POINTS ON THE CONCEPT OF MAN AND HIS SPIRITUAL POWERS IN ISLAM
Dr. Mehdi Ben Abboud
Islamic medicine is based on the image of man in Islam and the Islamic comprehensive view of man and the universe.
If Chinese medicine, for instance, has been characterized by a special approach to the nervous system that is drastically different from the universal academic anatomy of this system, Islamic medicine is characterized by its overall view of man as an integral composite of physiological, psychological, mental, and spiritual components unaffected materialism or sectarianism.
On the basis of this universal concept of man the spiritual and material prescriptions of Islamic medicine are as good to all mankind as those of modern medicine.
The great advantage of Islam lies in the possibility for those nearest to God the Inscribed Register, as the Quran says, to be elevated to the supramundane lights.
Therefore, the Muslim doctor may prescribe aspiration to such heights to Muslims and non-Muslims alike according to the patient's strength of faith.
The scientific, medical, philosophical, and psychological schools in the West are still investigating the image of man about which Carl Jaspers says it is out of reach, beyond perception and eludes scientific research.
Man is naturally equipped to utilize strength of will, self-confidence and faith in God in getting cured from a host of diseases.
Contemplation, remembrance of God, peace of mind, silence, seclusion, hope, optimism, worships, adherence to Shariah, combining material and moral medicine when necessary as enjoined by the Sunna are all aspects of extensive work from an overall point of view based on the moral potentials of life as well as on: a) Mystic and secular sciences based on faith. b) Diligence, which is the highest form of will, based on confidence in God and reliance on Him. c) Enlightened conduct without narrow-mindedness or ingratitude.
Recent experiments add yet another evidence in support of the effective role of the spiritual approach to treatment involving will, contemplation and submission to God.
Psychosomatic medicine is a good start towards appreciating the interaction between body and mind Some psychosomaticists have embarked on a series of experiments to determine the nature of bio-electric changes in the body resulting from total absorption in Salaat (prayer) and complete submission to God during it. The aim is to establish the therapeutic effectiveness of the spiritual approach to treatment.
The ultimate objective of medicine is the maintenance of man's material and moral well-being through education, development, enhancement, and prevention of various diseases as well as through prescribing all sorts of treatment that are materially and morally effective. According to the Islamic heritage, there are two closely related kinds of science: the science of bodies and the science of religions. The real purpose of medicine should be to help man lead a sound material and moral life so that when he dies he may return to his Creator with a clear conscience.
What should be of primary concern to us is the real, not the theoretical, image of man. Scientific endeavours should be made to keep this image pure, undistorted by ideologies and preconceived ideas based on mere conjectures and not on solid scientific grounds. We should also extend our view beyond the limited area of secular sciences into that vast realm of mysticism combining material and spiritual factors. Man stands to gain both physically and spiritually depending on how further up he can be elevated to the supramundane heights, how much he values faith and will, and whether his attitude to his God is positive.
The evoked spiritual power of healing ranges from the ability to effect personal cure to the ability invested in prophets and God's favourites to cure the blind and the leper, depending on the rank of the soul.
All medical evidence in all civilizations and religions support this thesis.
I. THE MEETING-POINT OF MATTER AND MEANING,
THE CONCRETE AND THE ABSTRACT:
If human knowledge is indeed mainly divided into the science of bodies and the science of religions, it occurs to one's mind that medicine, the knowledge closest to man, may be presented in two forms: material medicine using surgery and materia medica, and moral medicine using the mind and resolution to enter into a state of submission and deep reflection based on a certain creed or established wisdom.
This latter form has gradually been gaining a notable status with a considerable number of doctors all over the world who seem to be saying that if only people could realize the therapeutic potentials latent in their spiritual powers they would readily dispense with a good deal of the drugs they consume every day which, however, treat only the symptoms without in any way penetrating to the causes.
The deeper we think of and investigate the real meaning of matter and the real image of man, the more this spiritual aspect and its therapeutic techniques grow in importance. Physicists and technologists have come to recognize the dematerialization of matter, the thinglessness of things, and the desubstantiation of substance. When they got down in their researches to the infinitesimal state of matter after breaking it up and splitting the atom into electrons of various types and forms they could not get beyond the concept of electro-magnetic energy and a multitude of complex mathematical operations reaching a point where the material structure of things came pretty close to the abstract meaning of the general scientific concepts. Some even went so far as to say that the concept of electron and electronic energy with regard to man can never be understood unless his image in our minds is given a spiritual meaning. The French physicist, Jean E. Charon, calls the spirit-carrying electron, as he conceives it, "EON". He says, "We have tried to analyze thinking as a simple psychological process performed by each one of the electrons of which our organism consists. What we have found very clearly, however, is that our mind, which is very similar to the spirit existent in the electrons, also performs the process of thinking each time we undertake to do a certain job or whenever we try to form a new idea. That is, we create new meanings based on information stored in the memory.
On a deeper level, what we call consideration follows the same mechanism of contemplation and thinking. In view of what we have said, one can realize the great significance of contemplation to spiritual situations.
We should be aware of the fact that our spiritual roots reach back to millions of years ago. This constitutes a vast field of knowledge treasured deep down in our unconsciousness. For this vast knowledge to surface in our conscious minds we have to give every opportunity to our electrons to enhance the contemplation process, i.e. to make us discover artificial signs that can at the right time be decoded and interpreted in our consciousness as symbols. Consideration on the human level takes another form. When the human body undergoes a certain disorder we ask ourselves what could restore it to its normal condition? Well, it is the electrons themselves. The health of the body is nothing more than the psychological harmony of our eons.
When we are ill, either physically or mentally, what we usually do is to hurry to the doctor, or at least that is what the modern man does now. Yet, animals and plants are not liable to such frequent recurrence of disorder.
I am not trying to underestimate the role of doctors or of the enormous amount of drugs they prescribe for their patients. But in the long run, no matter what the role of the doctor is or the effectiveness of the drugs he prescribes, the electrons from which our bodies are made up will have to depend on themselves in restoring balance to the sick body. Here, too, I think that consideration has an important role to play. The influence of the spirit on the body and its vital role in effecting cure has long ceased to be a cause for surprise especially in the dying years of the 20th century when a host of physical diseases are treated by psychiatry. I believe there is still a lot to be done in this direction. Many of our doctors still consider the patient just a physical body where the spirit plays only a peripheral part.
The fundamental cause of disease is disorder in the spiritual functioning of our eons when they have to accept information they fail to harmonize with their stored information. The source of the new information is the conscious mind, that is, of every day life. The reason why certain therapies, like the acupuncture, have succeeded is that it is our electrons that are mostly affected by the disorder. Acupuncture is a means of bringing about electric balance in the body through redistributing its electric charges. But such a treatment affects only the less important symptoms of the ailment, the profound causation of which lies, in fact, on the level of the spirit these eons carry. This spirit should be activated towards contributing to the cure. Who hasn't experienced relief of pain at a certain spot of the body once he concentrated his mental power on this particular spot? A great deal is still unknown about the potentials of our mental and spiritual powers and their great influence on the body functions.
It is the unconscious, which is charged with the main life-preserving functions such as respiration and digestion. This does not mean, however, the futility of opening up a channel of communication between our conscious mind and these unconscious functions of the body for achieving a state of balance and to enable the conscious mind to feel and follow up these unconscious processes. This way the mind is in a better position to anticipate the disorder and, in a way, forestall it. Through concentrated thinking the mind is thus able in a far easier way to determine its contribution in bringing balance back to a malfunctioning unconscious process. The Indian Hakims say, "Feel your breathing and be aware of its importance. Try to influence it by your conscious minds".
Thinking, thus, emerges as a very important process for every spiritual development in the universe. On the level of each electron, this thinking seems to be the proper way of organizing the influx of heterogeneous information from the outer world into a meaningful, homogenous body of knowledge that helps one brace up for a future action.
Hence, it is becoming clear for scholars of physics, psychology, biology, and, to some extent, philosophy that the wide gap, which previously separated matter from spirit and meaning from structure is gradually narrowing down. Consequently, the artificial gap between body and soul is being bridged in an apparent recognition of the interaction between them especially in the field of medicine with respect to prevention as well as treatment. This recognition is based on the diminishing of the molecules of matter to atoms, then to electrons which has led up to the concept of energy, a point beyond which there are only meanings of abstract notions or mathematical equations. Matter here becomes nothing more than a set of relations and proportions that translate to the mind motions and interacting electro-magnetic energies.
If we envisage the body cells and their ingredients as composed of chemical materials the tiniest of which are the electro-magnetic eons and pure motion, we can easily conceive the great similarity between mental functions and the functions of these physical, infinitesimally small eons and the interaction between body and mind, i.e. between matter and thought. Recognition of this Interaction, particularly In the field of medicine, is bound to change our attitudes in trying to maintain a balance between the physical and psychological aspects of the human body, and bring about harmony to the functions of the body and of the soul individually, and then harmony between body and soul as the integrated sum of the human personality.
When we conceive of man as a harmonious composite of body and soul, little wonder will remain in accepting the idea of spiritual treatment and its great physical and psychological efficacy.
There has recently been a time when materialistic thinking prevailed in scientific research leading to a wave of relevant atheism. Under those circumstances it was difficult to pay any attention to spiritual treatment except when it was confined to hypnotism or the distorted practice of boringly slow psychoanalysis based on a distorted conception of the human soul as is well known about the Freudian doctrine and its followers.
This unhappy distortion did not pass without casualties. It resulted in perplexity of minds and perturbation of individual and social behaviour, which in turn led to great confusion among the common people and a great rift into various schools of thought among the scholars of medicine, psychology and the humanities. The impervious confinement of man into this stifling mould of matter deprived him of a great portion of his due potentials and deformed his real image. Individuals and societies have been paying a high price for this deformation. The world we live in is suffering from a host of various physical and psychological disorders dubbed by the medical public opinion as "The ailments of civilization" with all the ironical paradox that goes with the term in collocating the two words "ailment" and "civilization"; for if there really was an ideal civilization as dreamed of by mind and heart it would not be so deformed by intellectual and ethical impurities, nor would there be that large number of neuroses and psychoses in addition to disorders in most of our physical organs. What is called modernism now is characterized by the word "pollution" of the environment including the human body besides pollution of souls which reveals itself in reversal of facts, forging of information, ideological terrorism, and the presentation of man in the image of an animal.
In such a turbid atmosphere, when "hearts are locked up", it is hardly expected that the Idea of spiritual treatment can be embraced. The image of man that modern medicine is still investigating is one outlined in a set of psychological factors, avoiding any mention of words like spirit or even soul, and another set of physiological factors.
Despite these continued efforts, modern medicine admits its inability to solve man's problem especially when it comes to the relation between his body and his soul. How can a doctor believe in what he is doing when he is so confused?
Psychologists are following an ostrich-style policy of dodging an adequate definition of the term "soul".
Some physicians admit that man in general and man's soul in particular are simultaneously related to the fields of medicine, sciences and philosophy. But the philosophy of medicine runs into contradictions when it is confined to the physical image to the neglect of the spiritual side. It says that man has a body and he is also this body. This is as contradictory as saying that man has a house and he is also this house. Man cannot be what he owns. This philosophical attitude was therefore very unsatisfactory. Modern medicine has finally settled for ignoring the whole issue.
The image of man has gradually been shrinking to the point where his meaning has become purely materialistic and, consequently, vague. This state of affairs has led to psychological crises and serious morbid developments such as the prevalence of rejection, recalcitrance, neurosis, psychosis, aggression, etc. The recession of man's image was engendered by the positivistic movement and monolithic materialism. The value of spiritualism has been lost sight of and its real meaning has gone with the wind. Consequently, the value of the mind has declined after it was described by the materialists as a mere secretion of the brain and particularly after man has completely lost confidence in himself and in his superiority to other creatures as a result of Darwinism. Talk about spiritualism has ceased, and psychologists have disavowed the term "psyche" and started talking about "behaviourism".
Since the materialistic sciences as expounded by the contemporary barren mentality have failed to meet man's essential need of wanting to know his real image, meaning and purpose of living, some thinkers have admitted the futility of such sciences. Jean Paul Sartre, for instance, said, "What do I care about sciences?" So, man is left with no protection against anxiety, boredom, the bitter meaning of absurdity, and the prevalence of depression as happened at the turn of the 9th century when it came to be known in the history of Western literature, particularly in France, as "the malady of the age". Life then, in the words of some writers at that time, became a cadaverous affair based on a dry, heartless and mean trinity of lust for money, selfishness and individualism, which, by the way, was the official motto recommended by government circles for the citizens; "Stay at home and mind your own business".
No wonder, then, that the age came to a disastrous end characterized by a spate of suicides after all that chaos and corruption of souls and the sharp rise in the rate of physical and psychological diseases.
In recent years, however, medical scientists have come around to admitting the necessity of recognizing certain clear psychological factors that deeply affect the human body such as exhaustion, nervous tension and violent crises.
Modern medicine recognizes various trends including the materialistic unilateral view which accepts the body only, and the dichotomous view which does not deny the existence of two factors: the body and the soul as an integrated unit which is the human being or, more accurately, the "person".
In every day life, body and soul are closely related. Physical stimuli become psychological responses and vice versa.
All mental faculties including consciousness, attention, telepathy, perception, reasoning, judgement, consideration, understanding, memory, resolutions, decision-making, behaviour, concepts, emotions, desires, passion, feelings, etc., are physically based at least in terms of the good condition of the brain and glands and the effects on the mind of the environment, circumstances, nutrition, narcotics and liquors, which cause changes in mental behaviour. By the same token, psychological factors clearly affect the body especially with relation to heartbeats, blood pressure, metabolism, shivering, hair standing on end, secretions, fainting, shyness, paleness, etc.
But medical research has not been able so far to explain the process whereby the body affects the mind and vice versa to the extent that the physician-philosopher, Karl Jaspers described this process as "Magie Factice = Factsche Magie". There is also the enigma of sensory perception being turned into abstract conception and a psychological state or attitude.
Modern medicine is also faced with the dilemma of the organic location of the mind or the faculties. The question that eludes answer is: where exactly in the body do the mental processes take place? There is also the question of the particular type the mind has taken which gives the body its unique form throughout the stages of development envisaged by modern scientific research where the body appears as a carrier of sensation and motion, and the mind as a vague image.
Is it a substance or just a meaning? Is it pan of the body or independent and pre-existent before the body takes shape? to the rest of these philosophical, religious and medical theories that cannot be expounded here in detail.
The conclusion reached by the American behaviourists, however, is a type of psychology without psyche opting for the materialistic theory to the neglect of other theories. Their view of man is that he is more or less an animal, whose body is a machine worked by its physiological functions. As for the mind, it is nothing more than one aspect of these functions.
Then Marxism stepped in and ideologized the rigidity of materialism until it almost became a fanatic creed that aggressively blocked all routes to discussion and honest scientific research. Scientists were gagged, and nature was presented in its material form alone.
In the wake of this rigidity, Kretschmer cited the case of a child who is born blind and dumb. Psychologists and physicians began to wonder how such a child could possibly have a full psychological and mental life without access to tactile sensations. How could this happen if matter was really the origin of psychological life and the source of mental processes?
The efforts made at present have ended up by creating a situation pervaded by conflicting opinions, multiplicity of theories, and increased difficulties for finding a solution to man's problem and determining the relation between soul and body. All these efforts have so far failed to come up with a clear definition of man's entity with a view to understanding his meaning and elucidating methods of treating his diseases on the basis of this interaction between body and soul. Scientific research today is also trying to understand the relation between body and soul, but Karl Jaspers underscored the difficulty of such a quest, when he said, "The image of man is beyond our reach and eludes scientific research".
II. THE UNITY OF MAN AND HIS COMPONENTS IN THE HERITAGE:
Man is a well-ordered unit each pan of which is held accountable for his deeds such as good or bad intentions, moderation in nutrition, chastity of his body extremities, abstinence from sins, and ignorance which leads to wronging oneself and others as well and renders one liable to many physical, mental and psychological disorders.
In Islamic heritage man's image is characterized by cohesion and comprehensiveness. The Quran says:
WE HAVE INDEED CREATED MAN IN THE BEST OF MOULDS.
This superior image is made of many components including:
The Body: It is the point of contact between man and the world as well as between man and himself.
Al-nafs (The soul): It is man's self, which is accountable for his deeds. It is educatable and capable of sublimation and nearness to God.
The mind: It is the mind that is charged with carrying out man's mission on earth.
The heart: It is the seat of God's light and canonical laws and faith in them.
Al-Ruh (The spirit): This is the divine breath that irradiates the whole of man's being at the moment of his creation. It is qualified to do what is outside physical or natural laws.
Our good ancestors were keen to attain self-knowledge, as a means of prevention against individual and social maladies, through strict observation of the Holy Scripture, the Sunna, and the Islamic laws. Islamic literature has elaborated the two component spirits and Soul, often considering them two variants of the same concept though they occur in the Quran and Tradition (Hadith) with various meanings.
In this brief presentation we shall limit ourselves to the following elucidation of man's image from the perspective of a contemplative view of life and Islamic heritage.
The human body is the visible component of man's identity and is different from the animal body in that its members are held accountable for man's deeds because they are created for a noble purpose. In this sense, the body is the total sum of its individual extremities or of the purposes for which they have been created. The unbeliever regards these extremities as nothing more or less than a set of members devoid of any special life of their own. He fails to recognize that each of these members has a noble function to perform and that man should never undermine these members or tamper with their activities, for they are not as instinctively stimulated as the members of an animal's body are. The hand, for instance, is created for fruitful work and not for striking, stealing, aggression, distortion, forgery, etc. Rather, it is a means of production and worship. The same principle applies to each one of the other extremities of the body which are created to behave in the framework of the religious teachings so that man's whole being may be sublimated to the supramundane levels of nobility and charity from the mundane levels of evil, prohibitions, and corruption.
In the course of man's spiritual development, al-nafs (the soul) passes through many stages each of which is higher in rank than the one before. These stages include:
1. The vegetal soul:
This is the embryonic stage where, like plants, the soul is marked with stationary life and growth but, again like plants, joins in God's glorification in its own language which we do not comprehend. At this stage, the mother should maintain feelings of reassurance and contentment and strike a balance between material and moral living through rest and stability to ward off any undesirable complications occurring to herself or her baby. The best means of attaining reassurance and serenity is regular prayer, remembrance of God and, as much as possible, avoidance of drugs that may have toxic or deforming effects on the body.
2. The animal soul:
This is the stage of infancy when the suckling which was connected to its mother by the umbilical cord is now tied up to her by the life preserving trickle of milk and the warmth-giving embrace of sympathy and love.
At this stage when the soul is still living in an atmosphere of innocence and God's glorification, the mother should give her baby a large dose of love, fondling and kindness to shield it against acquired frivolity and privation when later she becomes unavailable through death or when she is away at work leaving her children alone at home exposed to all kinds of physical and psychological perils of a fire breaking out accidentally in the kitchen, or toxic drugs or detergents swallowed. In addition, there are other possible dangers arising from the maid's cruelty, inefficiency or ignorance of proper childcare. At this stage also the mind begins to open up to sensory perceptions and a little later to abstract conceptions when the baby becomes curious about the outer world and wants to know through hearing, seeing, touching and later through its conceiving heart. This gradual development from perceiving the concrete through the senses into conceiving the abstract through the heart and mind should be taken into account by education to cope with the stage of moral development where altruism should be made to prevail over selfishness. This is the stage when seeds of righteousness should be sown so that when the child grows to adulthood he can be expected to respect the rights of others, have confidence in God, think well of people, and hold out against temperamental and psychological maladies to which young people are usually liable such as paranoia, fantasy, infatuation, delusion, depression, etc.
This is especially so because such traits as selfishness, possessiveness, domination, struggle, craze for winning and seizing make their fullest appearance at the stage of life extending from boyhood to puberty and the beginning of adulthood. During this stage another rank of soul is fully conspicuous:
3. Al-nafsul Ammarah: (The evil-inciting soul)
This is man's baser self, which always incites him to do evil. The common people say, "The moment a child learns how to clap his hands, he drops the keys of heaven", indicating that the best of moulds in which man is created is taking a gradual downward course to the lowest of the low when selfishness begins to take a grip on him. The only hope for safety lies in Islamic education and the implementation of Islamic laws to combat juvenile delinquency and criminal behaviour. Application of Islamic teachings is the only guarantee for society against anxiety and boredom; pollution of mind, body, and environment; disunity of families and of the whole nation; imbalance, instability, etc. which lead to individual disorder and national deterioration.
Religious upbringing followed and reinforced by proper education that utilizes the natural tendencies will lead to love of truth, good, and beauty giving rise to the higher rank of:
4. Al-nafsul Lawwamah: (self-reproaching soul)
In today's terminology this is the conscience or the scrupulous heart that seeks to attain the three noble aims of truth, piety, and right conduct. Corresponding to physical exercises, these are the strongest spiritual exercises for self-purification, spiritual elevation and personal integrity. This is in sharp contrast with the unsteady personality, characteristic of the invading Western civilization, which is liable to psychological and mental disorders and is notorious for being prone to perversion of facts and distortion of knowledge in the so called humanities. Such traits are bound to end up with disintegration of both the individual and the whole nation.
5. Al-nafsul-Mutma'innah: (The reassured soul)
A person with such a soul is characterized by stability, equilibrium, moderation, firm opinion and sound judgement based on divine revelation in the Holy Scripture, the Sunna, and the examples set by our good ancestors. Responding positively to the call by God and His apostle for adopting the right way of honest living, he enjoys a peaceful and good life free from the grip of rank, wealth, greed, lust, passion, and corruption. He knows only too well that God the Almighty is merciful to mankind and that the occasional incidence of such ordeals as fear, hunger, loss of wealth or dear relatives or health is only God's way of testing His servants' fortitude and patience. Those lucky enough to successfully pass the test are promised guidance in this world and paradise in the Hereafter. Physicians' practices have always witnessed severe cases that eventually show remarkable improvement as a result of deep contemplation, patience, and consideration which reveal to the sufferer the real dimensions of human existence and the deep significance of God's ways. This way, man is reconciled to his God and the life He has created, and revels in an atmosphere of optimism, hope, and feelings of happiness that can overcome any hardship. A person with such an attitude is endowed with:
6. Al-nafsul Radhiya: (the contented soul)
He beholds the system of the universe and loves its Creator. He enjoys the delights of truth in this universe and not the tyranny of falsehood, which is doomed to be removed and obliterated, because it is inherent in falsehood to vanish.
If contemporary Western civilization had been fully aware of the real significance of this contentment there would never have been a chance for the emergence of this atheistic existentialism with all its concomitant restlessness and dissatisfaction, or that discord created by materialistic ideologies whether rightist or leftist. Nor would there have been amongst us those westoxicated young people who have given in to this intellectual invasion and feel they are inferior to their Western counterparts taking Western falsities for indisputable facts and thus jeopardizing their mental health. A contended soul turns to God for everything wanted or done. God responds by accepting it and raising it to a higher status where its conformity with the wider universe is as harmonious as the beats of music. At that level it becomes:
7. Al-nafsul Mardhiyyah: (the well-pleased soul)
At that rank the soul is brought closer to the divine light and acquires the believer's intuitive knowledge and ability to see through things by God's light according to the Tradition. When man reaches that high status in his spiritual development, God reveals for him what is concealed and unknown as he has become now in full control of passions and desires and has entered into the spiritual world where he sheds his human skin and becomes entitled to the acquisition of true knowledge of God. All truth is in itself certain. But as received by men and understood with reference to men's psychology, certainty may have three degrees: there is the probability or certainty resulting from the application of man's power of judgement and his appraisement of evidence This is "ilm-ul-yaqeen", certainty by reasoning or inference. Then there is the certainty of seeing something with our own eyes. "Seeing is believing". This is "ain-ul-yaqeen", certainty by personal inspection. Then there is the absolute Truth, with no possibility of error of judgement or error of the eye. This absolute Truth is the "haqq-ul-yaqeen".
Now, this vast spiritual world and the beginning of true knowledge of God is only accessible when one has completed the first two degrees of certainty (yaqeen) and exerts individual effort of judgement in trying to understand God's signs in the horizons and in oneself until the absolute Truth dawns upon one. Once this is achieved, further up one goes to have:
8. Al-nafsul Arifa Billah: (God-knowing soul)
At this stage one is made aware of the hidden secrets of worships and injunctions and grows vigilant over God's commandments and people's rights as well as over the noble functions of each member of one's body.
The ultimate objective is always more knowledge and greater self-purification (this, again, is in sharp contrast with the distorted idea of catharsis in modern psychology). With this purification the spiritual powers for curing is greatly consolidated.
9. Al-nafsul Qudsiyah: (the saintly soul)
At this most elevated rank man becomes God's direct protege and receives God's full support and protection. The way up to God, to knowledge, to action, to full spiritualism is wide open. Man becomes saintly, divine, invested with divine powers of hearing, seeing and acting. This stage is sub-ordered into special ranks for God's closest favourites about whom the Quran says:
THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED AND BECOME RIGHTEOUS
Further up there is nothing except:
10. Al-nafsul Kamilah: (The perfect soul)
What is meant here is human perfection and not divine perfection which is the exclusive attribute of God. Of all the human beings since the beginning of creation till the Day of Reckoning, the only person who has attained or will ever attain this supreme rank is Prophet Muhammad who was protected by God against anyone or anything.
Starting from the rank of saintliness all barriers are lifted for those nearest to God who are entitled to witness the Inscribed Register. Their souls radiate with divine light and they are invested with the power to act beyond the physical or natural laws.
This ten-point image gives us a completely different view from anything we know in contemporary psychology studied at occidental universities and their oriental blind imitators. Whilst the Islamic view elevates this image to the highest moral sublimation and fullest spiritual development, Western psychology is lost in abstractions and observations made about the human body comparing them with those made about the animals until it hit the lowest level with Watson's behaviourism.
What we stand to gain from the heritage and Islamic view is combining knowledge with action and enhancing the one with the other. The spiritual therapy is thus achieved as a result of contemplation, consideration, prayer, righteousness, piety, patience, fortitude, certainty, hope, supererogatory rites, fasting, alms-giving, Quran reciting, etc. all of which based on perception, understanding and the experiences of the active believers in addition to those contemporary experiments recently carried out involving some clergymen in Asia as will be detailed below,
This wider view requires using the word "mind" in a similarly wider sense than that we find in applied sciences.
III. THE MIND:
It is charged with the noble function of cognition, which starts with learning religious and secular sciences until it reaches the highest degree of wisdom. It is the basis of responsibility and personality, which is not impaired if the body is injured or attacked by a disease. A one-armed person still maintains all the characteristics of his identity. If a person is badly shaken by a personal calamity or a social disaster or is plagued by a chronic tension he can still go on working though a bit unsatisfactorily. But when a person loses his memory or breaks into hallucination or becomes schizophrenic or melancholic, then his personality will really collapse leaving him with just a name that denotes nothing.
On the other hand, if a person confines his mental activities to the function of learning materialistic and applied sciences without contemplating God's signs he may be said to enjoy intelligence but not a "mind"; for he who has no religion has no mind as the Prophet says.
Misuse of the mind or impairing it with intoxicants, e.g. drugs, alcohols, false ideas, etc. lowers man to the level of an animal which eats, drinks, mates, and fights until it ends up into meaningless dust.
This uninspiring kind of existence is behind the well-known absurdity in the atheistic extential philosophies. It is a kind of disease, for which there is no cure except faith,
IN THEIR HEARTS THERE IS A DISEASE.
(Quran, S.2: V)
It becomes clear from this definition why in Islam the mind is considered the basis of the mission with which man is entrusted on earth. It is also the only safeguard against psychological and social disorders such as suicides.
Consequently, knowledge, specially in the field of humanities, should be weeded out to safeguard individuals and the whole society against diseases arising from the pursuit of prohibited things. Now, a word about prohibiting all intoxicants in Islam. It is meant to prevent the harm done by them to the body and mind. It is like the red traffic light, which saves lives that could be lost in road accidents. As Islam lays such a great stress on the mind it is only natural that it does not allow anything to interfere with its functions or disrupt them. Islam allows only what is essential for growth and for the welfare of the individual and the society as a whole.
IV. THE HEART:
It is the seat of intentions, faith, devotion, inspiration, and the light which, in the words of Imam Ghazzali, God casts into it. What is crucial to the heart is its orientation: is it oriented towards God or is it lured by satanic passions and desires; for the heart is the seat of either divine guidance or devilish misguidance.
It has often been said that the heart, being the source of emotions, denotes changeability and must therefore be strongly supported by the mind and adherence to God, i.e. to the Shariah, as the mind is the light of the canonical law and hence the real shield for the heart against error. If this happens then people will have (hearts to understand with) as mentioned in the Quran.
Every deviation from the right course by the mind or the heart leads to the disease of hearts (IN THEIR HEARTS THERE IS A DISEASE), obliteration of mental vision and the domination of distorted ideas disseminated by ideologies and some intellectual philosophical trends which have created the psychological and social maladies prevalent now on a wide scale in this age of crises and explosions. In this connection, some Western physicians are getting interested in studying diseases resulting from misleading knowledge.
What must be mentioned here is that the atheistic philosophical theories are being exploited by the corrupt to promote immorality and licentiousness and reap windfall profits from selling barbituaries to the young misled people. This has created a situation where parents are no longer able to communicate with their sons and daughters who are washed away by the wave of sexploitation.
Corrupt profiteers are building their wealth on the dead hearts of the young generation who are brainwashed by propagandistic campaigns selling Freudianism, Darwinism, Marxism, and all sorts of atheistic materialism. Proliferation of such misleading ideologies and philosophies is bound to have adverse effects on proper thinking, faith, the right balance, moderation, modesty, and dignity. It also contributes to the spread of all sorts of diseases: venereal, heart, psychological, mental, you name it.
Since the heart is the seat of faith, it is essential that it remain clean and pure; otherwise it will be the origin of all such maladies that affect the rest of the body as evidenced by the fact that psychosomatic diseases account for 60% of the cases under treatment in our modern times.
V. THE SPIRIT:
It is the divine breath in man after he is fashioned by the hands of God:
WHEN I HAVE FASHIONED HIM (IN DUE PROPORTION) AND BREATHED
INTO HIM OF MY SPIRIT,
(Quran, S.15: V.29)
This is the most effective component of man's image that has been completely ignored by the 20th century though it is the real pivot of man's existence. Thanks to this vital component we understand the significance of ordinary and extraordinary phenomena. It is the point of departure for true knowledge to the most elevated levels. Talk about the spirit is usually limited by the difficulty of explaining this almost inexplicable aspect of man:
THEY ASK THEE CONCERNING THE SPIRIT. SAY: THE SPIRIT (COMETH) BY COMMAND OF MY LORD. OF KNOWLEDGE IT IS ONLY A LITTLE THAT IS COMMUNICATED TO YOU (0 MEN!)
(Quran, S.17: V.85)
Therefore, we can only refer to certain points in the Islamic heritage that could help us understand the meanings of will, truth, independent judgement, and individual endeavour for spiritual treatment.
The spirit is a luminous essence of a fluid nature that differs from anything perceptible through the senses.
This fluid is made of atoms that are different from those imagined by physicists. It is more like luminous circles that penetrate bodies and members and spread in them as fire spreads in matter.
The luminous essence is a discerning power that is aware of itself and its God to the extent of how much momentum it maintains from its origin. Spirits differ along the same patterns of difference between persons in their talents.
The spirit is an indivisible whole and an ethereal secret in communication with the world of secrets because it roams in purity the realm of God's glorification.
It is capable of perception and conception in a luminous fashion.
Its properties are different from anything we know about matter or perceptual objects.
Like bodies, spirits have their distinctive features.
Things surrounding a spirit are reflected on it as objects are reflected on a mirror
Bodies originate in the same way as spirits radiate atom by atom.
The spirit is a power whose light is the origin of talents.
For each spirit there is a certain capacity and a certain form. There are as many various degrees of capacities and forms as there are people created by God. Treatment is greatly affected by a given capacity and form of a person's spirit.
Being different from matter, the spirit is able to act supernaturally.
Access to the invisible world is gained only by believers endowed with physiognomic powers who can see by the light of God and whose invocations are well received and responded to for the spirit has the following properties:
a) hearing from remote distances.
b) Seeing remote places. It also enhances the believer's other senses.
The best illustration of the spirit's visionary and predictive powers and its capability of acting beyond the physical and natural laws is the record of miracles achieved by prophets and God's nearest favourites including the ability to cure the sick. At a lower rank than that, ordinary people can also have various degrees of similar powers and abilities depending on the strength of their faith and will, the extent of their mental concentration, and how profound their submission to God is.
The Prophet Muhammad said:
"Make full use of the two cures: honey and the Quran".
This means that cure is two-sided: material and moral. Man can benefit from both. Islam, being the religion of moderation, prescribes both ways of treatment without excess in the former or neglect of the latter as man is an integral composite of body and soul. It is this comprehensiveness both in its teachings and in its view of man that characterizes Islam and distinguishes it from other religions.
Man needs to penetrate into the core of matter and the essence of things in order to understand the visible world around him. But he also needs to turn his mind to the world of light and the invisible so that he may not get lost in ignorance and blind imitation driven by impetuosity and foolishness of young age.
What most people readily accept is that man is endowed with great potentialities for growth, learning, adjustment, and cure of a host of diseases. These potentialities also include the moral and spiritual powers, which the patient can utilize if he knows how to use them. The extent to which he can benefit from these latent powers hinges upon the real value of his faith, persistence of his certainty, cleanness of his heart, purity of his soul, trust in God, and devotion to truth.
The point of departure is the strength of will which is graded upwards from: 1) the wish, 2) clarity of purpose, 3) intention, 4) determination, 5) firmness, 6) perseverance, 7) diligence, which is the highest level attained by the believer who is elevated to the zenith of complete trust in God.
It can be said in general that in the domain of worships strength of will and frequent use of contemplation are basic factors of the act of consideration, which ultimately conduces to profound submission to God.
Some physicians have been observing the biological and physiochemical changes that co-occur with absorption in religious consideration and profound submission during worship. The point of interest in these investigations, conducted recently, was reaction on the will and use of this will in controlling disorders.
It was established that such changes were not observed in other situations such as hypnotism. The changes recorded were biological in terms of electro-waves of the brain.
In the state of relaxation what happens is that the will affects the contraction of muscles, which are connected to nerves in the spinal cord, causing them to relax. This muscle relaxation gives one a feeling of relief that has preventive advantages and can even be useful in heart attacks and at times of intense agitation and excitement. Similar observations about willed relaxation are also found in Yoga. Here, the strength of will is aided by assuming certain physical postures that aim to cause relaxation in specific muscles and joints. The purpose of such Yoga exercises is the reduction of tension in a group of muscles of opposite direction.
Relaxation of muscles accompanied by closure of the eyes systematically affects the electro-encephalogram in the following way:
1) Electro-waves are medium with pulses ranging between 9 and 12 waves per second, which is characteristic of alpha waves.
2) After opening the eyes, even when one is still relaxed and calm, alpha waves disappear and are replaced by faster, less regular waves called "Basic Waves".
3) Scientists agree that alpha waves indicate "calm and stillness", and Basic Waves indicate "activity and movement".
4) The effect of light on the retina leads to wakefulness and activity in the cerebral cortex.
5) On the contrary, even when the eyes are closed, thinking of a certain subject or problem leads to the disappearance of alpha waves.
6) Alpha waves were not observed in worried persons even when they closed their eyes.
7) Experimental tests involving Buddhist monks show that when they are in deep meditation they have alpha waves even if their eyes are wide open.
8) This situation means that in the case of these monks alpha waves are different in that they do not indicate "calm and stillness" because cerebration here has to do with refined intellectual activity. Alpha waves in this case are not in contravention of cerebral activity.
9) The experiments of Dr. Dass and Dr. Gasto consist of recording the electro-encephalogram of the Yogist:
9.1 The electro-encephalogram takes the form of alpha waves upon entering into a state of meditation with the eyes closed.
9.2 Once the eyes are opened, the alpha waves disappear.
9.3 Alpha waves also disappear on cerebration relating to search for an "image" and resulting in telepathy.
9.4 Soon alpha waves reappear upon getting into introspection.
9.5 These waves do not disappear even when the monk opens his eyes, which shows that something must be happening in his cerebral cortex.
9.6 Finally, after a long time, slower waves appear ranging from 7 to 8 pulses per second. These are called "Theta waves" which spread all over the head.
9.7 The appearance of Theta Waves may be caused by entering into a state of unoccupiedness in which the mind is completely cut off from its surroundings and freed from "other passions and attachments".
9.8 The maintained appearance of alpha waves after the eyes are opened is an evidence of disengagement from the surroundings and related attachments.
9.9 This cerebral case is not observed in relaxation, hypnotism, or in conditioning of metabolism.
Observations made during the period of repose after passing through meditation show:
1. Lower blood pressure and slower heart beats and respiration rate.
2. Blood pressure stabilizes but the heart beats go down to less than 30 pulses per minute. Breathing decreases and becomes feeble.
3. Inhalation of oxygen is rapidly reduced from 251 cm3 per minute during the relaxation to 211 cm3, then rises after meditation to 242 cm3 per minute.
4. Exhalation of carbon dioxide goes down from 219 cm3 during relaxation to 187 cm3 during meditation and then up again to 219 cm3 after meditation. Thus the proportion of: exhalation of carbon dioxide does not inhalation of oxygen except after meditation when exhalation increases slightly.
5. What really changes is the inhalation of oxygen so that the proportion: O2 remains constant.
6. This change constitutes less inhalation while exhalation remains constant.
7. The rate of respiration is reduced involuntarily.
8. Voluntary reduction of the respiration rate showed increase in the need for oxygen to offset the carbon dioxide not yet exhaled which could lead to toxemia and possibly asphyxia. The experiment had to be discontinued of course.
9. With meditation, metabolism tends to be aerobic rather than anaerobic. These two processes are conditioned by hormonopoiesis that necessitates either one or the other. Anaerobic metabolism increases with the increase of lactic acid.
During the pre-meditation stage of relaxation the secretion of lactic acid is put at 11 .4 mgs. per hour for each 100 cm3 of the circulating blood. Then it goes down to 8 mgs. during meditation and even further down to 7.3 mgs during the immediate post-meditation stage.
10. This lactic acid is known to result from muscular contraction. Reduction of its amount has nothing to do with reduction in muscular tension as one might think at first, for we observe this tension reduction during relaxation with no change in the amount of secreted lactic acid.
11. The rate of lactic acid secretion is put at 11.4 mgs. at the beginning of relaxation. It goes down to 10.25 mgs. per hour for each 100 cm3 of blood at the end of this stage. Reduction does not begin to precipitate until meditation is well under way.
12. This establishes that meditation makes metabolism tend to be aerobic.
13. This phenomenon occurs at first with reduction in muscular tension of course but then specifically because metabolism itself is affected by meditation.
14. The signal initiating metabolism originates in the brain and is transmitted to the tissues of the body members through the parasympathetic nervous system which helps vasodilatation and affects harmonic secretion besides secreting a number of hormones of great importance to the body in general and the brain in particular, one of which is noradrenaline.
15. Aerobic metabolism is of great benefit to the body organs. Some physicians hope to develop a drug that can effect the same result for curing angina pectoris and thrombus. It is extremely important to remember that cancer is always connected with the anaerobic tendencies of metabolism. This makes us consider oxygen a preventive means against cancer.
16. We can safely say, then, that contemplation and submission affect that portion of the autonomic nervous system known as the parasympathetic system, to the extent of reducing its secretion of noradrenaline known for its vasoconstrictor action.
17. This reduction of activity does not occur as a result of the will factor alone. Drugs, on the other hand, have only a limited effect in this concern.
These findings bear evidence of the close connection between structure and meaning or what is called "matter and spirit". Thus, the clouds that used to shroud the body-soul relationship have been amply dispersed.
Medical thinking has also changed, after the British Philosopher David Hume, from adhering tenaciously to the concept of mechanical inevitability to admitting the existence of moral and spiritual factors that go beyond the visible, material ones and greatly influence them. These would include the factors of will, intention, prayer, invocation of God for oneself as well as for others, in addition to other methods of treatment beyond the circle of the official academic medicine.
These factors are employed by all religions in spiritual treatment. As human beings are almost identical in their physical anatomy, so are they almost made the same way spiritually and psychologically. Their emotional, mental and spiritual functions are also similar. The only advantage Islam has over other creeds and religions is the perfection of the message and completion of God's favour upon Muslims, as the Quran says (5:4).
Islam is also distinguished by its overall scientific view of the universe and existence encompassing finite time and absolute eternity; the visible and the invisible; the past, present and the future.
From the religious point of view, there are several means of spiritual treatment including:
1) Will, silence, seclusion, concentration.
2) Attention, trust in God, devotion to purpose and action.
3) Faith and certainty.
4) Prayer, submission, and recitation of the Quran.
5) Remembrance and supplication both during prayer and at other times.
6) Reflection, consideration, contemplation, heeding God's commandments and discerning through wisdom.
7) Knowledge of the Shariah secrets and firm belief in the benefits of worships and the virtues of religious teachings.
Answering prayers and fulfillment of requests depend to a large extent on:
1) Purifying the heart from all doubts.
2) Refraining from doing evil or committing sins.
3) Eliminating pessimism and despair.
These can be achieved when one is close to God so that God may be close to one at moments of trouble. One is never afraid or desperate in the security of God's presence. This also implies a sort of adjustment, but in a far wider sense than that narrowly used in modern psychology. The "environment" to which man should adjust must be expanded to include:
The External Environment: Location, climate, geographical situation, fresh or foul air, pure and potable water, the sun and its connection with the material, biological life, etc.
The Internal Environment: The circulating blood with its well-balanced chemical components of proteins, fats, salts, vitamins, hormones, minerals, hematocytes, etc.
The Psychological Environment: Temperament, emotional life, instinctive and acquired traits, etc.
Socio-economic and Political Environment: The family, school, street, administration, work, etc. All these are important factors in shaping up man's upbringing and personality.
Moral Environment: The surrounding atmosphere with positive virtues or negative vices and the influence either have on man's attitudes.
Intellectual Environment: The ideas, views, trends, philosophies, traditional and scientific or semi-scientific beliefs, ideologies, educational and cultural attitudes, etc.
Spiritual Environment: This is based on supramundane conceptions in contrast with the mundane perceptions. The former would form the core of the mystic science of hearts" based on belief in the Unseen World, historical events and evidence, introspection, and consideration of the horizons.
It is this kind of adjustment resulting in safety for man's body, soul, mind, heart, and spirit that gives a clear illustration of Islam's comprehensiveness and unique characteristics which can be summed up in the five life fundamentals: soul, mind, religion, offspring, and wealth, each of which is adequately covered by the Islamic teachings.
Accordingly, obedience, which is religion itself, is synonymous with adjustment; righteousness is the gateway to obedience, and the basic condition for answering prayer.
Man is inherently good as he is created in the best of moulds according to the Quran. Later deviation from the right path is acquired and can be prevented or cured. For the more disobedient man becomes, the farther he drifts from the light of his Creator; and every new sin he commits is in fact a new barrier out casting him into the world of darkness.
The most striking uniqueness about Islam is the direct relationship between a Muslim and God. In Islam nothing or nobody plays agent or mediator between God and man. And God has promised to respond to whoever calls on Him, provided the call emanates from a pure heart:
WHEN MY SERVANTS ASK THEE (MUHAMMAD) CONCERNING ME, I AM INDEED CLOSE (TO THEM): I LISTEN TO THE PRAYER OF EVERY SUPPLIANT WHEN HE CALLETH ON ME.
(Quran, S.2: V.186)
And God does listen, but not to anyone:
AND HE LISTENS TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE AND DO DEEDS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
(Quran, S.42: V.26)
So, the way to God is wide open for anyone who wants to enjoy the bliss of nearness to God. But one cannot begin to step into the road to God until one is completely dedicated to Him with a concentration of will and after one has purified one's heart of all other attachments. These are of three types:
Loyalties to others amounting to polytheism whether overt or covert. This is the neo-paganism in our modern times of idolizing leader, rationalism, materialism, Darwinism, Marxism, Freudianism, capitalism, nationalism, the banner, gold, and many other such distracters.
Major sins that cut off man's relation with God leaving him with disturbing feelings of insecurity and depriving him from peace of mind. Closeness to God is the highest degree of conformity to the ultimate truth. It makes man live in harmony with himself and with others. On the contrary, getting farther away from God disrupts this harmony and breeds instability and anxiety leading to psychosomatic diseases and social disorders in the form of public upheavals and militancy.
Lust for rank, wealth, power, etc., neglect of duties, and failure to heed God's prohibitions. These deviations tend to switch off the light of spiritual potentialities that are latent in man.
All major religions, notwithstanding the impurities that have pervaded them, exhort their followers to turn to God with remembrance, contemplation, and prayer. Remembrance of God is in fact an act of recalling higher truths. This reminds us of Plato's theory of learning which argues that the soul had been knowledgeable until it got into the human body when it forgot, and that by learning it recalls what was forgotten. Remembrance in this sense is a kind of learning and its opposite, neglect, is a kind of ignorance, which is either temporary or chronic. Now, ignorance is classified as a disease because it is the gateway to all evils and harms caused by committing prohibited things such as addiction to drugs and alcohols.
The best means of remembrance is reciting the Quran and reading the Traditions (Hadith). But remembrance should not be confined to lipservice. It should extend to include obedience and fear of God at moments of weakness. With remembrance in this wider sense one becomes alert and God fearing, which is the surest way to good conduct, good health, and peace of mind.
Religion can be summed up in three words: faith, submission, and charity. Failure to stay away from what Islam has prohibited leads to physical disorders caused by venereal diseases, intoxicants, malnutrition whether in the form of over-eating or under-eating, and neglect of such other vital health-preserving factors as fresh water, unpolluted air, exposure to sunlight, physical exercises, fasting, moderation in sleep, and peace of mind attained through contemplation, remembrance and prayer.
Faith and trust in God is man's best shield protecting him against despair and depression. Many physicians have become aware of the great therapeutic effects of remembrance and prayer. Most notable amongst these in the West is Dr. Alexis Curril, a Nobel prize laureate, and author of: "Man, That Unknown Being". He published a short paper about the medical effect of invocation and prayers in which he says that weakness and atrophy of the sense of veneration and moral obligation is as serious as atrophy of the brain. Moral atrophy has made modern man totally blind from the spiritual point of view. As such he is not capable of forming a community. Alexis adds that it is this low quality of the modern individual that stands behind the decline of our civilization.
The sense of veneration is most apparent in prayer. When prayer, supplication and remembrance become a daily regular practice, especially if they are carried out in complete submission, the effect becomes tangible. In a way, this effect is similar to that of a ductless gland such as the thyroid or suprarenal gland. So, it leads to mental and organic change, which occurs in a gradual manner as if a light has been switched on inside the all-feeling soul.
A moment of truth dawns upon man as he is able to see himself for what he really is: selfish, greedy, proud and arbitrary in judgement. This self-revelation is conducive to moral restoration. Gradually, man regains stability and peace of mind leading to harmony between physical and mental activities and providing him with greater fortitude and forbearance.
Dr. Alexis says in his paper that a doctor should feel happy when he sees his patient pray. For the resulting tranquility of mind will be of great help in bringing about speedy recovery.
The results of supplication are especially striking in cases where all other methods of treatment have proved to be futile.
Dr. Alexis asserts that at times the effect of prayer takes an explosive form when patients with serious diseases such as cancer, nephritis, ulcer, and tuberculosis get cured in almost no time. This phenomenon almost always occurs in the form of unusually acute pain followed by feeling of relief and recovery. Surgeons and physiologists had never seen such quick recoveries in their experiments before.
Elsewhere in the paper the author says that societies which lack the need to turn to God are not a long way from total disintegration and collapse. "We can think of the sense of veneration as very similar to oxygen, and prayer as very similar to breathing".
In their attempts to investigate man's spiritual powers and understand the nature of influence prayer and remembrance have, scientists and thinkers are nearing consensus that there must be a spiritual environment without which the living matter would lose its meaning, value, and purpose. It is the point of contact between man, who is a composite of body and soul, and the Creator, who is unlike anything we know, according to the Holy Quran.
1. DR. ALEXIS, "Carrel".
2. MARVIN KARLINS and LEWIS M. ANDREWS, "Bioeedbak".
3. Revue Science et vie No. 670 Juillet 1973.
4. JOSEPH MURPHY, "Techniques in Prayer Therapy" (French Translation:Lapriere Guerit).
5. JEAN E. CHARON, "Mort voici ta defaite".
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