Embracing the Struggle

By Yara Daoud

The pursuit of happiness is intertwined into the mind of every human being. We are on a journey to find our purpose and to be surrounded by positivity, love, and hope. As Muslims, Islam is a structure that provides us with morals, ethics, and social behaviors we must abide by to help us reach our end goal. We are taught how to cope with situations and how to deal with the people around us. Allah (SWT) says something in Surat Al-Fatiha that each Muslim recites at least 5 times a day: “ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٲطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ,” which translates to, “Guide us to the straight path.”

There is a psychological theory presented by John Bowlby called “attachment theory,” which is relevant here. Walaa M. Sabry of the Institute of Psychiatry in Cairo, Egypt, states: “..we know that having a secure attachment has been linked to overall wellbeing, coping, better mental health outcomes, enhanced self-esteem, and stronger relationship functioning. Thus, having a ‘healthy attachment’ to God would also be linked to better psychological functioning: ‘… And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him,’ [Quran, 65:3].”

As a first generation Muslim American and a child of immigrants, I’ve learned to turn an identity crisis into hope for a better generation. Breaking a culture’s stigma towards mental health may be one of the most difficult tasks in this day and age. Being Muslim in America, we deal with many obstacles and sadly, many do not acknowledge the negative effect it has on us. According to The Journal of Muslim Mental Health, Professor Wahiba Abu-Ras found about 70% of Muslims reported shame and 62% felt embarrassment seeking formal mental health services. Out of 459 participants, 15.7% of the participants reported a need for counseling, while only 11.1% reported ever seeking mental health services.

Our communities come from backgrounds of trauma ranging from fleeing war-torn countries, to living in an Islamophobic culture, to trying to preserve our own culture while living as an American. Just these three things should be enough to show why mental health is so important for our community, but there is still so much more that needs to be addressed.

Zakat Foundation of America teamed up with Khalil Center to host “Embracing the Struggle: Psycho-Spiritual Dimensions of Human Suffering.” The event held around 70 to 80 attendees who listened to lectures by Muslim mental health professionals and trained Sheikhs. Presentations such as: “The Pursuit of Happiness: A Review of the Research Variables that Engender Life Satisfaction;” Resiliency: Fostering the Skills to Respond to the Challenges of Life;” and, “Psychological Trauma and Its Impact on the Human Experience” were a few of the offerings at the event.

Zakat Foundation of America staff member Bashirah Mack attended the event and said,“Dr. Samar Harfi gave an incredible presentation on human emotions that explored how culture informs our understanding of our emotions. She talked about primary emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. She discussed healthy ways to express emotions which was all very affirming.”

Mental health is extremely important and we cannot allow it to be taboo anymore. Our brain is an organ like any other part of our body and must be treated accordingly. Zakat Foundation of America is a proud sponsor of Khalil Center to promote the idea that mental health should be available to everyone in our community. We must learn how to deal and cope with our struggles in the way Allah intended for us. We are told in Islam that if we are sick or in need of help we must seek it. You cannot pray a sickness away without treatment. Zakat Foundation of America hopes to continue its work in support of general wellbeing to bring more events like this to the public.