Asalamu Alaikum! This is very comforting to know…
Mental Health, Sujood And Du’a
By Ahmad Sakr
The Islamic Bulletin
The Qur’an And Science
As Muslims we know that the Qur’an offers guidance to us in all aspects of our lives. It is indeed a blessing and a guide for all times and places. In today’s modern world full of electronic communication, globalization, technology and the ever increasing pace of western life, it is easy to feel overwhelmed in this society. Stress and depression are two of the most common results of this hectic and fast paced life.
In his recent treatise on depression, Dr. Ahmad Sakr states, “Depression is a universal disease that affects millions of people. Some 10 to 15% of people suffer from it at some point in their lives. This could be due to physical illness or social isolation.”
Situational depression can be caused by a troubling time in someone’s life such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, moving to a new area, and sometimes just the stress associated with economic survival in today’s world.
Some states of depression can be caused by hormonal factors in women and teens or by the process of aging in seniors.
Common medical symptoms such as tension and migraine headaches, sudden anger or rage, insomnia, obesity, hair loss, allergies, fatigue, memory loss, and lethargy are symptoms of depression and stress. Everyone suffers from stress at some time, but some people are better able than others to handle it.
We are sure to experience stress during the tests and trials that Allah presents to us in this life.
“Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives and the fruits of your toil, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Who say when afflicted with calamity: To Allah we belong and to Him is our return. They are those on whom descend blessings from their Lord and Mercy. And they are the ones that receive guidance.” (Qur’an 2:155)
Stress, despair, and depression when approached from a scientific and spiritual basis can be effectively controlled by the ‘prescriptions’ found in the Qur’an. In Surah Al Ra’d,”Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” (Qur’an 13:28)
Prayer is ordered continuously throughout the Qur’an. Allah in His mercy emphasizes its importance over and over so there can be no doubt. “Keep carefully (adhere) to the prayers and (not forgetting) the middle prayer, and stand before Allah in obedience.”
Sujood and Mental Health
SujoodIn his book, Sujood (Prostration), Dr. Ahmed Sakr states, “In Islam the concept and action of prostration (al-Sujood) is very important. It is important physically, medically, morally, spiritually and biologically. Prostration has been mentioned in the Qur’an 92 times in 22 different forms and in 32 different surahs. In the Qur’an Surah Al-Sajdah (prostration) says, “Only those believe in Our Signs who, when they are recited to them, fall down in prostration, and celebrate the praises of their Lord, nor are they puffed up with pride.” (Qur’an 32:15)
With the advancement of science and technology, and the whirl that existence in the west can be, one feels obligated to mention one method that brings peace, harmony, accord, tranquility, and happiness. This practice is Sujood or prostration!
People today are exposed to many daily frustrations. They are also propounded with many electrostatic charges from the atmosphere. These charges are precipitated on the central nervous systems (CNS) which becomes supersaturated. One has to get rid of these extra charges, otherwise, there is the possibility of headaches, neck aches, muscle spasms, etc. The use of anti-depressants, tranquilizers and other mood altering drugs could be reduced or eliminated with the practice of Sujood.
The best way to rid oneself of these extra electrostatic charges is by dissipating them and discharging them from the body. In the same way that an electrical appliance needs to be grounded by the use of an electric cord, a person will find it helpful to do likewise.
The frontal areas of the brain are those that control abstract thought, creativity, conscience, and personality. Therefore, “grounding” oneself by putting the forehead (the frontal portion of the brain) on the ground during Sujood has beneficial medical (grounding) properties. The action of putting the forehead, nose, hands, knees, and toes all in contact with the ground at the same time during Sujood will result in a calming feeling resulting from dissipation of the electromagnetic energy.”
Drs. Abdul Ahad and Mehdi Hassan in their article “Some Medical Aspects of Al-Salat” say about prostration, “During Sajdah, a person has to support his body on knees, hands, and forehead. This posture has its effect on the intervertebral joints, especially cervical and other spinal diseases. During sajdah, while the person lays his body weight on legs flexed at knees, these muscles are put in action to various degrees which aids venous return and acts as a massage for these muscles.”
During prostration, muscles are exercised, blood flow is increased, lung capacity is utilized…all leading to better physical health. This in turn results in better mental health, not only because of the physical activity, but due to the spiritual process also.
Sujood and Du’a
The word Du’a means supplication. It is a communication and dialogue between a believer and Allah. One may make Du’a in any place, in any language, and in any position. The best position to ask Allah (swt) from and to make Du’a in, is while making Sujood. During Sujood, the Du’a is more often accepted by Allah. The best position for dialogue with Allah is during Sujood. The best position to meet Allah in (i.e., death) is while in Sujood. The best way to thank Allah and to praise Him is while prostrating. For this reason the Prophet (pbuh) said: “The closest position that a person can be from God is at the time of Sujood; hence increase your Du’a’.” (Ahmad, Muslim, Dawood)
While prostrating in Salat, a Muslim says three times: “Glory be to my Lord the Highest; and gratitude be to Him.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Perform Sujood in abundance. Anytime you prostrate to Allah one Sujood, Allah will elevate you one step and erase one mistake for you.”
The real Du’a’ in Sujood is when a person feels and lives a few moments of their life in communion with Allah. When a person is engulfed in the spirituality [and physicality] of Sujood they are momentarily outside of this world. The Du’a’ comes not only from the lips but from the totality of their being…the organs, the bodily systems, the cells, molecules, atoms, nuclei, electrons, neutrons, protons…every part and parcel of that person is with Allah at that moment. When a person reaches this level of communication (called Tadarru) they are not aware of anything else around them. They are taken out of themselves spiritually and their bodies are manipulated in physically beneficial movements.
A person suffering from depression or stress is relieved on all levels through Sujood. They do not have to go through hypnosis to remember subconscious ideas, to find a source of relaxation or to feel at peace. The communion with Allah puts them mentally in a relaxed and peaceful state without yoga. The need for drug therapy with possible side effects can be re-examined. Submitting oneself to Allah relieves the stress of the unknown and turns it all over to Him thereby relieving the individual of undue worries over the future.
Through the process of Sujood a person will be absorbed with the infinite, with the immortal and with the outer hemisphere. When a person reaches such a state of complete communion with the Almighty, to the point that trembling, shaking, crying, or shuddering takes place, it is said that their Du’a’ is being accepted by Allah. It is also said that they are being forgiven by Allah for their mistakes, and finally, that their bodily diseases and especially their mental, neurological and psychological problems will be relieved with the Mercy and Will of Allah. All creatures prostrate to Allah.
They glorify Him, exalt Him, and praise Him. Surah Al-Hajj states: “Seest thou not that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth – the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; And a great number among mankind?” (Qur’an 22:18)
And in Al-Isra’: “They fall down on their faces, weeping, and it increases humility in them.” (Qur’an 17:109)
And this promise from Allah, “O, you who believe! Bow down and prostrate yourselves, and worship your Lord, and do good, that happily you may prosper.” (Qur’an 22:77)
Prostration is good for us mentally, physically, and spiritually. We are the beneficiaries of performing Sujood. As in all aspects of Islamic life, the Holy Quran has answers for all problems and conditions of mankind.
[Specific Areas: Brain areas are associated with specific functions…For example; the occipital lobe is associated with vision, and the cerebellum with balance and coordination. Touch and pressure sensation is perceived within the post central gyrus. Muscle movements are controlled from the precentral gyrus, speech is controlled from an area in the frontal lobe of the dominant hemisphere.]
[Lobes: are broad surface regions of each hemisphere that are named after the overlying bones of the skull. The four main regions are the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes.]
Editors Note: We are very pleased to be able to offer Dr. Ahmad Sakr’s excellent Islamic books and literature through The Islamic Bulletin. For more information please see the order form.
Photo Credit: Islam, World’s Greatest Religion
Legacy of Timbuktu
International Museum Of Muslim Cultures
1 February 2015
In the last millennium an important global legacy was uncovered—the literate culture of AFRICA—symbolized in the extraordinary richness of historical manuscripts that still survive. These ancient documents reveal that a sophisticated literate culture flourished in the city of Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara Desert beginning in the 13th century and lasting more than 700 years. A crossroads of international caravan commerce, including the book trade, Timbuktu was also a celebrated center of learning, attracting scholars, and thousands of students and teachers from many countries and backgrounds.
The International Museum of Muslim Cultures in partnership with the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library in Timbuktu has curated an exhibit of this glorious age and its legacy to America through the tragic events of the slave trade as it presents The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word Exhibition.
Books were not only brought into Timbuktu, but local scholars wrote their own works, and artisans scribed, decorated and bound them in a sophisticated local book production industry tied to the global Islamic knowledge industry—activities that culminated in a complex and highly viable socio-economic model. Leo Africanus, celebrated medieval historian, wrote “the buying and selling of books were more profitable than any other commerce in the city of Timbuktu”. The feature attraction will be 25 of the estimated one million manuscripts recently re-rediscovered in the West African country of Mali. Bound in leather, they contain finely articulated calligraphy and colorful, even gilded, illustrations and cover a wide variety of subjects.
Read more here.
Photo Credit: International Museum Of Muslim Cultures
“Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the Believers wilt thou find those who say “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning (priests), and men who have renounced the world (monks), and they are not arrogant. And then they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth. They pray: ‘Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the witnesses.’ (Surat Al-Maida 82-83)”
This was what happened to the former British Catholic Priest Idris Tawfiq on reciting Islam’s holy book, the Quran, to his students at a school in Britain. And this was one of the important steps in his journey of conversion to Islam.
During a recent lecture he gave at the British Council in Cairo, Tawfiq made clear that he has no regrets about his past and what he holds in regard to what Christians do and his life at the Vatican for five years.
“I enjoyed being a priest helping the people for some years. However, deep inside I was not happy and I felt that there was something not right. Fortunately, and it is God’s will, some events and coincidences in my life led me to Islam,” he told a packed hall at the British Council.
A second important coincidence for Tawfiq was his decision to quit his work at the Vatican, a step followed by making a trip to Egypt.
“I used to think of Egypt as a country of Pyramids, camels, sand and palm trees. I actually took a charter flight to Hurghada.
Shocked to find it similar to some European beaches, I took the first bus to Cairo where I spent the most wonderful week in my life.
This was my first introduction to Muslims and Islam. I noticed how Egyptians are such gentle, sweet people, but also very strong.
“Like all Britons, my knowledge about Muslims up to that time didn’t exceed what I heard from the TV about suicide bombers and fighters, which gave the impression that Islam is a religion of troubles. However, getting into Cairo I discovered how beautiful this religion is. Very simple people selling goods on the street would abandon their trade and direct their face to Allah and pray the moment they heard the call to prayer from the mosque. They have a strong faith in the presence and will of Allah. They pray, fast, help the needy and dream to have a trip to Mecca with the hope of living in heaven in the hereafter,” he said.
“On my return I resumed my old job of teaching religion. The only compulsory subject in British education is Religious Studies. I was teaching about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and others. So everyday I had to read about these religions to be able to teach my lessons to the students, many of whom were Arab Muslim refugees. In other words, teaching about Islam taught me many things.
“Unlike many troublesome teenagers, these students set a good example of what a Muslim could be. They were polite and kind. So a friendship developed between us and they asked if they could use my classroom for prayers during the fasting month of Ramadan.
“Luckily, my room was the only one with a carpet. So I got accustomed to sitting at the back, watching them praying for a month. I sought to encourage them by fasting during Ramadan with them, even though I wasn’t yet a Muslim.
“Once while reciting a translation of the holy Quran in class I reached the verse:
“And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth.”
To my surprise, I felt tears welling up in my eyes and I tried hard to hide it from the students.”
Read the rest of the article, A Former British Catholic Priest Accepts Islam After Reading The Quran
Why Vatican Catholic Priest Converted To Islam?
Vatican Priest Converted To Islam
Photo Credit: Muslims For Allah
The First Muslim-American Scholar: Bilali Muhammad
By Lost Islamic History
24 February 2014
An unfortunate misconception among today’s American Muslim community is that Islam has only been present in America for less than 100 years. Many American Muslims are children of immigrants who came to the United States from the Middle East and South Asia in the mid-nineteenth century, and thus wrongly assume that the first Muslims in America were those immigrants. The reality, however, is that Islam has been in America for far longer than that. Besides possible pre-Colombian Muslim explorers from al-Andalus and West Africa, Islam arrived on America’s shores in waves through the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. While hundreds of thousands of slaves arrived in America during this time, the stories of only a few have been preserved and are known today. One of the most enduring and unique is that of Bilali Muhammad.
The Slave Trade
As European nations began to colonize the New World in the 1500s, a demand for cheap labor arose. Plantations, mines, and farms needed workers throughout North and South America, and the native population of the New World proved unsuitable due to their lack of immunity to European diseases. As a result, European powers such as Britain, France, Portugal, and Spain looked south, towards Africa, for a source of slave labor they could exploit.
Thus, European slave traders began arriving at ports in Africa, looking to buy slaves. Generally, Europeans did not go and capture slaves themselves. Instead, they would commonly pay local rulers to go to war with other African states, capture warriors, and sell them to be taken to America. The African rulers would be paid commonly in weapons, which would further perpetuate the cycle of violence and enslavement. The entire system worked to handicap Africa’s social, political, and economic development, and the results of this genocide are still felt in Africa today.
Estimates vary, but over 12 million Africans were probably forcibly taken from their homelands to serve as slaves in America, with as many as 20% of them dying on the trans-Atlantic journey known as the Middle Passage. Since much of the slave trade was focused on West Africa, a large number of those slaves were undoubtedly Muslim. The savanna kingdoms of Mali and Songhai had long been centers of Islamic civilization in West Africa and a huge Muslim population existed in the region.
One of the many Muslim slaves taken to America was Bilali Muhammad. He was from the Fulbe tribe and was born around 1770 in the city of Timbo, in what is now Guinea. He came from a well-educated family, and received a high level of education himself in Africa before being captured as a slave some time in the late 1700s. He was fluent in the Fula language along with Arabic, and had knowledge of high level Islamic studies, including Hadith, Shari’ah, and Tafsir. How he was captured is unknown, but he was originally taken to an island plantation in the Caribbean, and by 1802, he arrived at Sapelo Island, off the coast of Georgia in the southern United States.
At Sapelo Island, Bilali was fortunate enough to have Thomas Spalding as a slave owner. While conditions across the South were horrendous for slaves, who were forced to work throughout the day and were commonly denied such basic necessities as clothes and stable shelter, Spalding gave certain freedoms to his slaves that were absent elsewhere. He did not push the slaves to work more than six hours per day, had no white slave drivers, and even allowed his Muslim slaves to practice their religion openly, a rare freedom in the deeply Christian South. Bilali was even allowed to construct a small mosque on the plantation, which very well may have been the first mosque in North America.
Because of Bilali’s relatively high level of education, he rose to the top of the slave community, and was relied upon by his owner to take care of much of the administration of the plantation and its few hundred slaves. Perhaps the most remarkable account of Bilali Muhammad’s leadership and trustworthiness occurred during the War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom. Spalding reportedly left the plantation with his family, fearing a British attack, and put Bilali in charge of the plantation’s defense. He even gave Bilali 80 muskets to defend the island with, which were distributed among the plantation’s Muslim population. Bilali kept true to his word and managed the plantation while his owner was gone and turned it back over to Spalding after the war. The fact that a slave owner trusted his slaves so much as to give them control of the plantation along with weapons speaks volumes about the character and trustworthiness of Bilali Muhammad.
The Bilali Document
As a well-educated Muslim from West Africa, Bilali no doubt brought his Islamic education with him to America. This is evidenced by a thirteen-page manuscript he wrote and gifted to a southern writer, Francis Robert Goulding, before he died in 1857. The manuscript was written in Arabic, and was thus unreadable for most Americans for decades. It made its way eventually to the Georgia State Library by 1931, who attempted to decipher the manuscript, which was popularly believed to have been Bilali’s diary.
After years of effort that involved numerous scholars as far away as al-Azhar University in Egypt, scholars finally managed to decipher the manuscript. It turned out that it wasn’t a diary at all, but was actually a copy of passages from a treatise on Islamic law in the Maliki madhab written by a Muslim scholar of fiqh, Ibn Abu Zayd al-Qairawani in Tunisia in the 900s. The Risala of Ibn Abu Zayd was a part of the West African law curriculum prevalent in Bilali’s homeland in the 1700s when he was a student. When he came to America as a slave, he was of course unable to bring any personal belongings with him, and thus his copy of the Risala was written entirely from memory decades after he learned it in West Africa. This exemplifies the level of knowledge present in West Africa, even as it was ravaged by the Atlantic slave trade.
The Bilali Document is thus probably the first book of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) ever written in the United States. And while Islam slowly died out among the African American community in the United States in the nineteenth century, it is important to recognize and appreciate the stories of the the first American Muslims. They were not a small, inconsequential group. They numbered hundreds of thousands and despite almost insurmountable difficulties, they struggled to preserve their Islamic heritage under the oppression of slavery. The story of Bilali Muhammad is a perfect example of the efforts of this early American Muslim community, one that could inspire American Muslims of the present, whether they be of African descent or not.
Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York: New York UP, 1998.
Dirks, Jerald. Muslims in American History: A Forgotten Legacy. Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 2006.
Photo Credit: Lost Islamic History