Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Feminine in Islam

In response to Fethi Benslama's questions about what happened to impede gender parity in Islam, here is an excerpt from Leila Ahmed's book "Women and Gender in Islam:

"'Umar's reign (634-44) is regarded as the period in which many of the major institutions of Islam originated, for 'Umar promulgated a series of religious, civil and penal ordinances, including stoning as punishment for adultery. He was harsh toward women in both private and public life: he was ill-tempered with his wives and physically assaulted them, and he sought to confine women to their homes and to prevent their attending prayers at the mosques. Unsuccessful in this last attempt, he instituted segregated prayers, appointing a separate Imam for each sex. He chose a male imam for the women, another departure from precedent, for it is known that Muhammad appointed a woman, Umm Waraka, to act as imam for her entire household, which included, so far as can be ascertained, men as well as women (Ibn Sa'd, 8:335). Moreover, after Muhammad's death 'Aisha and Umm Salama acted as imams for other women (Ibn Sa'd, 8:335-56). Contrary to Muhammad's practice, 'Umar also prohibited Muhammad's wives from going on pilgrimage ( a restriction lifted in the last year of his reign). This prohibition must have provoked the discontent of the Mothers of the Believers, although "history" has not recorded any opposition on the part of Muhammad's widows to 'Umar's attempt to prevent women from attending prayers at the mosques (Ibn Sa'd, 8:150). The consistent silence on such issues now speaks eloquently." (1992, pp. 60-61).

~Excerpted from "Women and Gender in Islam" by Leila Ahmed, PhD. She was professor of women's studies and Near Eastern studies at the U of Massachusetts, Amherst and is currently on the faculty at the Harvard Divinity School.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Feminine at the birthplace of Islam

Fethi Benslama's book "Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam" does due diligence to the role of Woman in Islam. Benslama is a psychoanalyst who, although a secular thinker, identifies himself as a person of Muslim culture who rejects ready-made explanations of Islamic fundamentalism. Benslama teaches at the University of Paris VII and is the editor of the psychoanalytic journal Intersignes. Can we really have any doubt from this analysis of Khadija's role in the confirmation of the Prophetic vision that she was a full partner in birthing Allah's final revelation? The book is translated from the French by Robert Bononno:

"The Nights' Word

The first test of truth for Islam took place on a woman's lap. Although this statement seems unthinkable today within the Islamic order of discourse, there was a time when there was nothing shocking about it, for the scene of demonstration was transmitted and repeated by several generations of chroniclers, a chain that can be followed back to the seventh century. No doubt this is one of the symptoms of the torment I referred to earlier, which made origin unavailable in a fictional mode. Research efforts in the humanities on Islam and "Islamic thought," as we have been accustomed to calling it for some time, have contributed more than a little to making the fiction of origin inaccessible. In conventional research such scenes of demonstration are considered to belong on the scrap heap of history and are "barely good enough for literature." According to this research, we should look for reason in the machinery of concepts, in the major theological constructs; that is where the system's gold is hidden, its pure originary truth.

From the Angel's Greeting to Disrepute

Nonetheless, isn't the scene of the first, or initial, faith an important representation of a form of reason that refuses to hide its metaphysical side and accepts its power to affect us by presenting us with a scene of sharing and healing? Here, the founder, the man of the word of law, hallucinating, terrorized, repeatedly visited by an invisible being, wonders if he is possessed by a demon. Like someone comforting a child who suffers pain, a woman holds him on her lap to prove to him that the angel is an angel and to free him of his fear of madness. The scene clearly reveals that the representation of the origin of the Law in Islam needed the body of a woman to remove any doubt concerning man's reason and to help the angel place him on the path of the word. It is in this sense that we understand the angel's greeting to Khadija.

But what happened between this moment, when the woman mediates between man and the angel - in other words, when she assumes a posture of mediation between two mediators - and the moment when she becomes an auxiliary of the demon "whose wiles are great"; between the moment when she, through her unveiling, verifies the truth of the vision and the moment she must be veiled to protect the faithful from the sight of her charms; between the moment when she appears to possess a knowledge that predates the prophetic knowledge of the founder and the time when she will become the woman who "lacks reason and religion" (hadith); between the moment when she frees the Prophet from the suspicion of possession and the moment when she becomes the troubling creature who must be possessed, appropriated, and monitored, and whose submission will be stringently organized; in short, between the angel's greeting and woman's disrepute in Islam? It is with this question in mind that we must scrutinize the future of women in Islam. This is necessary if we are to have any chance of understanding what transpired over a brief period of time (roughly twenty years) that determined women's destiny until today, perpetuating a position that can only be described as extreme. This excess, its origin and its many justifications, indeed the entire network of humiliating attitudes and assertions concerning women, must be analyzed without indulgence, with the greatest precision, for the mechanisms of alienation are far more complex than they appear.

This scene seems to accredit the notion that there was a time when woman was the witness of truth, in the twofold sense that she acknowledged what took place and was the proof and the test of the truth of vision. Then there was another time when woman became deceitful, a trap and a ruse, an artifice (this is the meaning of the word kayd in Koran 12:28) that had to be masked, unmasked and controlled."
2009, pp. 143-145)

~ Excerpted from "Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam" by Fathi Benslama

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mansur al-Hallaj and al-Fatiha

I was stunned to read the following description of the execution of Mansur al-Hallaj which appeared in one of three lectures delivered at the School of Oriental Studies, the University of London in the summer of 1922 by Reynold A. Nicholson, Lecturer in Persian in the University of Cambridge, formerly Fellow of Trinity College:

"Ibrahim ibn Fatik relates as follows: When Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj was brought to be crucified, and saw the cross and the nails, he laughed so greatly and violently that tears flowed from his eyes. Then he turned to the people and seeing Shibli among them said to him, "O Abu Bakr, hast thou thy prayer-carpet with thee?" Shibli answered, "Yes, O Shaykh!" Hallaj bade him spread it out, which he did. Then Hallaj stepped forward and prayed two rak'as on it, and I was near to him. In the first rak'a he recited the Fatiha, and a verse of the Koran, namely,

Every soul shall taste of death. Ye shall
be given your full rewards on the day of
Resurrection, and whoso shall be put far from
Hell-fire and caused to enter Paradise, happy
is he! The present life is but the goods of vanity.
(Sura 3:182)

In the second rak'a he recited the Fatiha and a verse of the
Koran, namely,

We will surely try thee with somewhat of
fear and hunger and loss of wealth and lives
and fruits. And bring a message of joy unto
the patient who say, when an affliction befalls
them, "lo, we belong to God and to Him we
shall return" Those are they upon whom
are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and
those are in the right way.
(Sura 2:150-152).

And when he had finished, he uttered a prayer of which
I remember only these words:

...O Lord, I beseech Thee to make me
thankful for the grace Thou hast bestowed
upon me in concealing from the eyes of other
men what Thou hast revealed to me of the
splendours of Thy radiant countenance which
is without a form, and in making it lawful
for me to behold the mysteries of Thy inmost
conscience which Thou hast made unlawful to
other men. And these Thy servants who are
gathered to slay me, in zeal for Thy religion
and in desire to win Thy favour, pardon them
and have mercy upon them; for verily if Thou
hadst revealed to them what which Thou hast
revealed to me, they would not have done
what they have done; and if Thou hadst
hidden from me that which Thou hast hidden
from them, I should not have suffered this
tribulation. Glory unto Thee in whatsoever
Thou doest, and glory unto Thee in whatsoever
Thou willest.

Then he remained silent for a time, communing with his Lord,
until Abu'l-Harith, the executioner went and smote him on the
cheek, breaking his nose with the blow, so that the blood
gushed out. Thereat Shibli cried aloud and rent his garment
and fell in a swoon, and so did Abu'l-Husayn al-Wasiti and
a number of well-known Sufis. And it almost came to riot."
(1964, pp. 45-47)

~ Excerpted from "The Idea of Personality in Sufism" by
Reynold A. Nicholson.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sigmund Freud on Sura 1:7 and Nabi Musa

After returning to Santa Barbara from my visit to the Freud Museum in London on 09-09-09, I was compelled to read "Moses and Monotheism." This was on the heels of reading Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's book "Freud's Moses - Judaism Terminable and Interminable" which I had bought at the Freud Museum gift shop. "Moses and Monotheism" was to be Freud's last book. In it he considers the role of Moses in the history of Judaism and the possible causes for the lasting influence that Moses had on his people. This might be considered Freud's commentary on Sura 1:7:

"Let us agree, therefore, that the great man influences his contemporaries in two ways: through his personality and through the idea for which he stands. This idea may lay stress on an old group of wishes in the masses, or point to a new aim for their wishes, or again, lure the masses by other means. Sometimes - and this is surely the more primitive effect - the personality alone exerts its influence, and the idea plays a decidedly subordinate part. Why the great man should rise to significance at all we have no doubt whatever. We know that the great majority of people have a strong need for authority which they can admire, to which they can submit, and which dominates and sometimes even ill-treats them. We have learned from the psychology of the individual whence comes this need of the masses. It is the longing for the father that lives in each of us from his childhood days, for the same father whom the hero of legend boasts of having overcome. And now it begins to dawn on us that all the features with which we furnish the great man are traits of the father, that in this similarity lies the essence, which so far has eluded us, of the great man. The decisiveness of thought, the strength of will, the forcefulness of his deeds, belong to the picture of the father; above all other things, however, the self-reliance and independence of the great man, his divine conviction of doing the right thing, which may pass into ruthlessness. He must be admired, he may be trusted, but one cannot help also being afraid of him. We should have taken a cue from the word itself: who else but the father should in childhood have been the great man?

Without doubt it must have been a tremendous father imago that stooped in the person of Moses to tell the poor Jewish labourers that they were his dear children. And the conception of a unique, eternal, omnipotent God could not have been less overwhelming for them: he who thought them worthy to make a bond with him promised to take care of them if only they remained faithful to his worship. Probably they did not find it easy to separate the image of the man Moses from that of his God, and their instinct was right in this, since Moses might very well have incorporated into the character of his God some of his own traits, such as his irascibility and implacability. And when they killed this great man they only repeated an evil deed which in primeval times had been a law directed against the divine king, and which as we know, derives from a still older prototype." (1939, pp. 139-141).

~ Excerpted from "Moses and Monotheism" by Sigmund Freud.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On the Meaning of the Straight Path

Nasir Khusraw was a leading Shia Ismaili poet and theologian-philosopher of the eleventh century (1004 to circa 1088 CE). In an English translation of his Gushayish wa Rahayish by Faquir Hunzai, Khusraw explains his understanding of the Siratal Mustaqim:

On the Meaning of the Straight Path

(168) O brother! You asked: 'What is the sirat (lit. path, way, bridge)? It is said that the sirat is stretched over hell, that it is thinner than an hair and sharper than a sword, and all people have to cross it. The fortunate ones cross it and reach paradise, whereas the unfortunate ones fall from it into hell. Explain, so that we may know.'

(169) Know, O brother, that (the word) sirat (in Persian, rah) means a path or a way. The path is of two kinds: one is the external path that the people walk upon the surface of the earth, and the other is the path which people follow with their souls in goodness and badness. Had the path stretched over hell been the only one which people have to cross, God in His book would not have mentioned it in the Surat al-hamd and commanded us to remember Him so that He would show us the path, as He says in the verse: 'Guide us to the straight path (al-sirat al-mustaqim)'. (1:5) Since He has commanded us to seek the straight path, it is a proof that on the path which is not straight but crooked is found that which is other than God. If God had made only one path on which we had to walk and traverse, He would not have commanded us to say this prayer. (The straight path is the way of those upon whom God has bestowed His favours, and they are the prophets,the truthful, the witnesses, and the righteous.) As He says: ('All who obey God and the Messenger are in the company of those) upon whom God has bestowed (His) favours: the prophets (nabiyyin) the truthful (siddiqin), the witnesses (shuhada), and the righteous (salihin). (4:69)

(170) Thus, it is established that the sirat is not (a path for the body) but the path of the soul which it should traverse, because God obliged (this path) first for the prophets, then their legatees (wasis) and the true Imams, and then their (proofs (hujjats)), as mentioned. These are the ones whom God has obliged: the prophets who are the Messengers, and they are so called because they convey the news of that world to the people; 'the truthful' by which He means the legatees who (expounded) the ta'wil of the shari'at and the book to the people, and by so doing disclosed the reality of the parables which they contained and provided to the wise that the Messengers are truthful; by 'the witnesses' are meant the true Imams as they are witnesses of God among the people; and by 'the righteous' are meant their (proofs) because of the betterment of the souls of people is due to them.

(171) When we come to know that the sirat is the path of the soul and not a path for the body, and with regard to what has been said that it stretches over hell, that it is thinner than an hair and sharper than a sword, that people have to traverse it in order to reach paradise, and if they fall from it they reach the eternal fire - all this is correct, but it is necessary to know its esoteric meaning (ta'wil), not (merely) the exoteric description. Thus we say that the sirat has the status of man (who is positioned) between animality and angelicity, and is required to walk on it straight because unless he traverses it he will be unable to reach paradise. Paradise is the higher (spiritual) world and hell is the fire which surrounds this lower (material) world. The ta'wil of this statement is that paradise means our liberation from the world of animality, and hell means to remain in that (animal) nature. If man practices the shari'at without understanding its ta'wil, then he makes himself into an animal, he inclines towards the left hand and falls into hell from the sirat. If he acquires (esoteric) knowledge, but does not practice the shari'at while claiming angelicity, he inclines towards the right hand and falls into hell from the sirat. However, when man walks on the path of humanity, in which he has a share from both animality and angelicity - that is, he does the work which is the share of his body and acquires knowledge which is the share of his soul - he walks on the straight path (sirat-i mustaqim); then when he traverses the sirat he is said to have reached paradise. This is so because having walked on the straight path using both knowledge and practice, when his soul leaves the body which is his sirat, he reaches the higher world, the place of angels and the true paradise." (1998, pp. 104-106).

~ Excerpted from "Knowledge and Liberation - A Treatise on Philosophical Theology" by Nasir Khusraw, edited and translated by Faquir M Hunzai.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Depth Psychology and Imaginal psychology in Islam

Depth psychotherapy was clearly not unfamiliar in the Muslim world. Dr. Ihsan Al-Issa,Ph.D, editor of "Al-Junun: Mental Illness in the Islamic World" describes two depth psychotherapeutic interventions including one by the renowned physician and polymath,Ibn Sina(d. 1037):

"In the same vein, Ibn Sina treated a deluded prince who imagined himself to be a cow. He would low and urge that he should be killed so that his flesh would be cooked in to a stew. He stopped eating and his life was in danger. The patient was told that a butcher was coming to kill him. With a knife in his hand, Ibn Sina entered the patent's room with two attendants saying, "Where is this cow that I may kill?" The patient made a noise like a cow. Ibn Sina ordered that the patient's hands and feet be bound. Putting his hand on the patient's side, he said, "He is very lean and not fit to be killed; he must eat fodder until he is fat." The patient ate in the hope that he might become fat and they might kill him, but within a month he was completely recovered (Browne, 1921). Ibn Abi Usaybia cited by Burgel (1973) reported a similar delusional case treated by Ibn Malka. The patient believed that he carried a precious vase on his head and feared its being knocked off. Ibn Malka arranged so that one of his assistants threw a similar vase down from the roof at the same m oment when another assistant pretended to knock down the imagery vase off the patient's head. This was a shock to the patient who believed that it was his vase that was broken and in this way he lost his delusion. It is important to note that both ancient and medieval physicians tended to reinforce the patient's delusion as an initial point in the process of therapy instead of denying the "reality" of these delusions as it is usually practiced in modern psychiatry." (2000, pp.60-61).

Clearly, Islam was able to adopt this Galenic approach to psychological treatment in the Medieval period to obtain the necessary results for effective treatment. This approach is fully validated by contemporary theory in imaginal psychology.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Al-Fatiha in Prophetic Medicine

Peter Pormann and Emilie Savage-Smith write about the healing power of al-Fatiha in their book "Medieval Islamic Medicine:"

"Treatises on Prophetic Medicine also advocated in varying degrees folkloric and magical remedies in addition to numerous invocations for warding off afflictions and protecting from jinn and the Evil Eye. The early tract based on Shi'ie imams had, for example, the following prescriptions:

He (the Prophet) said: 'Keep many domestic animals (dawajin) in your houses so that the demons are occupied with them instead of your children.'

(The imam Ja'far ibn Muhammad) al-Sadiq said to him (one of his clients whose fever would not subside): 'Undo the buttons of your shirt and put your head in it. Recite the call to prayer (adhan) and the introduction to prayer (iqamah), and recite seven times the 'surah of praise' (Al-Hamd, that is, the 'Opening', al-Fatihah, no.1).' The man said: 'I did that and recovered as quickly as a camel loosened from its cord.'

He (al-Sadiq) said to him (someone suffering from colic (or intestinal obstructon, qawlanj): 'Write for him the opening (surah) of the Qur'an (al-Fatihah, no.1), the surah 'Purity' (al-Iklhas, no. 112), and two surahs for seeking protection (al-ma'udhatan, the last two surahs of the Qur'an, 'Dawn', al-Falaq, and 'People', al-Nas, nos. 113 and 114). Then write underneath: "I take refuge in the presence of God, the Great, and in His might, which is unceasing, and in His power, which nothing can resist, from th evil of this pain, and the evil within it." Then swallow it with rainwater on an empty stomach. You will be cured of it, God the Exalted permitting.' " (2007, p. 150).

~Excerpted from "Medieval Islamic Medicine" by Peter E. Porman and Emilie Savage-Smith.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Renowned clinical intervention in Medieval Islamic Society

Dr. Taha Baasher recounts the following story in "World History of Psychiatry". The modern reader is reminded that the Abbasid court of Harun al-Rashid (786-809) represented an era that was patriarchal and from the modern perspective, probably sexist. However, the court physician was the most trusted and reputable medical practitioner in the land:

"An often quoted example is the story of Harun el Rashid's maid, who developed what appeared to be a state of hysterical conversion, involving her right upper limb. The maid lifted her hand up and could not bring it down. Massage and other physical treatments were of no avail. Gabriel (Gibreel Ibn Bakkhta Yashue), the court physician, in the presence of the Caliph and his entourage, pinched the maid from behind, and unconsciously the up-lifted arm dropped down. Though the explanation given by Gabriel was based on humor pathology, his therapeutic approach was obviously psychological." (1975, p. 557).

~ Excerpted from "World History of Psychiatry" edited by John G. Howells

Sura 1:5's healing force

Dr. Taha Baasher, a Sudanese psychiatrist writes this in "World History of Psychiatry:"

"Obviously the whole Koran is endowed with sacred blessing (baraka), but there are certain passages or chapters which are more concerned with healing holiness. The passage in the first chapter which states "to thee we worship and into ye we take refuge" is of central importance in incantation and treatment in general, because of its particular submission to God. References are also to the prophet's consideration of the emotional side of treatment. Muslims were urged to relieve patients of their emotional tensions when visiting them."(1975, p.555).

~ Excerpted from "World History of Psychiatry" edited by John G. Howells

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mental Illness in Islam

I came across an interesting journal article, entitled "Egyptian contribution to the concept of mental health" which was published in the Egyptian Mediterranean Health Journal, Volume 7, No. 3, May 2001, pp. 377-380 by A. Okasha, professor of Psychiatry at Ain Shams University in Cairo:

"Islamic era

The approach of Islam to mental illness can be traced most importantly to the Holy Quran. The most common word used to refer to the mad person, i.e. insane or psychotic, in the Quran is majnoon. The word is originally derived from the word jinn (the word jinn in Arabic has a common origin with words with different connotations and can refer to a shelter, screen, shield, paradise, embryo and madness). The Islamic concept of the insane that the sufferer is possessed by a jinn should not be confused with the concept of possession in the Middle Ages. In Islam, a jinn is not necessarily a demon, i.e. an evil spirit. It is a supernatural spirit, lower than the angels, that can be either good or bad. It has the power to assume human and animal forms. Some jinn are believers, listen to the Quran and help humans. Moreover, Islam is not only concerned with human beings but also with the spiritual world at large. In the Quran the jinn and the human being are almost always mentioned together. This has altered the concept and management of the mentally ill; although a person may be perceived as being possessed, the possession may be by a good or a bad spirit. Consequently one cannot generalize punishment or condemn unconditionally [5].

Apart from the concept of the mentally ill person being possessed, Islam has another positive concept where such an individual is seen as the one who dares to be innovative, original or creative, or attempts to find alternatives to a static and stagnant mode of living. This is to be found in various attitudes towards certain mystic philosophies such as Sufism, where the expansion of self and consciousness has been taken as a rationale to label some Sufis as psychotic. The writings of various Sufis do indeed reveal the occurrence of psychotic symptoms and much mental suffering in their quest for to self-salvation.

A third concept of mental illness is that there is disharmony or constriction of consciousness, which non-believers are susceptible to. This concept holds that there is a denaturing of our basic structure and disruption of our harmonious existence by egotism, detachment or alienation [5].

Islam also identified the unity of the body and the psyche. The psyche (elnafs) is mentioned 185 times in the Quran as a broad reference to human existence, meaning at different times body, behaviour, affect, and/or conduct, i.e. a total psycho- somatic unity.

The teaching of the great clinician Rhazes had a profound influence on Arab as well as European medicine. The two most important books of Rhazes are El-mansuri and Al-hawi. The first includes the definition and nature of temperaments and a comprehensive guide to physiognomy. Al-hawi is the greatest medical encyclopedia produced by a Muslim physician. It is the first clinical book presenting the complaints, signs, differential diagnosis and effective treatment of an illness. One hundred years later, Avicenna wrote Al qanun fi al-tibb, which was a monumental, educational and scientific book with better classification [5].

The first Islamic mental hospital appears to have been established in the early ninth century in Baghdad and to have been modelled on the Eastern Christian institutions, which seem to have been mainly monastic infirmaries. Among the hospitals that appeared throughout the Islamic world, perhaps the most famous one was the 14th century Kalaoon Hospital established in Cairo by the Sultan al-Mansour Kalaoon in 683 AH/1284 AD [6]. It had sections for surgery, ophthalmology, and medical and mental illnesses. Contributions by the wealthy of Cairo allowed a high standard of medical care and provided for patients during convalescence until they were gainfully occupied. Two features were striking: the care of mental patients in a general hospital and the involvement of the community in the welfare of the patients; these foreshadowed modern trends by many centuries [3]."

~ Excerpted from an article by Professor A. Okasha, Faculty of Psychiatry and Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Institute of Psychiatry at Ain Shams University in Cairo.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Islam's contribution to Psychology

As part of my doctoral dissertation research, I had to go back and find out if and how Islam made any contributions to the field of psychology.

In fact,Islam has received sparse attention for its contributions in the field of psychology, even though one of the first known texts on the interpretation of dreams was done by a Muslim from Basra, Muhammad Ibn Seerin (d. circa 729), whose work on dream interpretation appeared in a text published a few years after his death. Peter Adamson, in his detailed analysis on the thought of al-Kindi (d. 860), identifies the renowned philosopher as one of the first Muslim thinkers to reflect on the faculty of imagination: “Al-Kindi explores imagination most deeply in a treatise devoted to the phenomenon of prophetic dreams, entitled On Sleep and Dream.” (2007 p. 135). Adamson also notes “that al-Kindi consistently speaks of humans as possessing a power of “choice (ikhtiyar)” and “volition (irada).” But it would be too quick to conclude from this that that he makes human actions exempt from celestial causation. Perhaps the stars causally determine the choices we make, even though we are still choosing in a meaningful sense.” (p. 200).

Majid Fakhry writes that Al-Farabi (d. circa 950) attempted to explain phenomena “such as dreams, prognostication (kahanah), vision (ru’ya) and the prophetic office (nubuwwah), which is for him the highest stage attainable by humankind, through the use of the imaginative faculty.” (2002, pp. 90-91). Al-Farabi explored the topic where al-Kindi left off.

Lenn Goodman (2006), in his updated biography on Ibn Sina (d.1037) the physician renowned in the West as Avicenna, for his Canon on Medicine, explains Ibn Sina’s treatise on the substance of the soul. Ibn Sina was also one who viewed the brain as the seat of cognition and perception. Ebrahim Moosa’s biography (2005) of Al-Ghazali (d.1111), recounts that the famous theologian acknowledged the brain as an organ of sensory perception but identified the intellect as the critical faculty for the perception of inner reality. “Ghazali pointed out that the intellect is actually more intimately related to the heart than to the brain.”(2005, p. 225). Al-Tirmidhi (d.912) had much earlier identified the heart, and its inner four stations, as the most important human organ, as described by Robert Frager in “Heart, Self & Soul”(1999). Fakhry (2001) in his biography of Ibn Rushd (d.1198), known in the West as Averroes, recounts that the physician and jurist, expounded on a theory of knowledge, the faculties of the soul including memory and recollection, and the faculty of imagination.

According to Pormann & Savage-Smith in “Medieval Islamic Medicine,” the first hospitals were built in Baghdad in the 10th Century and “the care for the insane in hospitals was unprecedented and an important part of even the earliest Islamic hospitals.” (2007, p. 101). Michael Dols in his classic text: “Majnun: The Madman in Medieval Islamic Society” suggests that “the earliest evidence for the institutional care of the insane is the report that mentions the mentally disturbed patients in the hospital that was founded in al-Qatai, which was in the south-western quarter of present-day Cairo, by Ahmad ibn Tulun, the Abbasid governor of Egypt, in AD 872-3” (1992, p. 117). According to Dols, Al-Kindi opined that “homosexuality was not unnatural because it was practiced by animals” (1992. p. 98) and realized the therapeutic value of music: “Concerning its therapeutic value, al-Kindi integrated music thoroughly with the humoral theory: all notes, melodies, and rhythms had a humoral value.”(p. 169).

The first work on psychopathology was written by al-Tabari (d. 870), who, according to Dols, “used the tripartite division of the brain to locate psychic disorders” (p. 91). Dols reports that “Islamic physicians followed Galen in attributing a wide range of conditions to the malfunctioning of the brain.” (p. 91). Al-Razi (d. 925), the great Baghdad clinician, known as Rhazes, described symptoms and treatments for mental disorders especially melancholia. Pormann & Savage-Smith explain that in his “treatise On Spiritual Medicine”, Al-Razi makes the “case for the pursuit of pure knowledge and avoidance of the ‘afflictions of the soul’.” (2007, p. 48).

Finally, two great Sufis contributed to our understanding of Imaginal psychology through their notion of ‘alam al-mithal’ the imaginal realms. Suhrawardi (executed in 1191), the Persian theosopher, whose experiences of suprasensory reality are recounted in his Book of Conversations, inspired Henri Corbin’s posthumously published essay entitled “Mundus Imaginalis” in “Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam” (1995), and Ibn al-Arabi, (d. 1240) the inspired Andalusian Sufi Master personally experienced and wrote profusely about the world of imagination and its imaginal realms, as described by William Chittick in “Imaginal Worlds.” (1994).

The term psychology may not have been used by these Muslims of the past but the work of knowledge of the self and its regressive instincts and the knowledge of the refinement of the human soul have received consistent and steady attention since the birth of Islam to the present day. However, the notion that Islam has, or could have, its own psychology, per se, has not been a part of mainstream tradition. With the exception of the Sufis who pursued the mystical dimension of Islam and its alchemical transformations of the soul, resulting in the emergence of a Sufi psychology, no other corpus of a contemporary psychology of Islam exists.

In stark contrast, over the past one hundred years, in the Western tradition of the psychology of religion, the most prominent thinkers from William James, Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung to Abraham Maslow, Roberto Assagioli and Eric Fromm, from Murray Stein to Edward Edinger and others, have all engaged in diverse psychological inquiries within the context of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. The same cannot be said of the psychology of religion as it pertains to Islam, either by Western thinkers or by Muslim intellectuals and physicians.

In evolving a contemporary psychology of Islam, any reliance on or influence from non-Muslim sources may, in certain important quarters, be considered objectionable or unacceptable to many Muslims. However, to suggest that the psychology of religion, as a Western epistemology, has nothing to add to the understanding of contemporary Islam merely limits the faith to a myopic perspective both for practitioners of Islam and for Muslim practitioners of modern psychology. This myopia also limits access to those who seek to appreciate not only the rich spiritual heritage of Islam but also its relevance and potential universal application to the well-being of humanity. Moreover, to suggest that Islam lacks the capacity to embrace Western knowledge systems debases the original message of Islam. The Qur'an and the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) have always claimed that it was to be a universal message for humankind. The Prophet himself exhorted the faithful to seek knowledge even in China. An entire civilization evolved, expanded and flourished because Islam was once an open epistemological system.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The other side of Siratal Mustaqim

Truth is a Pathless Land

The Dissolution of the Order of the Star

The Order of the Star in the East was founded in 1911 to proclaim the coming of the World Teacher. Krishnamurti was made Head of the Order. On August 2, 1929, the opening day of the annual Star Camp at Ommen, Holland, Krishnamurti dissolved the Order before 3000 members. Below is the full text of the talk he gave on that occasion.

Truth is a Pathless Land
by J Krishnamurti

We are going to discuss this morning the dissolution of the Order of the Star. Many people will be delighted, and others will be rather sad. It is a question neither for rejoicing nor for sadness, because it is inevitable, as I am going to explain.

You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, "What did that man pick up?" "He picked up a piece of Truth," said the devil. "That is a very bad business for you, then," said his friend. "Oh, not at all," the devil replied, "I am going to let him organize it."

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.

So that is the first reason, from my point of view, why the Order of the Star should be dissolved.

In spite of this, you will probably form other Orders, you will continue to belong to other organizations searching for Truth. I do not want to belong to any organization of a spiritual kind, please understand this. I would make use of an organization which would take me to London, for example; this is quite a different kind of organization, merely mechanical, like the post or the telegraph. I would use a motor car or a steamship to travel, these are only physical mechanisms which have nothing whatever to do with spirituality. Again, I maintain that no organization can lead man to spirituality.

If an organization be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth. So that is another reason why I have decided, as I happen to be the Head of the Order, to dissolve it. No one has persuaded me to this decision.

This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies. Then you will naturally ask me why I go the world over, continually speaking. I will tell you for what reason I do this: not because I desire a following, not because I desire a special group of special disciples. (How men love to be different from their fellow-men, however ridiculous, absurd and trivial their distinctions may be! I do not want to encourage that absurdity.) I have no disciples, no apostles, either on earth or in the realm of spirituality.

Nor is it the lure of money, nor the desire to live a comfortable life, which attracts me. If I wanted to lead a comfortable life I would not come to a Camp or live in a damp country! I am speaking frankly because I want this settled once and for all. I do not want these childish discussions year after year.

One newspaper reporter, who interviewed me, considered it a magnificent act to dissolve an organization in which there were thousands and thousands of members. To him it was a great act because, he said:

What will you do afterwards, how will you live? You will have no following, people will no longer listen to you.” If there are only five people who will listen, who will live, who have their faces turned towards eternity, it will be sufficient. Of what use is it to have thousands who do not understand, who are fully embalmed in prejudice, who do not want the new, but would rather translate the new to suit their own sterile, stagnant selves? If I speak strongly, please do not misunderstand me, it is not through lack of compassion. If you go to a surgeon for an operation, is it not kindness on his part to operate even if he cause you pain? So, in like manner, if I speak straightly, it is not through lack of real affection -- on the contrary.

As I have said, I have only one purpose: to make man free, to urge him towards freedom, to help him to break away from all limitations, for that alone will give him eternal happiness, will give him the unconditioned realization of the self.

Because I am free, unconditioned, whole -- not the part, not the relative, but the whole Truth that is eternal -- I desire those, who seek to understand me to be free; not to follow me, not to make out of me a cage which will become a religion, a sect. Rather should they be free from all fears -- from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, from the fear of life itself. As an artist paints a picture because he takes delight in that painting, because it is his self-expression, his glory, his well-being, so I do this and not because I want anything from anyone.

You are accustomed to authority, or to the atmosphere of authority, which you think will lead you to spirituality. You think and hope that another can, by his extraordinary powers -- a miracle -- transport you to this realm of eternal freedom which is Happiness. Your whole outlook on life is based on that authority.

You have listened to me for three years now, without any change taking place except in the few. Now analyze what I am saying, be critical, so that you may understand thoroughly, fundamentally. When you look for an authority to lead you to spirituality, you are bound automatically to build an organization around that authority. By the very creation of that organization, which, you think, will help this authority to lead you to spirituality, you are held in a cage.

If I talk frankly, please remember that I do so, not out of harshness, not out of cruelty, not out of the enthusiasm of my purpose, but because I want you to understand what I am saying. That is the reason why you are here, and it would be a waste of time if I did not explain clearly, decisively, my point of view.

For eighteen years you have been preparing for this event, for the Coming of the World Teacher. For eighteen years you have organized, you have looked for someone who would give a new delight to your hearts and minds, who would transform your whole life, who would give you a new understanding; for someone who would raise you to a new plane of life, who would give you a new encouragement, who would set you free -- and now look what is happening! Consider, reason with yourselves, and discover in what way that belief has made you different -- not with the superficial difference of the wearing of a badge, which is trivial, absurd. In what manner has such a belief swept away all the unessential things of life? That is the only way to judge: in what way are you freer, greater, more dangerous to every Society which is based on the false and the unessential? In what way have the members of this organization of the Star become different?
As I said, you have been preparing for eighteen years for me. I do not care if you believe that I am the World-Teacher or not. That is of very little importance. Since you belong to the organization of the Order of the Star, you have given your sympathy, your energy, acknowledging that Krishnamurti is the World-Teacher -- partially or wholly: wholly for those who are really seeking, only partially for those who are satisfied with their own half-truths.
You have been preparing for eighteen years, and look how many difficulties there are in the way of your understanding, how many complications, how many trivial things. Your prejudices, your fears, your authorities, your churches new and old -- all these, I maintain, are a barrier to understanding. I cannot make myself clearer than this. I do not want you to agree with me, I do not want you to follow me, I want you to understand what I am saying.

This understanding is necessary because your belief has not transformed you but only complicated you, and because you are not willing to face things as they are. You want to have your own gods -- new gods instead of the old, new religions instead of the old, new forms instead of the old -- all equally valueless, all barriers, all limitations, all crutches. Instead of old spiritual distinctions you have new spiritual distinctions, instead of old worships you have new worships. You are all depending for your spirituality on someone else, for your happiness on someone else, for your enlightenment on someone else; and although you have been preparing for me for eighteen years, when I say all these things are unnecessary, when I say that you must put them all away and look within yourselves for the enlightenment, for the glory, for the purification, and for the incorruptibility of the self, not one of you is willing to do it. There may be a few, but very, very few.

So why have an organization?

Why have false, hypocritical people following me, the embodiment of Truth? Please remember that I am not saying something harsh or unkind, but we have reached a situation when you must face things as they are. I said last year that I would not compromise. Very few listened to me then. This year I have made it absolutely clear. I do not know how many thousands throughout the world -- members of the Order -- have been preparing for me for eighteen years, and yet now they are not willing to listen unconditionally, wholly, to what I say.

As I said before, my purpose is to make men unconditionally free, for I maintain that the only spirituality is the incorruptibility of the self which is eternal, is the harmony between reason and love. This is the absolute, unconditioned Truth which is Life itself. I want therefore to set man free, rejoicing as the bird in the clear sky, unburdened, independent, ecstatic in that freedom . And I, for whom you have been preparing for eighteen years, now say that you must be free of all these things, free from your complications, your entanglements. For this you need not have an organization based on spiritual belief. Why have an organization for five or ten people in the world who understand, who are struggling, who have put aside all trivial things? And for the weak people, there can be no organization to help them to find the Truth, because Truth is in everyone; it is not far, it is not near; it is eternally there.

Organizations cannot make you free. No man from outside can make you free; nor can organized worship, nor the immolation of yourselves for a cause, make you free; nor can forming yourselves into an organization, nor throwing yourselves into works, make you free. You use a typewriter to write letters, but you do not put it on an altar and worship it. But that is what you are doing when organizations become your chief concern.

How many members are there in it?” That is the first question I am asked by all newspaper reporters.

How many followers have you? By their number we shall judge whether what you say is true or false.” I do not know how many there are. I am not concerned with that. As I said, if there were even one man who had been set free, that were enough.

Again, you have the idea that only certain people hold the key to the Kingdom of Happiness. No one holds it. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification and in the incorruptibility of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity.

So you will see how absurd is the whole structure that you have built, looking for external help, depending on others for your comfort, for your happiness, for your strength. These can only be found within yourselves.

You are accustomed to being told how far you have advanced, what is your spiritual status. How childish! Who but yourself can tell you if you are beautiful or ugly within? Who but yourself can tell you if you are incorruptible? You are not serious in these things.

But those who really desire to understand, who are looking to find that which is eternal, without beginning and without an end, will walk together with a greater intensity, will be a danger to everything that is unessential, to unrealities, to shadows. And they will concentrate, they will become the flame, because they understand. Such a body we must create, and that is my purpose. Because of that real understanding there will be true friendship. Because of that true friendship -- which you do not seem to know -- there will be real cooperation on the part of each one. And this not because of authority, not because of salvation, not because of immolation for a cause, but because you really understand, and hence are capable of living in the eternal. This is a greater thing than all pleasure, than all sacrifice.

So these are some of the reasons why, after careful consideration for two years, I have made this decision. It is not from a momentary impulse. I have not been persuaded to it by anyone. I am not persuaded in such things. For two years I have been thinking about this, slowly, carefully, patiently, and I have now decided to disband the Order, as I happen to be its Head. You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages, new decorations for those cages. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.”

© Copyright 2000 -- KFA™; All Rights Reserved Krishnamurti Foundation of America™.

Friday, June 5, 2009

President Obama on the Ethics of Islam

In an inspiring speech made by President Barak Hussein Obama at the University of Cairo on June 4, 2009, in an attempt to jump start a "new beginning" between the USA and the Muslim world, he reminded his audience that:

"The holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as it if he has killed all mankind.

And the holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.

The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism; it is an important part of promoting peace."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Psyche and the Sacred

Dr. Lionel Corbett, M.D, professor of Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute offers some remarkable insights into a Depth Psychology of Evil in his book "Psyche and the Sacred."
Perhaps these are some of the notions we might consider when formulating an Integral Psychology of Islam in pursuing a psychological hermeneutic of al-Fatiha, particularly Sura 1:7 on the Siratal Mustaqeem:

"Each of us has his or her own way of dealing with our sense of our darkness, even though traditional religions have a great deal to say about good and bad behavior and require us to comply with the moral standards they set. These dictates are not difficult to follow if they coincide with our personality. But most of us have to struggle with our impulses and desires when we attempt to adhere to the standards of traditional morality. We may have to suppress them - that is, we consciously use our willpower to inhibit our less acceptable impulses, albeit at the cost of a vague feeling of guilt, which must constantly be assuaged. In order to comply with what is considered socially acceptable, we have to repress our desires, with the result that we prevent ourselves from even becoming aware of the negative impulse. While this enables us to keep our guilt out of consciousness, we then often project our badness onto others. When we find a scapegoat to carry our darkness, we are able to put on a moralistic and self-righteous front. The result is racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice, or some other kind of intolerance. The projection of one's own unconscious darkness onto others is at the root of wars, witch-burnings, genocide, progroms, Crusades, and the many massacres of heretics that pepper the history of Christianity. Alternatively, instead of projecting the shadow, we may simply dismiss it as unimportant; that is, we may be aware of it, but we do not admit its emotional significance. In the long run, these splitting mechanisms do not work; the shadow, that part of the personality that we would like to repudiate, leaks out, even from the saintliest of containers.

The use of splitting and projection onto others to maintain a sense of personal righteousness means that some aspect of our self has to be sacrificed as opposed to being faced consciously and worked through. When the shadow is denied, we may see a persona of goodness, a facade that hides the shadow but does not deal with it. It is dangerous to maintain such a radical split between good and evil. Some preachers of traditional Judeo-Christian morality are so identified with goodness and the official vales of the tradition that they are completely unconscious of their own shadow. But the denied aspects of the personality do not go away, and they may grow all the darker for being ignored. The shadow contents of the personality make periodic demands on the person. when the shadow breaks through, as it inevitably does in the form of sexual or financial misbehavior, those who once appeared to be paragons of virtue are often plunged into despair, because they are no longer able to use their preaching at others as a way of concealing their own difficulties.


Preaching, teaching, prayer, confession and other traditional methods of dealing with the personal shadow are only partially successful because they focus exclusively on conscious attitudes. In the last one hundred years, depth psychology has discovered that there are powerful unconscious motivations for evil behavior. This discovery is important, because it is easier to deal with evil that we understand than with behavior that seems incomprehensible. The more clearly we understand what is driving evil behavior, the better able we will be to help people deal with it, and the less likely we will be simply to tell people not to do it. One of the insights of depth psychology is that the same behavior carried out by different people may have quite different unconscious sources. We cannot understand behavior without a grasp of these underpinnings. Therefore, in a depth-psychological approach to spirituality, it is not sufficient simply to label certain behavior as "sinful" without trying to understand its origins. Universal prescriptions for good behavior may be of little value in the individual case; it is not always helpful to tell people that they must grapple with their impulses and improve the flaws in their character; good advice alone may not be enough to deal with powerful complexes. We cannot get rid of the unconscious simply by making rules, so there is not much point in merely defining the "seven deadly sins" and declaring them forbidden. (Our legal system also recognizes that there are powerful emotional forces within the personality that may diminish the possibility of self-control.)

Human evil is at times more tragic than blameworthy. Sometimes people behave in evil ways in an attempt to master the evil that was inflicted on them. We often see destructive behavior resulting from childhood deprivation so severe that the person is unable to resist the forces that drive him or her to evil." (2007, pp. 145-147).

~ Excerpted from "Psyche and the Sacred -Spirituality beyond Religion" By Lionel Corbett, M.D.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Reformist Translation of al-Fatiha

The translators of the Reformist Translation of the Quran, Edip Yuksel, American-Turkish founder of Islamic Reform (, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban (founder of Progressive Muslims and co-founder of Islamic Reform) and Martha Schulte-Nafeh (Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Near Eastern Studies - Arabic language and Linguistics 2004), claim that it

"offers a non-sexist understanding of the divine text; it is the result of collaboration between three translators, two men and a woman. We use logic and the language of the Quran itself as the ultimate authority in determining likely meanings, rather than previous scholarly interpretations. These interpretations, though sometimes useful as historical and scholarly reference resources, are frequently rendered inadequate for a modern understanding and practice of Islam because they were heavily influenced by patriarchal culture, relied heavily on the hearsay teachings falsely attributed to the prophet Muhammad, and were frequently driven by hidden or overt sectarian and political agendas. We therefore explicitly reject the right of the clergy to determine the likely meaning of disputed passages."

Their translation of al-Fatiha is rendered accordingly:

1:1 In the name of God, the Gracious, the Compassionate
1:2 Praise is to God, Lord of the Worlds.
1:3 The Gracious, the Compassionate.
1:4 Master of the day of Judgment.
1:5 You alone we serve; you alone we ask for help.
1:6 Guide us to the straight way;
1:7 the way of those whom you blessed; not of those who received anger, nor of the strayers.

The endnotes on 1:7 are interesting:

"001:007 Traditional commentaries attempt to restrict the negatively described groups to Christians and Jews. This self-righteous attitude has led the Muslim masses to ignore their own corruption and deviation from the straight path.

The Quran mentions communities as well as individuals who received retribution such as the people of Noah (26:25), the People of Thamud (7:78; 11:61-68), the People of Lot (26:160-175), the People of Madyan (11:84-95), Ayka (26:176-191), Aad (11:59-60); 26:123-140), and Pharoah (3:11; 11:96-99); 20:78-80)."

~ Excerpted from "Quran - A Reformist Translation", (2007, pp. 40-41)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Neurobiology and the Wrath of God in al-Fatiha

According to Michael Gerson of the Calgary Herald in an article published today, Andrew Newberg is perhaps America's leading expert on religion's neurological basis. His book, "How God Changes Your Brain," coauthored with Mark Robert Waldman, summarizes years of ground breaking research on the biological basis of religious experience, with plenty to challenge skeptics and believers alike:

"Neuroscience cannot tell you if God does or doesn't exist," Newberg states with appropriate humility.Neurobiology helps explain religion; it does not explain it away. But Newberg's research offers warnings for the religious, too.

Contemplating a loving God strengthens portions of our brain where empathy and reason reside. But, contemplating a wrathful God empowers that part of the brain "filled with aggression and fear." It is a sobering concept: The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not. For Newberg, this is not a critique of fundamentalism, a phenomenon varied in its beliefs and motivations. It's a criticism of institutions that ally ideology or faith with anger and selfishness.

"The enemy is not religion," writes Newberg, "the enemy is anger, hostility,intolerance, separatism, extreme idealism, and prejudicial fear - be it secular, religious, or political."

Newberg employs a vivid image: two packs of neurological wolves, he says,are found in every brain. One pack is old and powerful, oriented toward survival and anger. The other is comprised of pups, the newer parts of thebrain, more creative and compassionate, "but they are also neurologically vulnerable and slow when compared to the activity in the emotional parts of the brain." So all human beings must ask: Which pack do we feed?

How God Changes Your Brain has a few limitations. In a practical, how-to tone, it predicts "an epiphany that can improve the inner quality of your life. For most Americans, that is what spirituality is about." But if this is what spirituality is all about, it isn't about very much. Mature faith involves self-sacrifice, not self-actualization; anguish, not comfort. If the primary goal of religion is escape or contentment, there are more practical ways.

"I didn't go to religion to make me happy," said C.S.Lewis, "I always knew a bottle of port would do that." Religious discussion must come down to truth. Can we escape the wheel of becoming, or hear God's voice in a wandering prophet, or meet a man once dead? Without such beliefs, religion is mere meditation. Newberg's research shows an amplified influence of religious practices on those who "truly believe." But Newberg himself has difficulty sharing such belief.

His research on the varieties of religious experience leave him skeptical about the capacity of the mind to accurately perceive "universal or ultimate truth." Yet, he told me, "To this day, I am still seeking and searching." And that is the most honest kind of science."

~ Excerpted from "Neurons at work in the mind's God-shaped gap" by Michael Gerson.
15 Apr 2009
Calgary Herald

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Miraculous powers of the Basmalla

"All power is from Allah Almighty, and we must always ask for His support, because we are in need, we are weak ones.Allah Almighty ordered His Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sal) to inform his Ummah that anything that is not begun with His Holy Name : "Bismillahir-Rahman-ir-Rahim", will never be supported by Allah; it means it will never give fruit, and it must fail.

If you say Allah's Holy Name, you will take benefit from that action, and any harm that may be in it will leave you. Whoever is feeling weak should say it, and power will come to his physical body and to his heart. The Basmalla is the most important key for opening all treasures in the Heavens and on earth, and for opening all forms of knowledge. Allah Almighty has put three thousand of His Holy Names in it: 1000 Names that are known only to the Angels, 1000 Names known by the Prophets, 999 Names contained in the 4 Holy Books, and His Greatest Name.

All of these Names are contained in the Basmalla. Whoever is able to reach to the secret power of the Basmalla should be dressed in miraculous powers. We, as servants of Allah, should say it at least 100 times daily. If a person continues for 40 days, he should find some power, some changes in himself, especially if he says it one thousand times between Fajr and sunrise. From unseen worlds, from Malakut beautiful views will appear to him. According to the thickness of the veils of his heart, from 1x 40 days, up to 7x 40 days, there should be an opening. If not, it means that his heart is too occupied with Dunya, and he should try to put Dunya last, and then try again.

It is a rule which can't be wrong. Even in one day it may be opened, because it is so powerful. Every time you say: "Bismillahir-Rahman-ir-Rahim", it means that you are remembering the Lord: "Oh My Lord, I am remembering You!" And then Allah says: "Oh My servant, I am remembering you!" Don't forget! If you forget, you will be forgotten."

Source:- Sohbet/Spiritual Talk by As-Sayyid Shaykh Muhammad Nazim al-Qubrusi ar-Rabbani al-Haqqani al-Hassani al-Husseini

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Al-Fatiha's spot in the brain?

Scientists searching for brain's 'God spot' find belief circuits

Scientists searching for the so-called "God spot" have identified parts of the brain which control religious belief.

By John Bingham Last Updated: 1:00PM GMT 10 Mar 2009

A study involving practising Christians, Muslims and Jews found that some areas of the cortex "light up" in response to religious statements.

Scans carried out on volunteers as they processed a series of remarks about God showed how areas of the brain which evolved more recently and not present in other animals were often more heavily involved – suggesting that faith is uniquely human.

"We're interested to find where in the brain belief systems are represented, particularly those that appear uniquely human," said Prof Jordan Grafman of the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, who led the research.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, undermined the idea that a single area of the brain – nicknamed the God spot – controlled religious belief.
Instead, the scientists found that several different pieces of cerebral circuitry are used to process different aspects of religion.

A group of 40 volunteers, drawn from the main monotheistic religions, were asked to listen to a series of statements about God and asked to say whether they agreed or disagreed while having their brain scanned.

When statements about God being involved in the world were read, the lateral frontal lobe areas – one of the part of the brain which enables us to empathise with other people – were engaged.
But when it came to comments such as "God is wrathful", activity was centred on the medial temporal and frontal gyri.

And when more abstract or doctrinal questions were raised, it was the right inferior temporal gyrus – the circuitry which helps us understand metaphor – which was most engaged.

"Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary adaptive cognitive functions," said Prof Grafman.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Alchemy in Islam

Marie Louise von Franz, close collaborator of Depth psychoanalyst, C.G. Jung in his work on Alchemy offers this observation in her book "Psyche and Matter:"

"European alchemy therefore gradually died away. Its traditions moved to the North African realm, which remained pagan, especially to Mesopotamia, where later it flourished under Islamic rule. The Islamic culture has brought forth several important creative alchemists, such as Mohamed ibn Umail (tenth century), who became famous in later Western alchemy under the name of Senior (which is the translation of sheikh).

Jung has pointed out that Islam is a religion of pure eros. Accordingly, coniunctio symbolism, the hierosgamos of the sun and moon, plays a great role in the writings of Senior. In itself, the motif of the sacred coniunctio also springs from the Egyptian ritual of the dead and again comes up in the Komarios text, which I mentioned before. From then on, the motif of the hierosgamos, the sacred marriage, remained the central theme of alchemy. It denotes on the one hand chemical affinity and on the other the union of psychic opposites in the process of individuation, which Jung has so deeply interpreted in "The Psychology of Transference" and Mysterium Coniunctionis." (1992, p. 152).

~Excerpted from "Psyche and Matter" by Marie Louise von Franz, distinguished analyst and founder of the C.G Jung Institute in Zurich.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You Alone do We Worship

Written by Fethullah Gülen, Wednesday, 13 February 2008 21:00

You alone do we worship. (Fatiha 1:5)

In this phrase, the object pronoun "You alone" (iyyaka) is placed before the predicate. This implies a very subtle point: "O God, we wholeheartedly proclaim, acknowledge, and confess that it is only You, and none but You that we turn to, bow before, and seek comfort in. We believe that by Your side alone we can attain serenity and peace." Another point to note here is the tense; instead of abada, which is the past tense, in this verse God uses na'budu, the same root in the present. In the past, abada connotes "we did, we made, we performed, etc." Such a tone, however, would in a way be contrary to the nature of worship, for it sounds like an accomplishment, which implies pride, as if the worshipper fulfilled something all by himself or herself.

The present tense form of na'budu implies that the task is not yet finished, which renders such a misinterpretation impossible. Meaning "we worship," na'budu refers to the intention and determination to acknowledge the eternal impotence and poverty of humankind before His Presence. This can also be paraphrased as follows, "O Lord! I am determined that I will not sacrifice my freedom to anyone but You and I will not fall in humiliation before anyone or anything. I turn to You fully intent on servanthood and worship; my eyes are fixed upon You and no other. I am filled with a desire for submission and prayer. Resolute to distance myself from anything other than You, I wish to always stand opposed to all that You do not like or want. My intention is my greatest worship; I hope that You will accept my intention as my worship. I plead for Your favor, not in proportion to the number of things that I have done, but to those I have intended to do."

In this phrase, na'budu, "we worship," also emphasizes that the worshipper is not alone with such thoughts. Hoping that all others are thinking in the same vein, the worshipper proclaims, "In making this request, I am in full concord with all my fellow worshippers." Through such an indisputable alliance, the worshipper is empowered with confirmation and testimony, and thus he or she turns to the presence of the Almighty Lord Who meets all needs. In this manner, they can relieve themselves of evil involuntary thoughts, and they can enact a complete form of worship toward the Perfect Divinity.

~Excerpted from
Fethullah Gulen is a controversial Sufi teacher from Turkey. Founder of the Gulen Movement, he has authored 60 books and is a leader in the world of interfaith and ecumenical engagement.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Abu Hatim Razi on "Those Upon Whom Thou Hast Bestowed Favors"

Abu Hatim Ahmad ibn Hamdan Razi (d. 934) was a renowned Dai and physician who wrote a major treatise on the nature of a prophet's knowledge of the world in A'lam al-nubuwwah, translated by Everett K. Rowson as "Science of Prophecy." From what he writes it would appear that Razi had a particular appreciation for the favor of knowledge and wisdom that were revealed to the prophets:

"But as for the true ancient sages who composed these valid works on astronomy, medicine, geometry, and other natural sciences, they were the sages among the people of their eras, the leaders of their ages, and God's proofs to His creatures in their times, whom God supported with revelation coming from Him and whom He taught this wisdom. Thus each of them contributed a particular kind of wisdom. One contributed the science of medicine, while other contributed other mathematical and natural sciences. They presented them to the people, who took them from them, since God wanted to make His creatures aware of the wisdom in these principles, to manifest the ranks of these prophets in their times, and to display God's proofs to His creatures by means of their tongues. So, for example, it has been handed down that the principles of astronomy come from the prophet Idris. Some people have interpreted God's words in the story of Idris that 'We raised him to a high place' as meaning that God raised him up to the mountain which is at the navel of the world, and sent him an angel to teach him the things connected with the celestial sphere, its terms and zodiacal signs, the planets and the periods of their orbits, and other aspects of the science of astronomy.

Furthermore, they say that the Hermes mentioned by the philosophers is Idris, his name among the philosophers being Hermes but in the Qur'an Idris - both these names resemble those names like Galenos, Aristoteles, and so forth, which end in 's' - and in the other revealed books Enoch. This, then, is an indication that such men used to have these names as aliases. The same pattern can be seen, among the names of prophets mentioned in the Qur'an, in Elias as well as Idris. Among those prophets and sages mentioned by the People of the Book there are Simon, the disciple of the Messiah, who was called Petros; his brother, one of the twelve, whose name was Andreios; among the twelve apostles, Philippos; Marcos, one of the four; and Malghus, the apostle who obeyed among them. Among the prophets they mention are Saraqsis, Agabos, Lucios, Paulus, and Philadelphius. So there are many such names among the prophets and sages, which resemble the names of the ancient philosophers, who composed the books of medicine, astronomy and geometry, using such names as aliases. " (2008, pp. 149-150)

~Excerpted from "Ismaili Thought in the Classical Age", edited by S.H. Nasr & M. Aminrazavi

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Cross and The Crescent

Phil Parshall is one of the leading authorities on ministry to Muslims. He has lived among Muslims since 1962, first with the International Christian Fellowship (Now SIM) in Bangladesh and most recently in the Philippines. His book "The Cross and the Crescent - Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind" aspires to inform and educate Christians about Islam so that they can minister to them. Despite this agenda, Parshall does manage to capture the essence of Islam:

"Millions of Muslims have testified to the impact of the Quran on their lives. My intimate Muslim friend, Dr. Ali, about whom I have written in previous books, has testified to a life-changing experience when he began to read the Quran in his own language. Reading and reciting Scripture in Arabic, which he did not understand, made minimal impression on his daily life. But when he was able to comprehend the teachings of Allah, his life was brought to a full point of dedication. Even though he is a busy layman, he still finds time to search the Quran for guidance.

An experience like the following is not at all uncommon in the Muslim world:

They waited now with emotion for that old voice, melodious and worn with age, to utter the opening strophes of the Holy Book, and there was nothing feigned in the adoring attention of the circle of faces. Some licked their lips and leaned forward eagerly, as if to take the phrases upon their lips: others lowered their heads and closed their eyes as if against a new experience in music. The old preacher sat with his waxen hands folded in his lap and uttered the first Sura, full of the soft, warm coloring of a familiar understanding, his voice a little shaky at first, but gathering power and assurance from the silence as he proceeded. His eyes now were as wide and lusterless as a dead hare's. His listeners followed the notation of the verses as they fell from his lips with care and rapture, gradually seeking their way together as they fell from and into the main stream of the poetry like a school of fish following a leader by instinct out into the deep sea (Durrell 1958, 256).

It may be of interest to note that John 3:16 is not the most frequently quoted Scripture in the world. The above-mentioned first Sura of the Quran holds that distinction. Five times a day Muslims bow in prayer while facing Mecca and recite these first words of the Quran:

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Owner of the Day of Judgment,
Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.
Show us the straight path,
The path of those whom Thou has favored;
Not (the path) of those who earn Thine anger
nor of those who go astray." (2002, pp. 61-62).

~Excerpted from "The Cross and the Crescent - Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind" by Dr. Phil Parshall, who holds a doctorate from Fuller Seminary and has had fellowships with Harvard and Yale universities.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sirat al Mustaqim of Abraham

Bruce Feiler's sincere inquiry into the heart of the world's three monotheistic faiths in search of the role and meaning of Abraham results in an astounding conclusion that offers healing to all men and women of faith:

"When I first set out on this journey, I believed Abraham existed in some mysterious place. The Great Abrahamic Hope was out there, an oasis somewhere in the deepest deserts of antiquity, and all we had to do was track him down, unveil him to the world, and his descendants would live in perpetual harmony, dancing "Kumbaya" around the campfire.

That oasis, I realized, is just a mirage.

But Abraham isn't. Abraham is like water. I came to to believe, but not the oasis I had originally thought. He's a vast, underground aquifer that stretches from Mesopotamia to the Nile, from Jerusalem to mecca, from Kandahar to Kansas City. He's an ever-present, ever flowing stream that represents the basic desire all people have to form a union with God. He's a physical manifestation of the fundamental yearning yo be descended from a sacred source. He's a personification of the biological need we all share to feel protected by someone, something. Anything.

This perpetual stream of Abrahamic ideals has existed just under the surface of the world for as long as humans have told themselves stories. And every generation - at moments of joy and crisis - tapped into the same source. Each generation chose an Abraham for itself.

And we can, too. We can tap into the same underground stream and draw out a figure for our times. We can summon our own savior from the sands, and in so doing bring ourselves closer to God. We can, like Abraham, leave behind our native places - our comfortable, even doctrinaire traditions - and set out for an unknown location, whose dimensions may be known only to God but whose mandate is to be a place where God's blessing is promised to all.

In short, we can create Abraham Number Two Hundred Forty-one.

And we must.

So what should our`Abraham look like? For starters, he should look like us. He should be a creature of the modern world, informed by our number-crunching mentality - the number of people killed, the number of people under occupation,, 1948, 1967, 56.6 K, 9-11. He should be a student of our time, knowing like a savvy, modern day Zelig that a lot of other people bearing his name are running around the world wreaking havoc in his honor.

But most of all he should embody the timeless values he's represented for four millennia. The Abraham I crave is God-fearing but also God-not-fearing. This Abraham is a wanderer, a man of the frontier, who's prepared to leave the comfort of his family for the sake of the family he wants to create, and who admits that he can't do this alone but needs a partnership with God in order to realize himself more fully. And this Abraham, having given his life over to God, is then prepared to challenge God, in order that God might more fully realize himself and renew his commitment to protect humankind.

The Abraham I long for would be a bridge between humanity and the divine, who demonstrates the example of what it means to be faithful but who also delivers to us God's blessing on earth. And this Abraham conveys God's grace through his children, through Ishmael, through Isaac, and who then has so much hallowedness left over that he doles some out to all members of his household, and then to the children of his second wife. And this Abraham is perceptive enough to know that his children will not always embrace the fullness of God's blessing, they will not always endlessly dance "Kumbaya" around the campfire, they will fight, murder, fly planes into buildings, send bombs into schools, and generally try to squander God's generosity.

But this Abraham believes - against all belief - that his children will crave God. They still need the comfort of something greater than themselves, still hold on to some gleam of humanity, still dream of a moment when they stand alongside one another and pray for their lost father and for the legacy of peace among the nations that was his initial mandate from heaven.

This Abraham is not Jew, Christian, or Muslim. He is not flawless; he's not a saint. But he is himself, the best vessel we've got, the father of all.

This Abraham won't be the only Abraham. He won't be the last Abraham. But he is an Abraham for today.

I choose him." (2002, pp. 215-218).

~ Excerpted from "Abraham" by Bruce Feiler.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Correct Path of Abraham

Bruce Feiler's book "Abraham - A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths" goes to the heart of the interfaith issues between the Abrahamic faiths. This is an excerpt of his interview with Sheikh Abu Sneina, an Imam at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem:

"As our meeting was drawing to a close, I mentioned the interfaith conversation in the world and asked whether he believed Abraham was a uniting figure or a dividing figure.

"If Muslims, Jews, and Christians follow what is mentioned in the Koran, then Abraham can be a uniting figure," he said, and I felt we might be heading down a path similar to the night before. "But even if Jews and Christians just follow what's mentioned about Abraham in the Bible, then we can reach unity."

Now this was a new idea. "But we have two different texts," I said.

"But the principle is the same, " he said. "You have a true heart, you have to believe there is one God. Maybe we have different approaches, but the destination is the same."

This was so radical in its openness that I didn't quite believe it at first. I mentioned that the previous Friday I had stood on a perch overlooking El-Aksa as he spoke. I could see Jews praying, Muslims praying, all the churches with their bells ringing. "And everybody could hear everybody else."

He laughed. "So what is your question?"

"Was that the sound of conflict or the sound of peace?"

"As Muslims we have the order to pray, to believe according to Islam, and God asks us very clearly to protests against other groups who have other beliefs. We want to spread Islam, to have a jihad. But that doesn't mean we have to fight. Jihad does not mean to fight people, it means to invite people to Islam, which is highly misunderstood, both historically and now. But this can be done peacefully."

"I would like to believe that," I said. "But people are dying. I live in New York."

"The situation is very difficult. There are problems in Palestinian society. People are deprived from coming to El-Aksa. Every family knows people who are prisoners, or who were killed. This political domination threatens religious tolerance. So religion is mixed with politics, you see."

"So, when I look at the situation, should I feel sad, or concerned? Or should I feel that in the future the spirit of Abraham can prevail?"

"You should feel sadness," the imam said, "not just for the Muslim world but also for Jews and Christians."

We nodded.

"But despite this sadness, " he continued, "hope must endure. We all sacrifice. We all have people killed. It's the same for Palestinians and Israelis, for Christians and Jews, for Americans, for people all over the world. We must find a way."

For the first time all morning I felt the imam emerging from his defensive posture. He was sitting on the edge of his chair now. His arms were stretching wide, his hands upstretched. His eyes burned. He was a preacher. He was a leader.

I lifted my voice in response. I moved to the edge of my chair, too. I swung my arms out wide. "So I give you a microphone," I said. "You can speak to the whole world. And I ask you to speak about Abraham. What is your message?"

We were sitting face-to-face now. The gap between us had disappeared. "Abraham was a man of faith," he began. "He worshiped God, and was thankful for God. He invented monotheism. He had high values. If all people - not just Muslims, Christians, Jews - follow the correct path of Abraham, I'm sure life would be better. But we are not doing that. The situation we are facing is that people are living their daily lives far away from the truly faithful, and from Abraham. if we look beyond the details, which we may disagree about, and follow the principles of Abraham - truth, morality, and co-existence - then most of our problems will disappear." (2002, pp. 182- 184).

~ Excerpted from "Abraham" by Bruce Feiler.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Straight Path - a Shia perspective

I asked the author of the Temple of the Living Imam blog for permission to re post one of his posts on Siratal Mustaqim. I also asked him for a brief bio. Here's his response in his own words and the text of the post:

Ok, let's see, what's important? I am a high school English teacher in rural Pennsylvania, father of three, grew up near Reading, PA, a good Catholic boy. A chance encounter with Islam during college sparked my spiritual interest and launched a ten-year trek through the Muslim world in search of the Imam. The Imam is a reality that constantly gives way to ever deepening understandings, and the blog is a way of recording personal encounters with this reality, whether through text or through spirit. Does that help? Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you! Brian

Monday, January 19, 2009

In reference to the entry of a couple days ago on the sirat al-mustaqeem, from the batini Twelver Shia exegesis of Sharaf al-Din Astrabadi called Ta'wil al-Ayat al-Dhahira fi Fadha'il al-'Itrat al-Tahira: "The path [mentioned in Surat al-Fatiha] is actually twofold. The path in this world and the Bridge in the Hereafter. As for the path in this world, that is Amir al-Mu'mineen, may peace be upon him. The one who is led to his wilayat in this world succeeds upon the Bridge in the Hereafter, and the one who is not led to his wilayat in this world does not succeed upon the Bridge in the Hereafter."

The interpretation of the verse reveals the dhahir-batin dichotomy present in so much of Islamic esoterism. According to this view, the Imam is the referent of most of the verses of the Holy Qur'an, even those that appear to be referencing something mundane and non-spiritual in nature. One can ask, "What is this path?" or "What is this Bridge?", and the answer will come,
"It is the Imam." But then the next question must be, "What is the Imam?"

That is a much more challenging question to answer, and that is the batin of the batin.

Note on translation: The words "path" and "Bridge" here are translated from the same Arabic word, sirat. By convention, the word sirat in the context of al-Fatiha is expressed as "path", while in the specific context of the description of the trials of the Hereafter is expressed as "Bridge".

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baseline on Clinical Psychology of Islam

Clinical and medical approach (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Unlike medieval Christian physicians who relied on demonological explanations for mental illness, medieval Muslim physicians relied mostly on clinical psychiatry and clinical psychology, and clinical observations on mentally ill patients. They made significant advances to psychiatry and were the first to provide psychotherapy and moral treatment for mentally ill patients, in addition to other new forms of treatment such as baths, drug medication, music therapy and occupational therapy.[32]

[edit] Al-tibb al-ruhani and diseases of the mind

The concepts of al-tibb al-ruhani (translated as "spiritual health" in Arabic) and "mental hygiene" were introduced in Islamic medicine by the Persian physician Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (850-934), who often related it to spiritual health. In his Masalih al-Abdan wa al-Anfus (Sustenance for Body and Soul), he was the first to successfully discuss diseases related to both the body and the soul. He used the term al-Tibb al-Ruhani to describe spiritual and psychological health, and the term Tibb al-Qalb to describe mental medicine. He criticized many medical doctors in his time for placing too much emphasis on physical illnesses and neglecting the mental illnesses of patients, and argued that "since man’s construction is from both his soul and his body, therefore, human existence cannot be healthy without the ishtibak [interweaving or entangling] of soul and body." He further argued that "if the body gets sick, the nafs [psyche] loses much of its cognitive and comprehensive ability and fails to enjoy the desirous aspects of life" and that "if the nafs gets sick, the body may also find no joy in life and may eventually develop a physical illness." Al-Balkhi traced back his ideas on mental health to verses of the Qur'an and hadiths attributed to Muhammad, such as:[3]
"In their hearts is a disease."
Qur'an 2:10
"Truly, in the body there is a morsel of flesh, and when it is corrupt the body is corrupt, and when it is sound the body is sound. Truly, it is the qalb [heart]."
Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Iman
"Verily Allah does not consider your appearances or your wealth in (appraising you) but He considers your hearts and your deeds."
Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, no. 8707

[edit] Mental hospitals

As a result of the new positive Islamic understanding of mental illness, the first mental hospitals and insane asylums were built in the Islamic world as early as the 8th century. The first mental hospitals were built by Arab Muslims in Baghdad in 705, Fes in the early 8th century, and Cairo in 800. Other famous mental hospitals were built in Damascus and Aleppo in 1270.[4][33]

[edit] Al-‘ilaj al-nafs and tibb al-qalb

Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari's Firdous al-Hikmah written in the 9th century was the first work to study 'al-‘ilaj al-nafs (translated as "psychotherapy" from Arabic)[10] in the treatment of patients. His ideas were primarily influenced by early Islamic thought and ancient Indian physicians such as Sushruta and Charaka. Unlike earlier physicians, however, al-Tabari emphasized strong ties between psychology and medicine, and the need for al-‘ilaj al-nafs and counseling in the therapeutic treatment of patients. He wrote that patients frequently feel sick due to delusions or imagination, and that these can be treated through "wise counselling" by smart and witty physicians who could win the rapport and confidence of their patients, leading to a positive therapeutic outcome.[14] In his chapter on mental illness, al-Tabari first described thirteen types of mental disorders, including madness, delirium, and Fasad Al-Khayal Wal-Aqo ("damage to the imagination, intelligence and thought").[34] He also clearly highlighted mental illness as a speciality of its own.

The Tunisian Arab Muslim physician,[35] Ishaq ibn Imran (d. 908),[36] known as "Isaac" in the West,[37] wrote an essay entitled Maqala fil-L-Malikhuliya, in which he first described psychosis, and also described a type of melancholia: the "cerebral type" or "phrenitis". He described the diagnosis of this mental disorder, reporting its varied symptoms. The main clinical features he identified were sudden movement, foolish acts, fear, delusions, and hallucinations of black people.[36] This work was later translated into Latin as De Oblivione (On Forgetfulness) by Constantine the African.[35]

The Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) (865-925) wrote the landmark texts El-Mansuri and Al-Hawi in the 10th century, which presented definitions, symptoms, and treatments for many illnesses related to mental health and mental illness. Razi's texts made significant advances in psychiatry. Razi also managed the mental ward of a Baghdad hospital. Such institutions could not exist in Europe at the time, because of European fears of demonic possession.[32]

In the centuries to come, Islam would serve as a critical waystation of knowledge for Renaissance Europe, through the Latin translations of many scientific Islamic texts. Razi, al-Tabari and Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi were the first known physicians to study al-‘ilaj al-nafs.
Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (d. 982) discussed mental illness in his medical text, Kitab al-Malaki, where he discovered and observed a type of melancholia: clinical lycanthropy, associated with certain personality disorders. He wrote the following on this particular mental illness:[36]
"Its victim behaves like a rooster and cries like a dog, the patient wanders among the tombs at night, his eyes are dark, his mouth is dry, the patient hardly ever recovers and the disease is hereditary."

Avicenna (980-1037) often used psychological methods to treat his patients.[23] One such example involved a prince of Persia who had melancholia and suffered from the delusion that he was a cow. He would low like a cow, crying "Kill me so that a good stew may be made of my flesh," and would not eat anything. Avicenna was persuaded to undertake the case, and sent a message to the patient, asking him to be happy, as the butcher was coming to slaughter him, and the sick man rejoiced. When Avicenna approached the prince with a knife in his hand, he asked, "Where is the cow so I may kill it." The patient then lowed like a cow to indicate where he was. By order of Avicenna in his role as the butcher, the patient was also laid on the ground for slaughter. When Avicenna approached the patient, pretending to slaughter him, he said, "The cow is too lean and not ready to be killed. He must be fed properly and I will kill it when it becomes healthy and fat." The patient was then offered food, which he ate eagerly and gradually "gained strength, got rid of his delusion, and was completely cured."[38]

[edit] Music therapy

Al-Kindi (801–873) was the first to realize the therapeutic value of music. He was the first to experiment with music therapy, and he attempted to cure a quadriplegic boy using this method.[39]
Later in the 9th century, al-Farabi also dealt with music therapy in his treatise Meanings of the Intellect, where he discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.[15]

[edit] Cognitive therapy

Al-Kindi developed cognitive methods to combat depression and discussed the intellectual operations of human beings.[14]
According to the psychologist Amber Haque, the medieval Islamic scholar Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (850-934) was "probably the first cognitive and medical psychologist to clearly differentiate between neuroses and psychoses, to classify neurotic disorders, and to show in detail how rational and spiritual cognitive therapies can be used to treat each one of his classified disorders."[40]

Al-Balkhi classified neuroses into four emotional disorders: fear and anxiety, anger and aggression, sadness and depression, and obsession. According to Haque, al-Balkhi further classified three types of depression: normal sadness (huzn) which is "today known as normal depression", "endogenous depression" which "originated within the body", and "reactive depression" which "originated outside the body".[40]

Al-Balkhi also wrote that a healthy individual should always keep healthy thoughts and feelings in his mind in the case of unexpected emotional outbursts in the same way drugs and First Aid medicine are kept nearby for unexpected physical emergencies. He stated that a balance between the mind and body is required for good health and that an imbalance between the two can cause sickness. Al-Balkhi also introduced the concept of reciprocal inhibition (al-ilaj bi al-did), which was re-introduced over a thousand years later by Joseph Wolpe in 1969.[40]

[edit] Physical and psychological disorders

The Muslim physician Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (850-934) was a pioneer of al-‘ilaj al-nafs, and the first to compare "physical and psychological disorders" and show "their interaction in causing psychosomatic disorders." He recognized that the body and the soul can be healthy or sick, or "balanced or imbalanced", and that mental illness can have both psychological and/or physiological causes. He wrote that imbalance of the body can result in fever, headaches and other physical illnesses, while imbalance of the soul can result in anger, anxiety, sadness and other mental symptoms. He recognized two types of depression: one caused by known reasons such as loss or failure, which can be treated psychologically through both external methods (such as persuasive talking, preaching and advising) and internal methods (such as the "development of inner thoughts and cognitions which help the person get rid of his depressive condition"); and the other caused by unknown reasons such as a "sudden affliction of sorrow and distress, which persists all the time, preventing the afflicted person from any physical activity or from showing any happiness or enjoying any of the pleasures" which may be caused by physiological reasons (such as impurity of the blood) and can can be treated through physical medicine.[3] He also wrote comparisons between physical disorders with mental disorders, and showed how psychosomatic disorders can be caused by certain interactions between them.[40]

In the early 10th century, Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi reported a psychotherapeutic case study from a contemporary Muslim physician who treated a woman suffering from severe cramps in her joints which made her unable to rise. The physician cured her by lifting her skirt, putting her to shame. He wrote: "A flush of heat was produced within her which dissolved the rheumatic humour."[32]

Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (d. 982) elaborated on how the physiological and psychological aspects of a patient can have an effect on one another in his Complete Book of the Medical Art. He found a correlation between patients who were physically and mentally healthy and those who were physically and mentally unhealthy, and concluded that "joy and contentment can bring a better living status to many who would otherwise be sick and miserable due to unnecessary sadness, fear, worry and anxiety."[3] He also first discussed various mental disorders, including sleeping sickness, memory loss, hypochondriasis, coma, hot and cold meningitis, vertigo epilepsy, love sickness, and hemiplegia. He also placed more emphasis on preserving health through diet and natural healing than he did on medication or drugs, which he considered a last resort.[15]

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037), considered a father of modern medicine,[41] was a pioneer in neuropsychiatry, physiological psychology and psychosomatic medicine in The Canon of Medicine, and contributed to the nature versus nurture debate with his theories of empiricism and tabula rasa.

Avicenna (980-1037) recognized "physiological psychology" in the treatment of "illnesses involving emotions" and develop "a system for associating changes in the pulse rate with inner feelings" which is seen as an anticipation of "the word association test of Jung." Avicenna identified love sickness (Ishq) when he was treating a very ill patient by "feeling the patient's pulse and reciting aloud to him the names of provinces, districts, towns, streets, and people." He noticed how the patient's pulse increased when certain names were mentioned, from which Avicenna deduced that the patient was in love with a girl whose home Avicenna was "able to locate by the digital examination." Avicenna advised the patient to marry the girl he is in love with, and the patient soon recovered from his illness after his marriage.[32]

Avicenna also gave psychological explanations for certain somatic illnesses, and he always linked the physical and psychological illnesses together. He described melancholia (depression) as a type of mood disorder in which the person may become suspicious and develop certain types of phobias. He stated that anger heralded the transition of melancholia to mania, and explained that humidity inside the head can contribute to mood disorders. He recognized that this occurs when the amount of breath changes: happiness increases the breath, which leads to increased moisture inside the brain, but if this moisture goes beyond its limits, the brain would lose control over its rationality and lead to mental disorders. He also wrote about symptoms and treatments for nightmare, epilepsy, and weak memory.[23]

[edit] Nosology and psychopathology

In nosology, the Arab Muslim physician and psychological thinker Najab ud-din Unhammad (870-925) described in detail nine major categories of mental disorders, which included 30 different mental illnesses in total. Some of the categories he first described included obsessive-compulsive disorders (anxious and ruminative states of doubt), delusional disorders (which "manifested itself by the mind's tendency to magnify all matters of personal significance, often leading to actions that prove outrageous to society"), degenerative diseases, involutional melancholia, and states of abnormal excitement.[42]

Unhammad made many careful observations of mentally ill patients and compiled them in a book which "made up the most complete classification of mental diseases theretofore known." The mental illnesses first described by Najab include agitated depression, neurosis, priapism and sexual impotence (Nafkhae Malikholia), psychosis (Kutrib), and mania (Dual-Kulb).[32]
Unhammad also listed nine classes of psychopathology. This included the earliest description of Souda a Tabee (febrile delirium), which was in turn subdivided into Souda where patients showed impairment of memory, loss of contact with the environment, and childish behaviour; and Jannon (agitated reaction) which occurs when Souda reaches a chronic state and is characterized by insomnia, restlessness and sometimes "beast-like roars."[43]