What is that one thing that you want the most in life?
Money? An adventurous romantic life with the spouse of your dreams? To become a celebrity?
Not really. These things are just the means of getting that one thing that we want the most in life – and that thing is happiness, peace, and contentment. And yet we live in an era when it’s fast becoming the hardest thing to get and retain.
There’s a lot of solid secular research on the effects of spirituality and practicing religion on mental health. As Islam is the true religion, it has the most positive effect on mental health. After all, who knows what can make us happy better than our own Creator? Many areas of Islamic beliefs and practices help strengthen us mentally.
The following are just a few of the innumerable number of ways in which Islamic beliefs and practices improve our psychological well-being.
Guilt vs. Allah’s Forgiveness
Guilt is a debilitating part of, and often a possible cause for, mental illnesses like depression and PTSD. Excessive guilt can cause mental paralysis in an otherwise healthy person, affecting every aspect of life from work to personal relationships.
What do you do when you have a sin or injustice in your book of deeds? A person who did something bad in the past can often find it very difficult to forgive himself. He keeps remembering it again and again, until one day he is driven to kill himself.
But what if he firmly believed that the Lord of the Universe is ready to forgive him, if he only asked for it? It would become much easier for him to forgive himself and make a fresh start.
Islam teaches that Allah forgives all sins as long as you’re alive. The door to repentance remains open till your last breath, or till the Day of Judgment arrives.
No matter what you have done in the past, you can always erase it from your record and start filling your book of deeds anew.
No One Bears the Burden of Another
Are you responsible for what others feel, say or do? Feeling guilty for other people’s actions is a result of a type of negative thinking called personalization. A mother thinks it’s her fault that her son drinks alcohol and clubs all night, although she has always done her best to give him a good moral education. Will she be held accountable for his sins on the Day of Judgment?
According to the Quran, definitely not.
No soul will bear the burden of another. (6:164)
Do the best you can for your loved ones. Try to be a positive influence in their lives. But, if after all your efforts they still choose to make wrong decisions, don’t let their mistake make you feel guilty. It’s not your fault.
Who are you? What is your life’s purpose? Where are you heading to?
One of the top mental health and productivity tips that famous life coaches provide is to live a purposeful life. It’s the second of the seven ‘Habits of Highly Effective People’ of Stephen Covey, and the tenth happiness activity of Lyubomirsky’s book “The How of Happiness”.
One of the foundational teachings of Islam is that your life has a purpose, and the Quran came down to guide you to that purpose and help you fulfill it.
Living a life being aware of your purpose provides you with a lifebuoy in difficult times. No matter how big your sorrow or problem is, it can’t overwhelm you when you have a higher purpose in clear view.
The five obligatory prayers remind you of that at regular intervals every day. Each time you say ‘Allahu Akbar’, it’s a reminder that nothing in your life matters more than worshiping Allah and obeying Him.
This World is Not the End
If you didn’t believe in accountability after death, how would you feel every time someone wronged you? How would you account for the injustices you and those you love inevitably face in life?
You’d either get depressed and hopeless or else you’d build up burning anger in your heart every time it happens. The burning emotions might give rise to a strong urge to get even right now! And you might end up behaving rashly or doing an even greater injustice to yourself.
But when you strongly believe that no matter what a person does to you, he can never get away, and even if he escapes in this world, he will have to make it up to you in the next, then it will help you to find peace in times of oppression, to make rational decisions with a cool mind, and to wait for justice.
Not Saying ‘If Only’
How often have you regretted making a decision in the past? It seemed like a good idea back then, but right now when you think of it, you feel like tearing your own hair.
If only I hadn’t eaten that three days old pasta, I wouldn’t have fallen sick.
If only I had attended that one lecture, I wouldn’t have failed the exam.
Or if only I hadn’t given the car keys to my reckless friend, he wouldn’t have died in that road accident.
Imagine how excruciatingly painful can life be for someone who believes that last thought and ruminates over it. This is exactly what the Prophet Muhammad wanted us to prevent when he said:
Beware of (saying) ‘If only,’ for ‘If only’ opens the door to Shaytan. (Ibn Majah 4168)
Of course, we do make very stupid decisions sometimes. But what Islam teaches is that there is something in between our taking that decision and the consequent event. It was that something and not our decision which allowed the event to take place.
That something is the qadar (decree) of Allah. If Allah had willed, he could have prevented the event despite our decision. But He didn’t do so, and there is always a very good reason why He didn’t.
If something overwhelms you, then say: ‘Qaddarallah, wa ma sha‘a fa’al’ (It is the decree of Allah, and He does what He wills). (Ibid.)