Artwork by: Artwork by: Artur Zhuk, age 13
Written by: Fatima Shafi

1 By the glorious morning light;

2 and by the night when it darkens,

3 your Lord has not forsaken you, nor is He displeased with you,

4 and the Hereafter will indeed be better for you than the present life;

5 soon you will be gratified with what your Lord will give you.

1-5: Surah Duha (The Glorious Morning Light)

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was when many of us lost or found ourselves. For me, it was a combination of both: I felt numb in my heart, marooned on an island that was my mind, and out of control of the whims of my body. I found myself turning to the Quran and channeling that desolation and lostness through tears dripping onto its pages. I found myself on my knees on the prayer-mat more often, and when I allowed myself to be healed by God’s Words and grounded in the knowledge of His presence, I found myself. I was able to rediscover my sense of clarity, meaning, and purpose in life – and all this was accomplished by the superficially simple but actually cavernous act of yielding: yielding to prewritten fate, and to the fact that this fate is entirely in God’s control.

Donna Tart, author of The Secret History, writes about the freedom that comes with surrender to man’s innate madness: "And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves?"

Islam focuses on a different sort of surrender, a peaceful one. It speaks of the contentment that comes when one’s life and soul are surrendered to God – not just in reality but in concept. And following this surrender comes true healing: not a bandage over a gaping heart-wound, but a thorough replacement of broken nerve and cardiac tissue. A fresh start, and the ability to look back at one’s past in forgiveness.

Forgiveness was what was most important to me when I began my healing journey. I found it impossible to exonerate a self that had been selfish and prejudiced at every turn, and I felt imprisoned and isolated within my own intangible thoughts. It is here that I realized the thematic value of Surah Duha: the idea that God is always with us, closer to us than our jugular veins, even when we have turned our backs on ourselves. The surah serves as a reminder that God is the Lord of the daybreak and of the night – the ones brought about by celestial influence and the ones in our minds. For people who have suffered trauma, this message of divine support and presence can be very healing since it provides them hope and reassurance that they are not at all alone in the prison of their troubles.

Islam takes a holistic approach to helping people recover from trauma. Islamic teachings from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) more than 1400 years ago served as the foundation for much of the study and application of various types of therapies today (pbuh). Islam places a lot of importance on all three of these aspects of health—a sound heart, a strong mind, and a healthy body—so therapies based on Islamic teachings provide coverage for each.

To understand the drastic change my own life had undergone, I researched Islamic worship and how it is a healing unto itself. This three-dimensional healing is a soothing of trauma from all angles. When it comes to one’s mind, Islam encourages not only reflecting on the Quran, but also the world around us: nature, the rise and descent of the sun, the ebb and flow of politics, the development of technology, the wonders and calamities of the earth. Indeed, today, ecotherapy is commonly practiced, not only by patients attending therapy but also by common people on a day-to-day basis. This form of therapy, based on the belief that humanity has an inherent connection with nature, prioritizes this connection using various techniques such as meditating in a forest or woodland, interacting with animals, gardening, or engaging in outdoor activities like hiking.

The importance of mental health in Islam was emphasized by the Prophet (pbuh). His own life was often a series of consecutive struggles, and his approaches to dealing with these struggles—as instructed by God and acknowledged by Him in the Quran—serve as reminders and inspiration for Muslims of all ages, times, and climes, from a sixteen-year-old high-school student to the reader of this essay. He taught a unique and wholesome approach to healing that covered spiritual remedies, special supplications for various feelings, emotional regulation, and caring for our bodies. And in the constant reminder that his Lord had not forsaken him, he found the contentment and strength that he carried on into the future, and that touched my life.

Islam places a high priority on encouraging people to observe and reflect on their own lives and the world around them. I've found it helpful to turn my attention away from the drawbacks in my life and toward the advantages by not only recognizing but also expressing thankfulness. As my sentiments become more positive, so do my intentions and behaviors, which is exactly how cognitive behavioral therapy works. According to contemporary scientific research, practicing gratitude has been linked to bettering not only one's mental health, but also one's physical health, including the immune system, blood pressure, and sleep.

Islam emphasizes the value of community and self-reflection in relation to the heart, which must be healed until it achieves a sound and open state. It also stresses the need of seeking God's guidance and partaking in spiritual rituals. I discovered first-hand that giving back to society and performing charitable deeds is essential to heart healing when I began volunteering at a number of institutions, including an orphanage. Islamically and scientifically, helping others and displaying compassion is a sure-fire approach to make sure that one treats oneself just the same way.

Merely practicing Islam can have a positive impact on mental health through the sense of meaning and purpose that it provides. As mentioned in Surah Duha, one is reassured that the trials and tribulations of this world are to teach and test humanity, and they will remain in this world. One is fuelled by desire for the Hereafter, which will be “better… than the present life.” Islam offers a sense of direction and guidance, and the practice of one's faith can help individuals feel a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

Finally, Islam promotes mental health by providing a sense of hope and optimism. Islam teaches that God is merciful and loving, and that He is always present to guide and support believers. This message of divine support and presence can be a powerful source of hope and comfort for individuals who are struggling to cope with trauma, as it serves as a reminder that God will provide and heal, and those who practice patience and gratitude at every turn will soon be content with what He gives them.

Fatima Shafi was a 16-year-old student at Lahore Grammar School, Defense, when this article was published. Fatima spends more time with people in books than in real life, and is obsessed with Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, Taylor Swift, and tea.

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