the gathering of Allah's people - he had not come specially for the gathering, but just decided to sit down. Although Allâh knows everything, He asked the malaikah what those people were engaged in. At the end of this hadith it is mentioned that Allâh calls the malaikah to bear witness and says: "I have forgiven all of them, even the one who sat in the gathering just as he was passing by, because I do not deprive even those who sit near My accepted servants. " Look! Here in Derâ Ghazi Khan, whatever is being prepared for Hadhrat Wala Hardoi Dâmat Barakâtuhu, the same things are being served to everyone else, even his attendants. If this is the condition of worldly bounties, then Insha Allâh the same will be the condition in Jannat. If the result of the companionship with the friends of Allâh is such that wretchedness changes into piety, and one develops a powerful strength to do good deeds, then what must be the condition of one's Imân after the companionship of prophethood?
Just by Rasulullah's Sallallahu alaihi wasallam sight falling on a person, that person becomes a Sahabi, and the world's greatest wali can never reach the status of any Sahabi. It was thus through the blessing of the company of Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam that Hadhrat Abu Mas'ood Radiallahu anhu realized this and said: "O Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam, I free this slave for the sake of Allâh in lieu of beating him." Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam replied: "If you would not have shown mercy to the slave, the fire of Jahannum would have burnt you to ashes." Who is this? None other than a Sahabi who has seen Rasululllah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam. Which oppressor can then say that he performs tahajjud, makes zikr and is a saint, so he will not be punished for his anger? Think and ponder over this fact. We think that just because we perform worship, we have all the right to trouble and oppress our fellow Muslims, our brothers, sisters, wives etc. We think there is no law and order for us. Look! A companion of Allah's Rasul Sallallahu alaihi wasallam, Abu Mas'ûd Radiallahu Anhu is being warned that had he not shown mercy to his slave, the fire of Jahannum would have been wrapped around him on the day of Qiyâmah. Can we be greater than the Sahabi, Abu Mas'ood? If we say that our anger is not harming us, then we are actually trying to claim that our stage is higher than the Sahabi (Na ûzûbillah).
My friends! Many people say, "We do not need spiritual guides," yet, imagine, even a Sahabi like Hadhrat Abu Mas'ood Radiallahu Anhu needs a trainer and guide! When Hadhrat Abu Bakr (RA) who is the most virtuous amongst mankind after the Ambiyâ (AS), was in need of a guide, he needed a guardian, then who are we to say that we do not need to be guided and reformed.
Showing Kindness
Once Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddique (RA) became angry with a relative and said, "By Allah! I will not do kindness to you anymore." However, this relative had earned Allah's acceptance because of his participation in the battle of Badr and Allâh Ta'âla therefore interceded on his behalf thus: "O Siddique! Would you not like to forgive this servant of Mine who has taken part in the battle of Badr so that I may forgive you on the day of Qiyâmah?" When this verse was revealed, Hadhrat Abu Bakr (RA) broke his oath, paid compensation for it and took another oath: "By Allah! I love that Allâh forgives me, so I too forgive my relative and now I will do more kindness to him than even before." These are Allah's special servants, who forgive people's mistakes and thereafter even do acts of kindness to them for Allâh loves those who are kind.
In support of this commentary, Allamah Âloosi (RA) has narrated an incident about Hadhrat Ali (RA)'s grandson, Ali bin Husain (RA). His slave girl was once helping him to make wudhu when the water can slipped from her hand, fell on his head and wounded him. Hadhrat Ali bin Husain (RA) looked at her angrily. The slave girl, being a Hâfizah of the Qurân, immediately started reciting the verse from the Qurân which says: "Allah's special servants are those who swallow their anger." Hadhrat Ali bin Husain (RA) immediately replied: "I have swallowed my anger." His immediate action was because of his acceptance of the word of Allâh. It was not important to him who had recited it. He did not think that it is only a slave girl reciting, so why should he accept it, but rather when the talks of a Great Being are spoken by "small" people, that is the word of Allâh Rabbul Izzat, no matter who speaks it, do not look at the insignificance of the speaker, but rather appreciate those great talks. The slave girl then proceeded to recite the verse which says: "And those who forgive people." Hadhrat Ali said: "I forgive your mistake. She then continued, Ând Allâh loves those who are kind." Hadhrat Ali replied: "Go, I free you for the sake of Allah."
I want to narrate another incident here. The founder of the Tablighi Jamât and the uncle of Hadhrat Shaikhul Hadith Moulana Mohammed Zakariyyah (RA), Moulana Mohammed Ilyâs (RA), was sitting at a place where Hadhrat Shaikhul Hadith had become angry with an attendant and was scolding him. The attendant was asking for forgiveness, saying that he made a mistake and that he was after all human. Shaikhul Hadith (RA) replied that if he had done it once or twice it would have been understood, but he had committed this mistake a dozen times. How much more must he tolerate it? Moulana Mohammed Ilyâs (RA) told him in his ears, "Moulana! Tolerate as much as you would want to be tolerated", meaning, forgive as much as you would want to be forgiven, so do not say how much you must tolerate, but forgive as much as possible. Sometimes a person in anger says: "This person never does anything right, he is always making mistakes." So what, brother, some people have less intelligence than others! Hadhrat Hakeemul Ummat (RA) says that if perfect intelligence is 98 degrees, then Allâh has given some people only 97.5 degrees and these types are simple and childish! If your own child was like this, what would you have done? Surely, you will overlook his weakness with softness. Therefore, check and take stock of one with less intelligence accordingly. Do not compare one of 97 degrees to one with 98 degrees. Yet, knowing all this, some people say in anger: "He knows everything. He is doing this just to trouble me." This foolish point is created in the mind by shaytân.
Pride Leads One to Anger
Another important point is that an angry person thinks himself to be very great. Pride is hidden in the folds of his anger. When he is angry at someone, his intention is to degrade that person and prove his own greatness. When anger arises in him, look at his face or put a mirror in front of him and tell him to see for himself, or record his angered voice on a tape and let him listen to it. A human being never realizes his own illnesses, he may say that his anger is for the sake of Allâh, but this assumption of his can never be reliable. He should have it tested by a spiritual guide who has far sightedness, and will tell him if his anger is right, but the one who says he is always right, is in fact the wrong one. One who tells his spiritual guide that he does not know anything and that the one who is the target of his anger is such and such, then know that he thinks his spiritual guide to be a fool. Chase such a disciple out of the khanqah (institution of spiritual guidance and reformation) holding him by his ear. In anger, if you have oppressed someone, never be ashamed to ask forgiveness of him. Please him in this world, otherwise you will be sorry on the day of Qiyâmah!
Now listen to what status that person will get who makes amends and has his anger treated. Once Hadhrat Phulpoori (RA) got extremely angry at a person, for though he was a great friend of Allâh, he was after all human and it is only human to make mistakes. The person with whom Hadhrat got angry was a villager who was a little backward. His village was about one and a half miles away from Phulpoor to which he returned. After the villager had left, Hadhrat regretted having become so angry at him. He therefore set out for that village after Asr, to ask forgiveness from the villager.
Hadhrat relates that he was so upset over what he had done that he could not think straight and even lost his way. Somehow he searched for the way through the fields and finally reached the village quite late. Hadhrat asked the man to forgive him for the sake of Allâh, as he had wronged him. The villager would not agree saying: "You are a great Moulana, and I am an ignorant one. You are like my father and a father has rights upon his son." Hadhrat said to him: "I don't know what will happen on the day of Qiyâmah, only then will it be known who is small and who is great. Until you do not tell me that you have forgiven me, I will not move from here." The person then said: "All right, only because you are commanding me, in order to please you, I will say that I have forgiven you, but otherwise you have great rights over me." Then only did Hadhrat return.
On the same night, Hadhrat saw in his dream that Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam and Hadhrat Ali (RA) were sitting in a boat, and at a little distance from them, he was sitting alone in another boat. Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam commanded Hadhrat Ali (RA) to join Hadhrat's boat to his Sallallahu alaihi wasallam's own boat. When Hadhrat Ali (RA) joined them, it made such a beautiful sound, the enjoyment of which Hadhrat was still feeling right upto the time he narrated the dream. Look! What an immense reward was given for humbling oneself and being regretful!
Forgiving For the Sake of Allâh
Hadhrat Hakeemul Ummat Mujaddide Millat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) once mentioned in a lecture that a woman put extra salt in the food by mistake. Her husband thereupon decided this matter with Allâh and said: "O Allâh! She has made a mistake by making the food salty, so for Your sake I forgive this wife of mine who is your bondswoman. She has a connection with You, therefore I forgive her." All this he thought in his heart and forgave his wife and did not tell her anything. After he had passed away, someone saw him in a dream and asked him how he fared? He replied: "Matters were very frightening, great sins of mine were presented, but Allâh told me that He forgave me and I am free to go, as one day I forgave His bondswoman (my wife), for making the food too salty." How would we like our son-in-law to treat our daughter if she makes a mistake? Would we not like that he should forgive her? When the son-in-law troubles our daughter, we run to buzrug's for taweez and duas. Similarly, our wives are also someone else's daughters. Must we not show mercy to them? We argue and fight so much with them that they cry inside and have no one to complain to in the in-law=s house. Their sighs and laments too will surely catch up with you one day!
When the rains of knowledge stop falling on the heart of the revivalist (Mujadid) and reformer of the time, because of harm caused to animals, then what will one's condition be for troubling human beings? One day Moulana Thanwi's (RA)'s wife had to go out, so she told him to unlock the chicken pen and to put corn and water for the fowls. Hadhrat completely forgot about it and sat down to do his writing and replying of letters. However, all the noor of knowledge and topics on "recognition" closed on him and he could not reply one letter nor write his commentary of Bayânul Qurân. Upon this he made dua to Allâh, that Allâh should open upon him the secret, for perhaps he has made some mistake as a result of which this has happened to him. Allâh Ta'âla put it in his heart that, "Our creation (fowls) are locked up without food and water, how can We bestow you with topics when Our creation is suffering?" Hadhrat immediately opened the chicken pen, gave them food and water, and just then his heart opened up and knowledge started flowing in.
Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam has said: "Do not make the animal's back your pulpits." This means, if you need to talk to someone, get off the animal and talk, for animals are not for this purpose. Islam enjoins great mercy to animals. If it is forbidden to trouble animals, then, my friends, those who trouble their wives, how much punishment are they not inviting upon themselves for their action? Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said, AThose with the most perfect Iman are the ones whose character is the best. And the best amongst you is the one who treats his wife well. We learn from this that the highest standard of best character is good treatment to the wife. Allamah Âloosi (RA) has related a narration in Tafsîr Rûhul Ma'âni that Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "Those husbands who are merciful, their wives overpower them." This means they start speaking sharply, they become playful towards the husband and do coquetry, but they do have rights.
Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "O Aysha, when you are angry with me, I come to know of it, because then you say: "By the Lord of Ibrahim (AS) and when you are happy with me, then you say, "By the Lord of Muhammed." So women do have a right of getting upset. Shariat has scope for it. The hadith says: "These women overpower men who are kind, but men that are ill tempered and possess bad character, shout, beat and fight with their wives and overpower them." It is said that in certain places, husbands beat their wives on the first night to create a fear in their hearts for them. Astaghfirullah! What oppression and ignorance! May Allâh give us Hidayat. Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "I prefer to be suppressed but kind (with regard to my wives). I do not want to be ill-tempered and overpower them." He Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "Women are from a crooked rib. Look! Although they are crooked, are we not benefitting from them?" If you will try to straighten them, they will break! Therefore, your treatment towards them should be one of love, kindness and mercy, then life will become enjoyable.
Hadhrat Moulana Thanwi (RA) used to say that those people who reject Allah's intercession of "And treat them kindly," are shameless. If some great person commands us to protect and look after the wife, we will take pains in fulfilling the order of such an important personality. Here Allâh, Most High is commanding us to treat our wives well, then how much more importance should be given to this order. Let us ponder deeply over what is to be done and what we are doing. Coming back to the subject of anger, to swallow anger is a great training of the 'self', because anger is fire and to control it is very difficult. So, rewards upon it are also very great and one attains experience according to one's training.
Through this self-training, many have attained miracles, and miracles of the Auliya (friends of Allah) are true. To deny the miracles performed by the Auliya (friends of Allah) leads one to kufr. Of course, the Auliya-e-kirâm cannot perform these miracles of their own accord, but they take place through them (the auliya) when Allâh wills it. "Karamat" (miracles) is not the doing of the creation, but is exclusively the work of the Creator. Imâm Bukhari (RA) has explained that Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "A pious servant of Allâh among the Bani Israeel once asked a man to lend him a thousand coins. That man asked the saint to bring a witness to which he replied: "Allâh is enough for a witness." The man again asked him to bring forward a person to stand surety on behalf of the saint, so that in case he does not pay up, the money could be demanded from the one who stood surety. To this the saint replied, "Allâh is responsible and stands surety." On hearing this the other person said: "You have spoken the truth," and immediately gave the pious man a thousand coins. The pious man took the coins, crossed the river and fulfilled the work for which he had needed the coins. Finally, the day on which he had promised to repay, arrived. When he reached the river bank, he became worried as there was no boat to take him across the river. Anxious to fulfil his promise, he thought of a plan. He made a hole in a piece of log, placed the thousand coins into it, knocked a nail to secure it and put it in the water to float across. Placing his trust in Allâh, he made dua: "O Allâh! Let the coins reach their owner." The winds could have changed direction and steered the log elsewhere, but this was a miracle that it reached its required destination. The creditor was waiting for some boat to arrive with the buzurg at the bank of the river. Suddenly, he noticed a piece of log floating towards him. He picked it out of the water, thinking he would take it home and use it for firewood. When he hit it with an axe, the coins fell out with a note which read: "I could not get a boat in time, so I am sending your coins in this manner, putting my trust in Allah." Soon afterwards, the buzurg also arrived, on finding a boat. He brought another thousand coins with him, just in case the first thousand which he had secured in the log might not have reached the owner and were lost. The owner said that he received the coins and explained how he found the log and what had happened. The Buzurg went back very happy, thanking Allâh for this miracle. Although miracles of the auliya are true, they are not a requisite for being a wali. Some foolish people think it is compulsory for every saint to perform miracles. For anyone to be a wali, he has to have piety. Obedience to the shariat and sunnat is absolutely essential. Even chastity is not a requisite, that a wali will never sin. Yes, this is a requisite for prophethood! A wali (friend of Allah) can become weak and get involved in sin, but to remain a wali, there is a condition that he repents and asks forgiveness from Allâh.
A person lived in the company of Hadhrat Junaid Baghdadi (RA) for ten years but did not see any miracle taking place at his hands eg. flying in the air or walking on water etc. Disappointed, he decided to go away, explaining his reason to Hadhrat Junaid (RA). Hadhrat Junaid (RA) asked him if had ever seen him (Hadhrat Junaid) doing any action against the sunnat or shariat in those ten years. The man replied in the negative. Upon this Hadhrat Junaid (RA) sighed and said: "If a slave has not displeased his Master for even a moment in ten years, can there by a greater miracle than this?" Hadhrat Mulla Ali Qari (RA) writes: "Steadfastness upon the sunnat and shariat is more virtuous than a thousand miracles." As I was saying, that by controlling one's anger and tolerating the harm which comes to one from the creation, many a buzurg attained the blessings of miracles.
Hadhrat Shah Abul Hasan Khirqâni (RA) used to ride on a lion, bringing with him wood from the jungle on it, and if sometimes the lion would become troublesome, he would whip it with a live snake. A person from Khurasân went to Kharqân to take the pledge (bay'at) at Hadhrat's hands, When Hadhrat's wife asked this man why he had come, he related his reason. She was a very ill-tempered woman and upon hearing this she recited: "La howla wala quwwata illah billah" and said: "Who in this world can know the condition of this Buzurg better than me? I am with him day and night. He is a crafty deceiver! How did you get involved with him? Have you no brains?" She spoke so bitterly to him that he cried and thought to himself that his trip had been wasted. However,the people of the locality urged him to go into the jungle, and meet the Shaikh, and not form any wrong opinion about the Buzurg as his wife was an ill-tempered woman. When he reached the jungle, sure enough, there was Shaikh Abul Hasan Khirqâni (RA), seated on the lion's back. Moulana Jalaluddin Roomi (RA) says that through kashf (divine inspiration), it transpired to Hadhrat that this person had heard his (Shaikh's) wife's bitter talks and was grieved. Hadhrat laughed and asked what the matter was. That man replied: "Hadhrat, your wife is a very bad-tempered woman, why did you marry her?" Hadhrat replied: "The miracle which you see in front of you i.e. I am seated on a lion while using a live snake as a whip, was attained by patiently bearing the harms caused to me by this woman." In the words of Moulana Roomi (RA): "If my patience would not tolerate the burden of her ill-temper, then do you think this lion would bear my burden and become my slave." It is the way of Allâh, that when He blesses one with a gift, He does so after training of the self (Islâhe Nafs). Hadhrat Mirza Jâne Jâna was of a very sensitive nature. When the enemy shot him, someone asked him his condition, to which he replied: "There is no pain because of the bullet, but I am inconvenienced with the smell of the acid." If he saw a bedstead placed incorrectly (not straight), he would get a headache. He could not sleep the whole night. The ruler of Delhi once came to him and after drinking water, he placed the cup crooked on the water pitcher. Hadhrat developed a headache on seeing this. The ruler then asked Hadhrat if he would like an attendant for himself. Hadhrat replied: "Until now, I have managed to control myself, but now I must tell you that you put the water cup crooked through which I have developed a headache. How can I accept an attendant from you. He will be just like you." Hazrat Mirza Jâne Jâna was divinely inspired thus: "If you marry a certain ill-tempered woman of Delhi, then We will make you famous in the whole universe." He agreed. People of Allâh are always seeking ways whereby they can sacrifice themselves for the pleasure of Allâh.
One day, Hadhrat sent his attendant home to fetch his (Hadhrat's) food. When the attendant reached Hadhrat's house, he called out at the door to Hadhrat's wife, asking for his food. The ill-tempered wife began insulting her husband, saying: "Why did he not ask for it earlier, I am waiting here for hours with his food to be taken and there he is, having his malfoozâts and acting like a great spiritual guide. He is causing us such inconvenience. Does he not realize the rights of Allah's servants? He is not a saint, but a deceiver, etc. etc." That attendant who had come for the food was a native of Kabul (Pathân). He drew out his sword, but then realized that this woman was his shaikh's wife, put his sword back and told the woman: "You are my shaikh's wife, therefore I left you, otherwise, I would have finished you off." He then went back to his shaikh and asked him why he had married such an ill-tempered woman. Hadhrat replied: "Foolish, don't you see Mirza Jâne Jâna's name reigning on earth? This I have achieved by the blessing of tolerating this woman, I bear patiently the harm she causes me. Allâh has blessed me with steadfastness upon this tolerance, then also rewarded me for it." Friends! after bringing Imân, to remain firm on it is called steadfastness, as is stated in the Qur'ân. There are many who remain auliya for one moment, and the next moment they turn into devils. For a few days they are like angels, but when the self (nafs) overpowers them, then they become devils. When anger overpowered them, they did not think who they are and who is their Allâh. Then they even forget that a little while ago they were making tilâwat, last night they performed Tahajjud and even read Ishrâq today. In anger, they changed into shaitân, said what they wanted to, and even started beating someone up! Why is such a person called a shaitân. The reason is because shaitân is created from fire and it is stated in a hadith that anger is also created from fire.
The Condition of an Angry Person
Allâmah Âloosi (RA) quotes a hadith in Ruhul Ma'âni: "Save yourself from anger, because it is a flame of fire which burns the heart of the son of Adam." Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam has explained through two proofs that the matter and substance of anger is made from fire. One is: "Do you not see that the veins of the angry one's throat swell up' and the other is that the eyes get red. The eyes show that there is a fire in the heart. The eyes are like glasses through which one can see the fire inside the heart. So anger is definitely fire. In anger, people do such actions which cannot be practised otherwise. People have even sworn at Allâh and the shariat in anger, and became kâfirs! May Allâh save us. In anger, one fights one's parents, is harsh to one's wife and oppresses her, causing her deep sighs and lamentations. In anger, the wife becomes insolent towards the husband, a son fights with his father, a student fights with his teacher, a disciple fights with his spiritual guide, an ummati fights with a Nabi and the bondsman fights with Allâh! Through this dangerous illness, one is deprived of his venerable elders' kindness. One who respects his elders will be rewarded by their kindness. May Allâh bless us with taufîq to fully submit to our elders, and to tolerate whatever they tell us. I too request you for duas.
There are many incidents that took place where, because of anger, homes have broken up. Just recently, an eighty year old man, came to meet me at a certain place and told me that his son-in-law had divorced his daughter. She had eight sons and the ninth child was on the way. Imagine! If someone makes such a mistake in his young days, one will say that he has done it due to immaturity, but this has been done in old age! This person regularly goes out for Tabligh also. Here! Now he is suffering and getting attacks, because his little children have been separated from him. In the state of anger one does not realise one's own unworthiness. He now regrets his foolish act of chasing his wife away forever, the result being that his children will always curse him and think of their father as a tyrant who divorced their mother in her old age. The entire family has now been separated, but what can be done now, for it is no use crying over spilt milk. Friends! Anger is very dangerous, therefore do not hesitate to remedy it. Now read on and see the petty matter over which this person divorced his wife: That day, their young son was ill and did not go to work. The father beat him, saying that he was telling a lie, whereas one is not justified to suspect or think ill of another without a valid proof. The mother then intervened, by telling the father to stop hitting the son. A mother naturally loves her children more than the father, because she is the one who carries them in her womb for nine months, then delivers them with so much pain, then breast-feeds them with her blood which is changed into milk. Thus, being a mother, she pitied her son and said to her husband: "Do not beat him so mercilessly (like a butcher)." Upon this interference from his wife, the husband flared up with anger and shouted: "Why must you interfere when I am fixing him up," because of this I give you talâq! talâq! talâq! It was as if he had fired 3 bullets at his wife, all in one shot, as a result of which two homes were destroyed, and now they are suffering from heart attacks! A great lesson is to be learnt from this unfortunate incident. One who does not endeavour to reform himself, finally destroys himself as well as those connected to him. A person can never hope for betterment without the process of reformation.
Dr Abdul Hay (RA), relates an incident about a certain young man, who once entered the musjid, crying bitterly while making dua. Doctor Saheb became much affected by the sight of the young man and took him to be a wali Allâh (friend of Allâh). At that very instant, an old man with poor eyesight and feeble, shaky legs, walked out of the musjid. Due to old age, his legs were weak and uncontrollable as a result of which he accidentally bumped into the young man. The young man, whose appearance resembled that of a great saint, suddenly jumped up and fumed: "O you unworthy blind fool, can you not see where you walk? You are so old, yet you hurt me!" His hands are spread out in supplication before Allâh, while his tongue is engaged in harshly swearing the poor old man! Doctor Saheb, who had witnessed the entire scene, was shocked at the young man's attitude. He said: "I thought him to be a great wali, but he turned out to be shaitân's grandfather." Therefore, reformation of the 'self' is of utmost importance, for one's success.
Companionship of the Pious
Many people believe that one can be reformed merely by reading some great books. If this was the case then why did Allâh Ta'âla send messengers to people? It was solely for their guidance and reformation by means of cleansing and purifying their hearts. Therefore, first the Nabi fulfils this duty and thereafter his deputies follow suit. One cannot understand books without a teacher. This is a process of teaching and learning. For the book of Allâh, people of Allâh are created. In the commentary of Surah Fatiha in Ma'ariful Qurân, Mufti Muhammed Shafi (RA) has written: "To understand the Book of Allâh, it is necessary to have the people of Allah." The fuel of strength for acting upon the book of Allâh will be attained from the bosoms of these pious people. If a Nabi is alive during that time, then this knowledge will be attained from his bosom, otherwise from the bosoms of their disciples. Moulana Gangohi (RA) has said: "Why do you think I became bay'at to Hajee Imdadullah (RA). It was not to show Hajee Sahib mas'alas. This I will show to Hajee Sahib. I took bay'at to gain the fuel of strength and taufîq to act upon everything that I have learnt. Just imagine, such great Ulema are not independent of help from the people of Allâh. Therefore friends, for one's reformation, contact with a reformer is absolutely necessary. It is not enough merely to have friendship and companionship with them, but to keep them informed about one's spiritual condition is the actual purpose. Then, whatever advice they give, one should obediently act upon it. The rights of companionship are not only feeding the people of Allâh with good food, and then to imagine that one has fulfilled their rights, but actually it is informing them of one's condition and thereafter obedience to their advice with sincerity. I will now prescribe to you a treatment for removing anger: Whenever you get angry, immediately recite: "Aûzobillahi minash shaytanir rajîm" and move away from the person who is the cause of your anger. If possible, make wudhu and perform two rakâts namâz and make dua. Also drink water, because water is a cure for anger.
When a fire breaks out, water is used to extinguish it. If you are standing at that time, then sit down, and if you are sitting, then lie down. In this way you are getting further away from taking revenge. If you are standing it will be easy to run towards the person for taking revenge, but if you sit down, you will become a little lazy to get up and take revenge and if you lie down, you have already come three stages down. Now you will think, that in order to reach the person who has angered you, you will first have to sit up, then stand and finally run to hit. Therefore it is wiser to leave him and let him go! Using water will cool one's temper. After this, think of Allâh's punishment. Allâh has more power over me than what I have over this person. Just as I am angry at someone today, what if Allâh Ta'âla becomes angry with me and has to punish me, then what will I do? Think of Allâh, His power and His punishment. When an angry person does not think of these things, it proves that he has become ensnared in the clutches of shaytân, whether he be a Sayyid Sahib, Molvi Sahib, Sufi Sahib or a person giving lectures on Deen. How can it be possible, that being a mo'min, we have forgotten Allâh at this moment? We behave like a sufi and cry abundantly, but oh, these tears have no value if we do not have the fear of Allâh, even if we shed tears in abundance. In the state of anger, one should think of his position as a servant of his Master, Allâh, the most High, who is watching him. We are always hopeful of Allâh's mercy upon us, and wish that Allâh will forgive our faults on the day of Qiyâmah, yet we refuse to show mercy upon His creation. Here we become totally heedless. If anybody troubles us, we do not find rest until and unless we take revenge.
Allâmah Abul Qâsim Qushairi (RA) says: "A friend of Allâh does not take revenge, and one who takes revenge can never be a friend of Allah." One who does not know how to treat Allah's creation with mercy, how can he be hopeful of the mercy of Allâh upon himself? Therefore Allâh revealed a verse which says that if you want Allah's mercies and forgiveness for yourselves, then forgive the faults of His servants. Even if one commits the same mistake (of getting angry) over and over again, then too he should not lose hope. After one's anger has subsided, he should hasten to make amends.
Prescription for Removing Anger
Hadhrat Hakîmul Ummat Moulana Thanwi (RA) prescribed a treatment for a person whose anger always overpowered him. He advised him that when his anger cooled down, he should ask for forgiveness from the one to whom his anger had been directed. He should apologize to him in a gathering, for this method will break his pride. It will also prevent him from losing his temper with people, for fear of being disgraced in an assembly or in public. When anger overpowers one, immediately divert the mind towards one's own faults and shortcomings. Ask ourselves how would we like to be treated by Allâh Ta'âla if He were to punish us for our wrong doings? Would we not like that Allâh should forgive us? In the same way just as we love to be excused and pardoned, we too should become merciful and forgiving towards those who have wronged us. After all, the person can never have wronged us to the extent that we have sinned in front of Allâh. Yet, what is Allah's treatment towards us? Time and again He has spared us through His benevolence and tolerance, if He so wishes, he can destroy us now! Allâh is so kind and tolerant towards us, we are dependant on His forgiveness always, then why should we not forgive the person?
Moulana Thanwi (RA) has said that one should set aside some time daily, ponder over one=s own faults and tell oneself: "I am the worst person on earth." In this way, his pride will be uprooted. Then one will not become angry, because anger is created from pride. At the time of anger one should think in this way that: "I am the worst of all people, then what right do I have to get angry at a person better than myself?" Also, by reciting the following wazifa, one's anger will decrease: Read the whole 'Bismillah ....' twenty one times after every namâz and blow over oneself. Recite 'Bismillah ....' three times and blow into food and water before eating or drinking. Insha Allâh, Allah's mercies will be manifested in just the same way as sand appears shiny and white when the rays of the sun shine upon it. Once the rays disappear, the sand looks dark and black again. By reading this wazifa, the rays of Allah's mercy will descend upon our hearts and cool our anger. For any specific illness or problem, one should choose a name from among Allah's Great Names and recite it abundantly. The effects of these Holy Names will surely affect its reader. Example, if "Ya Salâmu" is read on someone with a serious illness, its effect will bring peace and safety from the disease for the sick person. If one is afflicted with poverty, read "Ya Mughnî", Allâh will bless him with wealth. Similar are the effects of "Ya Rahmân" and "Ya Rahîm".
Recite "Yâ Allâh, Ya Rahmân, Ya Rahîm" in abundance to remove anger. However, read only as much as can be tolerated, for sometimes by reading excessively a type of dryness affects the mind, and it may also prove too hot for the brain. Nowadays, people are weak. Thus by too much of wazifa reading, some people have even become insane. Therefore, do not read any wazifa more than can be tolerated, and also take advice in this matter from a spiritual guide. If one cannot manage to read 'Bismillâh ....' twenty one times, read it seven times, and if one cannot do that even, read it three times, because nowadays people are too busy and seem to have no time for reading. A businessman said to me that he was so busy, he does not even have the time to die! I asked him if he thought that the angel of death was going to ask his permission before extracting his soul? If so, then he should tell Malakul Maut (the angel of death) that he was far too busy to die, but even then, whether he be ready for death or not, he will certainly pull his soul out of his body. Great, great wrestlers have succumbed and fallen down in the face of death. No plan helps to save one from this reality. Also recite 'Yâ Arhamar Râhimîn' in abundance. The same should also be recited if one is in any difficulty pertaining to debt, children, not being able to get married or even for trouble from enemies. In this case, one should recite durood shareef at the beginning, then recite 'Yâ Arhamar Râhimîn' 500 (five hundred) times, and read durood shareef at the end again. Insha Allâh one's problems will end within 40 days. It is narrated in a hadith that when a person says 'Yâ Arhamar Râhmîn', Allâh Ta'âla sends an angel to the reciter, to ask what he wants as Allâh's special mercies are directed upon him. Thus, by reading this wazifa, one's anger also cools down, while worldly tasks too get accomplished. If one cannot read it 500 (five hundred) times, read only 111 times, and if this also proves difficult, then read it seventy (70) times only. If not 70 then 7, and if not 7 then 3 and if not 3, then one only. Allah's name is so powerful and great that by reciting it even just once with love and sincerity, one will derive great benefits. What can be more easy, than this. Only a lazy person would refuse to do even this much.
Once Hazrat Thanwi (RA) wrote to my spiritual guide, Moulana Abdul Ghani Phoolpuri (RA) that he should recite Darûd-e-Tunjina 70 times, to which Moulana Abdul Ghani Saheb replied that it will be difficult for him as he teaches 16 lessons, and therefore gets every tired. Hazrat Thanwi (RA) wrote back and advised him to then recite it only 7 times, as for every one durood Allâh Ta'âla promises ten in return, so in this manner he will get the reward of 70. Some elders have also prescribed the recitals of "Wal Kâzimeenal Ghaiz" 7 times and blow it in water. Drink this water for cooling one's anger. The reading of durood shareef is also very beneficial against anger. At the time of anger, one should recite "Aûzobilla" in full. However, do first look to your left and right because nowadays people will fight or even kill you for reading "Aûzûbillah" upon their anger. They may think that you are referring to them as a shaytân by reciting the ta'âwuz, whereas it is actually recited in order to seek protection in Allâh from the accursed devil. Alas! there is no cure for ignorance. Similarly, "Lâ howlâ walâ quwwata illah billah" too has a special effect. By reading it in abundance one attains taufîq (ability) to make amal (performance of good deeds). The words "Lâhowla" mean that there is no power to stay away from sins, and "walâ quwwata" means that there is no power to do good. "Illah-billah" means, except with the help of Allâh. Thus, by reciting this wazifa one attains the treasure of "taufîq", for it is a treasure from the treasures of Jannah. The Blessings of Lahowla Wala Quwwata...
Muhaddithîn have written in the commentary of "Lâ howla" that by means of its recitation one attains the taufîq of staying away from sins and the initiative towards the doing of good deeds, thereby finally reaching Jannah. Jannah has two treasures, i.e., the performance of good deeds and abstention from sins. Both will be attained by reciting "Lâ howla". If perchance one feels an urge towards sinning, one should immediately recite "Lâhowla walâ quwwata illah billah", but should anyone overhear you reading these words, you may fall into trouble, as they may think that you have called them shaytân, these being the customary words used against shaytân.
People, usually fight over this, which is purely childish. People do not know the meaning of "Lâ howla" so they think that they are being sworn at. One should not take offence upon hearing these words as this is a wazifa for invoking Allah's help. Now, coming back to the subject of "Anger" one should forgive the mistakes of others by thinking of Allah's mercy for His creation. Would we not want Allâh to have mercy upon us and forgive us on the day of Judgement? Therefore, we should also overlook and forgive the mistakes of Allah's servants today, so that we too can secure His forgiveness tomorrow. One of the signs of the pious servants of Allâh is that they go through some difficulties themselves but refrain from causing difficulties to others. Who are the pious servants of Allâh (Abrâr)? They are those who would not even harm an ant, and when they witness the disobedience of Allâh taking place, they are greatly displeased and pained. These are the two signs of Allah's pious servants. We should make sure that no harm comes to anybody from outside, especially in the state of anger which can be so overpowering that one may badly hurt another. Usually, the strong thrive upon the weak by giving vent to their anger on the latter, but when a stronger person comes along then ones anger cools off very fast!!
Someone said to Dr Abdulhay's son, Dr Hassân, that in the state of anger, he becomes mad. Doctor Saheb laughed at this and said: "Anger is a shrewd thing, it is not mad, because when one stronger than the angry one comes along with a gun or knife in his hand, then the angry one quickly comes to his senses and runs for his life! Allah's special servants control themselves even in the state of anger. How powerful was Hazrat Mûsa (AS). The Qurân states that the Qibti (Coptic) died by just one punch of Mûsa (AS).
Once Allâh Ta'âla commanded Hazrat Mûsa (AS) to strike his stick upon a rock. The rock broke into two and from within it came out a tiny little insect with a green leaf in its mouth, eating its sustenance. Yet there was no hole in the rock for it to have come out to look for its food. Here Allâh Ta'âla was showing Mûsa (AS) how He sustains His creation. The above incident is recorded in the commentary of the verse "Wa mâ min dâbatin," in Ruhul Ma'âni by Allamah Âloosi.
A thought had once come to the mind of Hazrat Mûsa (AS) that how does Allâh Ta'âla sustain His creation, upon which he was shown this insect inside the rock. This should not be construed as a doubt in the heart of Mûsa (AS), for the Imân of the Ambiyâ (AS) is perfect. When the insect emerged from the rock, it was reciting a wazifa which meant, "purity belongs to Allâh who is watching me and who knows my place of living. He remembers me and does not forget to sustain me."
Once Hazrat Mûsa (AS)'s lamb ran away from the flock. Mûsa (AS) ran behind it for miles in order to catch it, and in the process hurt his feet over thorns till they were bleeding. The same thing also happened to the lamb, until it finally stood at one place, breathing heavily, unable to run any more. Hazrat Mûsa (AS) caught the tired little animal and instead of being angry at it, tears flowed out of his eyes as he consoled the animal saying: "O sheep, if you did not feel sorry for Mûsa, at least you should have pitied yourself. Why did you put yourself into so much trouble?" Before removing the thorns from his own feet, Hazrat Mûsa (AS) first removed the thorns from the sheep, then rubbed and pressed its legs, lifted it up onto his shoulders and carried it back to its flock.
Imagine what we would have done to the animal if it had caused us so much trouble and pain. Perhaps we would have beaten the poor animal or even slaughtered it. But what did Mûsa (AS) do? He showed no sign of anger, instead he showed great mercy for the weak creation of Allâh Ta'âla. Imâm Fakhroodin Râzi (RA) writes that the malâika said to Allâh, "O Allâh! this person is worthy of becoming a Prophet because of his qualities of tolerance and patience . O Allâh! do make him a Prophet." (This incident took place before Mûsa (AS) was given prophethood). Allâh Ta'âla replied: "I have already chosen him to be my Prophet." Those from whom Allâh has destined high stages, He imbues them with noble qualities and strength of tolerance. It is not right that in a slight fit of anger one becomes mad.
Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "A strong man is not one who pushes down another, but a strong man is one who controls his anger." A villager who had newly accepted Islam and did not know the etiquettes of the musjid, once entered the masjid and began to urinate inside it. The Sahâba (RA) ran to stop him, but Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam stopped them, saying that they should let him first finish. When he had finished, Rasullullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam called him and spoke to him most kindly, explaining that masâjids are for the performance of namâz, the zikr of Allâh, tilâwat of the Qurân, and as such they should be kept clean. It is bad to dirty or pollute places of worship. Nabi Sallallahu alaihi wasallam told him to bring a bucket of water, throw it over the urine and wash the place.
Moulana Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi (RA) writes about an English historian who has written: "I have not seen anyone more tolerant, patient and enduring than the Prophet of the Muslims. Although I do not believe in him personally, yet I am amazed at his perfect intelligence and sound planning, thus saving the whole masjid from becoming impure. Anyone would become mad with anger if he witnesses such disrespect to a sacred place, but the Prophet of Islam acted with such wisdom and sound planning. Actually, it was the best cause of action to take at that time, meaning to let him continue messing at one spot only, for had they chased him, he would have run all over the place thus polluting the entire musjid. Rasulullah's Sallallahu alaihi wasallam method of correction saved much trouble where only a small space in the masjid became impure and was easily washed out. This incident proves that tolerance is truly a noble quality. Such a backward nation attained high stages by the blessed companionship of Nabi Kareem Sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
How well Akbar Ilahabadi writes: "Your eloquence has changed drops into a sea, the heart has attained sight. Those who were not on the straight path, later became guides for others. What a spiritual sight you had, which gave life to the dead."
Hazrat Umar (RA) was a khalifah for ten and half years. Christian rulers quivered with awe and fear at the very mention of his name. One day he addressed himself thus: "O Umar! you were grazing camels once, but today you rule as the commander of the faithful (Amîrul Mu'minîn). This is all due to the blessings of the chief of the Ambiyâ Mohammadur Rasûlullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam. Once someone asked him about his anger to which he replied: "Before my conversion, my anger was directed against Islam, now it is directed against the kuffâr. I now honour even a Muslim of low birth and lineage.
Hazrat Bilal (RA) was a negro slave, and of very dark complexion, but Hazrat Umar (RA) used to call him: "O my chief Bilal! Just imagine, an individual from the leaders of the Quraish, a respectable and beloved vazeer (minister) of a Nabi is addressing a negro slave as "O my chief!" Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam's two vazeers were such that he Sallallahu alaihi wasallam sought advice from them even in the late hours of the night. They were Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar (RA). One day, by mistake, Hazrat Umar (RA) said to Hazrat Bilal (RA): "You are dark complexioned." He immediately realized his mistake and was extremely sorry for uttering such words. He lied down on the ground and asked Hazrat Bilal (RA) to walk on his body so that Umar's mistake can be forgiven on the day of Qiyamah. Hazrat Bilal (RA) refused to walk on his body, saying: "You are beloved to Allah's Nabi Sallallahu alaihi wasallam and are also his father-in-law. Your daughter is the wife of Nabi Sallallahu alaihi wasallam and the mother of the ummah. How can I place my feet on your sacred body? I have forgiven you for the sake of Allâh." Once during the days of his khilâfat, a thought came to Hazrat Umar's mind, that he was the khalifah of the Muslims. This was not pride, but just a thought, yet having become perturbed at this thought, Hazrat Umar (RA) immediately picked up a water bag and slung it over his shoulders. Having walked out of his house, he knocked at the door of a poor Muslim and served that water to them. Who is doing this? None other than the commander of the Muslims, holding the reigns of leadership, the righteous khalifa, Hazrat Umar Farûq (RA).
Why did he act in this way? It was for the sole purpose of annihilating his ego. This was the way of our pious elders that through self-training, they annihilated themselves. I am relating these incidents concerning anger to show you the signs of the accepted servants of Allâh. They were such that if they committed a mistake, they would immediately ask for forgiveness and would not hesitate in resorting to istighfâr and repentance. If istighfâr is beneficial to the kuffâr even, then why will it not benefit the Muslims. When the kuffâr used to make tawâf, they used to say: "O Allâh, forgive us", upon which Allâh revealed an âyat in the Qur'ân, concerning the kuffâr - "O Nabi! Until you are in the midst of the kuffâr, I will not punish them." Another âyat says: "Allâh will not punish them as long as they make istighfâr." Hakimul Ummat Moulana Thanwi (RA) explains the commentary of this âyat in his Bayanul Qur'ân: "These glad tidings for the kuffâr only pertain to this world. No punishment will come upon them as long as they repent (make istighfâr) - but they will have no salvation in the hereafter because of not having Imân. Hazrat Ali (RA) says: "O Muslims, O Companions of Rasullullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam and the Tâbi'în, listen! In this verse Allâh Ta'âla has sent two means of safety from His punishment. The first one has already left us i.e. Rasullullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam while the second cause of safety is still with us, which is istighfâr [taubah]. If you seek forgiveness from Allâh and cry unto Him, then you will surely be saved from His punishment. Whoever commits a sin, should immediately perform two rakâts of salâtul tauba and repent sincerely i.e. make istighfâr, for it becomes harâm for the fire of Jahannum to burn those parts that have been touched by one's tears of repentance. Allâh Ta'âla is most benevolent, surely when He sends one limb into Jannah, then He will send the rest of the body also to the same place. It is unbecoming of His benevolence that he saves only His servant's face from the fire, while He allows the rest of the body to enter it (the fire). Therefore, if we have sinned, we should immediately repent to Allâh, and if we have not fulfilled the rights of His servants then we should ask pardon of them. It will be of no use asking Allâh's forgiveness when we have usurped the wealth of His servant. This sin will not be forgiven until the wealth is returned to its rightful owner. Similarly if we have hurt or harmed anyone by our tongue or hands, then secure forgiveness from them here, otherwise we will be sorry for our actions on the day of Qiyâmah. We should always be alert, and on guard that anger should not overpower us. If the anger in oneself has to be put to use, then use it against the nafs [self], e.g. if one feels an urge to see something forbidden, then at this juncture one should use one's anger at the eyes by keeping them under control. Tell yourself quite firmly that you will certainly not allow them (the eyes) to look at a forbidden thing, even if this should cause your death. Do make this intention solely for the sake of Allâh. At the time of Jihâd, one may use one's anger when confronting the enemy. We should seek advice from our pious elders on the beneficial use of anger.
Finally I would like to say that the best way of reforming the nafs [self] is to connect oneself to a pious, god-fearing person. We should keep informing him about our condition and thereafter act according to his advice. Soon we will see the result of our endeavour and will start reforming ourselves in a short period of time.
Now let us make dua to Allâh Ta'âla that he blesses us with taufîq to act upon all that has been said. O Allâh! accept all that has been said, through Your mercies. O Allâh! Make me and all the listeners Your beloved ones. O Allâh! You alone have given me the taufîq to use my tongue for imparting Your message, and You alone have given the listeners taufîq to use their ears for listening to Your message. O Allâh! You are most benevolent, if You have accepted our tongue and ears then surely You will accept our whole body, our hearts and also our souls. O Allâh! join us with Your friends and the honest people. O Allâh! reform our character and bless us with cleanliness of the heart. Save us from all calamities, problems, sorrows and grief.
O Allâh! Bless us with peace and give us a life of being in Your pleasure all the time. O Allâh! All those who intend going for Haj, make it easy for them and bless them with an accepted Haj. O Allâh! bless people with the hidayat and understanding of performing their haj before death overtakes them, so that they may not fall under the category of those dying as Jews or Christians. O Allâh! Please accept these du'âs of ours. Âmîn.

Can the psychotherapy of Muslim patients be of real help to Them Without being Islamimized?

Can the psychotherapy of Muslim patients be of real help to Them Without being Islamimized?
By: Malik B. Badri
The impossible task of precisely defining psychotherapy
Though psychotherapy is as old as human existence, as a modern profession it has only evolved over the last 100 years. Because of the conflicting theories and paradigms behind the specific techniques used by different perspectives, psychotherapy cannot be precisely defined. There are those who, like a horse with tight eye-blinders, can only view psychotherapy through the tunnel vision of their particular school, and those who open the doors of psychotherapy to include almost all forms of treatment and goodwill towards the,patient. An example of the first group is clearly seen in the definitions offered by psychoanalysts who consider any form of psychological treatment that does not deal with resolving the alleged unconscious complexes as a waste of time and effort. The second group is presented by psychiatrists like English and Finch (1954) who define psychotherapy as, "...almost any method utilized to alleviate or remove the results of emotional conflict and improve psychic adjustment".
As a result of this confusion, the field of psychological therapy and counseling has become an arena for all sorts of fads and crazes. In editing a handbook of psychotherapy, Richie and Herink (1980) found themselves compelled to limit the number of different therapies to about 250! In going through their handbook one will find that there is probably not even one aspect on which all therapists agree on. As Harper (1965) says:
"There is scarcely a psychotherapeutic theory or technique endorsed today by some reputable therapists which has not been skeptically viewed or seriously questioned by others."
As a reaction to this confusion regarding the nature of psychotherapy, Raimy, as early as 1950, came up with the facetious definition that psychotherapy cannot be defined except as, "an unidentified technique applied to unspecified problems with unpredictable outcomes". A more modern equally interesting definition is that psychotherapy is what psychotherapists do!
The Psychotherapist as a warm accepting friend
If psychotherapy is what psychotherapists do, then it would indeed be justifiable for us to ask, "What do they really do?" As the popular stereotype shows them, they are warm, accepting and empathic good listener to their patients. Indeed this is the most portrayed image of the psychotherapist. Of course being a friendly listener and offering wise advice to people with problems is as old as human existence on this earth. It was universally accepted since ancient times as one of the major factors that help to heal psychological wounds. People in distress would naturally seek the help of their sincere friends or gurus or elders to counsel them and relieve their psychological suffering.
In our modern time the psychologist who is credited for advocating this most important role of the psychotherapist is Carl Rogers who in many of his publications on his psychotherapeutic technique known as the person-centered therapy stipulated that the counselor should first be a real genuine person and should unconditionally accept the client without judging or evaluating him. Furthermore, he should always be warm and empathic and he should not directly tell his client what to do or not to do in order to solve his problem or actualize himself but to indirectly guide him to take his own decisions.
But though it certainly helped in making psychotherapy a more humane and friendly endeavor, Rogerian counseling has been criticized for being contradictory in telling the therapist to be genuine and at the same time to be unconditionally accepting to his client. No one can have a genuine inartificial social relationship with any one without being judgmental. As normal people with genuine feelings we are all the time making judgments about other people. This is particularly so in societies where moral and religious teachings are highly valued.
Secondly, if the therapist refuses to interfere in directing his clients about what is good or not good for them as is usually the case with such counselors, they would often feel confused. As Martin Seager puts it:
"Many clients (of person centered counseling) feel lost and confused. They often lack a clear sense of identity and self. They themselves cannot be 'client-centered' because they don't have any sense of where their centre is, (The Psychologist, August, 2003 issue, Vo116, No.8).
If this is what is happening to British patients in secular Europe o f the year 2003, it is no surprise to find that this kind of "nonjudgmental unconditional acceptance" gre~ failing in Muslim countries.
Thirdly, it was questioned whether being warm and friendly and psychologically helpful to people really needs all the years of training that psychotherapistsago,th~ough and whether in this matter there is any difference between a psychotherapist and a lay person. In his well documented book, Against therapy, Dr. Jeffery Masson writes in a section indicatively titled, "The myth of training" of psychotherapists in the following mocking manner:
"Therapists usually boast of their 'expertise,' the 'elaborate training' they have undergone. When discussing competence, one often hears phrases like 'he has been well trained,' or 'he has had specialized training.' People are rather vague about the nature of psychotherapy training, and therapists rarely encourage their patients to ask in any detail. They don't for a good reason: often their training is very modest (1988, p.248)
This skeptic approach has led many contemporary experts to state that an untrained sincere friend can be as good as or at times even better than a trained therapist. Some scholars have even advised clients to avoid psychotherapists who are highly trained and who have long letters after their nam s. Their outlook would be narrowed down to their restricted specialization, wondering where to pigeonhole the patient from his 'symptoms' by the help of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders rather than simply seeing him as a person with a psychic problem. A friend who has been through a similar problem as the client and who has since recovered from it would be a much better therapist.
To empirically test this claim, a number of studies have been carried out to compare professional "psychotherapy" with discussing one's problems with a friend. The results were almost always "No difference, between the lay therapists, and the trained counselors". One such study was carried out at the Vanderbilt University. Young men with various neurotic disorders were assigned to one of two groups of therapists. The first group was made up from leading psychotherapists who have completed an average of 23 years of experience while the second group consisted of college professors with unrelated academic specializations but who have earned the reputations of being warm and good people to talk to. Both groups had about 25 contact hours with their clients. The results came up with the expected outcome of no difference between the two groups. The tests showed that both groups improved but there was no difference between them. (Bernie Zilbergeld, 1986).
By stating these views, I am definitely not saying that modern training in counseling and psychotherapy is a useless endeavor. I simply want to affirm two things: Firstly, that training in counsel and „psy_chotl_erapy_, is like teacher-training. A good teacher has both inborn qualities plus good training. Many excellent teachers have had no training in their field, but they possess the talent of simplifying their subject matter and making it very interesting to their students. On the other hand a lot of highly trained teachers with many letters after their names simply bore their students and fail to motivate them. Obviously, this fact would not stamp the science of teacher¬training as an ineffective practice and no wise person would call for declaring the discipline a useless endeavor. When applicants apply for a teaching job, it is only sensible for the school to choose the one who was trained; the probability that he would do a better job than the untrained teacher clearly out ways the contrary. Similarly we expect the trained counselor to do better than the untrained person though we may often be surprised to find that he doesn't. My second point is a consequent of the first. Bearing what I said in mind, counselors and psychotherapists should develop the humility to see themselves and their training for what it is. They are not being taught in skills like those of surgery in which a person is either trained as a surgeon and can operate or he is not and should stay away from the profession. They are simply instructed in giving better help to people with problems, an enterprise that everybody else is doing without their sophisticated apprenticeship. Some have natural qualities to be good therapists without being specialized.
We have thus far been discussing the role of the psychotherapist as a warm understanding good listening friend. This is one of the few areas that have a clear consensus among modern psychotherapists. But isn't it really surprising that it took modern psychotherapy that long to come up with therapeutic practices that humans have been successfully applying since antiquity. It is more than a hundred years since Freud established psychotherapy as a specialty in his psychoanalytic school, while Carl Rogers developed his complete theory and therapeutic techniques of client-centered therapy as late as 1959.
What is the reason for this delay? The main reason is that psychotherapy as a branch of psychology has alienated itself from being a humane endeavor of helping those who suffer from psychological problems to an artificial replica modeled after exact sciences and medicine. Ironically it was Freud himself, the very founder of this field, who, by adopting a medical model to the etiology and treatment of the neuroses, has neglected the obvious colnmonsense fact that psychotherapy is a process of learning and education in a friendly ~m~iance. Furthermore, with his indefatigable effort to establish psychoanalysis as the uncontested science of psychological therapy, he was able to establish an association of devoted, mainly Jewish scholars and scientists who had themselves been psychoanalyzed and 'brainwashed' into accepting the pseudo-scientific claims of their profession as authentic science. Thus psychoanalytic theories have become an immense system of a psycho-philosophical edifice that influenced all forms of disciplines from medicine, sociology and anthropology to political science, art, literature, economics, religion and other fields of information.
Accordingly, it was only after the decline and fall of the Freudian empire and its psychodynamic offshoots that psychotherapy regained its rightful down-to-earth role as the practice of helping the emotionally disordered to unlearn their pathological habits and thinking patterns and develop new ways of healthy adjustment without wasting time in 'uncovering' unconscious sexual complexes or digging up trivial experiences of early childhood. Before discussing the vital endeavor of Islamizing psychotherapy, it may be more useful to give the reader a more detailed but simplified exposition about the long journey of this discipline from Freudian psycho-dynamism through behaviorism to cognition and finally to the shy emergence of spiritualism.
Freud and his medical model
Freud viewed all neurotic and emotionally disordered symptoms as the visible upshots of largely sexual and aggressive unconscious conflicts or complexes. This was so because he viewed all human activities as motivated by libidinal sexual instincts and aggression, either in a clear or symbolic manner. Emotional disorder is caused by supposed mainly sexual unconscious conflicts largely repressed during the early childhood of the patient. Accordingly, the treatment of psychological disorders in psychoanalysis should not be directed towards the symptoms themselves but to the underlying unconscious dynamics which caused them. Consequent to this view, trying to relieve the disorder by direct symptomatic treatment will not succeed, and if it temporarily does, it will definitely be followed by other symptoms which may be more serious in nature. This is what is known as the medical model of psychotherapy which ruled over the field for more than 70 years.
Let me simplify this to the lay readers. Since Freud was a medical practitioner, he perceived psychological symptoms in terms of physical symptoms. If one presents to a doctor with high fever and headache, he would not simply treat the symptoms directly by giving aspirins or painkillers. Instead he would look for the 'underlying' indiscernible causes of these complaints. He would ask for an X-ray, blood or urine test or some other tests to help him make the correct diagnosis and then he would prescribe the medicine to attack the unseen causes and not the symptoms themselves. Once the microbe has been detected, the right antibiotic will deal with it and the symptoms will automatically disappear.
Similarly, the psychoanalytically oriented therapist would not deal with the anxiety, phobias, depression or obsessional disorder of the patient directly but work to uncover the unconscious complexes that had caused them by techniques such as the interpretation of the symptoms and their 'real' hidden meanings, free association, in which the patient relaxes and says whatever comes into his head, and dream analysis. Once these conflicts become conscious and the patient relives his ordeal through transference, in which the patient is supposed to project attitudes and emotions he had towards parents or important people in his life onto the therapist, he is supposed to get over his symptoms.
Just as fever and headache can be caused by a host of illnesses, anxiety, phobias and other psychological symptoms can be the result of different kinds of conflicts. But to try relieving the psychological symptoms directly one would be like the fellow who tries to close the mouth of a volcano by rocks and reinforced concrete. Even if he succeeds in this impossible hypothetical illustration, the boiling lava in the "unconscious" of the mountain will increase in pressure until a new volcano irrupts in another weak side of the mountain. This is what is meant by "symptom substitution".
In physical medicine, physical symptoms like headache and fever are useful in telling us that something is wrong and that a battle is being waged by our immune system against the invading bacteria. According to the medical model of Freudian psychoanalysis, psychological symptoms are also adaptive in nature. They are also supposed to tell us that an internal battle is being fougl~t between our id unconscious sexual and aggressive instinctual impulses which discharge energy for immediate satisfaction (cathexis) and the antagonistic defensive energy of our ego which blocks this animalistic drive since it does not agree with social and moral norms (anticathexis).
This psychoanalytic model is obviously fascinating, but what is fascinating and interesting is not necessarily true! As a therapy, it was found to be generally as good as no therapy at all! Not only that, but a number of researchers have concluded that in some cases receiving psychoanalytic therapy may even do more harm than good to the patient. At times, if a patient is made to remember very painful and embarrassing experiences of his childhood such as being raped, his condition may actually c~eteriorate. A famous British psychiatrist who had been a member of te British Psychoanalytic Association for many years, resigned after discovering the serious flaws in its theory and practice and the harm that psychoanalysis can sometimes do to patients. She wrote an article in the sixties in The British Journal of Psychiatry, indicatively titled, "Psychotherapy for patients treated by psychoanalysis". She was treating them from the treatment they had received at the hands of psychoanalysts! It is unfortunate that l have lost the reference.
In criticizing this medical approach, Tom Rusk, in his best-selling book, Instead of therapy says:
"Although I am a psychiatrist, and therefore a medical doctor, I no longer believe that the language of science and medicine applies to the work that I do with my clients. I am one of the growing number of psychological counselors who believe that psychological healing did not ever belong in the realm of medicine.
The focus of all counseling is on helping us learn to change our relationships with ourselves and others. I believe this kind of learning is really no different from any other deliberate learning" (1997, p. xiv),
The rise of behavior therapy
Though different researchers like Watson and Rayner in 1920 and Mary Cover Jones in 1924 have clearly shown that neurotic symptoms can be initiated or cured in the laboratory by experimental techniques based on learning by conditioning or by 'deconditioning', thus experimentally refuting the established Freudian claim of unconscious conflicts as the cause of neuroses, it remained for Eysenck in 1952 to empirically expose the inefficacy of psychoanalytic therapy. In his now historic research, Eysenck compared an experimental group of neurotic patients who were admitted to British hospitals for treatment by psychoanalytically oriented therapies with a carefully matched control group of similar patients who could not find beds in the hospitals and who accordingly received no therapy. After one year, Eysenck found about two¬thirds of the treated group have improved. He was astonished to find that the same proportion of the untreated control group have also improved! The publication of this study was literally like an exploding bomb in the face of psychoanalysts who retaliated with all sorts of "conscious" and "unconscious" defenses but their battle was eventually lost since many experimenters who repeated Eysenck's study came up with similar results.
Eysenck has thus paved the way for Wolpe the founder of behavior therapy. Since 1947, Wolpe was doing experimental studies with cats in his laboratory in South Africa to prove that neurotic symptoms were actually maladaptive learned habits acquired by conditioning and that they can be treated by a process of 'rewarding' in the gradual presentation of the feared object. This led him to lay the foundations of behavior therapy and to pioneer his distinguished work in his classic textbook, psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition (1958). In this book Wolpe introduced behavior therapy as an explicitly formulated highly successful alternative to the defeated psychoanalytic therapy.
For the first time in almost 70 years, Western psychologists started to abandon the useless search for trivial unconscious conflicts to attack the symptoms of emotional disorder in a direct manner and to use a simple learning theory approach in diagnosing and treating neuroses. Many patients, particularly those suffering from phobic anxieties, sexual disorders and obsessional neuroses, who wasted years of their lives and much of their savings in fruitless Freudian analysis, have been cured or greatly improved after a few weeks of behavior therapy.
The main tenets of this new therapy are that we learn our neurotic symptoms in the same way that we learn useful habits. We learn to fear snakes and this is an adaptive habit but we can also learn to fear parties and social situations, lifts or cockroaches and these are maladaptive habits. There is no deep-down unconscious cause for either the adaptive or the maladaptive habits. Both are the outcome of learning by conditioning. If you decondition the 'bad' habit by unlearning, extinction or reciprocal inhibition you have treated the neurosis. Once cured, no other symptom will appear in its place, but on the contrary, it was found that treating one neurotic symptom often results in the improvement in other symptoms that were not treated.
For example I have known patients who suffered from a phobia and reactive depression. When the phobia was cured, the depression disappeared. Since psychological symptoms are rarely related to deep-rooted unconscious etiology, one would logically expect the depression to improve because it must have been wholly or partly caused by the incapacitating phobia. Similarly a patient referred to us in the Department of Psychiatry of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School who complained from social anxiety and non-assertiveness together with sexual impotence, was surprised to find himself sexually normal with his wife after behavior therapy made him assertive. The relationship between the two complaints is obvious.
Let me say a few words about conditioning and reciprocal inhibition to those who are not familiar with them; psychologists either bear with me or skip this section. We learn habits by classical Pavlovian conditioning when a'natural' or unconditioned stimulus which reflexively elicits an involuntary unconditioned response e.g. salivation to food as in Pavlov's dogs, is associated with another neutral or conditioned stimulus e.g., the bell in Pavlov's study, until the organism learns to respond to the new neutral stimulus in the same way as the 'natural' stimulus i.e. the dog learns to salivate to the sound of the bell. In the experiment done by Watson a baby was made to develop conditioned fear of a white rat (conditioned stimulus) when the experimenter sounded a big terrifying bang (unconditioned stimulus) whenever the baby touched the rat. The baby naturally responded with terror (unconditioned response) and eventually learned to fear rats (conditioned response). So in a behavioral therapeutic paradigm the symptom is always a learned conditioned response.
And when we learn habits by the other form of conditioning espoused by Skinner, instrumental conditioning, we first have to do some voluntary action. If this is immediately followed by a reward or positive reinforcement, it will be repeated more frequently in future and if on the other hand it was followed by a painful stimulus and we stop doing it and consequently relieve ourselves from the painful stimulation, (negative reinforcement) the repetition of this act will be less in future.
If we want to get rid of a neurotic symptom which causes us anxiety we should stop its association with the original stimulus, i.e., in Watson's experiment, we repeatedly bring the rat to the baby without any more banging or terrifying noise. This is known as extinction and it is not generally very helpful in such highly fearful stimuli. Reciprocal inhibition or treatment by the opposite is the symptomatic treatment of choice in such cases.
I can give the reader a concrete example from a very rare case of obsessive-compulsive disorder that I treated last year in the clinic of the Health Center of Dewan Bandaraya in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. The patient, a male janitor in a Government building, cannot resist the compulsion of taking a shower and changing his clothes whenever he smells certain offensive odors. These were mainly old fish and to a lesser extent, the smell of decomposing dead rats and similar bad smells he encounters in his work as a cleaner or in the street. After a few sessions of cognitive therapy and relaxation, I brought into the clinic a plastic bag containing a dead decaying fish and a bottle of concentrated perfume. The patient would smell the fish until his anxiety mounts and the overpowering compulsion to wash has overwhelmed him; then he would quickly take deep smells from the perfume until the anxiety provoking smell of the fish is diminished. With cognitive support and encouragement he was able to increase the time of smelling the bad odor. He reported much improvement after these sessions. He reported that he wouldtake a small bottle of perfume in his pocket to use if the compulsion returns. In this case the perfume is opposed to the bad odor and the relaxation and cognitive therapy would bring responses contrary to anxiety.
This reciprocal inhibition method has been developed by Wolpe into psychotherapy's most successful technique by using the ability of the patient to imagine and by presenting the anxiety provoking stimuli in a gradual fashion. These are the techniques known as systematic desensitization and that of practical retraining. People phobic of animals and insects, for example, can first look at them as dead and small in size at a far away distance and gradually brought nearer and nearer to them as they are presented live and bigger in every consecutive session. When the noxious stimulus cannot be brought into the clinic or when the therapist prefers to use 'imaginal' desensitization, the patient is asked to imagine the feared or noxious situation in the graded fashion designed by him and his behavior therapist and while reclining or lying in full relaxation in the clinic he imagines himself dealing with the least anxiety-provoking scenes and gradually going up the hierarchy to the most difficult ones. For instance patients who suffer from social fear and anxiety with authoritative adults can be trained when relaxed to imagine themselves mixing only with children and gradually the age and number of people is raised until they achieve the ability to transfer the learning of the clinic to real life situations.
However, some behavior therapists have challenged this gradual approach by exposing patients from the start to prolonged sessions involving the most intense anxiety-eliciting situations, in the hope that, by finding no way out of facing their feared object, as they generally do in real life, they would learn to anticipate that there is no real catastrophe in facing it; in everyday language, they would get used to it. This technique is indicatively named "flooding". Though some claim that it is very successful in the treatment of generalized anxiety in a much shorter time, long-term comparisons have shown the superiority of gradual systematic desensitization.
When the patient presents with symptoms that are pleasurable to him but he wants to get rid of them such as taking alcohol, drugs, or unacceptable sexual behavior, symptomatic treatment by reciprocal inhibition would necessitate the use of opposite painful stimulation while the patient actually takes or imagines that he is doing the pleasurable unwanted act. Therapists use electric shocks to the arm, shaming, flagellation with a rubber band, offensive smells, chemicals that induce nausea and other painful stimuli in the hope that the once pleasurable response will be associated with this these very painful punishments. This aversive therapy was found to be successful with all kinds of addictions and sexual disorders. Some therapists have even used it with obsessive compulsive disordered patients.
On the other hand if the therapist wishes to use positive reinforcement according to Skinnarian instrumental conditioning, he can quickly reward the patient whenever he does what he is supposed to do, for example refusing to eat chocolate for an obese person or spitting out a mouthful of an alcoholic beverage for an addict. If what is to be done is complex such as cleaning himself and making his bed if he were mentally subnormal then the therapist should "shape" it like a coach teaching an athlete or an expert training a falcon to catch a prey. He first gives a reward for achieving a simple task and then gradually the reinforcement is given only to more advanced skills until the complex behavior is completed. The therapist works like a coach training an athlete in high jump. First the bar is placed in a low position and gradually raised as he learns to perfect his skill.
I have devoted these pages to acquaint the reader with the second agreed upon role of modern psychotherapy in helping people with emotional problems. It is that of helping the disordered to change their pathological emotional habits or external behavior. Though, as stated earlier, there is much confusion as to what psychological therapy is, there is general consensus among psychologists that these techniques of behavior modification are among the most beneficial and efficacious methods of the field since their effectiveness has been empirically confirmed. In fact, most early behavior therapists were so proud of their achievements that they did not use the term "psychotherapy" to describe their specialty. They thought of themselves as scientists of specified techniques of behavior change that should not be mixed up with unscientific psychoanalytic and psychodynamic perspectives or loosely defined person-centered counseling. They speak and write about two separate areas in treating psychologically disordered people: psychotherapy and behavior therapy.
The cognitive revolution
Paradoxically, it was this strong determination to emulate an outdated paradigm of physics that brought about the revolutionary paradigm shift known as the cognitive revolution. In their zest to limit the field of psychological research to the objectively measurable forms of behavior, classical behaviorists refused to accept the so-called 'subjective' aspects such as mind, consciousness and other cognitive processes. To them, these were not worthy of scientific investigation. In 1929, Watson, the father of behaviorism, stated that consciousness, "...has never been seen, touched, smelled, tasted, or moved. It is a plain assumption just as unmovable as the old concept of soul" (Marx & Hillix, 1979, p.138). This position was strongly supported by Eysenck 43 years later when he argued that, "If you wish to postulate a mind, or a soul, or even consciousness, you are of course free to do so; all that the psychologist (or behaviorist) says is that these concepts do not enter into his formulae" (1972, p. 304). In his much quoted witty criticism of behavioral psychology, the late renowned British psychologist, Sir Cyril Burt, is quoted to have said, "modern psychology, having first bargained away its soul and then gone out of its mind, seems now, as it faces an untimely end, to have lost all consciousness " (Eysenck, 1972, p. 300, italics ours). Western psychology regains its mind and consciousness:
This extreme position is one of the main reasons for the rise of the "cognitive revolution" and the return of the mind and consciousness to Western psychology. Cognitive psychologists refuse to limit their role of studying emotional reactions as simply responses to external or internal stimuli that can be measured and manipulated while neglecting what goes on within the thinking mind of the responder, calling it "a black box" that cannot be deciphered. Conversely, the cognitive perspective view emotions as entirety a direct consequence of the way one looks at stimulating life events. It is not the stimulus by itself that directly brings about the response, as behaviorists like to believe, but more importantly the way the person views this stimulus. Thus one cannot experience an emotion before processing it. We must first understand an experience before feeling it, and feeling must be preceded by conscious thinking. Normal thinking gives normal emotions and pathological thinking begets pathological emotions. Man has a continuous dialogue with himself and the thoughts that cause emotions are often fleeting and swift but specific and discrete. Beck, (1976) calls them automatic thoughts. These thoughts if unchecked can develop into strong emotions and can motivate actual neurotic behavior. That is why cognitive therapists train their patients to catch the "culprit" or the cognitions and thoughts that just precede the disordered emotion.
To cognitive therapists, neurotic emotional reactions are generally generated by irrational thoughts. So an important aim of cognitive therapy is for the therapist to help the patient to use his problem solving and unbiased observation to consciously challenge and change his inner thoughts. In other words, to change the software in his mind! Once the inner conscious cognitions have been changed, the sick emotions will find no support and will eventually disappear. Consequently, the external behavior will also be normalized. Burns (1980) gives a very amusing illustration to the fact that emotions simply follow the way we think, whether we think logically or illogically. He writes, "Your emotions follow your thinking just as surely as baby ducks follow their mothers. But the fact that a baby duck follows faithfully doesn't prove that the mother knows where she is going!" (p.46).
This cognitive approach was influenced by the computer revolution. From a Pepsi Cola vending machine of stimulus-response behaviorism man is viewed as a processor of information. If man were to be a real computer, then the environmental events would act as strikes of selected keys in the 'keyboard' and his internal cognitive activity, like thinking and feelings, would act as the software or program which the "internal processing unit' uses to send out coded information to the "monitor". Thus two persons with different 'softwares' in their brains or minds will respond differently to the same environmental conditions, just as the same keys struck in two computers with different softwares will bring about different material in their monitors.
We have now given a simplified exposition of Western psychotherapy, showing the three beneficial areas on which psychotherapists have a general consensus. These are: the role of the psychotherapist as a warm accepting good listening friend, his role as a behavior therapist helping patients to unlearn their pathological habits and his role as a cognitive therapist helping the emotionally disordered to consciously change their thinking and the cognitive aspects that support and motivate their emotional symptoms. By completing this section of the paper we come to discuss our main objective of the Islamization of psychotherapy.
The Islamization of Psychotherapy: An introductory statement
The Islamization of Western secular therapeutic techniques is so vital that one really wonders why it was not done decades ago. This is so because there are special disorders that cannot be treated without going into religious or local cultural issues. I can give a few examples. Epidemiological studies in many countries have shown that phobias or irrational fears are the most common anxiety disorders. Many Muslim patients complain of incapacitating phobias of death, disease or jinn. I often wondered how a therapist can succeed in treating such phobias in a Muslim patient without an in-depth cognitive intervention regarding the teachings of Islam about jinn, life, death and life after death. Without changing the irrational beliefs of a patient concerning these spiritual issues, no secular therapy can be of real help for him or her. In my long experience of almost forty years I have always found that whenever I applied an Islamically oriented psychotherapy, my patients who had previously failed to benefit from drugs and secular psychotherapeutic interventions, were simply cured or greatly improved in a short time.
On the other hand I also found many of my colleagues unable to help clients with marital problems because of their ignorance about Islamic family law and the Islamic teachings concerning sex, inheritance, divorce, and the custody and guardianship of children. This Islamic knowledge is vital particularly to women who greatly outnumber men in seeking the help of therapists. In our modern Islamic countries, women are generally deprived from their rights because of their ignorance about these rights. They may seek the help of a psychotherapist because they developed unwarranted guilt and anxiety as a result of their failure to cope with the unjust demands that men level against them. For example, many women develop serious anxiety and guilt because after their fulltime overwork in their offices they find themselves compelled to meet the uncompromising demands of their husbands. These good Muslim women are unaware that cooking, washing and other domestic chores are not required from them according to Islamic jurisprudence. They can volunteer to do them if they wish, but it is not Islamically mandatory.
Husbands, out of tradition and lack of knowledge believe that it is their Islamic right to be served whether the wife is too tired to do so or not. Because of this ignorance about the rights of wives they often misuse religious quotations to make their exhausted wives guilty. In fact it is the Islamic responsibility of the husband to provide for such help. If he cannot, he should be grateful to his wife if she volunteers to carry out these services rather than blaming her. Many Muslim therapists are also uninformed about these religious facts and so they often exacerbate their female patients' guilt by their misdirected therapy. I have found that just by knowing these Islamic teachings, a number of wives who consulted me have lost much of their guilt and with this new spirit they actually continued to give the same services they were grumbling about with enhanced spiritual acceptance of religion. Not only that, but the Holy Qur'an has explicitly stated that it is not mandatory for a mother to nurse her own newly born baby if problems break out between her and her husband. In Surat al-Talaq the Noble Qur'an says that if the married couple is at odds concerning their married life, the husband should either pay the wife for nursing their baby or hire another woman to nurse it. Not only that, but in many Muslim African countries, women are not given what they deserve in terms of inheritance. If the psychotherapist or counselor is himself ignorant about these Islamic teachings, how can he be of help with such problems?
Furthermore, therapists helping patients with debilitating guilt concerning what they view as terrible sins they had committed such as drug and alcohol intake or deviant sexual behavior like homosexuality would generally fail to help if they follow the secular psychotherapeutic techniques they studied in the West. There, they are told to be neutral and nonjudgmental and not to bring religious issues in their therapy. Here, if Islamic issues are not discussed in a warm friendly optimistic manner the patient may never improve.
Islam as a religion and a worldview has a much greater influence over Muslims than any other religion or worldview. That is why an Islamically oriented psychospiritual therapy can even help hardened drug and alcohol dependents whom modern western therapy consider as totally hopeless since they fail to get benefit from medical and psychological interventions. One of my popular stories in this connection concerns an honest broad-minded European psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Schmidt, who was practicing in Brunei. He read a valuable paper on his innovated techniques of treating drug and alcohol addicts in Brunei. The paper was read in Amman, Jordan, in 1987 in the Third Pan Arab Congress on Psychiatry sponsored by the Association of Arab Psychiatrists. He took a group of addicts to a camp outside the city and subjected them to a daily rigorous program heavily saturated with Islamic activities involving prayers, talks and video shows, and physical training accompanied by the chanting of Islamic slogans. The program started from dawn fajr prayers to bed time. The result was fantastic. The relapse rate of treated addicts was more than 90% with the secular methods. It fell to about 65% with the Islamically oriented therapy.
Indeed, after seeing many such alcohol and drug dependent patients, I have come to the conviction that unless the excessive guilt concerning their committing to such sins is dealt with through an optimistic approach stressing God's Mercy and forgiveness to all sins, they may lose hope of being accepted by God and hence indulge in their harmful habits of extravagant alcohol and drug intake either to relieve their stress or simply to enjoy their addiction since no treatment is helpful and anyway, according to them, God has already stamped them as evil. The secular approach of viewing religion as irrelevant or something to be avoided can thus be of no help or even harmful to such patients.
Since psychotherapy is supposed to be an educational endeavor, it should be based on the worldview and the culture of those seeking its help. Even European psychologists and psychotherapists are beginning to grumble about the hegemony of American psychology. They say that America is the superpower of psychology and that their students are being psychologically Americanized as they study psychology from American texts that flood their markets. Many Western psychologists are beginning to realize that their field is largely culture bound and mainly influenced by American psychology and its emphasis on extrapolating from animal studies and its use of American students as subjects. Listen for example to the well-known British psychologist Eysenck as he writes in 1995 in the journal of World psychology (Vo.1, No.4, p.13):
"Much of our psychology is based on studies of American college students, rats, pigeons, and mentally abnormal groups...It must be clear that this is not sufficient as a basis for a science claiming universal status."
If even European psychologists are complaining from this Americanization of psychology, though their cultures are identical in most of their major tenets, how can we, Muslim, Asian and Arab psychotherapists continue to counsel and treat our patients as though they were American clients. Our age, as some scholars say is the age of the idolatry of science. Most of our Muslim psychotherapists continue to swallow this ethnocentric psychotherapeutic culture bound stuff simply because they are sugar-coated with 'science'.
It is sad to say that while some of our Muslim therapists cling to their modern school of therapy as if it were a revelation, we find that some honest Western psychologists beginning to see the ethnocentric quality of their specialty and warning about its wholesale exportation to other cultures. For example, in their well written paper titled, "But is it a science? traditional and alternative approaches to social behaviour", one psychologist from Georgetown University, USA, Moghaddam, and a second psychologist from Oxford University, England, Harre', has this to state. I have put this long quotation from their article since it says clearly how our mental slavery to "Americanized" Western psychology can only perpetuate exploitative traditions of colonialism:
"...the most important factor shaping psychology in the international context continues to be power inequalities between and within nations. The inability of psychology to contribute to Third World development arises in large part from these inequalities... and surely this is an unethical issue. Putative psychological "knowledge" which is of highly questionable reliability and validity even in the Western context is being exported wholesale to Third World societies, as part of a large exchange system ultimately driven by profits.
The United States has established itself as the only psychology Superpower...Psychology continues to be exported from the U.S. to the rest of the world, with little or no serious attention given to the appropriateness of what is being exported...Similarly, Third World psychologists are trained in the U.S. and in other Western countries, without regard to the question of the appropriateness of their training. Indeed, the continued exportation... and inappropriately trained personnel from Western to Third World societies strengthens ties of dependency and continues exploitative traditions established through colonialism" (World Psychology,1995, pp. 53-54, italics ours).
It should now be clearly appreciated that without adaptation, some culture-bound forms of Western psychotherapy can be of no use to Muslim clients and can at times be harmful. But does adaptation mean Islamization? Yes, indeed. Though some kinds of adaptations in which psychotherapy is tailored to suit the clients of a particular country may not necessarily stand for Islamization, all forms of Islamizations are indeed adaptations. Western psychology itself asserts that the psychological and the socio-cultural components are the pillars of shaping human personality. Anyone who fails to see the very great influence of Islam as a religion and a way of life in molding the personality of a Muslim is a myopic who suffers from tunnel vision.
The main attribute or trait that gives the average Muslim client his uniqueness is his religion. Faith in Allah Ta'ala as the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of this universe and His knowledge about the secrets in the hearts of men and that which is beneath their secrets (subconscious) "~s}I 9;--JI ` 1~ *, " and that whatever happens to man in this world is already destined and has a Divine Wisdom behind it. The belief that there is life after this life and man has a free will and is accountable for whatever he had done during his brief stay on earth. These beliefs would make it necessary for any psychotherapist working with Muslim clients to Islamize his work even if he were not a Muslim himself. All the major perspectives of Western psychotherapy deny the soul. They treat man as though he were a talking animal. The terms "God", "soul", "spirit" or "good and evil" are out of bounds irrespective of whether the perspective is behavioristic, psychoanalytic, humanistic, biological or cognitive. They are all erected on a secular worldview.
I firmly believe that because of their rejection to the secular approach of Western trained therapists, most lay Muslim patients, particularly in rural areas are reluctant to be referred to modern psychiatrists and counselors. They would however be glad to be seen by traditional and religious healers. I have found this in a research study that I presented to the Traditional Medical Practices Committee of the World Health Organization in Geneva (Badri,, 1978). In all the Islamic countries I have studied, I found that the great majority of neurotic patients go to traditional healers. Though they deprive themselves from the modern psychotherapeutic techniques and subject themselves to harmful interventions by the quacks and imposters who pose as religious healers, they may get much benefit from the suggestive and spiritual help that are not available in modern clinics and counseling centers. They are ready to take these risks because they yearn for the spiritual explanations and therapy offered in traditional healing.
After this long introduction, let us go into some detail concerning the role of the Islamically oriented psychotherapist with respect to the three helpful areas on which there is a general consensus among psychotherapists. These, as I delineated, are: the role of the psychotherapist as a warm accepting good listening friend, his role as a behavior therapist and his role as a cognitive therapist.
The Muslim psychotherapist as a counseling psychologist The therapist as a warm accepting friend:
In this section, I wish to discuss the influence of Rogerian Client-Centered therapy and similar perspectives that influenced modern Muslim therapists and to show that its main merits are in fact teachings of Islam and its demerits an influence of secular western modernity that the Muslim therapist should reject. Since this perspective, unlike behavior therapy is rather saggy and too broad to lay down, I shall give it a large space in this paper.
A scholar studying this psychotherapeutic perspective can write volume upon volume to give its pertinent details from the Holy Qur'an, the Sunnah of the Blessed Prophet (PBUH) and the works of our early Muslim theologians, physicians and scholars. These teachings of being warm, friendly and accepting are so obvious that we do not need to spend much time and space over them. In the personality and life of our Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), modern Muslim psychotherapists can find the highest values and teachings about how to be friendly brothers or sisters to their clients and patients. Just one Verse from the Holy Qur'an is enough to summarize this whole field of Islamic counseling and exhibits its uniqueness. The Holy Qur'an Describes the character of the Prophet in dealing with his followers in these beautiful words:
"It is from the Mercy of God that you deal gently (and warmly) with them (his followers). But if you were severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from you. So pass over their faults and pray for their forgiveness and consult them in affairs before taking a decision and when you decide put your trust on God for God loves those who put their trust on Him (Surat Alimran, Verse No. 159)".
What are the general principles that can be inferred from this single Verse of the Noble Qur'an. They are:
a. Be genuinely warm loving and gentle to your clients. You are not to be a detached empathic or even sympathetic observer as western counseling would suggest but a merciful involved brother or sister. Mercy is more comprehensive and spiritual. It gets its source from the Mercy of God Hi myself.
b. Be accepting and pass over their faults without being nonjudgmental. AS the Qur'an States in another Verse (28:87), "Call to the way of your Lord with fair exhortation, and reason with them in the best manner".
c. The counseling or psychotherapeutic session is a consultative venture in which the therapist does not act as an oppressive leader. So be humble and do not be authoritative. Let your advice come after consultation with the client.
d. The counseling or psychotherapeutic session is a spiritual endeavor in which the therapist or counselor is blessed by God in being selected to help a brother or sister to overcome an ordeal. So you should put your trust in God and should be grateful to Him for Giving you this opportunity.
What more do we need to add to this? We can only give more concrete examples from the sayings of the Prophet and his companions and the writings of early scholars. These scholars of Islam took the teachings of the Prophet and his deeds as the guide for their writings on being warm and accepting to others and on advising them by following the gentlest manner and strictly guarding their secrets. Listen for example to the following sayings or Ahadith of the Prophet:
"Show optimism and make things easy and not difficult and give good tidings and not the news that repel" (authenticated by Muslim).
"He who helps a Muslim to alleviate a hardship of this world, Allah Ta'ala will alleviate for him a hardship in the Hereafter" (authenticated by Muslim).
Influenced by these and similar ahadith and deeds of the Prophet, Abdal Gadir Aljailani writes in his AI-Ghuniah Litalibi Tariq Alhaq what is translated as follows:
"The conditions of good friendship are that you should be forgiving and you should accept whatever your friend says or does and to find an acceptable excuse for anything that does not look right (if it is not clearly contrary to Islamic teachings) (1956, p. 169)".
And as for his advice to the Shaikh or Guru who was actually the counselor or psychotherapist of his time, Jailani says in the same book:
"The sheikh should treat his disciple with mercy and love. If the disciple finds difficulty in changing his bad habits and do what the guru wants, he must be gentle and gradually help him in the way that a mother or a loving father treats their child" (P.168).
Similarly, Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali gives a detailed account on the duties of the Shaikh and his treatment to his disciples. His account can be a very useful guide to modern Muslim counselors and therapists. I am translating some of these duties as follows: "The first duty and attribute of a good sheikh is to be humble and gentle with those he is dealing with. He should not stress on giving knowledge or advising but rather choose the route of mild and tender gradualism. A good sheikh should also be ascetic and should not look at his disciple's money with greed. Another good quality of the guru is that if he comes to see or to know that one of his disciples committed some offense, he should not tell him directly about it. He must be indirect and rather meandering about helping him to see the wrong he had done. He can for example advise a whole group of disciples about the bad effects of what the person had done without making him feel that he is the one meant for the advice. This would be good to the whole group. And finally, the guru should keep the secrets of his disciples and his clients. These people trust him with personal experiences some of which may be embarrassing. The sheikh should put down a heavy lid over his heart and tongue in keeping these secrets in the dark." (AlIhya, Vol.5, P.206-28)
The myth of being totally nonjudgmental: /
It is rather sad to see Muslim therapists who possess such a rich heritage speaking about being trained to be warm and accepting to their clients by experts of Rogerian client-centered counseling. It is as if to be loving, understanding and accepting is a twentieth century discovery by the founder of non-directive counseling. Some of them naively boast about being totally and unconditionally accepting in a value-free nonjudgmental manner. This claim of nonjudgmental value-free attitude is of course a myth. Once you call yourself a counselor or psychotherapist and the one across the table a client or a patient, you have lost your nonjudgmental attribute.
Furthermore, as a humanistic school of psychotherapy, person-centered therapy, as we said earlier, aims at helping the client to actualize himself. But of course this cannot be achieved in a totally value-free way even in the west. The therapist and client will have to follow Western values. A client may wish to actualize himself as a photographer of heterosexual pornographic films and his therapist may say, "That is fine if your choice is the art of filming adults copulating". But no therapist will agree to be value free to the extent of conceding if the client wishes to be a photographer of pedophiles who have sex with children. Such atrocious video cassettes are now thriving in the western sexual industrial revolution. Also, painting is an art which many find self actualizing, but what about an artist who wishes to develop himself in the art of forging counterfeit money or one who would like to accomplish himself by perfecting the fine art of pick pocketing? All such modes of self actualization would not be allowed because they conflict with Western values.
Before I conclude this section I must say that this nonjudgmental approach is actually a symptom of westerners' animosity towards their religion that they have generalized to all other religions. One can understand their position. It is so because they are societies that are haunted by an ugly religious Church history of inquisitions and the burning of hundreds of thousands or even millions of innocent victims; they are societies that have lost much of their faith in their modern religious institutions of the large number of divergent faiths and denominations; societies that were able to scientifically progress only when they discarded religion; societies in which mental health workers are consequently trained to generally view religious persons as suffering from pathological religiosity. In such societies it is understandable that counselors and therapists may be advised to steer away from embarrassing religious topics and to pursue the secularized materialistic path of the overwhelming majority.
Culture-blind aping by Muslim psychotherapists:
What one cannot understand is why our Muslim therapists sheepishly behave in the same secular manner? In the length and breadth of their history, the Muslims have not experienced the moral dictatorship of a church or the barbarous executions of inquisitions. Islam is a simple straightforward rational religion that has an unequaled command over the hearts and minds of its followers. It is a religion in which all Muslims have no shreds of doubt about the Oness or Tawhid of the almighty God, the authenticity of the Holy Qur'an, the Divine message of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and other messengers. Just as they all face the same direction to Ka'bah in their daily prayers, they hold to the same worldview and way of life. Even the concept of Divine retribution and punishment is portrayed in Islam in the most optimistic, merciful and rational conceptions. The Holy Qur'an clearly states that God's punishment in this world is meant to ward off more serious future pains and agonies, and to coerce the sinful to repent and secure God's forgiveness:
And indeed We will make them taste of the Penalty (and pain) of this life prior to the supreme Penalty, in order that they may repent and return. ( SuratAssajdah, Verse No. 21)
Also, human anguish is a Divine test to wipe out sins and to elevate the spiritual position of the suffering person. As the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, there is always a reward to the Muslim from God for even the slightest pain he incurs, even if it is the prick of a thorn (Authenticated by Bukhari). These beliefs are deeply rooted in the hearts and minds of average Muslims and if the Muslim therapist does not make use of them in alleviating the psychological agonies of his patients, he would be like the ignorant man in the hot desert who throws away his water because he saw a lake of mirage. Or as the Arab poet describes it, like the camel that dies of thirst while water containers are strapped on its back..
Thus, a Muslim psychologist who rides the western wave of secular therapy is actually selling out his Islamic values and depriving these patients from useful psychospiritual therapy. A loving warm friend may actually be often better than him. This is so I think because the friend humbly sees the emotionally disordered as a person like himself and speaks to him in the simple language of his culture and religion. The trained counselor, as I said, alienates himself by accepting the patterns of a foreign culture as a'science' of psychotherapy!
Islamic psychotherapy requires that the therapist be a Sincere role model and give his clients enough time:
It should therefore be stated that the Muslim psychologist should be aware of the Islamic role that is styled by the spiritual teachings of Islam and the work of early Muslim therapists. He should consider himself a sincere brother or sister or friend and not to be boastful about his specialty. He should concentrate his effort on how to help the Muslim client with his problem rather than how to diagnose him or apply his sophisticated theory and practice on him. He should not be a slave to his specialization or to the stereotyped rituals of western psychotherapy. For example, if he feels that to bring another friend of the patient or his relative or spouse in the therapeutic session would be helpful, he should do so and he should treat them with respect as co¬therapists. If he feels that visiting an old sick authoritative parent of the patient in his house can be therapeutically helpful to the young patient who suffers from his unrealistic control, he should do so.
Furthermore, the clinic or counseling room should not always be a formal strict place of therapist and patient. It can also be a blessed room where the therapist and his client may say their obligatory prayers together or eat and drink and chat together. Also the time taken for treatment should not be the fixed 45 minutes per session as is the case in modern psychotherapy. Quite often traditional healers and sheikhs can do a better job at helping the emotionally disordered because they spend more time with them. Patients get the chance to see the respected spiritually inspired healer as a role model in his social intercourse with others, in his prayers, in his patience with difficult persons and his love and guidance to his disciples. The patients and disciples pray together, eat together and sleep in the same compound.
In a study of traditional healing practices in Sudan that I carried out for a WHO Expert Committee in the eighties, I was astonished to find a number of the patients whom we failed to help in the Khartoum Psychiatric Hospital completely cured or much improved through the traditional Islamic therapy of a famous Sheikh. When I visited his far-off compound to collect information for my research, I was astonished to be greeted by the smiling cheerful faces of the same persons that I had been accustomed to see as perpetually debilitated with chronic anxiety and the sad pessimism of depression.
I know that what I am proposing may not be accepted by modern Muslim psychotherapists who would raise the objection that they do not have the time for such consuming therapy. Some of them would like to stick to the 45-minute session in which they keep glancing at their watches and frequently ending the session just as the patient begins to emotionally loosen up. Traditional Islamic healers find all the time they need for their clients because they also engage in group therapy. They only close their doors with one patient when the latter wishes to reveal personal secrets. That is why I believe that if the patient is not so severely disordered that he needs to be alone with the psychologist, group therapy led by a committed Muslim therapist can often be far superior to stereotyped one-to-one therapeutic sessions. However in a number of cases a combination of both methods can bring about good results.
I think that much informal counseling and psychotherapy of this kind is going on in our Muslim countries. May be for this reason, we find that there are few practicing psychotherapists and counselors. People get free useful counseling from friends, teachers and elderly relatives. As it was once said, "The psychotherapist is an expensive friend but the friend is an inexpensive therapist".
In western countries on the other hand, the materialistic competitive way of life does not give friends and relatives the time or effort to help a friend in need. That is why troubled people there are ready to pay expensively to counselors just to find someone to talk to and to seek his warm relationship even if they know about the research on the limitations of counseling and psychotherapy. Torrey puts this issue in a mocking manner. He says:
"Saying that psychotherapy does not work is like saying that prostitution does not work; those enjoying the benefits of these personal transactions will continue doing so, regardless of what the experts and researchers have to say" (1986, p. 198).
As Muslim therapists we should learn from the traditional healers:
As modest Muslims who are happy to acquire wisdom and knowledge from any source, we should learn from the long pertinent experience of our Muslim traditional healers. The righteous ones among them are the true descendants of Ibni-Sina and Ghazali. Much of what they do with their patients is influenced by the religious traditions of olden days. They know their culture and traditions better than us since their worldview has not been contaminated by modernity and western thought. I have personally learnt much from them and was often amazed by the creative ways they think of to solve the problems of their clients.
I will give the reader a recent example about a Sudanese Sheikh and healer living in a small town about 130 kilometers from the capital city of Khartoum. A disabled partly crippled young beautiful lady in his town used to travel weekly to the Capital to receive physiotherapy in a specialized center run by a German humanitarian organization. A young man working in this center fell in love with her and married her. She moved to his house in the capital. Life went smoothly for a few months after which they often quarreled and he brutally beat her. She would then travel back to her parents, but soon he would come begging her to come back to him and humbly apologizing to her parents and relatives. However, after going back the episode is repeated until in one occasion he was so brutal in hitting her that she needed medical intervention. She came to her parents and vowed not to return to him and asked for a divorce. The parents and uncles were quite happy and relieved by her decision. Village people in Sudan live together as one big family, so everybody knew about her case and supported her demand for divorce. However, after a few months, her physical and psychological wounds healed and she wanted to go back to him even if all her relatives do not support her. This would bring much shame to her parents and elders. It would look as if they do not have any self respect in accepting him after what he had done and that they do not have any control over their daughter, so their prestige in the town would be at stake.
While sitting in the Sheikh's private room, four well-dressed men came to consult him about their dilemma. Their spokesman, the father said, "Please help us out you blessed man. What shall we do to our disabled daughter to prevent this dishonor to us without causing a serious problem to her?" The sheikh paused for some time during which I tried to find a way out of this problem. I have a long experience and sophisticated training, I said to myself, how can I help these worried people and their daughter if they came to me? I could not see any way out. One obvious solution is to say to them, "This is her own life, let her do what she wants and forget your unjustified honor". But this would be a western way of looking at problems. Or may be I would say, "Go to the capital city and convince the husband to divorce her and if he disagrees, threaten to go to the police and sue him for the physical damage he did to their daughter". I failed to think about any other suitable answer. May be the reader can now stop reading for a moment to ask himself or herself for a proposal that helps the wife but does not go against the culture and traditions of the rural Sudanese community and compare it with what the sheikh had done.
After his long pause, the sheikh told them to tell the daughter that from now onwards it is the sheikh himself who would be her father and guardian and her relatives should leave decisions on this and other matters concerning her to him. Because of his high exalted prestige, the relatives were now relieved. They could now say to everybody that our sheikh took over the guardianship of our daughter from us. This would save their faces irrespective of what the sheikh decides to do and would also give the young anxious wife a feeling of pride and security. He then told them that his decision is to allow the girl to return to her husband but that she should not travel to live with him in the Capital. She should have her own room in the house of her parents and her husband can come to stay with her during his weekends and vacations. The little town is joined with a highway from the Capital Khartoum and bus service that takes about two hours is inexpensive. He told them that she willenjoy her relationship with him as he comes longingly to her but he cannot beat her in her own parents' home. And since they relate to each other for comparatively briefer periods, they would less likely have communication breakdowns. My follow up of the case showed that this novel arrangement went on very nicely. The girl would frequently come in the evenings to the sheikh's compound to say her Maghrib prayers. She kisses the hand of the sheikh and proudly calls him, "My father". Space and time would not allow me; otherwise I would have given the readers many more examples of this kind.
Islamic psychotherapy is essentially a spiritual therapy:
Judging from our discussions so far, the reader should by now appreciate our argument that if the therapy of Muslim patients is to be successful, it should be spiritual in nature. Though this discussion is taking us away to a coming section on cognitive therapy, I must say here, particularly to young training counselors and psychotherapists not to avoid using the treasures of therapeutic spirituality in helping their patients. In my long experience, I have learned not to avoid discussing Islamic issues with my patients and counseled. Of course I first do it very gently until I make sure that my patient would not be offended by discussing his religious commitment. In almost 40 years of working in this field I have not come across a single Muslim patient who had not benefited from our discussion of spiritual matters. On the contrary, adopting an Islamic approach in therapy has actually helped many of my patients who were referred to me by psychiatrists working in the same hospital stating that their patients had not benefited from drugs, ECT, or other forms of secular psychotherapy. The spiritually tranquilizing feeling of God's Power and His love to the humans He Created, the fact that the pains and anxieties that the counseled is suffering from has a meaning and are a test for which he will be rewarded by Allah, that anyway all life on this earth is temporary and whatever happens to a believing Muslim will soon be over can do wonders in helping the patient to see things differently. This of course as I said is treatment by changing pathological thinking and is strictly a cognitive approach..
And finally I wish to give a word of advice to the Islamically committed psychologists. Psychotherapy is one of the most rewarding jobs that a Muslim can do to secure God's Pleasure. Remember the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that we quoted earlier that he who alleviates a hardship or a calamity of a Muslim in this world, Allah Ta'ala will alleviate a hardship for him in the hereafter. Quite often, the problem of the patient concerns his bitter relationship with a parent, a spouse or a relative. It is here that the therapist can really be rewarded by Allah if he gradually changes the heart and mind of his counseled until the problem is solved. In such cases, the therapist should put aside his western training and should act like a wise loving brother, sister or parent who makes use of his local culture and religion to neutralize hatred and enmity. It is here that early Muslim scholars such Al-Ghazali, Al-Balkhi and Miskaweh would be the guides and educators, not Rogers, Wolpe or Mas low.
One case in this connection that I cannot forget is one in which the son, a professional, was so badly treated by the father and the step mother that he once tried to commit suicide as an adolescent. When I first saw him he was depressed but very angry. It took a number of sessions to help him ventilate and release his bottled emotions. Then following sessions discussed the rights of parents and children in Islam supported by Verses from the Holy Qur'an, Ahadith of the Prophet and stories of pious children. This was followed by a warm discourse about understanding his behavior and irrational thinking and that of his elderly father who was a highly successful rather arrogant professional. When the time came, I asked the father to attend our session. I listened to them and interfered only to advise with Islamic and culturally accepted wisdom and to cool down heated arguments. They gradually started to see where their real problems were since they had never before sat to discuss these issues in a cool setting. I was so happy to accept their invitation for dinner and to see them in their home happily interacting in a loving manner. So, one of the vicarious results of such therapies is to help the counseled to be a better Muslim. Such an outcome is indeed better than the treatment itself.
Islamization of behavior therapy The historical Islamic roots of Behavior therapy:
First, I would like to stress here that though these practical symptomatic approaches to therapy were developed in the West only during the fifties of the twentieth century, they were already known and practiced by our early Muslim physicians. For a more detailed exposition of this claim 1 can refer interested readers to my discussion on the contributions of early Muslim scholars in my book, Contemplation: an Islamic psychospirituai study (Badri, 2000). However, I will only give brief statements about Al-Ghazali, Al-Balkhi and Miskaweh to illustrate this contention. I think this summary is very essential in giving our young Muslim therapists confidence in themselves as descendants of these early geniuses.
Al-Ghazali and al-Balkhi say that just as the treatment of the body follows an opposite reciprocal approach with respect to its imbalance, the treatment of the imbalance of the soul or the psyche should also follow the same kind of treatment by the opposite therapy, what they call C. y-al -alL. Al-Ghazali clearly states that in physical medicine, "if the patient suffers from fever the doctor uses cold surfaces and if the cause of illness is a chill the doctor would use heat". Similarly he says in getting rid of bad habits, the opposite approach must be used. The examples he gave in his Ihya' Ulumadin include training in reducing food for an obese greedy person, training in spending money for stinginess, and humility for arrogance. In this and other examples, Al-Ghazali puts in plain words the theory of Wolpe's reciprocal inhibition as we have already delineated it.
He then gives clear details about the other important principle in behavior therapy; that of the gradual approach in treatment by applying a hierarchy of gradual exposures. He beautifully states that it may be difficult for some people to suddenly stop a disordered behavior in a short time. In this case he advises the Sheikh or "therapist" to take his time in gradually changing the person's very bad repugnant habit to one which is only bad, but less so and more acceptable than the earlier one, before he finally helps him to get rid of the latter bad habit. To illustrate this procedure that reminds us of systematic desensitization in vivo, he gives the concrete example of one whose shirt is stained with blood. Water cannot remove the stain, but he should first use urine to soften the blood stain then he uses water to wash away both the urine and the blood.
To exemplify this gradual approach in real psychotherapeutic practices, he showed how a 'patient' who suffered from 'pathological' bouts of anger and uncontrolled hostility treated himself by a gradual approach. He hired some body and paid him to curse him in front of another person while he relaxes himself by Thikr and remembrance of Allah Ta'ala. When this was repeated until he got used to it, he gradually increased the number of people day by day and week by week until he became so cool and patient that people considered him as a fine example of emotional endurance.
In a similar attempt that looks like Skinner's operant conditioning by reward and punishment, Miskaweh suggests what is now known as self reinforcement. He stated that a Muslim who feels guilty about doing something wrong should learn to punish himself by psychological, physical or spiritual ways such as paying money to the poor, deliberately instigating a hot-tempered person in order to insult him, or fasting. These Islamically oriented behavioristic interventions were in fact inspired by the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of our Prophet (PBUH). For example, the Holy Qur'an, in Surat Hud, Verse No. 114, States: "And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night: For those deeds that are good remove those that are evil.. "
And in a Hadith authenticated by Tarmathi, it is quoted that the Prophet (PBUH) said: "Fear Allah wherever you are and follow your bad deed with a good one to wipe it out"
Thus, though they used similar psychotherapeutic interventions, our early Muslim therapists, unlike modern behaviorists, have not followed a mechanistic approach since they believed in the spiritual aspect of man and they were more interested in changing human cognitions and conscious responses rather than the atomistic secular perspective that views man as simply a responding animal to environmental stimuli. Their picture of man is built on the Islamic conviction of a holistic interaction of body, mind and soul and a belief in human free will. For this reason, modern behavior therapy achieved great successes in treating neurotic symptoms that only lend themselves to a simple behavioristic stimulus-response (S-R) model such as phobias, sexually deviant behavior and mono-symptomatic disorders. However it was found to be of little help to more complex neurotic reactions such as depression which needs to be understood and managed by a more multifaceted approach which aims at changing the thoughts and cognitions of the patient about himself and his environment in a conscious manner rather than simply getting rid of specific emotional habits. It was also found that this cognitive approach of changing the conscious thought of the patient can also be very effective in changing emotional habits.
The Muslim psychologist as a behavior therapist
The Islamically oriented psychotherapist should firstly be aware that modern behavior therapy is firmly based on a secular materialistic philosophy that view man as a soulless animal whose nature is totally determined by his environment. Like a dry leaf, behaviorists believe that the environment with its rewards and punishments can shape him in any psychological mold. So, to them there are no fixed values of right or wrong or halal and wram. Each culture 'condition' its society into accepting certain values and rejecting others so that life of man on this earth is ethically relative. The feelings associated with rightness and wrongness are only "conditioned responses" learned in the way a hungry dog would salivate to the sound of a bell if it is paired with food or a rat that presses a lever if this operant brings food or terminates a painful electric shock.
Secondly, the Islamically oriented psychotherapist should realize that western behavior therapists, particularly the early ones, believe that they are scientists of behavior who aspire to control and predict normal and abnormal people's actions. For behaviorism to be a science, as we said earlier, it must limit itself to the observable aspects of human behavior. Soul, consciousness, mind, human free will, transcendence, spirituality and other mentalist and spiritual features that give man his unique characteristics are seen as either simply an illusion or are considered too shapeless to be worthy of scientific investigation. Based on this, behavior therapy opted for the reductionism of all simple and complex human behavior into stimuli that directly bring about responses.
As Muslim therapists we should reject this secular philosophy and its conception of man but not the useful techniques of behaviorism. This is so because the Islamic therapeutic practices of our early physicians made use of these techniques. Reciprocal inhibition and the gradual approach in changing behavior, as we have seen, have been applied by them within an Islamic worldview. Hence, we shouldn't throw away the baby with the bathwater. However, as Muslim therapists we must not see ourselves as surgeons of pathological behavior nor distort our conception about the nature of man by artificially forging complex and spiritual activities into an S-R paradigm.
Nevertheless, we may be justified in treating simple mono-symptomatic phobias without taking the complex thinking and religious beliefs of the patient into consideration. An example of this is a person who develops a phobia of riding a car after he has had an accident. Such a person may be tranquilized by muscular relaxation or a hypnotic trance or a drug and then instructed to imagine pleasant scenes that enhance his psychologically peaceful condition. While thus relaxed, he is asked to imagine himself in very mild scenes of being in a car. This is repeated until it causes him no anxiety. Following this, the therapist would take him gradually to more anxiety provoking scenes. The hierarchy may be something like that: to be in a stationary car, a car driven in a very low speed in an empty road, and then the speed is gradually increased and the roads made busier. When he imagines himself in a car traveling at 30 miles an hour, the therapist can in reality drive him in a car traveling at 10 miles an hour and so on until he can actuality be driven in a speeding car. This kind of systematic desensitization is very successful with such disorders.
With God's support I was able to treat many such patients. For example a female patient who had the irrational fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia) was able after a few sessions of gradually being placed in smaller and more confined rooms to be locked up for a long time in a closet. Another patient who had an incapacitating phobia of insects was after therapy able to allow a cockroach to walk on her hand. One does not need to bring Islamic beliefs or cognitive aspects into such therapies.
At times, even sexual dysfunction that is generally related to the patient's attitudes and beliefs can be treated by this simple behavioral systematic desensitization if the disorder is a straightforward case of a learned negative habit or some form of association. As a young girl, a Saudi female patient who had probably heard revolting stories about oral sex or for some other reason has associated penile penetration with something thrust in her throat. When she got married, she enjoyed foreplay with her husband but whenever he started to penetrate her vagina, she became terribly nauseated and she vomited over herself and her disgusted husband. The husband was so disturbed. He was afraid that he may lose his sexual potency.
It was clear to me on referral that her problem did not need cognitive intervention or changing her thoughts and beliefs. The husband was quite cooperative in doing exactly what I told them to do. "Approach her while clothed", I said, "and externally use your hand to bring her to orgasm". Following this step he was instructed that after his stroking made her sexually stimulated to gently try to insert his clean lubricated finger in her vagina and to take it quickly out if she said she felt nauseated. If this happened he was to repeat his foreplay until she was ready again and then to retry to insert the finger. After such few encounters he was to gradually shed off his clothes and use his penis to first rub externally avoiding sudden penetration and to proceed gradually. The wife responded very well to this treatment. This gentle gradual approach allowed her to enjoy full penetration in a few weeks. It is with such experiences that the Muslim therapist can correctly decide when to directly change a straightforward conditioned habit and when to mix up behavior therapy with cognition and spirituality. However, even in unlearning such habits the Muslim therapist should not forget to help his patient be a better Muslim.
In talking about the Muslim psychologist as strictly a behavior therapist, I concentrated my exposition to systematic desensitization and practical retraining. Behavior therapy has of course many other techniques such as aversion therapy, assertive training and modeling, however systematic desensitization continues to be the most used and the most successful. I will discuss assertive training in the following section on cognitive therapy since it often involves the changing of thinking and beliefs and not the simple S-R therapy. But I will say a few words about aversion therapy in this section.
As we said earlier, unlike systematic desensitization in which the patient wishes to unlearn a troubling emotional habit, in aversion therapy, the patient wishes to get rid of some enjoyable behavior on which he is hooked such as homosexuality, alcoholism or gambling. Aversion therapy is also used to extinguish unwanted repetitive behavior such as tics and compulsive disorders. In aversion the therapist aims at associating the unwanted behavior with a painful or offensive stimulus such as electric shocks, offensive odors or chemicals that cause ugly symptoms such as nausea. As in other behavioral treatments, the therapist can simply use a classical behavioral S-R approach or combine the treatment with cognitive therapy that aspires to change the thinking and beliefs of the patient.
As a simplified method for eliminating an unwanted repetitive response, I can give the lay reader an illustration of the case of a woman who for some reason developed the habit of pulling her hair. When she was referred to me in the Clinic for Nervous Disorders in Khartoum, she had already pulled out enough hair to look bald in the frontal side of her head. She did this unconsciously so that when she realized what she had been doing, already a few hairs had been pulled out. Electrodes were attached to her left hand and she was told to consciously try to pull out her hair with her right hand but every time she did so, she received a mild electric shock. The shock came at times as soon as she touched her hair and at other times when she actually pulled it and few times she was not shocked. This is to make the aversion variable. After very few sessions she reported that she seized to be unaware of pulling out her hair. Whenever her hand went up to her head she remembered the shock. In a few more sessions she was completely cured. In such cases, one does not need to go into a religious discourse or changing the patients thinking. It is a straightforward classical behavior modification.
An example illustrating the necessity of combining aversion with cognitive therapy is seen in treating clients who wanted to get over their homosexuality. Their sexual impulses that are aroused in the clinic by visual or imagined scenes can be electronically identified. As soon as the instruments show that the client is homosexually stimulated, he is quickly punished by a harmless but very painful electric shock of a very low current and high voltage. At the end of the session clients are encouraged to generate sexual feelings to imagined or pictured women. With repeated sessions, the client would gradually shift his interest to females and to associate homosexual feelings with the aversive stimuli. I successfully used this technique with both electrical and offensive odors, but I combined it with repeated statements about the sinfulness and spitefulness of homosexuality from the Islamic point of view and did an effort to show the client how changing his orientation can bring him the reward and forgiveness of Allah Ta'ala.
The Islamization of cognitive therapy Islamic historical roots of cognitive therapy:
Again I must repeat that it is very important to relate the cognitive therapeutic endeavors of the modern Muslim psychotherapist with the legacy of his great Muslim forefathers. He should be proud of this heritage and should see himself as a revivalist of earlier contributions and not an emulating impersonator of western therapists. He should realize that this cognitive approach to therapy that changed the face of modern psychology was definitely not a new approach to early Muslim physicians and thinkers. Scholars like Ibni Alqayyim, al-Balkhi, al-Ghazali, Miskaweh and many others have already detailed its theory and its applied therapeutic practices of changing the thinking and cognitive processes of patients in order to treat their emotional disorders. Let me give an illustration from the theoretical work of Ibni Qayyim and the treatment practices of al-Balkhi that I have summarized from one of my earlier publications (Badri, 2000).
When one reads how Ibni Qayyim discussed the cognitive roots of human behavior in his famous book titled, Al-Fawa'id he would think that he is reading a modern book on cognitive psychology. He unambiguously says that anything a person does originates first as inner thou hg t or concealed speech or internal dialogue for which he uses the right Arabic word, khwatir. The word khawatir is the plural of khatirah which stands for fast inner concealed reflections or sub-vocal thoughts which comes in a fleeting fashion. Compare this with the Beck's idea of "automatic thoughts" that we have already mentioned. Though Beck claimed to have discovered this phenomenon in the seventies of the twentieth century after the computer revolution, Ibni Qayyim had already detailed it centuries before he was born.
Ibni Alqayyim details the exact process by which these inner fleeting thoughts develop into human actions and observable behavior. He warns that a sinful or emotionally harmful khatirah, if accepted and not checked by the concerned person, can develop into a strong emotion or lust shahwah. If this is entertained or given credence it may generate so much cognitive strength that it may develop into a drive or impulse for action. If this impulsive drive or emotional motivation is not neutralized by its opposite emotion or resisting drive, it will be acted out in reality as external behavior. He further stated that if this behavior is not resisted it will be repeated so often that it will become a habit. In this respect Ibni Al-qayyim believed that emotional, physical and cognitive habits follow the same course. Using a different cognitive root, Ibni Qayyim writes that inner thoughts lead to conscious thinking. Next, thinking will be transferred or stored in the memory and the memory will transfer it into volition. This will form a strong motive which will be acted out in real life as an action. Repeating the action leads to a strong habit.
But then, Ibni Qayyim does not simply describe these cognitive processes in the neutral disinterested manner of modern western psychologists. He Islamizes his amazing exposition by relating it to improving the behavior of the Muslim thus teaching us a practical lesson in Islamization. He advises the Muslim, in the words of a cognitive psychologist, to lead a happy and righteous life by fighting the negative inner evil thoughts or wasawis before they become an impulsive emotion. This is an easy endeavor in comparison to fighting an impulse. Resisting an impulse with an opposite antagonistic motive is easier than changing the behavior after it is actually performed. However withholding an activity performed only for one or a few times is better than waiting till it becomes a habit.
He warns us that God has not given man the ability to totally eradicate fleeting thoughts and reflections or khwatir . They are as irresistible as breathing, he affirms. A wise person who has strong faith in God can accept the good khwatir and avoid the bad and potentially harmful ones. God, he states, has created the human nafs or mind in a way very similar to a rotating millstone which never stops day or night grinding at all times. Something must always be put in it to be grinded. Some people feed their minds with good thoughts; they are like those who put corn and wheat in their mills. They get nice flour. But the millstone of most people grind dirt and stones.
When the time for making bread comes (in the Hereafter) each group will know what their mills were grinding!
Abu Zaid al-Balkhi who lived as early as the ninth century is probably the first cognitive and medical psychologist who was able to clearly apply the theory of cognitive therapy in healing all sorts of anxiety disorders and obsessions. In fact he was the first to differentiate between neuroses and psychoses, to classify neurotic disorders, and to show in detail how rational and spiritual cognitive therapy can be used to treat each one of his classified disorders. Al-Balkhi classified neuroses into four emotional disorders. These are fear and anxiety, anger and aggression, sadness and depression and finally obsessions. In his masterpiece titled, Masalih al-Abdan wa'1-Anfus, (MS 3741, Ayasofya Library, Istanbul) that translates as, "The sustenance of body and soul", this great Muslim genius presented the civilized world of his time with a manuscript containing medical and psychotherapeutic information that was only discovered or developed more than ten centuries after his death.
I do not have enough space to discuss al-Balkhi's valuable contributions in detail. However, I must say a few words about his matchless clinical works in cognitive and behavior therapy and psychosomatic medicine. Al-Balkhi emphasized the role of inner thinking in causing emotional disorders to the extent of suggesting that just as a healthy person keeps some drugs and First Aid medicines nearby for unexpected physical emergencies, he should also keep healthy thoughts and feelings in his mind for unexpected emotional outbursts. As is clear from his simile, al-Balkhi's psychotherapy is mainly what we call today "rational cognitive therapy". For example, when discussing fear and anxiety, he gives a number of vivid clinical illustrations of anxiety related to expected future problems such as losing one's job or health or panic related to a phobia of thunder or death after which he says that most things that people fear are not really harmful if people use their rational logical thinking.
He quotes a very indicative simile picturing the fearful panicky neurotic as a Bedouin who travels to a cold humid country and sees fog for the first time. He thinks that this thick fog in front of him is a solid impenetrable object. But once he enters into it he discovers it is only humid air, not different from the air he was just breathing. With his cognitive rational therapy, he deduces that treated neurotics would realize that most of their fears, worries and enmities were irrational. Moreover, whenever he discusses acute emotional states, he suggests treatment by the opposite or al-ilaj bidhidh "reciprocal inhibition" as well as a gradual approach in healing to facilitate cognitive therapy.
Another very fascinating feature of al-Balkhi's cognitive therapy is the use of one unacceptable cognition or emotion to change another more incapacitating one. He gives the example of a soldier who suffers from excessive fear and anxiety from combat. He should remind himself of the heroes who courageously led their troops to win fierce battles and to be recorded in the history of their nation. By comparing his shameful emotional state with their valor, he is bound to rouse anger at himself. This anger can be further stimulated by asserting to him that this kind of panicky behavior is expected from women and children and not from an adult fighter like himself. When the anger at his unbecoming behavior reaches a certain level it would neutralize his fear. So anger, which itself can be a disordered emotion may be used against another more serious emotional pathology.
The Muslim psychologist as a cognitive therapist
It is clear from this brief historical exposition that the Muslim as a cognitive therapist is guided by a rich Islamic heritage of his past. However, in our modern times, he would find himself rather confused by the growing number of seemingly different cognitive therapeutic techniques, each of which claiming superiority over the others. This phenomenon is due to the fact that just as cognitive psychology has transformed the whole field of psychology, its applications in therapy has revolutionized western psychotherapy. Cognitive therapy has proven itself as the most successful form of treatment particularly to certain disorders such as depression in which a number of well-controlled experimental researches with long-term follow-up has confirmed its superiority over antidepressant drugs (Evans, et al., 1992; Simons, Murphy, Levine, & Wetzel, 1986).
Psychotherapy in the west is a business enterprise, so it is only natural to find well-known psychologists competing in developing 'new' techniques of cognitive therapies that are not really very different from each other in order to get their piece of cake from the unlimited funds paid by patients and their insurance companies. As we mentioned in an earlier section of this paper, all cognitive therapies are based on the simple belief shared by our early Muslim scholars that emotional disorder is caused by negative thinking patterns that distort the picture of the way the person views himself, his acquaintances and the world at large causing him or her to be anxious, depressed, angry, or suffering from some other psychological or psychosomatic disorder. Hence, all forms of cognitive therapies have one aim: to alter the client's thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and even his or her distorted mental imagery that generate his symptoms.
Most techniques of cognitive therapies combine their treatment methods with behavior therapy. Some clearly declare it such as cognitive behavior therapies (CBT) and some others use it but give it a different name. Among those who declare it, a number of them stress that their major role is that of correcting the irrational current beliefs of patients. The most famous among them are the Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) of Ellis and the Rational Behavior therapy (RBT) of Mauldsby. Furthermore there are techniques that emphasize on the treatment of early maladaptive childhood conceptions that the person develops about himself and others thus forming the core of his personality and continuing to influence his neurotic behavior as an adult The most famous is Schema therapy.
We cannot, of course discuss these therapies in any detail. We shall instead categorize them into three major techniques and briefly talk about them from the point of view of the Muslim therapist. We believe that Islamic cognitive therapy can be helpful to Muslim patients in three ways. First, a simple uncomplicated change in negative thought can be quite beneficial to some patients whose distorted religious beliefs are functional in causing the disorder. In his early version of Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), Ellis emphasized the changing of the faulty irrational beliefs and thought of his patients in accordance to his "ABC" cognitive theory. "A" stands for Activating experiences or events in the environment. "B" stands for the Beliefs that are formed by the faulty ways the patient views these events. And "C" stands for the Consequences or feelings and behavior that the patient engages in as a result of his negative beliefs. This should remind us of the resemblance that we mentioned earlier between this theory and the workings of the computer. The strikes on the keyboard stands for "A", the software that interprets the strikes for "B" and "C" is represented by what appears in the monitor. This is a purely cognitive approach that is not mixed up with behavioral techniques.
I found that explaining away faulty beliefs according to this "ABC" approach can at times bring about dramatic relief to clients who had lived for years harboring incapacitating guilt about their relationship with Allah Ta'ala. They had committed what they thought was unforgivable sins and have accordingly despaired from God's Love and Forgiveness. Many of them are poorly schooled in Islam as a religion and worldview and as children they had been brought up by parents who emphasized God's revenge and punishment and had ignored His Kindness, Love and Forgiveness. For years they had been worriedly expecting God's retaliation and punishment. This caused them to view all the normal problems and illnesses and pains of life as evidence for their pessimistic thoughts. They come to see me after their cognitive aberration had taken its toll, leaving them as panicky, depressed, and insomnic unhappy souls expecting a catastrophe round every corner of their miserable life.
I directly attack their pessimistic thought with evidences from the Holy Qur'an and Blessed Sunnah and prove to them that their belief of losing hope in God's forgiveness is Islamically a much greater sin that what they had committed. The Qur'an States: " And do not despair from the Mecy of Allah for it is only the disbelievers (the kafireen)who despair from God's Mercy." (Surat Yusuf Verse 87)
I read to them the stories from the Prophet's sayings such as the story of the man whose sins were forgiven after he sincerely repented though he had killed one hundred persons and the story of the Israeli prostitute who gave water to a thirsty dog in the desert and Allah pardoned all her sins and Rewarded her with Paradise. I tell them that the Hajj, the accepted Umrah and the good deeds to the poor and the orphans will neutralize whatever they had done in the past. I read to them the highly optimistic Hadith of our Prophet in which he says, "If human beings do not sin at all, then Allah Ta'ala would have created other creatures that commit sins so that he may forgive them since he is the Merciful Forgiver of sins.' (Authenticated by Ibru Amr).
Many of them hear this warm, loving and optimistic aspects of God for the first time in their lives. To many of them, it is like a healing earthquake shaking the very depths of their psyche. While in this spiritual ecstasy, a simple explanation of how their distorted beliefs have caused their psychological problems according to the "ABC" approach can bring about a sudden insight and even at times full cure in this single session.
This spiritual cognitive intervention is also very useful in helping bereaved patients and those who lost valuable property. For the person who lost a loved one, a warm discourse about the Islamic beliefs concerning death and how spiritually the process of dying is like a rebirth in which the soul is elevated to higher consciousness and that it does not lose contact with its beloved relatives who are still living is comforting to many bereaved. They should be made to appreciate that to believe that death is the end of everything concerning the deceased is a materialistic point of view. Life itself is a gift from God that He would soon take it back and good Muslims will then see their relatives who died before them and live with them in total happiness. This information is supported by selected verses from the Holy Qur'an and the Blessed sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) illustrated by stories of devoted early and modern Muslims who patiently accepted the death of relatives and friends. They are informed about the authenticated Prophetic sayings that the patience and prayers for the dead relative grants him happiness and Divine Forgiveness and that the impatience and loud expression of grief in a way that resembles open protesting against God's Qadar and destiny can cause the deceased pain in his or her grave.
The second way in which cognitive therapy can be helpful to Muslim patients is when it is coupled with behavior therapy. This combination in its limited form would reduce the role of the cognitive so that it can only serve as a minor aid to behavior modification. It often happens that a patient suffering from a mono-symptomatic disorder may need a little cognitive push to step up the behavior therapy. For instance, as I mentioned in my introduction, if the phobia is only mono¬symptomatic but is related to jinn and shaitan the therapist cannot succeed without changing the beliefs of the patient and his religious orientation. You cannot be an unbendable S-R behaviorist relaxing your patient and asking a shaitan or ghost to approach her gradually! Without a cognitive religious approach in which the patient is informed about the inability of jinn to do any real harm to her if she becomes a good practicing Muslim no abstract behavioral therapy can be of help. She must be made to believe that the only thing that shaitan can do is his concealed unconscious enticement or waswasa. Once a Muslim remembers God he is driven away.
However, as mentioned earlier, when the problem is more complex in a way that seriously affects the manner the patient views himself or others, to the extent of causing him to become socially phobic and depressed, pure behavior therapy cannot be of much value. Such patients frequently present with a mixed up assortment of a number of symptoms causing the therapist to wonder with which he can start his cognitive-behavioral intervention. I hope that the following clinical report of a patient I have treated a long time ago can illustrate what I mean.
An Arab female patient was referred to me by her psychiatrist and psychologist after all the Western healing techniques failed to bring about any change in her. She suffered from depression, social anxiety and non-assertiveness, hypochondria, anorexia and an ugly mouth tic. She needed a few sessions of psychospiritual support to begin speaking about her problems, something she had resisted to do with the psychiatrist and psychotherapist who referred her to me. Gradually she opened up speaking in detail about her predicament; her frugal husband; her superior in her office who forced her into a sexual relation; her brutal father who sided with her husband; her loneliness and non-assertiveness and lastly, but certainly not the least, her fear that God had already driven her out of His Mercy, and her panic and anxiety in expecting His divine punishment to descend upon her at any hour during her days or nights.
As a therapist, I asked myself what problem or disorder shall I start with? I have learned over the years that Muslims are unique in that in many of them, their erroneous conceptions about God and religion are almost always the core around which other disorders seem to revolve. So I followed the same cognitive spiritual approach that I have already described in order to alter her invalid beliefs about God and His Attributes. She was one of the most spiritually responsive patients that I have had in my long career. Once she began to appreciate the absolute love of Allah Ta'ala and His forgiveness to all sins, she broke down into a long cathartic tearful reunion with her Creator. She was made to see that her excessive feelings of guilt, though a clear evidence of her strong faith in God, were really built on wrong pessimistic beliefs and that her fornication was something forced on her for which she shouldn't have harbored that crippling guilt since the Holy Qur'an States:
"And do not force your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity.. .But if anyone compels them, yet after such compulsion God is oft Forgiving and most Merciful. (Surat Al-Nur, Verse 33)"
After this religiously oriented cognitive therapy, she was then ready to embark upon the second stage of spiritual cognitive behavior therapy. It was mainly a program of assertive training based on the Islamic teaching that the real fear and respect one holds for Allah (swt) should protect one from fearing other humans who are in total surrender to His might. A very useful Islamically oriented approach that Muslim therapists applying assertive training are unaware of is that they should make the patient realize that his therapy from social anxiety is a religious duty! The patient must know and feel that his soul is not his property. It belongs to God and he or she does not have the right to humiliate this soul with uncalled for degrading fear and anxiety in dealing with others. A Muslim can show humility to other Muslims but without having a phobia of dealing with them. When the patient appreciates this he would realize that treating his non-assertive social phobia is a religious duty and indeed, I found that many begin to quickly enhance their self respect after this cognition.
Our patient followed a hierarchy in which she was first asked to imagine mildly provoking scenes of social contacts that required assertive actions that gradually increased in intensity until they culminated in imagined scenes that required her to assert herself and even act aggressively with her husband, her boss at work and other imagined hostile persons. I used with her and with similar patients a technique combining a new form of systematic desensitization that I have developed in the late sixties. It was considered at the time as a forerunner to what is known today as cognitive behavior therapy. In this novel technique I combine systematic desensitization with role playing and I inject spiritual intervention whenever appropriate. I have described my this in a paper published by the Journal of Psychology, titled, "A new technique in the systematic desensitization of generalized anxiety and phobic reactions". Instead of asking the patient to silently raise her finger whenever the anxiety of imagined scenes is too much for her, as is advised by Wolpe, I ask her to close her eyes and say loudly what she visualizes from the scene I present If it causes no anxiety I ask her to go horizontally, so to tell me about similar incidents in her life that are similar to the scene in question or even to go vertically up the hierarchy. If the anxiety is too high, she simply stops talking and then I would resume relaxing her and supporting her with gratifying scenes of and spiritual encouragements and then I would ask to repeat the process until the imagination of that issue causes no more anxiety. Then I would go up to a more demanding scene. She successfully completed the hierarchy and was able while in the clinic to voice all her anger and aggressive statements to the husband and the boss. In the hospital environment, she became clearly much more outgoing and assertive. The depressive look completely disappeared and her feelings and behavior reflected this new outlook to life.
The third stage of treatment would have dealt with her anorexia, her hypochondria and her mouth tic. With the cognitive spiritual restructuring and the assertive training she did not need any treatment to her diminished appetite. It simply disappeared with disappearance of her depression and anxiety. Furthermore, when the expectation of God's punishment that could have come in the form of incurable diseases had been replaced by the optimistic hope in His Forgiveness, the obsession with impending danger has vanished and with it the hypochondriacal symptoms. The mouth tic became less frequent and less deforming to her beautiful face. Anyway I did not try to help her with it nor was she bothered by it.
She left the hospital and later informed me that she was able to refuse her husband's unfair demands and was surprised to see him behaving quite respectfully with her. This was very reinforcing to her. She said that she had no fear of facing her boss and verbally attacking him but she preferred to change her job and move to a new far away department where no body knew of her past disorder.
The third and final approach in which cognitive therapy can help Muslim patients is when the cognitive dimension becomes a philosophical one. At this spiritual transcendent level cognitive therapy would become much broader than simply a few techniques of healing anxiety and mood disorders. It develops into a form of philosophical psychotherapy; a therapy in which the patient is not only cured or greatly improved by changing his thinking but quite often a spiritual intervention in which the patient changes his whole worldview to become a highly spiritual person who finds a meaningful experience in whatever God destines for him; a submissive slave to his Master and Creator; a Muslim who worships Allah Ta'ala as though he sees Him; one who finds greater pleasure in remembering Allah than all the materialistic pleasures of this world. This is of course is the level of Ihsan described by our Prophet (PBUH). If a patient is able to spiritually elevate himself beyond his immediate complaints, he would definitely get a glimpse of this spiritual pleasure and realize some of the naYve aspects of his neurotic complaints. But of course this kind of philosophical therapy is only for the few since it would require that the therapist be in this high spiritual level and the patient to be a devoted disciple, Their spiritual relationship would then be like that of the sheikh or guru and his disciple or mureed.
A few western psychotherapists are just beginning to appreciate the importance of changing their patients' outlook to life rather than simply curing their limited disorder. They use techniques that are actually cognitive in nature but give them different names and claim their uniqueness. Of these the most well known is probably that of Logotherapy founded by Viktor Frankl. Logotherapy as an existential form of therapy is based on the belief that man has an inborn motive to see in life a meaning or a purpose to live for. This is what Frankl calls the "will to meaning". When this will to meaning is frustrated the person will develop a neurosis that he calls "existential vacuum". In treating such a disorder, the patient is helped to find a meaning and a purpose to live for and to be assisted in fulfilling this purpose. Frankl's logotherapy is rather spiritual in nature and he believes that religion offers man very rich and deep meanings to live for. Though it has different emphases than current cognitive interventions, it is nonetheless a cognitive therapy since creating a new meaning to one' life would by necessity cause him to change his thinking and his inner cognitive processes. So, a Muslim therapist using the approach of Frankl can help his patients to see an Islamic spiritual meaning in to his existence, since what purpose in our lives is more important than kowing God and being his faithful servants.
With this, I am coming to the vend of this long paper, but I do not like to shut my computer without saying a few words to the Muslim physicians.
The role of the psychological dimension in physical and psychosomatic medicine: an advice to Muslim physicians:
It is estimated that 70% of all patients who seek help from physicians for their 'physical' complaints and illnesses are in fact suffering from stress, anxiety based disorders and psychosomatic complaints. One study has even suggested that at least a third of all cardiology patients may have no real physical disorder but they suffer from panic attacks. Modern Western¬trained doctors, because of their intensive training in looking for specific bodily symptoms in which they are tested in medical schools, get used to this outlook and take it with them in their medical practice. As the famous Harvard physician, Dr. Herbert Benson, says in his best-selling book, Timeless healing (Simon and Schuster, 1996), Western trained doctors are tested in their ability to remember and diagnose specifics far more than their ability to assess overall patients. They accordingly emphasize particular symptoms over wholeness and body over mind.
For this reason, the 70% of patients whose core problem is psychological continue to receive drugs after drugs that can only help temporarily and at times only through suggestion. They may continue to see many doctors without finding one who recognizes their underlying emotional or spiritual disturbance, their depression or their sexual dysfunction as the real etiological factor in their external seemingly unrelated illness. If you add to this the 10 or 15% of those who really suffer from an anxiety or mood disorder and who know it, the total percentage of patients who need total or partial psychological or counseling services may be more than 80%.
Not only that, but also many patients who know that they are suffering from psychological problems may not get the help they really need. Because of the stigma of "insanity", many of them would not accept to see a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a counselor. And even those who do may not get the proper psychological therapy they need. Psychiatrists, as doctors who graduate from medical schools, prefer to prescribe drugs and other physical therapies to long interviews and counseling. Quite often they are burdened with too many patients exhibiting more serious mental disorders. Also their long experience with psychotic patients tends to reduce their acuity in recognizing minor psychological problems of adjustment that requires counseling or milder anxiety disorders that can be treated with psychotherapy. Many of them had not been intensively trained in the modern psychotherapeutic methods such as the use of systematic desensitization as a behavioral therapy for phobic anxieties, sexual disorders and similar problems, the use of cognitive therapy for depression and the use of aversion therapy for addictions, tics and some forms of obsessive-compulsive neuroses. Some psychiatrists who had been trained in some of these behavioral and cognitive therapies may not have the time for their application. Psychotherapy takes time to change established pathological habits. This is particularly true for those who work in private clinics. They can see more patients by briefly listening to their complaints and quickly prescribing medicines.
From what has been said, the medical services in our countries are in great need for the trained psychotherapists and counselors who can offer their tailored expertise to those who need it. General practitioners and even specialists should be informed about such psychological services and they should know when to refer some of the 80% of patients whose problems are either psychophysiological or downright anxiety and mood disordered. Since such patients can be cured or very much improved by psychotherapy and counseling, this may actually be economically cost effective in reducing the wasted hours of physicians and the expenses paid for drugs to hypothetical physical disorders that are in fact psychological in nature. Also, the training of counselors and psychotherapists would cost much less than training in medicine and would need much less time to complete.
When the number and efficiency of psychotherapists and counselors is recognized, physicians and psychiatrists would be happy to refer suitable patients to them either to be treated only by psychotherapeutic methods or to continue with their prescribed medication but for their healing to be supported by psychotherapy. On the other hand, patients who directly refer themselves to the psychotherapists and who may at times need psychiatric drugs or more serious medical interventions are to be referred to psychiatrists or physicians. Often, the patient who needs antidepressants or tranquillizers but who is afraid to go to a psychiatrist for fear of being stamped as "crazy", can benefit from the therapy of the counselor or psychotherapist who convinces him to accept referral for medical intervention. This co-operation between counselor and physician is very essential since at times purely organic disorders such as hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism can mimic anxiety symptoms and the patient may unknowingly refer himself to the psychologist or counselor.
In modern countries that recognize the importance of psychological therapies to anxiety based and mood disorders such as the United States, it is estimated that specific phobias, which are the most common form of anxiety disorders, are more common than alcohol abuse, drug dependence, and major depression added together. These psychological disorders are mainly treated by psychotherapists and counselors. It is reported that in 1990, the United States spent 147.8 billion mental health dollars. Of this amount as much as $46.6 billion (32%) were spent on the treatment of anxiety disorders. Thus it seems that in our Muslim and Afro-Asian countries the absence of such psychological services has ironically eclipsed the dire need for them.
I believe from what I wrote in this long article that committed Muslim physicians should do their best to receive a short course or diploma in Islamic counseling. We already mentioned that a good friend can be as good as, or sometimes better than a trained counselor. So Muslim physicians should be good friends to their patients and should not limit their therapeutic approach to the physical symptoms. If they realize that the patient in front of them is a person in whose systems the physical interacts in a camouflaged manner with the psychological and the spiritual, they would be able to help him or her in these three faces of his or her problem or to refer them to those who can help. And if the Muslim physician wishes to secure God's pleasure through his practice, then he cannot avoid being a warm loving friend and counselor-physician to his or her patients.
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