In this day and age of Western secularism and materialism, there are many temptations from Iblis to not only become weak in one’s practice of Islam, but to consciously abandon it altogether. For those who are strong in faith and who are educated on right concepts of Islam, Allah (swt) gives them hidayah to remain on the true path. But there one subset of the Muslim community that is especially prone to be misled by the faulty logic of those who seek to undermine Islam: the mentally disabled.
Meet Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider. Their group, EXMNA, has provided support for mentally disabled Muslims in the United States and Canada for several years, offering them counseling and other resources to cope with their condition.
“Oh, yes, I’ve seen it all by now,” says Syed to Mufti News. “We have a lot of members who have already been diagnosed as mentally ill by their families. On the other hand, others don’t even tell their families, they simply suspect something is wrong and they come straight to us.”
“In some cases, we get members where the mental illness is hereditary in their families, where the parents and siblings also are afflicted with the condition. These cases are most hopeless.”
Adds Sarah Haider, “Unfortunately, a lot of them will never be cured. For them, all we are able to do is encourage them to set up blogs, so they can self-publish every misguided thought that crosses their mind. This is not going to lead to a cure per se, but it is helpful to the ummah as a whole because no mentally sane Muslims would ever read them, which in turn preserves their aqeedah.”
“We have to fill this void,” says Syed passionately. “A lot of these people are very sick individuals, and their families simply don’t have the resources to cope. Health insurance plans do not cover treatment for this type of condition. Imagine if you were the parent of such a Muslim, one who is so mentally confused that he or she rejects Islam… your options are really limited. Besides getting them to talk to your scholar-imam-friend to try to clear up their misconceptions about Islam and threatening to disown them, there is not much parents can do. That’s why we believe our mission is so important.”
One of EXMNA’s fans is Dr. Muhammad MoOhammad, a leading researcher on the subject of mental illness at Dar-ul-Jahilliyah College in Doha, Qatar. “Many people mistakenly believe that the Western liberal paradigm surrounding mental illness is the only valid one. This is a form of cultural imperialism. In the Muslim world, research on mental illness is different, but in many ways, much more advanced.”
“Westerners are obsessed with things like empirical studies, but these are human efforts that are flawed and biased. And the result is a confusing mess of diagnoses for mental illness like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, HIV, attention deficit disorder, with all sorts of drugs and therapies that just make money for the capitalist system,” explains Dr. MoOhammad. “In the Muslim world, we go by what the Creator says in His book. Simple, right? And as always when you follow Allah’s word, the solution is simple too. The only true form of mental illness is conscious rejection or abandonment of Islam.”
Unfortunately, in the West, research on mental illness as defined by Allah is way behind, and so terrible conditions like atheism, abandonment of Islam for other religions, and homosexuality often go untreated- and in many cases, they are encouraged by a culture that is itself the product of mental illness. That is why groups like EXMNA- as well as similar organizations in other Western countries- are so important. There is no other place to turn for mentally disabled Muslims.
This is a sobering trend for Muslims in the United States and Canada, but a positive for EXMNA which will find increasing opportunities to help the most disadvantaged people in the Muslim comomunity. We wondered to Dr. MoOhammad if this meant we would see the EXMNA model replicated in Muslim countries.
“This is less likely because despite high Muslim populations, the incidence of mental illness in Muslim countries is very low. Alhamdulillah there the governments are usually able to ensure that the populations receive at least some correct guidance so they do not stray from the right path. This provides at least a baseline protection against mental illness, and there is a higher concentration of learned scholars of Islam, as well as less temptation to stray by capitalist culture. So the need for a group like EXMNA in a Muslim country… it would be completely unnecessary.”
Nonetheless, Mufti News is grateful for the work EXMNA is doing in the United States and Canada, and on behalf of all mentally ill Muslims and their families, JAK!