In the summer of 2007, I worked at a Christian summer camp in the mountains of Colorado.
My primary interest in being there was to save enough money to pay for my plane ticket to Kolkata, India later that fall, and working at a camp was an excellent path as my living and eating expenses were provided for and I could pocket all my salary.
I didn’t have much down time, but when I did, I chose to sit in the forest and read books.
One such book was Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. The core message of this book is that “emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”
This book dramatically changed my way of thinking during a pivotal time in my life. Many times I have come back to the truths presented in this book, as I recorded many of them in my journal.
Among the many topics discussed in this incredible, free webinar are dealing with negative self-talk, setting clear boundaries in relationships, being comfortable in one’s own body and emotions, and reconnecting with Allah.
What sister Khadija is trying to communicate to Muslim women is that we have a right and a responsibility to care for ourselves before we have any business or ability to care for others.
Reality is Where We Meet God
Scazzero says: “Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality. Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God… Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice…”
Otherwise, it’s a one-way street, a monologue we are delivering to the empty vastness of space, rather than the dialogue Allah intended for His servants to enjoy with Him.
Stand Against Oppression of Your Self
Would you allow someone to insult, degrade, or abuse your best friend, husband, wife, or child? No one would accept this and would do everything possible to stop it from continuing. Why then do we allow ourselves to attack and hurt our spirits by insulting and degrading ourselves?
Allah commands his servants to do everything in their power to end oppression.
O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. (Quran 4: 135)
It’s right there, in black and white: Stand against oppression even if you are the one doing the oppressing. Just as we have a real responsibility to stand up against injustice committed against other people, we have that same responsibility to stop abusing and oppressing ourselves through our inner chatter and beliefs.
Moving beyond the Past
Maybe we feel crippled by our past or from trauma we have gone through. We may feel like we are too broken to reach out to God through prayer. Especially if we have come from a non-Muslim background or were abused as children, it can be hard to see ourselves as anything different than the person we were back then.
Until we can love and appreciate ourselves and know ourselves deeply, we cannot move past our past pain and trouble.
Rather than trying to run from our mistakes in the past or from the emotions we feel when we think of those who victimized us, we must face the pain and see the benefits we have gained, even subconsciously, because of that pain.
Scazzero says: “God never loses any of our past for His future when we surrender ourselves to Him. Every mistake, sin, and detour we take in the journey of life is taken by God and becomes His gift for a future blessing.”
The Benefit of Solitude
One of the most serious diseases today is the disease of busy-ness. We are absolutely obsessed with avoiding boredom and loneliness at the detriment of almost everything else. We will do almost anything (halal and haraam) to avoid being along with our own thoughts and feelings. But as Omid Safi says:
“This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.”
The fact of the matter is that one cannot have a healthy relationship with God until and unless one has a healthy relationship with oneself.
Allah tells us in the Quran:
We will soon show them our signs in the universe and in their own souls, until it becomes quite clear to them that it is the Truth. (41:53)
As well, He reiterates the point in Surat al Dhariyat:
And there are signs on the earth for those who are certain. And in your own souls (too); will you not then see? (51: 20-21)
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)