Maryam (Mary ra) the mother of Isa (Jesus RA)

As Muslims we often hear about the story of Maryam (ra) but we rarely truly take inspiration from it. All we know is that she was a virgin and the mother of Isa (ra). Today I want to share with you the lessons I found from reading her story in surah Imran and surah Maryam. From when she was conceived, her mother Hanna bint Faqudha dedicated the child in her womb to be free of worldly duties and dedicated to the service and worship of Allah only. This is in itself so admirable in a world where a lot of parents only care about job status and wealth. However when she had the baby and realised in was a girl she said in sorrow to Allah “My rabb I delivered a girl, Allah knows best what she delivered. Male and female are not alike” 2:36. She was disappointed, because she didn’t know how she was going to fulfil the promise she made to her lord. In those days only men were allowed in the temple to worship.
Nevertheless Allah already had a plan for her, Zakariyya (ra) was to be her guardian and built a small house for her in the temple so she could have her privacy. She was so dedicated to Allah that she would receive food that wasn’t in season. When Zakariyya asked her where she got the food from she replies “it is from Allah. Allah provides for whom he pleases without count”. He was so moved by what she had said that he went to pray to Allah for a child, even though his wife was barren and he was an old man. But Allah granted him his wish and his wife soon had Yahya (ra).
When the angels told her about Isa (ra) they said “ Oh maryam (ra), certainly Allah has chosen you, purified you and preferred you above all the women of the world” 2:42. This ayah really shows us the status and importance of Maryam in Islam and the role of women. Her mother was so worried that as a woman there was no way Maryam would be able to worship Allah to the same level as a man. But Allah wanted Maryam to be born female so that she would be able to carry out one of his most important missions, which was to give birth to Isa (ra). This shows that contrary to what a lot of people think about Islam that women are not regarded highly, even as Muslims when we think about the most pious people we always think about men whether it’s prophets or our current sheikhs and scholars. But Allah gave Maryam and majority of women and amazing gift and way of worshiping Allah that men can never attain, which is to give birth to human life. This highlights that although Allah gave men and women different roles in Islam they are equal, they both have an equal chance of gaining Allah’s favour.
The story of Maryam also shows that women should be encouraged to participate in all forms of extra worship such as memorisation of the Quran and going to masjid. When we know that the best of all women, had a section in the temple created for her where she could worship Allah and Zakariyya (ra) would come and teach her about the scriptures. Allah wanted her to have this knowledge not to necessarily go out and preach, but in order to gain taqwa and also be able to teach Isa (ra) the deen.
I pull lessons out of this story as a reminder to myself and you, as a reminder of the status of women in Islam and so that we can take inspiration from Maryam (ra) and hopefully use to gain closest to Allah.

Black Muslim

I’m Black, African and Muslim
You heard me correctly
Is that an oxymoron?
Does that not fit into your box?
I’m I not Asian enough for you?
Arab enough for you?
Brown enough for you?
Well tell me tell you?
About Bilal the black slave
And what a beautiful voice he gave
With his mighty words he refused to be enslaved
1st muezzin of Islam calls which we still hear today
And yes he was a black slave
So let me tell you about Mansa Musa
A 14th century king who went to Mecca
Establishing learning centres in Timbuktu
People came from a far whether Christian, Hindu or Jew
He gave away plenty of gold
Imagine what he would ensue
Why is so little known?
Is it because he was a darker hue
Have I now proven that I’m Muslim enough for you now?
That being black and Muslim is compatible
Islam has grasped the coast West Africa since the 9th AD
Have I proven that I’m now Muslim enough for you?
Christianity only arriving in West Africa with the slave ships too
Taking the hearts of Africa Muslims to different places
Trying to eradicate their races

-By Kawthar and Maryam

The Psychology of Faith

As a psychology student, I learn about different approaches/theories about the structure of personality and how defects in this can lead to mental health. Some evidence points to genetic causes, bad childhood, environmental stress etc. One of the most prominent approaches is Freud’s psychodynamic theory which is based on the Id, ego and superego. The Id contains our basic human drives such as aggression and sexual impulses, according to the psychodynamic model we are constantly battling with our Id impulses vs our superego which contains our moral compass. The Id is mentioned in the Quran centuries before the likes of Freud, Allah is constantly referring to our nafs, jihad al naf the constant struggle with our inner desires. The prophet (saw) said Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad and have yet to perform the major jihad. When asked, what is the major jihad? The Prophet (s) replied: The jihad of the self (struggle against self) [Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 19, p. 182, hadith no. 31]. Islam acknowledges the dangers of the self and how we have these desires that constantly go against our moral code.

As Muslims and believers in religion in general have is a meaning to life. Recently I have been learning about an approach in psychotherapy called existentialism. Its therapeutic method is based on an underlying theory that unless man has meaning to his life he will suffers from neurosis and psychosis. The founder victor frankl claims that man’s primary concern is not self-actualisation as other theories emphasise on but fulfilment of meaning. The approach describes a phenomenon called an existential vacuum which is an inner emptiness the feeling of having lost the meaning of existence and the content of life. Subhannallah, sometimes as Muslims we don’t appreciate enough or realise how liberated we are that we have a meaning to our lives and without meaning we not only wouldn’t have a purpose i.e. Yolo living,but this could lead to mental illness. Allah says those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of god. Truly it is in the remembrance of god that hearts find peace 13:28. We all experience it when your Iman is good and you begin to feel tranquillity in your heart and sense of peace like you have never experienced before.  The Quran also says did you think that we created you without any purpose, and that you will not be brought back to us? This existential vacuum that people feel is largely due to a lack of purpose in their lives. That’s why some people being to have suicidal thoughts, self-harm and other psychological disorders if there is no purpose of living, then what is the point?  The Quran asks humanity to question why they are on this earth and what their purpose is, which is to worship him alone.

Islam understood the human psyche long before the advent of the discipline of psychology. As Allah created us then it’s only logically that our hearts will never be happy, content or satisfied until we fill that hole in our hearts with the love and worship of our lord. Allah is our source of peace (As-Salam), our sustainer (Ar-Razzaq) and our reliever (Al-Basit).

*originally written on my call of duty of a muslimah blog March 2015

Reading Buchi Emecheta

buchi

Although I’ve heard of the Nigerian Igbo writer Buchi Emecheta it wasn’t until I walked past her poster in my university library at Goldsmiths commemorating her death, that I finally made the effort to read her book. I randomly firstly went for Second Class Citizen which then led me to a Head Above Water and then The Bride Price in the space of 3 weeks I finished them all. This was due to the thirst for that was stirred inside of me, I just couldn’t put them down I wanted more. Buchi Emecheta writes in such a free, unrestricted flow that it feels like one of your aunts giving you some life lessons through the challenges she has been through. Which is exactly what I feel she head over waterwas trying to aim for, she wrote that one of her role models for becoming a writer was her aunt. That would sit under a tree in her village in Ibusa, tell them folktales and stories about their forefathers. Although her original aim was to become a writer by 40 like her aunt but by the time she was 28 she had already published her first book.

All three books were a reflection of her reality and struggles as an Igbo Nigerian woman. In her autobiography Head Above Water and the fictional version Second Class Citizen she reflects on her rights as a woman in patriarchal in an African society and household. From a young girl she knew that her education wasn’t a priority for her family due to her gender. But she overcame all odds and won herself a scholarship to complete her secondary school. However, once she got married and moved to England her husband expected her to give birth every year and work full time with no financial support from him. By the time she was 22 she had 5 children in a foreign country. She writes…

“As for my survival for the past twenty years in England, from when I was a little over twenty, dragging four cold and dripping babies with me and pregnant with a fifth one—that is a miracle.”

Although her husband knew she wanted to be a writer he burnt her first manuscript The Bride Price out of spite. But this amazing woman still got back up,through her own hard work and dedication she managed to overcome her struggles, left her husband, got a degree and doctorate and became an award-winning writer. As I was reading this my eyes were filled with awe and amazement, she is really an amazing inspiration.

As a sociology graduate Emecheta uses her novels to explore the socio-economic factors that produce poverty and crime. Which leave the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society women, ethnic minorities, children in a cycle of perpetual poverty. In Head above water she talks about her journey from Lagos to Ibusa to moving to London living in one room with 4 kids to eventually living in a dingy council flat, to a nicer one in regent street to eventually buying her house. She also speaks about her time working as a youth worker and teacher in inner London and eventually not needing to work for others by being able to become a full-time writer. Nevertheless, she is aware that her story from rages to riches is unique and fortunate. She speaks about the reality for many Black boys growing up in London in the 80’s, the low expectation and almost self-fulfilling prophecy of teachers and schools that expect Black pupils to fail and even encourage them to an extent. However, as a professional she refused to allow for and accommodated bad behaviour and tried to inspire these children to do better. Although this wasn’t always welcomed she stuck to her belief that if I succeed so can you and knew the importance of having good Black role models and low teacher to pupil ratios.

The last book I read The Bride Price was more fictional however even in the introduction Marie Linton Umeh writes that Emecheta took a lot of inspiration from her own life as she like the main character Adu-nna refused to marry the one chosen for her and was also part of the new generation of educated Igbo women. The title itself forces the reader to question the tradition in which a woman is sold to the highest bidder

tbpfor a price which goes to her male relative. This means that she doesn’t get a choice in who she marries and even if she refuses she is at risk of getting kidnapped and taken by force. It’s a story of the old world of tradition versus the new world of westernization and modernity. Also, the consequences of breaking tradition which the woman is to carry.

 

 

One of the reasons I believe I found her novels so interesting is because although these books were written in the 70s and 80s a lot of the issues she speaks about her still prevalent today. Women being educated only to be told it’s irrelevant without a man, forced marriages, high crime rates in the Black community in London the list goes on. I believe this speaks to her strength as a writer, because a truly excellent writer is one the is able to transcendent the limits of time and even death and still be able to connect with people generations to come.

To find out more check out: https://www.buchiemecheta.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The After Taste of Black Panther in the Diaspora

 

film-preview-black-panther-0

My fingers have been buzzing to write about the Black Panther film that I watched just over two weeks ago. It’s now common knowledge that the film has had a great reception all over the African diaspora and worldwide. The film tapped into the collective unconscious of the Black psyche, a people hungry to change the narrative of what it means to be from African descent.  Black Panther changed the narrative from a continent that is still portrayed as savage, underdeveloped and poor to a highly sophisticated civilisation that isn’t dependent on the west. It’s the Africa all Africans have been dreaming for.

However, in the mist of all this greatest, the film hasn’t been without it’s critics, it has sparked great debates also rehashed some old wounds.

Does Africa need to be less dependent on foreign investment and more selective and protective of their natural resources?

How do Africans all over the diaspora connect to each other and remain connected to the motherland and support it economically?

Does Islam in Africa get a fair accurate represent?

One of the most heated debates has been the about Killmonger vs T’challa storyline.

Who is really the Villain?

download1The tension highlights the issues between Africans and African Americans and I would even extend it to include the tension between Africans and Afro-Caribbean’s. How their different experiences with racial oppression and colonisation has at times created two opposing views on what is the best method of liberation. In the film Killmonger is the bitter African American villain that is hell bent on exposing Wakanda to the world through Military means whereas T’challa is more of the pacifist but eventually acknowledges that the kingdom must be more flexible. After the screening the conversation online has shown that many people believe that Killmonger’s leadership style is justified and reflects the real life Black panther political party and Wakanda is a selfish nation by not sharing their natural resources with other African’s around the diaspora.

Some African-Americans have even claimed that the film didn’t represent them and believe it portrayed them negatively.

I personally can empathise with both viewpoints as a British-Nigerian.I have seen how internal tensions within African tribes causes tensions within Nigeria and other African countries that prevents a united front which makes us more vulnerable to being manipulated by western powers and corruption by not feeling responsible to help your nation instead only sharing the wealth with a select few. Also, I believe that there is a lack of honest conversation amongst Africans and African Americans about their experiences.

For example Imagine an African immigrant that has dreamed of going to America his/her whole life gets there working hard for that green pali (Nigerian slang for passport) and hears all these negative stereotypes that African American are lazy and you also start to believe because you see that your hard work is paying off so it must be true…these people have it all yet they don’t appreciate it. While an African American knows that their ancestors where forcibly removed from Africa, stripped off their culture has now idea their specific origins, grandparents and great parents had to go through Jim crow and civil rights movement just to be human the legacy of that trauma still haunts their community.

You can see where I’m getting at… I have even heard of situations where Africans coming to the states didn’t know about the trans-atlantic slave trade. It sounds crazy in the 21st century, but this is because a lot of Nigerian curriculum still has a strong colonial legacy and teaching African history isn’t a priority in many schools.

Another debate questioned whether the film Islamophobic

Some Muslims were angered about the scene where Nakai rescues a bunch of women and girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haraam. This is perceived by many to be portraying Muslims in a negative light and is helping to continue to perpetuate the narrative that Muslims are dangerous terrorists.

I accept that the global agenda of the war on terror has extended beyond the west and as led to Islamophobia in even Africa where Islam arrived since Islam began (King najashi of Ethiopia). Even in Nigeria there has been a move in the Christian dominated south to ban hijabs in schools. Also there is a history of Pro-black movements being anti-Islam due to it being seen as a ‘foreign religion’ therefore a form of Arab indoctrination.

However, as an African Muslim I don’t believe the film is Islamophobic. Firstly, Boko Haraam is a real threat just last week 100s of girls were kidnapped again and some of the famous chibok girls are still in captivity therefore I believe it’s actually raising awareness of this issue instead of ignoring it. I wish the Muslim community would be more angry that young girls are being kidnapped and think of strategies to help as an ummah rather than simply see it as negative propaganda Secondly, Nakia helped to rescue these girls as a fellow African not due to western foreign intervention claiming to free poor oppressed Muslim women when really that is just an excuse for exploitation and neo-colonial agenda. But as an African woman helping other African women on an equal playing field.

Although there has been a range of opinions about this film. I still believe that the positive impact of the movement it’s created greatly outweigh the negatively. Even through the disagreements it has enabled conversations that we usually shy away from. I hope they continue not only in talk but direct action so that the Wakandan dream can become a reality.

The taboo of Islam and suicide

Although I work in the mental health field this is a topic I have not really given much thought about until recently when I found about a close friend of mine attempted suicide. I was so shocked and distraught when I heard the news. In addition, I was even more concerned as this person is also Muslim and knows how suicide is viewed in our faith but due to how they were feeling it wasn’t enough to prevent them.
Suicide in Islam is viewed as a great sin by most Muslims many due to some of the following hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell Fire (forever) and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the Hell-Fire
.”

Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 23 Hadith 446

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 71 Hadith 670

There was amongst those before you a man who had a wound. He was in [such] anguish that he took a knife and made with it a cut in his hand, and the blood did not cease to flow till he died. Allah the Almighty said: My servant has himself forestalled Me; I have forbidden him Paradise.
Hadith Qudsi – 28

These hadith are frequently used to silence the public and some Muslims believe that due to our faith we are immune to suicidal thoughts unlike non-Muslims. However, this is obviously not the case which sparked my curiosity led me to research more about this topic.
The first question that popped into mind was of course the role of mental illness. If someone has a diagnosed mental health condition especially of a psychotic nature, which means that their sense of reality has been distorted. For example, this person may suffer from hallucinations, delusion and paranoia. Will Allah still punish them if they were not aware of what they were doing?
If anyone has witnessed someone who is psychotic, you will know that this illness can be all encompassing and someone’s whole sense of reason can be lost. I have a lot of knowledge of Islamic law so it’s very difficult for me to answer this question however I know that Allah is most forgiving and doesn’t burden his believers with more than they bare therefore it can’t simply be a case of haram or halal there are individual factors that must be considered. In my reading some writers stated that they have come across scholars that were also trained in psychiatry who said if suicide is due to mental health issues then the punishments stated in the hadiths above don’t apply. But my question is can someone who is truly sane want to take their own life or can certain life circumstances be so horrific that suicide is justified as an option? Which also usually triggers the onset of a mental health condition in many causes.

One of the most commonly known suicide act by committed by Muslims are through suicide bombers. Most Muslims condemn these acts as haram, but some believe it’s an act of martyrdom especially in places like Palestine where your weapons will never match your opponent.
What if some was mentally ill and this allowed them to be more susceptible to be manipulated by terrorist groups to commit these acts. Or what if they genuinely believed that it was an act of survival.
One common theme between these two situations is the feeling of hopelessness and urgency that this act needs to be done to make the world a better place. For example, a suicide bomber may believe that by sacrificing his/her life it may help the bigger cause of world justice. A suicidal mental health patient may also believe that the world will be a better place without their presence in it. Of course, it is debatable whether these thoughts are rational but if a person believes them to be true are they punished?
I was recently listening a talk by Imam Shaheed Muhammed about the rise of suicide in our Muslim and communities. He spoke about the role of unprocessed psychological trauma whether through bullying, political instability, the rise of islamophobia and the effects that is having on our psyche as well as racism. He also gave the example of this hadith.

Abu Huraira reported Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) as saying: By Him, in Whose hand is my life, the world would not come to an end until a person would pass by a grave, would roll over it and express the desire that he should be in the place of the occupant of that grave not because of religious reasons but because of this calamity.
This hadith illustrates that having suicidal thoughts is something that the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) already predicted that a lot of people will face due to adverse life events and that these feelings are not due to lack of religiosity.
In all the hadith stated in this article the common theme that resonates with me is that as Muslims we shouldn’t lose hope in Allah’s plan and that’s a big part of the Islamic belief system. Even in therapy hope is used in motivate people who have usually reached a low point in their psyche, that although your condition is difficult now there will be a brighter day.
Throughout the Quran all tries to keep us feeling optimistic as he knows that this life can be challenging.
And, behold, with every hardship comes ease” – 94:5.
This is a very complex issue that I hope to write more about it as I continue to research about, please feel free to comment I’m very interested in hearing more voices on this topic.

References
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/themuslimhippie/2017/09/29/suicide-hits-home-muslim/
https://muslimmatters.org/2016/03/09/what-every-muslim-ought-to-know-about-suicide/
http://hadithoftheday.com/suicide/

 

What are the Different Types of Psychotherapy/Counselling?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
History and underlying theory: This originates from the 1950 with Skinner and Pavlov classical and operant conditioning, behaviours can be explained through positive and negative reinforcements and conditioning.
Later on in the 60s Beck and Ellis added in the role of cognitions which is a fancy way of saying thoughts they proposed that mental health problems are believed to be due to negative view about yourself, the world and the future. Talks about the negative triad.
Ellis came up with the ABC model he believed that it is not the activating negative event (A) that causes negative emotional and behavioural consequences (C), but rather that a person interprets these events unrealistically and therefore has a irrational belief system (B) that helps cause the consequences (C).

cbt

Treatment: This type of therapy works on helping clients to change their irrational beliefs by coming up with alternative thoughts. They also use techniques such as behavioural activation which can help with phobias and social anxiety. For example, lets say you were scared of heights you and the therapist would create a hierarchy that would slowly expose you to your most feared scenario. Therefore, the aim is that you slowly become more desensitised to your fear as you realise that there is nothing to fear as nothing bad actually happens.

Cost: In the UK this type of therapy is the most favoured by the NHS, therefore you can usually get this for free with your local improving access to psychological therapies commonly known as IAPT service put the amount of sessions you get will vary.

Humanistic-existential
History and underlying theory: The humanistic approach which is also commonly known as person-centred counselling. Is an approach that is focused on helping human beings achieve their full potential through a becoming more congruent within yourself and thereby becoming more self-actualised. The main theorist behind this approach is an American man called Carl Rogers who came up with this theory in the 60’s. Another important theorist was Abraham Maslow who came up with the famously known Maslow hierarchy of needs.

maslow

A key factor in this theory is the notion of self-concept. Self-concept refers to the organised and consistent set of beliefs and perceptions an individual has about himself or herself. Person-centred counselling recognises that a person’s self-concept can become displaced if they strive too hard to fit in and be accepted by those around them.

Treatment: The role of the counsellor is to be:
1. Congruence – the counsellor must be completely genuine.
2. Unconditional positive regard – the counsellor must be non-judgemental and valuing of the client.
3. Empathy – the counsellor must strive to understand the client’s experience.
It’s all about how can people become the best versions of themselves. Therefore, it’s not necessarily about having a diagnosed mental health condition at one point in our lives or another we will all struggle with this. This theory is used a lot in the workplace and in health care settings.
Linked to the humanistic approach but can also be practised as a separate therapy is existential psychotherapy. One of the main theorist Victor Frankl founded logo therapy which translates to therapy of the soul, is based on the principle that we need meaning to live it was based on his experience as a Jew in a concentration camp in world war 2, were he observed that to survive the horrors of war what people need is something to give them meaning beyond their suffering. Therefore, when we don’t have meaning in ourselves we experience an existential vacuum which is an inauthentic state of unfulfillment were we are just existing not living which makes us susceptible to mental illness. This theory fits in very well with an Islamic philosophy as it states that we gain value from religion and suffering or negative life events is not necessarily a bad thing as it can help us be aware of what we care about and what’s important.

Cost: In the UK you maybe about to get some free sessions under your local IAPT service or mental health charity. But if you require long-term therapy which can cost between £20 to £60 pounds an hour. To find local qualified therapist check out http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/

Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic
History and underlying theory: This approach gone through many periods and transitions over the last 100 years. It was famously founded by Sigmund Freud was one of the first theorist in the west to pay attention to what causes mental illness. In his theory of personality, he states that the mind is composed of a superego which is your moral compass which you internalise from your parents, your ID which contains your instinctive and primitive drives such as food and sex. Then you have your ego in the middle which mediates between the unrealistic id and superego. Also like the diagram below shows some parts of our personality is in our unconscious therefore we don’t have access to it however it still affects us and can come out in the form of defence mechanisms.

id

For example one of Freud and Breuer’s famous case study of Anna O, she has symptoms of blurry vision and was paralysed on one side of her face although there was nothing wrong with her physically. Through catharis and dream analysis it was discovered that her symptoms were linked to her looking after her dying father.

Treatment: Psychoanalysis is based on the principle that through helping a client bring the unconscious into conscious you can help to alleviate their mental distress. This therapy also focuses a lot on childhood attachment and how that can make you more susceptible to distress as an adult. Due to the depth of this therapy it tends to be more long term than CBT.

Cost: Again, in the UK you may be entitled to get some free sessions under your local IAPT service or mental health charity. But if you require long-term therapy which can cost between £20 to £60 pounds an hour. To find local qualified therapist check out http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/

Islamic counselling
This is not an area I claim to know a lot about as my learning in psychology in the west has of course been secular in nature. However I have a great interest in this area and I shall share some of knowledge I have found.
Note: There isn’t one agreed consensus of what Islamic psychology is, due to the differences in Sunni and Shia traditions as well as a lot of theory traditionally generated through Sufism which is an area for discrepancy for some Muslims.
History And underlying theory: The core principle of this approach unlike secular models is that in order to reach self-actualisation a relationship with god is essential. There are many theorist of this subject such as Imam al Ghazali, and modern Islamic psychologist such as Dr Malik Badri and Dr Rashid Skinner.
They draw inspiration from the Quran to inform the theory of personality. The self is composed of the qalb which connects the self to the ruh (spirit) and is where god consciousness Taqwa comes is rooted. Then there is also alq our intellect which is composed of our rational self.
Then there is our nafs commonly translated to soul or ego, there are three main types mentioned in the quran.
(1) Nafs al-Ammara Bissu’ (The Soul which Commands): similar to the Freudian ID
This is the Nafs that brings punishment itself. By its very nature it directs its owner towards every wrong action. No one can get rid of its evil without the help from Allah. As Allah refers to this Nafs in the story of the wife of al-Aziz (Zulaikha) and Prophet Yusuf (as):
“The (human) soul is certainly prone to evil” (12:53).
Allah also says:
“And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure; but Allah purifies whomever He wishes, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” (24:21)
This Nafs resides in the world of the senses and is dominated by earthly desires (Shahwat) and passions….
(2) Nafs al-Lawwama (the Soul that Blames):
“And I do call to witness the Nafs that blames” (75:2).
This Nafs is conscious of its own imperfections and is regretful. Most of us are at this level we sin but we constantly asking Allah for forgiveness.
(3) Nafs al-Mutma`inna (the Soul at Peace):
“O Self, in complete rest and satisfaction!” (89:27). This verse is from surah fajr when the believers are in complete peace and know they have pleased their lord as believers enter Jannah.

Treatment: Focus on tazkiyah al-nafs” meaning “purification of the self” through recommendations from the Quran and sunnah such as fasting, doing igstigfar, remembering Allah’s names through dhikr, improving the quality of your salah.
This approach is also frequently incorporated into CBT, psychodynamic and humanistic counselling for Muslim clients so it’s not necessarily a case of one or the other.

Cost: Varies greatly due to the differences in trainings. This website contains a directory of Muslim counsellors and psychotherapist in the UK http://www.mcapn.co.uk/counselling-directory?ed=true

References
https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/about-psychotherapy/types/#psychodynamic
http://www.islamicity.com/forum/printer_friendly_posts.asp?TID=3949
https://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html
Heart, Self, and Soul: A Sufi Approach to Growth, Balance and Harmony
https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
Traditions, paradigms and basic concepts in Islamic psychology Abdur-rasjid Skinner

Book Review of The Good Immigrant

 

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The Good Immigrant is a brilliant collection of stories from young people from different ethnicities about their experiences living in Britain. For me this book represented many of the different experiences that I’ve had but also taught me about what people from other ethnic groups apart from my own and what they go through. Across the 21 essays there was a sense of collective lost, being at home but also realising that your home hasn’t fully embraced you for who are.

One of the themes was a general sense of seeing yourself through the lens of whiteness in everything you do. Dareen Chetty’s piece showed that even 7 year olds in year 2 have already learned that stories have to be about white people. I’m sure most 7 year olds aren’t even completely aware of their race the way adults are, however somewhere in their unconscious they have learnt that stories were never about people who looked like them. As a teacher he had to almost force them to create characters based on themselves before they could realise that they were allowed to bring their cultural diversity into their fictional stories. It shows that representation in literature is key in order for children to internalise that their stories matters.

The diversity of different minority explored through this book was one of the key elements I enjoyed. It wasn’t the typical narrative of black and south Asians stories that were told. Vera Chok’s piece Yellow really enlightened me on my ignorance of the Chinese experience in Britain. I had no ideas that they accounted for the third largest minority group in England yet they’re experiences are largely ignored. Chinese people are hardly represented in mainstream society or even as part of the image of multicultural Britain. When was the last time I saw a British Chinese person on a UK screen?
The sad answer is I can’t remember.
Although one could argue that compared to other minority groups the Chinese are generally seen by society at large to be a model minority, from Chinese children genius to the economic growth of China in recent years. Wei Ming Kam explained that these stereotypes can be just as damaging
” East Asians are the model minority because they’re quiet and hardworking, you imply black people are apparently loud and lazy”.

I learnt that these stereotypes can lead to a lack of support for Chinese when faced with hate attacks. Reflecting on the murder of a Chinese woman in Wigan whose partner was left without any support after his death. Win Ming Kam wrote…

“As a Chinese person she was stereotyped as being self-reliant and not in need of the kind of support offered to other families of murder victims”.

Being seen as a model migrant has negative implications as well. It’s these silent stories that we won’t here in mainstream media that really makes this book special.

There was a recurring theme of feeling that you constantly had to be on your best behaviour not simply because you wanted to be a good person but you felt that you had to be the ‘model immigrant’ to show gratitude to the host country even if you were born in England. This feeling can lead many of us 2nd or 3rd generation British citizens to feel that your actions represent your whole race. Therefore having to be a false version of yourself, the token black or brown person that others can refer to as defying stereotypes. Throughout the book there is a sense of having black skins and white masks which I believe is having a great impact on the mental health of many BME people.

With all the stereotypes and labelling what this book showed was that most of us want is just to be seen as ‘normal’ and that we have the same experiences as any other group. Miss L’s story about coming out of drama school only to be told that she could only play the role of the wife of a terrorist or a victim of domestic violence was humorous but so limiting that as a woman from Middle Eastern heritage she could only be casted as an oppressed woman. It doesn’t matter that she was born and raised in England, she is restricted as an actress due to her ethnicity not her skill.

I have just given a very brief snapshot of some of the narratives that stood out to me in this book. It’s empowering and uplifting collection. It made me feel that I’m not alone or crazy there is a problem with racism and prejudice in the UK as long as you look different.

I will end with this quote written on the front cover.

“A book that will make a lot of young Britons feel more powerful and less alone. Each essay s like another new friend standing up and saying to the reader. I see you”
Hari Kunzru

 

Introspecting on my Identity in light of Black history month

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My identity is still something I find myself grappling as Black Muslim Nigerian Yoruba woman sometimes it can feel really overbearing. But I love the richness it brings to my life and I believe my life would be so boring otherwise.

As I settle into London life I reflect back on my experience up north. I see myself struggling to feel comfortable in a country I call my own. I find myself questioning my Britishness, I’m I really British if I’m only comfortable in particular parts of the country?
Parts of the country where I feel my experience is visible, acknowledged and even unapologetic. Being back in London I’m immediately overwhelmed with the amount of events catered to the multiple parts of my identity, the most recent being Black and Muslim in Britain. The fact that there are spaces that I and other likeminded individuals can talk about our experiences was like a homecoming for me. After spending so long feeling that the issues I faced were ignored in a predominately white community.

However I also find myself struggling with my Nigerian identity. As a second generation Nigerian at times I’m expected to forget my identity by other Nigerians but I’m also expected to cook Jollof rice and have good home training in order to be marriageable. Confusing right?
These are some of the comments I’ve received…

‘Why do you need to learn Yoruba it’s not like French or Spanish it has no use”

‘You’re British not Nigerian”.

It can at times feel that the very people you’re trying share your culture with are the ones that want to strip your culture away from you. I believe this is due to a desire for many immigrant communities to want their children to aspire to ‘whiteness’ almost like you are born and raised here YOU DONT HAVE TO BE BLACK ANYMORE YOURE FREE. A Nigerian even told me that I’m not an ethnic minority because I’m born here. I laughed at the nativity and simplicity, that I can attain Britishness just with a red passport and they seemed confused by my need to talk about the Black experience in Britain as surely it should be the same as the white experience.

Growing into myself I’ve learnt not to be confined by these labels that define me and I’m an individual free to choose what I want to do even if it goes against stereotypes. No one has the right to tell me what I’m and no one can take my identity away from me because my interests go against the norms of that particular group. After spending years believing I couldn’t be A or B because that’s not what Black people or Nigerian people do. I’ve learnt that I can be a Nigerian who obsessed with guacamole and loves a good English breakfast.

I’ve learnt that I can be a British and not have that calm, ‘polite’ English way of speaking and have a ‘stiff upper lip’. I’m the complete opposite too loud, blunt and overly honest. Growing up with my Nigerian extended family no one was afraid to tell you a few home truths and unless you were loud you wouldn’t be heard. My Britishness also has to deal with random moments were I start speaking in a Nigerian accent especially when I’m angry.
I guess my take home message is as Black people we often told what we can or can’t be otherwise you’re acting white or as Nigerian Yoruba’s would say ‘ewa oyinbo’ which translate to behaviour of whites which isn’t usually a compliment if said to you directly. Therefore it’s important this month to celebrate all the different types of Black people in world not just those that seem ‘Black enough’.

South to North back to South

 


My first visit to Grimsby wasn’t exactly optimistic. Firstly I had to google where exactly it is as I had never heard of it. Then after some research I was a bit frightened, reading about the town  through various articles saying that it is  one of the most deprived areas in the UK to the Sasha Baron Cohen film called Grimsby . I can’t say I was too happy when I got the job but after months of applying for jobs I was desperate for anything that was related to my field. One of the first things I noticed as the train slowly approached the town was the steel works in Scunthorpe and the smoke various other industries. Although London isn’t exactly smoke free I don’t think I have ever seen actual factories I felt like I was seeing a glimpse into the Victorian industrial age, it felt very alien. As I got to know Grimsby I learnt that it used to be at the centre of the fishing industry in the UK and a lot of the residents’ grandparents and those before were fishermen. I soon discovered that a lot of people in the town worked for the various fish factories which include Young’s seafood.

As I settled into working life  I knew I would find it difficult to fit in as I stand out as one of the few Black hijabis in town. Living in a small town I soon realised the lack of what I regarded as ‘basic’ knowledge from some individuals. I’m sure we have all heard of the phrase small town small minds well I’m afraid this phrase ran through my mind a couple of times. Let me give a few examples…
‘That woman had negro in her’
‘where are you from Me: London..NO NO where are you from …Me: Nigeria.. Is it not poor where you’re from”

 

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“Are you from India?”

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Walking home from work. Random person shouts ‘allahu akbar’

I can’t lie sometimes the comments I have received have been so stupid all I can do is laugh it off. But on a serious note it really made me aware of how little some people know about other ethnicities and religions and I truly felt like an ethnic minority compared to London where you can become delusional thinking that that we live in a ‘multicultural Britain’ . For me this made it very hard to feel relaxed, at ease and comfortable socialising with others as I would feel that I had explain and educate people on information that I have just taken for granted and expected people to know. I think living in a city implants an expectation that everyone has friends of different ethnicities and knows that you can be Black and Muslim therefore it was easy for me to become a bit frustrated and lack patience.

In addition because there aren’t many people who look like me it naturally follows that there aren’t as many activities and events for people like me, especially if you don’t drive like myself your stuck in the one town with bad transport links to neighbouring towns. When you’re someone like me who likes going to open mic, poetry and Black history related events and your stuck somewhere that just doesn’t have that type of cultural depth and I’m not exactly going down the pub for a pint so most weekends I would sit with envy scrolling through my Facebook at all the events I missed.

So far I have written mostly negatives, let me get on to some positives…

Although I have ranted about the lack of knowledge and culture I met many people that surprised me with their non-mainstream views. I had a driving instructor who left the country to travel in a van around Europe with his family and free himself from the shackles of taxes, bills and work. I met a ex-solider that saw Britain’s wars as neo-colonial and others that saw the influx of refugees as the least Britain can do considering how much they bomb everyone else. These views really surprised and enlightened me, I never thought that white British working class people who the media usually portrays as white nationalists could see through the propaganda and educate themselves about history. In the Muslim community I was surprised to meet so many white reverts ladies more than I have met in London as well as a Polish Muslim revert who is now a good friend, and I even ended up going to Poland. I never dreamed of stepping into Eastern Europe before I met this sister who really gave me an education in their history.

Another positive is living in the north in CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. I could afford to live in a 2 bedroom flat by myself; I walked to work, to town and hardly ever had to use public transport. The upside of having no social life is that not having many friends saved me a lot of money that I used to go on holidays.

So as this chapter of my life draws to an end, I believe I have learnt a lot and all these experience will contribute to the tapestry of my life which I hope will help me we the world in all it’s different colours and shades rather than a black and white picture. Would I ever I ever move to a small northern town again? My impulsive answer is NO, but we shall see what new adventures life will throw.