Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ramadan Spiritual Reform - continued


Yep this stuff really happens, but there is hope.

Also, a shocking, depressing article @ Mother Jones from one of the former Iran hostages talking about  the horrors of indefinite solitary confinement in American prisons.

Also on a personal note, just lost two people this week, a friend to suicide and a former teacher to illness. The month of Ramadan is of course, as always, a good time to reflect on death.  I went to visit my grandmother yesterday and I could clearly see what the Qur'an mentions about our spans of life and that if we live long we return to a dependent state.  I see it in my own parents, too, and it is scary because they're at the point where it is still a little subtle but real enough, and it affects how they relate to one another because it makes it difficult for them to communicate - one has trouble hearing, the other has trouble organizing thoughts the way the other wants when speaking, etc.  I think the Qur'an speaks clearly enough about aging and how to treat elders.

But, I wish I had something profound to say about mental illness and suicide from an Islamic perspective.  What I will say is that linking someone's mental illness to deficiency in their faith and telling them to pray more or fix their practice and that will solve their problems is something I have big issues with.  First of all, I disagree with the premise that all mental illness or depression etc. is caused by someone's spiritual deficiencies.  There may be real medical/physical causes or manifestations from viruses to chemical imbalances to real life trauma and so on - for the problems being faced that could be helped through medical means, counseling/psychology, or any other number of ways.  Islam is not a religion that says not to use to your benefit what we gain from knowledge/science etc., so why should we deny these methods of help/treatment?  Secondly, even if we assume for a minute that all mental illnesses have a spiritual cause, telling a person that his mental/emotional struggles are his own fault and he just needs to have more faith is like telling someone without legs to just stand up  - while at the same time telling him if he can't just stand up, it is because he is deficient and he should just fix himself or just get over it.  It is not supportive, it is not constructive!  Yes, spirituality, religion and faith in the Islamic perspective are part of every cure, no matter what ails us, and perhaps even the whole cure in some cases, but healing one's spirit is the real jihad and our examples of how to do so come from the compassionate, invitational and Merciful aspects taught by Ahlulbayt (as) and our Creator.  Dealing with mental/emotional illnesses is perhaps more difficult in many respects than dealing with physical ones, and therefore we should be all the more patient and empathetic despite how challenging interactions with the ill can be.  May God have Mercy on us always and help us to be Merciful to others and may we learn in this month of fasting to increase our compassion and our utility to others.

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