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Forgive for Your Mental Health – Lessons from Psychology and Sunnah

Anyone who has read even a bit about the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, knows that his life was full of lessons that we can and should learn from. Studying Psychology and reading about his life side by side has made me realize that there are so many lessons in psychology and mental well-being that we gain from our beloved Prophet.

There were many incidents where people rejected the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. During one particular instance, the Prophet had visited the village of Ta’if to invite people towards the religion of Islam.

The inhabitants here were particularly violent about their rejection of the Prophet, they didn’t just reject him but humiliated him, threw stones at him – injuring him and kicked him and his companions out of the town.

Soon after this, Jibreel Alaihi Salam came down to him and said,

“Allah has heard what your people say to you and how they reject you. He has ordered the angels of the mountains to obey whatever you tell them to do.”

The angel of the mountains called on him, and after greeting him ﷺ and said, “Send me to do what you wish. If you wish I will crush them between the mounts of Mecca.

But instead, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

“I rather hope that Allah will produce from them their descendants, such persons as will worship Allah, the One and will not ascribe partners to Him.”

Subhan Allah.

Just imagine yourself, you have been insulted, injured and kicked out of a place and then Allah sends down His angels who offer to exact revenge for you. And they are at your command and could do whatever you want them to. Crush them between mountains at your word. What would you do?

And what did our beloved Prophet ﷺ do?

What a lesson to keep! But you might be wondering… how does Psychology come in here?

Contemporary Psychologists and mental health experts, as well as, modern media have adopted the term “self-care” or “self-love” with several mental hacks to live a better and a happier life. Under this title, one of the most important lessons is of forgiveness.

They propound the importance of forgiveness and its vital role in maintaining our sanity. Researchers like, Dr Everett Worthington, have been studying for decades and the effect it has on our mental health. Now, the notable thing about Worthington is that he has been one of those researchers who had been applying forgiveness in daily life, asking their clients to forgive. But one night – after decades of preaching the message of forgiveness he found his mother murdered. And then, it was a true test of his ability to forgive, a true test of his research. Could he forgive the murderer of his mother?

Worthington quoted,

“Whether I forgive or don’t forgive, isn’t going to affect whether justice is done. Forgiveness happens inside my skin.”

It is his mental health at risk. It is his livelihood and functioning that is at risk. He can keep on holding a grudge and potentially taint everything he touches in the future with this hatred. Or he can forgive.

Research shows that forgiveness is linked to reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders. It also shows that you suffer less physical illnesses if you tend to forgive people.

Toussaint, the co-writer of Worthington, who wrote the book, “Health and Forgiveness” quotes,

“Forgiveness allows you to let go of the stressors that cause us an undue burden.”

Let us break this down into a very simple, everyday example. You live with a loved one. Say, your sister. You share your room with your sister and both of you are in a hurry to leave for your classes, or work, or some social meeting. While you are finishing up your chores, she enters the bathroom and completely delays your getting ready and hence, you are late for the meeting.

This is a very minute thing. But you are bound to get angry and upset at her. Here, you can do two things. You can get angry at her, which might either lead to a fight or you not saying anything, because you are in a hurry. But that anger will stay in your mind. And then, while you are there at your important meeting, you will be short with everyone else.

But, you can also forgive. Forgive and that case is closed even before you step in the bathroom making it a much better day ahead.

Forgiveness can also help rebuild self-esteem, Enright adds, “When people are beaten down by injustice, you know who they end up not liking? Themselves,” he says. “When you stand up to the pain of what happened to you and offer goodness to the person who hurt you, you change your view of yourself.”

How? Because you are the better person here. You choose to forgive and let go. Allah made you better and gave you this opportunity to lighten the burden on your shoulders.
Let’s face it, when you are carrying around a grudge, you are not harming anyone else – not even the person you are angry at – except for yourself. It is your mind that is constantly thinking about the incident, rather than the blessings in front of you. It’s you who is unable to enjoy life, not anyone else.

So, let’s emulate the forgiveness and mercy of our beloved Prophet ﷺ for better mental health and peace of mind.

References

  1. Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/01/ce-corner.aspx
  2. Journey to Ta’if – Seerah.Net. (2018). Retrieved from http://seerah.net/journey-to-taif/
  3. Worthington, E., & Worthington, E. (2003). Forgiving and reconciling. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

By: Arshi Dokadia

Edited by: The Editorial Team

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0 thoughts on “Forgive for Your Mental Health – Lessons from Psychology and Sunnah

  1. Well written indeed. The Prophet would always forgive those who did him wrong, even a magician who cast a spell upon him.

    1. Alhamdulliah, yes. A beautiful role model indeed. Salallahu alaihi wasalam.

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