As Long As There is Life… There is Hope!

18 October, 2016
Q I am concerned about mental illnesses. A person suffering from depression and obsessive compulsive disorder does not have the ability to use his/her mind rationally. As a result, they are unable to progress spiritually or otherwise. Yet, the mind does function on some level. Are they responsible for the negative thoughts about life and sometimes Islam? Although the mind says that there must be a reason behind this and that it is a test from God Almighty, how can you pass a test if your faculties of thought are impaired? It seems like oppression although you know that on no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. So there is this mass of contradictions in feelings and thoughts. Where does the truth lie? It seems unfair to the person suffering because they tried to live their entire life so far according to Islamic teachings. It brought fulfillment before but they now wonder if this is the right way because on some level they look at their condition as a punishment. If they have their ability to think clearly taken away from them, what function can they serve as a human being? They are in a state of limbo and have feeling of almost 'non-existence'. Patience is exercised to the fullest and there is no result. The future appears bleak. What type of things should a person with this mindset focus on Islamically? What is the purpose of testing a person so that they honestly can’t see the good in anything? It seems almost cruel. We are taught that these aren't the qualities of the Almighty. But the feeling tend to overwhelm the teachings…

Answer

Salam Dear Amina,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you for having asked such sober questions about psychiatric disorders, which, al-hamdu lillah, also show that you must have been in a state of remission to produce such brilliant ideas. These questions are thought-provoking and must have been posed under normal conditions.

The brain is a fantastic organ; the causes of psychiatric disorders are legion and not well-understood, the spectrum of which spans from a genius to an eccentric. I have given separate answers to the eight queries through the following.

1.Depression and obsessive compulsive disorder:

Depression is a clinical syndrome expressing itself in an irritable mood, loss of interest and difficulty in thinking and concentration. Depressed patients may commit suicide. Obsessive compulsive neurosis is characterized by intruding anxiety-provoking thoughts, sometimes accompanied by repetitive impulses to perform certain voluntary actions which may be unwanted.

The psychiatric disorders that you are suffering from [depression and obsessive compulsive disorder] could be due to undesirable electro-chemical signals given by neurons [brain cells] because of a deficiency or abnormal metabolism of one or more of the following nine neuro-transmitters viz. serotonin [5-hydroxy-tryptamine], dopamine, gaba [gamma amino-butyric acid], glycine, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, acetyl choline, nor-epinephrine, and substance P [peptides].

2. Are you responsible for the negative thoughts?

Every one comes into this world having no choice or say in the matter and bringing his/her own destiny. The Quran states:

{And your Lord creates and chooses whom He pleases; to choose is not theirs; glory be to Allah, and exalted be He above what they associate [with Him].} (Al- Qasas 28:68).

It also says in Al-Furqan 25:2 what means:

{He, Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and Who did not take to Himself a son, and Who has no associate in the kingdom, and Who created everything, then ordained for it a measure.}

Destiny does not write itself. The Maker writes it. Everyone comes with a mission, and as long as we are alive, our mission is not yet fulfilled…

Afflictions of the Earth and ourselves have been recorded, long before we came into existence, in the Book of Destiny called ‘al-lawh al-mahfuuz’, as the Quran says, what means:

{No evil befalls on the earth nor in your own souls, but it is in a book before We bring it into existence; surely that is easy to Allah.} (Al-Hadid 57:22).

We could have been still-born, born in a royal palace or in a slum, as handsome or ugly, as a boy or girl, with high IQ or a lower one, with no congenital deformity or with many, and with multiple defective genes and hereditary diseases.

Every person’s ID card relating to his anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and all the other characteristics are encoded in the genes of his chromosomes and determined in the womb. Acceptance of destiny acts as a solace in many stressful situations. Allah says, what means:

{Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth; He creates what He pleases; He grants to whom He pleases daughters and grants to whom He pleases sons.} (Ash-Shurah 42:49).

Allah, unlike us, cannot be questioned for His acts. The Quran says, what means:

{He cannot be questioned concerning what He does and they shall be questioned.} (Al-Anbiyaa 21:23).

Allah Almighty bestows His bounties on all, with different shares, in accordance to His will and plan, as the Quran says, what means:

{All do We aid– these as well as those– out of the bounty of your Lord, and the bounty of your Lord is not confined. See how We have made some of them to excel others, and certainly the hereafter is much superior in respect of excellence.} (Al-Israa 17:20-21).

Yet, we must be thankful to Allah, both in adversity and prosperity, as the Quran says, what means:

{And if We make man taste mercy from Us, then take it off from him, most surely he is despairing, ungrateful. And if We make him taste a favor after distress has afflicted him, he will certainly say: The evils are gone away from me. Most surely he is exulting, boasting; Except those who are patient and do good, they shall have forgiveness and a great reward.} (Hud 11:9-11).

The least we can do is to thank Him for having created life! Not only that, we have to thank Him for having created us as human beings with human features.

As long as there is life, there is hope… You are much better off than others who are born permanently blind, deaf-mute, with cerebral palsy, incurable carcinomas, etc. Psychiatric diseases could be tolerated and treated. Al-hamdu lillah, there are also periods of remissions when the person behaves normal.

3. If this is a test from Allah, how can you pass the test if your faculties of thought are impaired? It seems like oppression:

Allah Almighty is The Farthest from being oppressor. On the contrary, He is All-Compassionate, All-Merciful. Allah has chosen planet Earth to be a temporary testing ground for the Hereafter. For any test to be meaningful, it requires that the tested should have the freedom of choice, thought, intention, decision and action. This is without any external or internal constraints.

Such freewill is absent during the active phase of mental illness. Allah will judge us, having taken into consideration the prevailing hormonal and other conditions in which we were placed and which influenced our freewill, when we chose one course of action as opposed to another.

Suffering in this world is a trial and a test not only for the mentally ill persons, but also for those with whom they interact, and even incidental onlookers who are expected to respond. It makes some sense when we jokingly say that those who caught sufficient Hell on Earth will go to Paradise. Allah showers His blessings, mercy and guidance on those who patiently persevere when afflicted with calamity on Earth. The Quran says, what means:

{And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient, who, when a misfortune befalls them, say: “Surely we are Allah’s and to Him we shall surely return.” Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the followers of the right course.} (Al-Baqarah 2:155-157).

This also includes psychiatric cases. People who encountered suffering and adversity have better chances to go to Paradise, for Allah says, the meaning of:

{Or do you think that you would enter the garden while yet the state of those who have passed away before you has not come upon you; distress and affliction befell them and they were shaken violently, so that the Messenger and those who believed with him said: When will the help of Allah come? Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!} (Al-Baqarah 2:214).

Also, there is a hadith in which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“No worry, calamity, distress, illness or grief strikes a believer, even the prick of a thorn, except that it will expiate the sins from him because of this.” (Ahmad ibn Hanbal.)

If any insane or ignorant person commits a sin during the active phase of the disease, Allah shall not hold him/her responsible, especially if he/she repents during the stage of remission. The Quran confirms this in the meaning of:

{Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn [to Allah] soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns [mercifully], and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise.} (An-Nisaa 4:17).

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said:

“The pen does not record the deeds of three persons: the child until the age of puberty; the sleeping person until he wakes up; the insane until he is sane.” (Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi.)

4. You think it is a punishment:

Allah understands human weaknesses and failings, because He Himself created us in weakness and helplessness, weak in flesh and resolution, impatient and fretful. Man is hasty, miserly and tight-fisted, argumentative, ignorant and foolish and in a state of loss. All these are in Allah’s plan and our finite brain cannot fathom His Will and design.

We must not question the logic of having an All-Powerful and All-Knowing God Who creates faulty human beings and then blames them for His own mistakes, because Allah, nastaghfiru Allah, never makes mistakes. On the Day of Judgment, Allah will take into consideration the net result of hormones and neurotransmitters that were responsible for our actions. Allah will never impose a burden on us more than what we can bear. He says, what means:

{Allah does not impose upon any soul a duty but to the extent of its ability; for it is [the benefit of] what it has earned and upon it [the evil of] what it has wrought: Our Lord! do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake; Our Lord! do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us, Our Lord do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and grant us protection and have mercy on us, Thou art our Patron, so help us against the unbelieving people.} (Al-Baqarah 2:286).

5. What function can they serve as a human being?

They could be examples of diversities in Allah’s creative powers. This is as well as for the rest of us to ponder and strive to help out our fellow-men, whether financially or by giving a job to the disabled or through scientific progress in better diagnosis and treatment, etc.

6. Does the future appear bleak?

No! Every cloud has a silver lining. Although a hadith says that for every disease there is a cure, the treatment of psychiatric disorders with present-day pharmaceutical products is not satisfactory. This is in spite of drugs such as amitryptaline, paroxetine, fluvoxamine and others not yet in the market. However, the neuro-scientists are busy working at it, and the future does not look bleak.

7. What type of things a person should focus on Islamically?

It may be better and without any cost to have communion with Allah than to consult a psychiatrist, because during prayers, meditations and supplications, just as in fasting and exercise, certain substances are released by the brain called enkephalins and endorphins, which also act as special neuro-transmitters and are responsible for our euphoria (well-being) and tranquility. So, your daily prayers, and fasting in Ramadan and other optional fasts should help you overcome the unpleasant hours.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Nothing can change qadar (destiny) except du`aa’ (supplications and prayers).” (Ahmad ibn Hanbal.)

The most dreaded complication of depression is suicide. However, you should have no fear whatsoever, because you are lucky to be a Muslim and you know fully well that suicide is one of the major sins in Islam. International statistics show that the suicide rate in Egypt and North Africa is zero, while in Estonia it is 40/100,000 and highest in Lithuania with 45.

8. What is the purpose of testing?

It is preparing us for Paradise. After having been brought up on planet Earth as the best of creation called ashraf al-makhlukaat, for which no amount of thanks to Allah is sufficient, we are being prepared for entrance to another ‘planet’; Paradise, for further development. Those of us who have made it to the top of the class in the Earthly exams can get in sooner than those below. Dwellers in Paradise will be the successful ones in conformity with the words of the Adhan (call to prayer):

“Hurry towards prayer;
Hurry towards success.”

Please note that success always follows prayer, in the Adhan.

Man makes his entrance into this world in an animal body with a built-in pure ruh(soul), which enters the fetus during the 4th month of conception. In other words, Man is a soul (ruh) cloaked in an animal body. This ruh becomes polluted during its sojourn on Earth and has to return to Allah after the last heart-beat. All Earthly diseases and defects, physical or mental, are left behind on planet Earth with the dead body, but the soul (ruh) departs to return to its origin, Allah.

The process of purification of the soul begins with whatever corrective measures needed for it. The soul will be rinsed off, from whatever impurities it had collected during its Earthly sojourn and will be purified before being allowed to enter Paradise where we would have a full vision of Allah for eternity…

In Paradise, all Earthly defects will be corrected and Allah will remove all hatred and bitterness from our hearts. For Allah says, what means:

{And We will remove whatever of ill-feeling is in their breasts; the rivers shall flow beneath them and they shall say: “All praise is due to Allah Who guided us to this, and we would not have found the way had it not been that Allah had guided us; certainly the messengers of our Lord brought the truth;” and it shall be cried out to them that this is the garden of which you are made heirs for what you did.} (Al-Aaraf 7:43).

There will be no sensation of fear nor grief but peace and security and no further death. All sorrow will be removed and joy will prevail. It will be our place of final return. There will even be no headache and no intoxication from the drink.

However, although Al-Bukhari says in hadith (64535) that we will enter Paradise only after we are cleansed, Allah’s mercy is so vast that some of us may be asked to enter Paradise in spite of our sins. The ills and evil tendencies responsible for our mistakes and sins on Earth will be removed from the righteous. Hence, the life after will be a divine makeup for all our sufferings in this materialistic world of today.

In case you need more specialized assistance, I advise you to make use of our Ask the Counselor service, where you will be more than welcomed to submit your personal questions.

Thank you again for your question and please, always keep in touch.

Salam.

About Ebrahim Kazim
Dr. Ebrahim Kazim is a medical doctor living in Trinidad and Tobago. Together with his wife he established an Islamic academy in Trinidad in 1985.