The Blame Game


http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrentunnicliff/3289103242/By Othman Mohammad

I attended a lecture one Saturday night at a local mosque where the speaker discussed the topic of “envy” (hasad). He went over the verses from Surat al-Falaq (Qur’an 113) that address the topic, using them as evidence that al-ayn (the evil eye) and the interference of  jinn are evils that we have to be aware of and ward off with our daily adhkar (remembrance). I found it interesting that he described a myriad of symptoms that can afflict people subject to hasad and how roqya (a special form of supplication) could rid people of these symptoms. It hit me that many of these symptoms actually overlap with known neuropsychiatric illnesses and can be treated either with therapy, medications, or even with both. The speaker suggested that people should try roqya when they have these symptoms, and if that does not work, to then seek medical treatment. I could not have disagreed more with this last statement! It is not uncommon for people to go to religious figures asking for roqya, which many times does not work, and then begin the blame game. Was it the roqya that was not accurate, or did the sheikh (scholar) use the wrong roqya for these symptoms? Perhaps the sheikh did not have enough experience? Could it be that the person seeking roqya was not sincere enough in his or her pursuit of recovery? Or maybe this roqya needs more time to work. The options are endless and you get to pick whom to blame. The sad thing is that many times Islam gets blamed for failing to cure these symptoms.

Growing up, I used to pray at a masjid near my home. There was a brother whom I knew for a number of years who used to go there for jama`a (congregational prayers).  Many times, he would stand in the salah (prayer) to make the first takbeerah (praise of God, said at the beginning of salah), but would keep having doubts in his heart about whether he made the takbeerah the right way. He would compulsively keep repeating it until he felt it deep inside. Many times, he would miss most of the salah because of this behavior. Another brother had the same problem with his wudu (ablutions for the salah). He would keep repeating his wudu time after time after time because he would feel that something wasn’t quite right about his wudu and by the time he got to the prayer hall, he would be soaking in water and would sometimes miss most of the prayer. These two brothers would get constant advice from the respected elders and imams in the community to do isti’aadha (seek refuge in God from the devil) because they were obeying his whisperings with their behavior.

If you have ever had an introductory course in Psychology you would have recognized by now that these two dear brothers had a form of an anxiety disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and that they would probably have benefitted from some form of therapy or medications. Unfortunately, in this specific situation, the side effects of the previous intervention (isti’aadha) could have been worse than the side effects of any form of therapy or medications. They might start doubting the validity of their du`a’ (supplication), possibly distancing themselves from Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), or wondering if they are not worthy of Allah’s protection. This could lead to depression and estrangement from Allah (swt). I am aware of many cases of young people who turned their back to their deen (religion) because getting more religious and reading more Qur’an did not help with their depressed mood or their sexual identity problems. All they had needed was to get help from an expert in the field of mental health. (Try praying more qiyam (late night prayers) and see how that might help heal an open infected wound or an acute appendicitis!)

During the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt, many Muslim groups resorted to the mosques to make i’tikaf (a certain type of prayer) and read Sahih al Bukhari’s book of hadith (narrations). The rationale was that with the baraka (blessings) of reading this book, Allah (swt) would miraculously intervene to save Egypt from the French invasion. What happened to the Muslim intellect? Had they not read in Sahih al Bukhari about how the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) was a strategic planner in many military situations? It is narrated from Anas radi allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him): Allah’s Apostle went out towards the Khandaq (i.e. Trench) and saw the Emigrants and the Ansar digging the trench in the cold morning. They had no slaves to do that (work) for them. When the Prophet saw their hardship and hunger, he said, ‘O Allah! The real life is the life of the Hereafter, so please forgive Ansar and the Emigrants.’ They said in reply to him, ‘We are those who have given the pledge of allegiance to Muhammad to observe Jihad as long as we live.’

If anything, it is with the blessing of their hard work that Allah (swt) granted them victory and saved the Muslims from absolute extermination.

Dear brothers and sisters, we sometimes struggle in our pursuit to achieve a balanced understanding of the interface between Islam and the world we live in. Our ummah (community) suffered a lot from people who secularized the relevant religious and sacred details of our human existence and the result was estrangement from the divine and a life void of warmth and spirituality. In the same token, we suffer from people who have misunderstood the dynamics of the cause and effect in this world that—by the merciful and wise decree of Allah (swt)—function independently of one’s religious affiliation so that life can happen and take shape and form. Because of their misunderstandings, our ummah missed out on the train of technical and scientific advancement and lagged behind for centuries.

One of the core general characteristics of our religion is that it is a religion of knowledge. That applies to both knowledge of the material world as well as knowledge of the unseen (ghaib) world and the effect that it has on our daily lives. Being able to navigate in those two realms requires a lot of wisdom.

When we tell people that roqya is the cure and it fails, we are sending a mixed message that can be unsettling to the faith. We are making an assumption that these psychological symptoms are curable with religious interventions, and when this does not work we are saying that religion failed in that sense. Our position should be more humble and a lot wiser. We should inform people that we really do not know what the cause of these symptoms is, and that we need to consult with experts in the field. We should tell people that in those instances we should make du`a’ to Allah (swt) (or make roqya) like we always do when we face difficulties and to ask Him to show us the way, rather than saying that this roqya WILL cure the symptoms. The difference between these two attitudes is remarkable.  To do otherwise may cost some people their own faith.

Allah knows best.

 

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35 Comments

  1. Suhaila says:

    The brothers you mentioned who couldn’t get through the wudu and prayer do not have OCD. The reason they keep repeating the wudu and salah is because THEY FORGET and that is the result of the whisperings of Satan like the hadiths narrate. The advice the brothers were given about istiaadha is correct, and the only way this kind of whispering will dissapear is if they ignore it and pray to god that it goes away.

  2. Sarah says:

    Mashallah, what a fantastic article.

    Jazakallah Khair.

  3. AbdelRahman Mussa says:

    I love this post, totally love it. I’ve been having this same discussion on and off with people – how some Muslims play the victim card by blaming everything on jinn and the evil eye.

    I get calls from angry mothers about their children who don’t pray or revise… blaming the jinn for their perfect childs shortcomings.

    I get calls from gay Muslims blaming it on jinn !

    Playing the victim is really easy when you can blame some un-known, unverifiable, un-quantifiable enemy… and get away with it.

    I’m not denying the existence of ‘the evil eye’ or ‘black magic’. No. They exist. But we should go to that which is quantifiable before we go to that which isn’t. Why ? Simply, what is quantifiable is more under our control than what isn’t.

    Also, the more you fear something, the more power it has over you.

    • Ali says:

      I wish there was a like button, lol. I am guilty of doing this during undergrad with classes, thinking to myself that Allah doesn’t want me to get an A. The reality is I didn’t study as hard as I should have!! Definitely an important article.

    • Kirana says:

      totally liking your pragmatic view of *why* we shouldn’t really encourage this mindset. not really against religious methods, but let me know if someone is known to cure autism yet by this method.

      yes, maybe God will indeed bring about with His Might the solution in a direct manner. or, maybe He is saying, “I chose to give you the cure, by bestowing my Knowledge on some of your people about your ailment, and it is better for *your* personal development to embark on the effort to find this cure from among them.” why we don’t consider this perspective more often, i don’t know.

      i totally agree with the final paragraph of the article. proper practitioners, whether in physical medicine or religious healing, will not be averse to admitting when they don’t really know but will try something. crucially, they will invest time to understand the problem, i.e. they will *diagnose* first. but a lot of non-practitioners like to tell people in difficulty “oh, repeat this ayat” like a talisman or magic incantation cure-for-all. they don’t have skin in the game, it doesn’t affect them if it doesn’t work. but the danger to the afflicted when, say, it doesn’t cure their child’s autism, particularly when they haven’t also been encouraged to develop a relationship with Allah, is not inconsiderable.

  4. Umm Naadirah says:

    as salaam alaikum,

    I actually found myself disagreeing quite a bit with your main point.

    There is no harm in seeking spiritual healing either before seeking medical treatment or while receiving medical treatment.

    If anything, advising people to leave the deen in order to get secular treatment is remiss.

    My husband has a relative who suffered from a very high fever. The first thing the family did was take her to the doctor. They admitted her to hospital and for over a week none of the specialists they called in could figure out what was wrong with her, and none of the treatment worked.

    Then they called an Imam. She recovered a few days after that, with no explanations whatsoever from the doctors.

    Was it placebo, because of her trust in Allah’s qadr? Does it matter? The cure worked, alhamdulillah.

    I have met over a handful of Muslims who have been able to stop taking psychiatric medicine because they were healed by Allah. I am one of those Muslims, diagnosed with dysthymia and told I would be on antidepressants for life. I have been off of them for over 5 years now, and alhamdulillah I live a normal life.

    Now, I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but it’s certainly worth a shot. If it doesn’t work, the Muslim in question shouldn’t question their faith. We know that from the story of Musa AS whose prayers went unanswered for 40 years. And yet the ummah can’t even wait more than a couple of days before they decide the status of their duaa?

    There has to be a balance between modern medicine and Islam. Your article appears to be just as out of balance as those it accuses of being out of balance.

    • Sithara says:

      I agree with Umm Naadirah – this article seems to downplay the role of religious remedies and overplay the success of modern psychiatry/medicine.

      As a person who has studied psychology for years (both as an undergrad and in medical school), its clear that modern medicine/psychiatry has no real clue as to the causes of certain psychiatric diseases – most commonly lumped as schizophrenia. Yet, the symptoms of these diseases most resemble possession by jinn or other mysterious causes. The prognosis from modern medicine is not good – 1/3 improve, 1/3 remain the same, and 1/3 get worse. Roqya or Religious cures could hardly do worse.

      Even depression – one can ask serious questions as to what role modern medications such as SSRIs play in healing. 80% of those who have a major depressive episode recover without treatment anyway. Again, Roqya, or religous cures, could hardly do worse.

      As for Roqya/religious cures not working, any cure, whether religious or based on modern medicine, will only work if Allah wills. There are never any guarantees.

      Modern medicine fails all the time, but that does not turn us away from the fact that it has much to offer overall. Why can’t we say about Roqya/Religous cures?

      One of course must see a qualified practioner – whether one is dealing with Roqya/Religious cures or modern medicine. If one ends up dealing with charlatans, then, one should not be surprised at failure.

  5. Zaid says:

    Aslm,

    I get the point you’re trying to make, and I believe it is about taking a balanced view and applying our minds in moderation when dealing with such issues. But to be honest, I think your over emphasis on the lack of effectiveness of the ruqya versus the claimed success of modern medicine is ill informed and creates many misleading notions about the truth behind modern medical approaches to mental health.

    The absolute abuse of medication and misdiagnosis of many supposedly mental health issues is evident in the continued decay of society, especially teenagers who are not even allowed to be depressed without being diagnosed as bipolar, ADD, chronic depression, or worse. The approach you’re suggesting, bar a small note you concluded with about moderation and transparency, suggests that there is no merit in the belief in the whisperings of shaytaan, etc.

    Your article is unfortunately woefully imbalanced and can cause more harm than good because of the very distinct bias against traditional approaches rather than more clearly advocating moderation and honesty. It’s a pity because the points you raise are very valid.

  6. Asmet says:

    i totally disagree with practically everything u said! everyone is subjected to feelind sad and blue at times,but when we let the sadness take over,im sorry but that is from our weak connection to Allah.having a firm belief that Allah knows best,and that the Almighty promised us in the holy Q uran that with his rememberence comes ease! how can u compare Allahs promise to us,to medication? of course i understand the piont where we have to make an effort with the Duaa,both together inShullah will give us happiness.the true tawakal 3a ALLAH IN EVERYTHING is the real solution…everything after that is secondary….

  7. Omair Q. says:

    Apparently some of the readers have misunderstood the point of the article. The author does not say to stay away from spiritual remedy but is warning about possible ramifications when spiritual remedies fail because the problem is actually something that needs to be treated with therapy or medication.

    I have personally seen people’s lives completely destroyed due to being stuck in the cycle that the author describes (seek spiritual healing, when that fails, play the blame game)

    Have any of you considered that seeking therapy or medication from trained professionals can also be a spiritual endeavor?

    I will agree that abuse occurs when people are misdiagnosed or overly medicated but remember that abuse is not exclusive to the medical community. At least that industry is regulated and they have someone to answer to. Wish I could say the same about our spiritual healers.

  8. Othman Mohammad says:

    Asslamu Alaikum brothers and sisters,
    JAK for reading the article and leaving a comment. I wanted to ask more questions for all of us to think about, then try to answer:
    1) Re: Suhaila: What if I were to add more information about these people I mentioned in the paper and to tell you, that in addition to problems with beginning the salah, he also had other compulsive behavior in his life such as cleaning, stove and door checking, and constantly counting odd numbers in his head (1,3,5,7,9,11 etc..), would you still consider the salah problem part of an OCD disorder or from Shaytan? Why yes and why no?
    2) Also if I told you that he actually took a medication and his salah got better, in addition to the other aforementioned symptoms, would you still say this was from shaytan?
    3) Re; Umm Naddira and Sithara: Great remarks and I hope inshAllah that we continue to discuss this matter.

    Fever of unknown origin (FUO) is something that you can read about and it has a remitting and relapsing form. Allah knows best what he had though.

    Please show me the evidence that says that 80% of MDD resolves without medication or some form of therapy (including culturally informed psychotherapy), and by resolves we mean that we restore the quality of life without the above mentioned interventions.

    Dysthymia is one form of depression that is not severe as Major Depressive Disorder, but that could be incapacitating. I agree that many psychiatrists believe in nothing but medicine, which is not accurate. Also, Psychotherapy can be culturally informed, and if were to treat a depressed practicing Muslim, I would definitely include more religious supports to treat his disorder, no doubt.

    With all due respect, I disagree with what Sithara mentioned that we really have no clue about Psychiatric disorders (we know a lot more now about schizophrenia for example, that we do not need to call it possession) and that these symptoms resemble possession, and would really love to learn more about what the symptoms of possession are from the Quran and the Sunnah if you don’t mind providing links or evidence for that, and then how to tease what is possession from what is not. We actually have barely any evidence that possession actually exists in the first place. Waswasa from shaytan we all agree on, but possession, maybe not. It is also inaccurate what you mentioned about disorders being all lumped together as schizophrenia, and that “modern medicine fails all the time!!!”

    The fact that 1/3 get better, 1/3 stay the same and 1/3 worsen is true for many Psychiatric illnesses but not for all of them. This is better than giving a ruqya alone (as a monotherapy) for life time for someone who is floridly psychotic and has auditory hallucinations , or someone with suicidal ideations, and then have these people risk their lives without Psychiatric intervention.

    Again this is not a competition between science and religion, nor did I say that anywhere in the article. I was very specific that many people who use roqya are dishonest about the nature of the symptoms and they label these symptoms under spiritual categories, and recommend specific interventions that they would not have recommended for other symptoms such as a common cold or a leg a fracture. I say, make duaa to Allah SWT all the time whether you are depressed, have an anxiety or on OCD, have a common cold, or have an infection, but also ask an expert, and take your medication. There is no difference why I would use duaa for any of these conditions but not others. Duaa is a form of ibadaa and you will get the reward for that, irrespective of the causality. What I am specifically discussing in this paper (which I thought I made clear), is the labeling of neuropsychiatric symptoms as spiritual without having evidence for that. Allah knows best.

    • Gibran says:

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I disagree with you, however I will say it is good you are asking for evidence from the Quran and Sunnah from those who disagree with you.
      4:59
      O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.

      Sami’na wa ata’na!

  9. Basyma shehab says:

    شكرا نحتاج الى الكثير

  10. Gibran says:

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    I disagree with points of this article. It is quite clear than many of the psychological ills come from Shayateen.

    Now I don’t do ruqya, but I do read the last two surah’s of the Quran regularly. I remember I used to get TONS of waswasa and now that I read these two I get next to none.

    There is no way that is a coincidence. This article is downplaying the role of faith. We Muslims BELIEVE. We can’t see but we trust Allah and His Messenger-they do not lie to us.

    Now there are many bidah forms of ruqya I think, and are thus probably all batil.

    However no one can deny the sheer benefits Allah brings with just the last two surah’s alone.

    These psychiatrists don’t seem to be helping. People are just getting more and more depressed! This counseling looks to be like a ridiculously effective scam industry.

    Go there fore an hour, give them a ton of money, talk about your problems, they give you medications, and then you return to the same thing. It’s utterly ridiculous.

    There are some things which clearly require cures that Alhamdulilah we have been provided with-bi polar disorder, etc.

    I remember reading a story about a man who was recited Al-Falaq I think but it wasn’t working for him. He then admitted he had transgressed others rights.

    In any case, we have authentic duas from the Sunnah. I was guided towards them and Allah solved so many problems for me you can’t imagine Alhamdulilah

    This meainstream psychiatry doesn’t really seem to help this world! People aren’t getting cured! How many people are on medications? Are these medications helping? It’s creating another disease-diseases of the heart. Lack of tawwakul on Allah.

    I can agree with the last part however.
    “We should tell people that in those instances we should make du`a’ to Allah (swt) (or make roqya) like we always do when we face difficulties and to ask Him to show us the way, rather than saying that this roqya WILL cure the symptoms.”
    Yes. making dua, especially last two surahs and asking for guidance(first Surah+additional duas) is good.

    However, truth be told, the apparent effects of dua seem far more effective than counseling.

  11. Gibran says:

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Oh as for the OCD problem-simple. Dua, physical effort since Allah only places a burden on us which we can bear, and then tawwakul.

    The person must make dua, especially Al-Falaq and An-Nas, physically stop his bidah OCD out of fear of Allah and rely on Allah.

    I had minor OCD systems a few years back but Alhamdulilah those went away and I am 100% fine now I think.

  12. Adnan says:

    Salam Alaikum Br. Othman and others,

    Jazakallah khaira for your post. Sometimes I feel very uncomfortable with the emphasis that some in our communities place upon hasad and ruqya. The matter of ruqya in particular strikes me as very confusing. On one hand, turning to ruqya sometimes seems very encouraged in our communities. On the other hand, I’ve always been moved by the Messenger’s statement, narrated by Ibn Abbas and considered sahih, that “70,000 of my followers will enter paradise without account, and they are those who do not practice ruqya, see no evil omens in things, but put their trust in their Lord.”

    On the face of it, the hadith seems to completely discourage the practice of ruqya, but maybe I’m misinterpreting it or reading a bad translation of it (I couldn’t find the Arabic, unfortunately)? I think some Muslims would say that there is a halal form of ruqya (reciting the Quran over the sick, for instance) vs. a haram form.

    Still, in any case, the hadith suggests that a major problem when pursuing ruqya is placing one’s trust in the ruqya itself rather than in our Lord. Too many people may seek to find cures for their illnesses by devoting themselves to ruqya, forgetting that the recitation of quran over them will not benefit them unless God wills it. It is also common, for instance, for a sick person to drink Zamzam water, believing that its holiness itself can cure him or her.

    When such heavy trust is placed in “special recitations” or “holy water” rather God Himself, one is likely to face the disappointments of faith that you mentioned, Br. Othman, when these things don’t work.

    In the same way, of course, one cannot have undue trust in drugs and modern medicine to cure one’s medical woes. But you’re certainly not suggesting that we simply redirect our faith away from so-called “religious treatments” to “modern medical treatments.” Rather, I think you would argue that when one has placed his or her full trust in God alone, seeking modern medical treatments may itself be the most Islamic course of action (rather than a blind rejection of modern medicine and preference for “traditional” cures).

  13. sameer says:

    actually I have a similar problem. Very often after doing wudu, I feel I did not do wudu complete. Even during Salah, I forgot about how many Sujood I did in each rakah

  14. Rubaba says:

    Subhaanal Laah, indeed, Allah knows best and He will always know best. Very educative post. Jazaakumul Laahu khairan

  15. Ahmad says:

    Jazakallah kayr suhaibwebb.com

    I believe this is a healthy discussion. Please,regarding those who turn their backs to the Deen due to their frustrations or difficult experiences have they gotten peace and tranquility elsewhere?

    Try this video,insha Allah you will understand how to balance the two. http://thedeenshow.com/watch/2693/dealing-with-depression-or-suicidal-thoughts

    May Allah guide us all and make it easy for us. Amin

  16. Scarfed says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article Othman. It was much needed. Thank you once again.

    It would be great if you could please explain how a non-believer atheist achieves success in tasks in spite of lack of duas and belief?

    I look forward to your reply.

  17. Ali says:

    I think this article is really important. You don’t go to a dentist to remodel your house because his expertise is in dental work, not house construction.

    No one is saying NOT to do make dua or do ruqya. What is being said, simply put, is not to expect a miracle to come descend from the sky which is often the case when people go to shuyookh as opposed to experts. If you want to get cured, you have to follow protocol. Go to the doctor, figure out what is going on, and follow procedure, and do all that WHILE asking Allah for help. I think people who seek ruqya may illustrate a symptom of weak iman.

  18. Sithara says:

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I would like to give some evidence for my statements.

    Re: My statement that 80% of those with major depressive disorder get better without treatment, I apologize, this is not quite accurate – more accurate is that 80% get better with or without treatment.

    Evidence: Eaton and colleagues found that 85% if patients with major depressive disorder recovered – but only 58% had ever treatment for it.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2761826/

    Re: Schizophrenia – it is generally defined as when a person looses touch with reality (and has not other explanation, such as drug use).

    This is an extremely broad definition that can cover just about anything. A wildly raving person (not under the influence of substances, or not known to have any other disorder) fits, but so does the person who is absolutely quiet and does not move.

    Imagine if a dermatologist simply lumped all rashes into one category and gave pretty much the same two or three treatments for any rash. It would be outrageous – but this is exactly what modern medicine does for schizophrenia.

    While I do believe in Jinn possession, and believe that it could cause schizophrenic behavior, i also said ‘other mysterious causes’ – certainly Jinn don’t have to literally possess a person to cause schizophrenic behavior – whisperings, etc are enough.

    It would be interesting to hear what you believe is the one cause, or at least, a major cause, of schizophrenia, which takes into account the vastly different symptomatology that is possible to be displayed…

    Sadly, modern medicine does fail a lot…2/3 of the time for schizophrenia and other psychatric diseases! Other chronic diseases don’t do very well either – cancer is a sad example (especially ovarian, pancreatic, lung, brain…).

    Modern medicine’s great claim to fame is its treatment of acute diseases – but even that success may turn to failure due to antibiotic resistance that is creeping up (May Allah help us all…)

    Final question – we demand the best of our medical doctors, but are willing to go to any quack who claims he or she has knowledge of alternative therapies. It it really a fair comparison?

    I would love to see success/failure rates of highly trained, and highly qualified Roqya/Religious practitioners…there are so-called healers in India who claim to use the Quran and Sunnah but can’t even pronounce Arabic properly!

    Ultimately, I agree with Gibran- I’m sure we won’t agree, but let’s leave our disagreement to Allah, who knows best :)!

    • Othman Mohammad says:

      Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatu Allah,

      I commend you for you reviewing the inaccuracies that you reported earlier so JAK for doing that. There are more inaccuracies in your reply and a couple of misconceptions that I would like to correct.

      I am assuming that you are in the medical field so I will get into more technical details to make this a learning experience for all of us isA.

      1- You cited the paper and stated: more accurate is that 80% [of MDD] get better with or without treatment.” This not what the study concluded, the conclusion was:

      “Major depressive disorder is unremitting in 15% of cases and recurrent in 35%. About half of those with a first-onset episode recover and have no further episodes” (where does it say that 80% get better with or without treatment, did not find that in the whole paper..)

      2- Also, very importantly in this study, treatment was defined as: “Treatment for depression was defined as whether the respondent reported having talked to a doctor about 1 or more of the episodes”, so this might not include taking a medication or having a formal therapy.,, they also add: “The assessment of treatment is limited in this epidemiologic study”
      3- Also the biology of the individuals had a role in predicting the pattern after their first depressive episode: “Individuals with 1 or 2 short alleles of the serotonin transporter gene were at higher risk for an initial episode, but experienced episodes of shorter duration. There were few strong predictors of recovery or recurrence.”
      4- Also, the median time for each of these episodes was 12 weeks, that is 4 months, and median time to recovery was 2 or 3 years for both men and women… so the question becomes, do you recommend that people stay without treatment, and allow their quality of life to suffer, just because a study showed that a percentage of people will have spontaneous remission? What would you do then , if this particular patient happens to deteriorate and to get suicidal because you put your bet on the wrong horse (spontaneous remission)
      5- Also , this study is commenting on the first Major depressive episode. The more important question, is what happens to these people who get this episode, does that mean that they will get more episodes in the future and have then the Major depressive disorder? What does the article say about that. The article actually mentions (citing another paper) “The probability of recurrence after 10 years was 67%8 and after 15 years was 85%.9” So, people are more prone to more depressions in the future when they have that first episode, and the longer you leave these episodes untreated the longer they stay and the worst the outcome. Untreated depression can lead to brain changes that make it more difficult for the medication to work down the road. (you can PubMed that, many many studies..
      6- You are confusing Schizophrenia with Psychosis, not every Psychosis is schizophrenia, but every schizophrenia is a psychosis. Psychosis is what you defined as a loss of touch with reality, taking the form of delusions, hallucinations, disorganization or negative symptoms. The examples that you give do not qualify a person for a diagnosis for schizophrenia, I kindly ask you to review the DSM IV criteria for the diagnosis of schizophrenia and the time specifiers.
      7- Your attitude towards medicine, and labeling medicine as a failure in all except acute diseases needs reconsideration, I suggest. What we are talking about here is the human life, whether disease was acute or chronic. Nevertheless, we treat diseases nowadays that we had no concept of treating only 50 years ago. We have antibiotics, we have blood pressure and cardiac meds (chronic), we have insulin for diabetes (chronic) we have surgeries we have procedures that we did not have, we have imaging techniques that we did not have, we have medications for killer tumors such as colon ca and lymphomas…we have vaccines!!!!, when was the last time you saw a child with Polio? Do you have kids? Do you take your kids to a pediatrician? Or do you give them roqya at home? I find it very surprising that you are putting medicine in such a negative image instead of following the sunnah of the prophet PBUH, when he says: “seek treatment for diseases or servants of Allah”. Our attitude should be that of asking Allah to increase us in knowledge and doing more research until we find more answers, not the opposite. (hasbiya Allah wa ni’ma al wakeel!!!!)
      8- You did not provide any clear evidence from the Quran and Sunnah that possession actually exists, would love to see some evidence for that..
      9- It is not true that 2/3 of schizophrenia is unsuccessfully treated: http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=press_release_archive&template=/contentmanagement/contentdisplay.cfm&ContentID=5423&title=Facts%20On%20Schizophrenia, but regardless of that, what is the clinical implication of your statement? Are you suggesting that because of these numbers we should not treat people? It is like telling a student who is studying hard to succeed, don’t try hard, your odds are not that great anyways..
      10- Last but not least, this statement is also inaccurate: “Ultimately, I agree with Gibran- I’m sure we won’t agree, but let’s leave our disagreement to Allah, who knows best !” There are things that we can disagree about and then leave to Allah SWT, and there are things that Allah will not forgive us for, if we remain in disagreement about. There are things that we can disagree on, and have no practical implications because there is no accountability involved, and there are things that we cannot just simply disagree about especially when other people’s lives are involved. If you are a physician treating a patient who comes to you with major depression and you decide not to treat that and the patient commits suicide, you will not to find a more convincing answer in court than just saying: “ we won’t agree, but let us leave our disagreement to Allah who knows best .
      And Allah SWT knows best…
      Hoping to hear from you soon..

      • Scarfed says:

        Thank you for this wonderful article Othman. It was much needed. Thank you once again.

        You have a very good way of explaining.

        It would be great if you could please explain how a non-believer atheist achieves success in tasks in spite of lack of duas and belief?

        I look forward to your reply.

  19. SZ says:

    “Our position should be more humble and a lot wiser.”

    MashaAllah. Great point, excellent article, and a wonderful reminder to keep our thoughts and attitudes in check.

  20. Othman Mohammad says:

    Point well taken SZ! JAK for the reminder. I apologize to Sithara if my reply came across as aggressive .. may Allah forgive our shortcomings.. your little brother Othman.

    • SZ says:

      I actually meant that your article, specifically the point you’re making, is an excellent reminder for me (and all readers) to look deeply into our attitudes/thoughts to make sure that we aren’t resorting to “the blame game.” My apologies if that didn’t come across as intended in my initial comment. I commend you for writing such an insightful article, MashaAllah.

  21. some muslimah says:

    Othman, jazakAllah kheyra for your article and polite and balanced replies *smile*

    A small point (I’m being pedantic here): I think you may have meant psychiatric, rather than neuropsychiatric (neuropsychiatry being a subspeciality within psychiatry / neurology dealing with psychiatric sx as a result of neurological disease, and therefore probably much more specific than you intended). Or you may have meant neurological/psychiatric sx?

    I generally agreed with your article, and certainly your sentiments, though perhaps not the exact way you worded some of what you wrote, which may have seemed to imply that you were saying people should seek medical help *first*, and therefore not ruqyah as it might not work. I fail to understand this argument – why should there be any sequence at all when one can easily do both things at once? Your psychiatrist certainly won’t tell you not to read qur’an or have someone read Qur’an over you. It’s not their psition to do so. One can only wonder then, why your raaqi should be telling you not to go to a psychiatrist? Is that their position to do so? (leaving aside any objection on the basis of cost – not a problem here in the UK, walhamdulillah).
    I am also slightly uncomfortable with your comment re: qiyam ul-layl – point taken obviously re: acute illnesses but again, it’s not mutually exclusive, and as it is Allah in the end who gives the shifa, you certainly should be praying in the night for your acute appendicitis ( though of course, I’m sure you didn’t intend it to be read like that).

    People simply do not understand the concept of ruqyah – it is *not* an alternative to medical treatment – the two are not mututally exclusive. Indeed, we have been encouraged to seek treatment. If you are happy to go to a doctor if you have a fractured bone, but not if you have schizophrenia, I’d argue there’s something wrong with your understanding of tawakkul on Allah – essentially you are implying that you don’t need to turn to Allah for something you can/understand see a clear cause for (broken bone, bleeding artery, bacteria causing infection), but you do if it’s something you don’t really understand. That is very worrying from an aqeedah point of view. The core of the matter is that you turn to Allah *whatever it is*, and seek the means, knowing that only Allah can cure illness, so of course we recite Qur’an for barakah and shifa (key point being shifa’ generally, it doesn’t say in the qur’an: shifa lil-amraad al-nafsiyah – cure for mental illness)

    I think brother Othman has done a god job of answering the more ridiculous allegations made here. As a little aside, I work in psychiatry, – I’ve seen things that no doubt a significant proportion of people would say is ‘possession’ – it’s simply a way to conceptualise something you don’t understand, and that’s ok, except when you continue to stick to it in the face of new evidence and turn it into a religious debate when it isn’t one. I’ve seen what would appear to be ‘possessed’ people get better with medication and go home (some don’t. some have chronic illness, some have relapses etc. – generalisations really don’t work here). Also a side note, I feel obliged to defend my profession here – psychiatry is a speciality within medicine (yes we went to med school too once upon a time!), as such, we practice in pretty much the same way other doctors too, we use evidence, conduct trials, practice according to established guidance etc. We train for years to do this (In the UK, 5-6 yrs med school, 2 yrs foundation training, at least 6-7 yrs speciality training, horribly difficult postgrad exams, and it was much longer previously), believe it or not we don’t hand out diagnoses for fun (despite the fact that psychiatry is particularly susceptible to clinomorphism, there is a diffcult science and art behind it that comes with years of experience). Nor do we dish out psychotropic medication for fun. Some of us even care about our patients and want them to get better, and some of us are Muslims and pray that there’s jannah at the end of all this because we really wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.

    Basically, everyone: get over yourselves. Jinn and sihr are not responsible for everything we don’t understand – and please don’t turn this argument into a religious one when it isn’t. Jinn and sihr exist, we know that in terms of believing in the unseen, but not all the exact details of it. On the other hand, neither can modern medicine explain everything, and indeed psychiatry is full of theories; there’s very little we truly know, but we learn more every day. The Qur’an is a shifa (but that doesn’t mean you read qur’an and do nothing), go to your raaqi and psychiatrist. I think (though admittedly have a COI!) that a good Muslim will trust in Allah and take his meds (after shared decision-making and fully informed consent of course) *smile*
    Allah knows best.

  22. Othman Mohammad says:

    Wa Alaikum Assalam sister,
    JAK for your comments, I wanted to lump both Neurological and Psychiatric in one word, perhaps I should not have used this term.

    To briefly answer your question about the order of things, which one comes first, the roqya or the medical intervention, and you will probably be sensitive to the answer isA the way I am:
    Muslims are not all alike in their understanding of their deen. Some Muslims got the chance to read books, go to halaqat, lesson to lectures and to develop some basic understanding and connection with this religion. Other Muslims are at a much more basic stage, where they are not as much in tune with the nuances of the Islamic creed. Think about this spectrum of people that we are working with and keep that in mind please as you read the rest of my reply.
    When someone goes to a healer/imam/religious figure with a conversion disorder or an unremitting somatization disorder, or with dissociative fugue,etc,,, and the patient is told that this is most likely a “religious phenomenon” we are giving this clinical picture a religious label. And whether consciously or not, we are creating a dyad of a patient-physician relationship here where the physician here is the imam or in the heads of many, Islam. If the roqya fails, then this means in the heads of many of these patients that Islam has failed!! Medicine fails many times, and people can change their doctors, but this does not have a grave outcome on people’s religious beliefs.
    Hence, my notes on the order of things. Most spiritual healers, do not give a crush course in aqeedah, or the ISlamic ruling on roqya. Most of them do not say that there is a great chance that this is actually not religious. Many of them are criminal and ignorant enough to actually give a diagnosis of jinn or possession or whatever the case is and go on with treatment that turns out to be refractory, and then they fail, and in the mind of the patient, Islam fails.
    Hope I made my point clearer..
    Othman

    • Gibran says:

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I agree with you on this point Othman. Also, ruqya must be within the confines of Sharia and should not become bidah or worse, shirk.

  23. Greene says:

    Very good article! I have heard about a talk once given at a young Muslim gathering where the person giving the talk stated that depression was because of the fact that the person was not Islamic enough or worse taken over by jinn or shaitan…this is far from the truth. People can’t help having depression or OCD, anyone who has it or knows someone with a mental illness knows that they cannot help it. It’s not because of lack of islam or iman, it’s just a test that Allah is putting them through, and because of it, simple practices of our faith may yield more reward for them.
    You cannot ostracise anyone just because they have depression, some people need real medical help. Yes pray, but also seek the cure which is mostly medical. Allah as sent down treatments now that were not available in the past. I see this is a mercy from Allah, not as a cause to avoid the new treatment and just depend on roqaya. Do both, but don’t dismiss someone as being unislamic if they don’t fully trust on roqaya for the cure.
    People with mental disorders should not be labelled as having jinn possession etc. this is as bad as saying disabled people are being punished for sins. They need to be helped and supported, not labelled as people who are submitting to whisperings. Some scholars sound like the old days of Christianity where they thought of people who had epileptic fits needed to be exorcised! Let’s go forward with our knowledge in both Siam and medicine and think of it as a favour from Allah that these treatments are now available for people with these sort of illnesses.

  24. Close experience says:

    Salaam o alaikum

    Just read this article and agree with the balance it is striving towards.

    Matters of the mind are trickier to navigate through, scientifically and particularly from a religious point of view. Certainly no one would question that we resort to clinical medicine to heal any bodily harm or illness that we might face, and this reliance wouldn’t be deemed as weak Eeman. Bring in mental health and the above conversations ensue.

    What this reminded me of however was an entirely different matter with the exact same ‘diagnosis’. A dear relatives marriage was on the rocks. A history of mental abuse on part of the husband and a completely submissive wife. The wife was starting to reach her limits and wanted the matters resolved. Husband agreed. They went to find out if there was black magic/evil eye on them. Lo and behold there was! They went about th procedures, halal ones, not bid’ah too. And they had a small period of relative calm. Only to realize the husband still had the same coping mechanisms. He still resorted to silent treatment before blowing up and blaming the wife for everything under the sun. And she was still struggling with everything that that triggered in her.

    An educated reliable imam would have dealt with those personality traits that were the root cause of their problems. As would have a marriage counselor. But the blame game, as you put it, absolved every one of taking responsibility for what they were bringing to the relationship.

    A very different aspect of societal life….

    May Allah grant us the wisdom to maintaining such balances. And our generations to come. Allah protect our eemans. Forgive us our sins.. And be pleased with us. Aameen

    Wassalaam

  25. Dr Anwar says:

    Assalaamualaykum wa rahmat Allahi wa barakatuh

    For those interested in this topic, please read The Exorcist Tradition by Dr Bilal Philips. (Can be purchased from amazon.com) After interviewing almost a dozen exorcists / ruqyah practitioners, you can conclude that while demonic possessions, magic and the evil eye do exist and can be treated quite effectively with ruqyah, true cases are rare. The majority of the people who go to these practitioners usually have psychiatric, social or neurological problems. The author is right on the money. Seek medical treatment first, then a ruqyah practitioner.

    However, I would also recommend the author to search the term “jinn” on youtube or listen to the Anneliese Michel tapes or better yet attach himself to a Ruqyah practitioner like he would a medical term. It would open your eyes on the topic.

  26. Nida says:

    JazakAllahu khairan for posting! This article is SO on point! Please keep writing.

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