Islam

Islam is a monotheistic faith that means “submission to the will of God”. The person who practices this faith is known as a Muslim. As someone who has grown up in India, which has more than 100 million more Muslims on its subcontinent alone as compared to all the Arab countries combined, I have had several interactions with Muslims, both positive and negative. However, I now realize that those interactions were limited and that there is a lot more that I did not know about Muslims from different countries, who are scattered all around the world.

I am fascinated by the fact that there are around 6 million Muslims in the United States. As Muslim immigrants comprised a steadily growing group in the United States before the attacks of September 11, it was estimated that the increasing rate of their population going to make Islam the nation’s second largest religion by the year 2010. Hence, mental health professionals in this country are paying a lot of attention to the needs of Muslim clients based on their religious doctrines. There are five basic articles or “pillars” of faith in Islam. These are “Ash’shahadatan” (testifying that there is no God save Allah and that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah), “As’salah” (a form of worship rites that involve specific movements and sayings, which need to be performed five times a day), “Az’zakah” (to pay 2.5% of the wealth annually for the benefit of the needy in Muslim community), “As’sawm” (To abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse during daytime throughout the 9th Lunar month), and “Al Hajj” (The pilgrimage to Mecca once in life for those who are physically and financially able). Research has found that Muslim societies are collectivistic (group plays a larger role in society than the individual) in terms of family life, economic situations, the truth as determined in terms of agreement with the Koran, their religious book, and religious, and aesthetic values.

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Moreover, according to a fundamental doctrine in the Islamic faith, Muslims believe in fate and perceive illness as a way of atoning their sins rather than a form of punishment.. I have also discovered that I had certain preconceived notions about Muslims based on my experiences as a person from India, where Muslims are minorities just as they are in the United States. However, the majority group in India, to which I used to belong to, had hostile feelings towards Muslims. And I grew up developing feelings of prejudice and negative emotions toward the population. This project has made me develop insight into my faulty thinking and wrong assumptions enough to change my prejudiced attitudes towards Muslims and to view them as I would view any other population that is different from my own, irrespective of their race or religion. As a foreigner in this country, I also realize that acculturation is as difficult for any foreigner as it has been for me. Hence, before offering any services to a Muslim immigrant, it is essential to find out what his level of acculturation in the United States is. This can alert me as a practitioner about what cultural conflicts might interfere with otherwise ideal treatment interventions. I understand that I need to base my interpretations of my clients within their cultural context.
All in all, I would not hesitate to say that this process of understanding a “Muslim client” has been a lot of hard work academically as well as emotionally. At the same time, as I gained increasing knowledge of Islam and its followers, I felt a sense of achievement and also a sense of unburdening myself from the prejudices that I have held since my childhood. As a psychologist, I have realized that with my past education so far, it was becoming easy to empathize with clients and the problems that they brought to therapy. But I had never viewed them as individuals with a different religion as mine at such a conscious level, to understand what practicing that religion meant to them and how it would affect their role as not only a client within the mental health settings, but also as a client of a therapist who practiced a religion very different from theirs. This reinforces the fact that the becoming of a sensitive therapist is an evolving process, and that one can never be stagnant or content with having “enough education

Islam

.. to be the Word of God by those who believed in it, i.e. it wasn’t something decreed by a religious council many years after being written. Also, the Qu’ran was recited publicly in front of both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities during the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The entire Qur’an was also completely written down in lifetime of the Prophet, and numerous companions of the Prophet memorized the entire Qur’an word-for-word as it was revealed. So unlike other scriptures, the Qur’an was always in the hands of the common believers, it was always thought to be God’s word and, due to wide-spread memorization, it was perfectly preserved.

In regards to the teachings of the Qur’an – it is a universal scripture, and it is addressed to all of mankind, and not to a particular tribe or “chosen people”. The message that it brings is nothing new, but the same message of all of the prophets – submit to Almighty God and worship Him alone. As such, God’s revelation in the Qur’an focuses on teaching human beings the importance of believing in the Unity of God and framing their lives around the guidance which He has sent. Additionally, the Qur’an contains the stories of the previous prophets, such as Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus; as well as many commands and prohibitions from God. In modern times in which so many people are caught up in doubt, spiritual despair and “political correctness”, the Qur’anic teachings offer solutions to the emptiness of our lives and the turmoil that is gripping the world today. In short, the Qur’an is the book of guidance par excellence.

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The Prophet Muhammad Unlike the founders of many religious, the final prophet of Islam is a real documented and historical figure. He lived in the full light of history, and the most minute details of his life are known. Not only do Muslims have the complete text of God’s words that were revealed to Muhammad, but they have also preserved his saying and teachings in what is called “hadith” literature. This having been said, it should be understood that Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad was only a man chosen by God, and that he is not divine in any way. In order to avoid the misguided wish to deify him, the Prophet Muhammad taught Muslims to refer to him as “God’s Messenger and His Slave”. The mission of the last and final prophet of God was to simply teach that “there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshipped except for Almighty God”, as well as being a living example of God’s revelation.

In simple terms, God sent the revelation to Muhammad, who in turn taught it , preached it, lived it and put it into practice. In this way, Muhammad was more that just a “prophet” in the sense of many of the Biblical prophets, since he was also a statesman and ruler. He was a man who lived a humble life in the service of God, and established an all-encompassing religion and way of life by showing what it means to be an ideal friend, husband, teacher, ruler, warrior and judge. For this reason, Muslims follow him not for his own sake, but in obedience to God, because Muhammad not only showed us how to deal with our fellow human beings, but more importantly, he showed us how to relate to and worship God, worship Him in the only way pleasing to Him. Like other prophets, Muhammad faced a great deal of opposition and persecution during his mission. However, he was always patient and just, and he treated his enemies well.

The results of his mission were very successful, and even though his mission started in one of the most backward and remotes places on earth, within a hundred years of the death of Muhammad, Islam had spread from Spain to China. The Prophet Muhammad was the greatest of all of God’s prophets, not because he had new doctrines or greater miracles, but because the results of his mission have broght more human beings into the pure and proper belief in the One True God than any other prophet. The Islamic Way of Life In the Holy Qur’an, God teaches human beings that they were created in order to worship Him, and that the basis of all true worship is God-consciousness. Since the teachings of Islamic encompass all aspects of life and ethics, God-consciousness is encouraged in all human affairs. Islam makes it clear that all human acts are acts of worship if they are done for God alone and in accordance to His Divine Law.

As such, worship in Islam is not limited to religious rituals. The teachings of Islam act as a mercy and a healing for the human soul, and such qualities as humility, sincerity, patience and charity are strongly encouraged. Additionally, Islam condemns pride and self-righteousness, since Almighty God is the only judge of human righteousness. The Islamic view of the nature of man is also realistic and well-balanced. Human beings are not believed to be inherently sinful, but are seen as equally capable of both good and evil.

Islam also teaches that faith and action go hand-in-hand. God has given people free-will, and the measure of one’s faith is one’s deeds and actions. However, human beings have also been created weak and regularly fall into sin. This is the nature of the human being as created by God in His Wisdom, and it is not inherently “corrupt” or in need of repair. This is because the avenue of repentance of always open to all human beings, and Almighty God loves the repentant sinner more than one who does not sin at all.

The true balance of an Islamic life is established by having a healthy fear of God as well as a sincere belief in His infinite Mercy. A life without fear of God leads to sin and disobedience, while believing that we have sinned so much that God will not possibly forgive us only leads to despair. In light of this, Islam teaches that: only the misguided despair of the Mercy of their Lord. Additionally, the Holy Qur’an, which was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, contains a great deal of teachings about the life hereafter and the Day of Judgment. Due to this, Muslims believe that all human beings will ultimately be judged by God for their beliefs and actions in their earthly lives.

In judging human beings, Almighty God will be both Merciful and Just, and people will only be judged for what they were capable of. Suffice it to say that Islam teaches that life is a test, and that all human beings will be accountable before God. A sincere belief in the life hereafter is key to leading a well-balanced life and moral. Otherwise, life is viewed as an end in itself, which causes human beings to become more selfish, materialistic and immoral. Islam for a Better Life Islam teaches that true happiness can only being obtained by living a life full of God-consciousness and being satisfied with what God has given us. Additionally, true “freedom” is freedom from being controlled by our base human desires and being ruled by man-made ideologies.

This stands in stark contrast to the view of many people in the modern world, who consider “freedom” to be the ability to satisfy all of their desires without inhibition. The clear and comprehensive guidance of Islam gives human-beings a well-defined purpose and direction in life. In addition to being members of the human-brotherhood of Islam, its well-balanced and practical teachings are a source of spiritual comfort, guidance and morality. A direct and clear relationship with Almighty God, as well as the sense of purpose and belonging that ones feels as a Muslim, frees a person from the many worries of everyday life. In short, the Islamic way of life is pure and wholesome. It builds self-discipline and self-control thought regular prayer and fasting, and frees human-beings from superstition and all sorts of racial, ethnic and national prejudices.

By accepting to live a God-conscious life, and realizing that the only thing that distinguishes people in the sight of God is their consciousness of Him, a person’s true human dignity is realized.

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