The mosque as an antidote to mental illness

Dr. Hafiz Ather Hussain al-Azhari

In an age where so many suffer from sadness and depression, there are so many ways that the mosque can help change a Muslim’s mood for the better. This short article will explore just a handful of these ways. May Allah grant us all eternal happiness and keep our hearts connected to the masajid, Ameen.
i. Undoubtedly, the masjid is the one place that helps bring happiness into a Muslim’s heart. The reason for this is that for Allah, it is the most beloved of places. It is most serene and tranquil place on God’s earth. In a famous hadith sharif, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
‘The most beloved of places according to Allah are the mosques. And the most detested of places according to Allah are the markets.’
ii. The mosque is usually the quietest place too. The silence of the mosque is a break from the noise pollution outside. Philosopher and adventurer Erling Kagge was the first person to reach the three poles; the North Pole, the South Pole and Mount Everest. He made some observations about his prolonged exposure to silence:
a. Silence allows us to feel present. You can feel the world around you when you are in a quiet spot in the countryside.
b. Silence gives us space to think.
c. Silence is a powerful tool in conversation. It indicates more thought, wisdom and deliberation. Leonardo da Vinci said: ‘Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.’
e. Silence might actually help the brain to grow.
f. Silence is an antidote to social media. It stops us fidgeting.

The masjid is largely about silence. The Salahs we perform inside the mosque too are about silence. Of the seventeen fard rak’ats a day, six are performed with the Imam’s loud recitation in congregational prayer. The remaining eleven units are performed in complete silence. The peace and tranquility of the masjid is amazing in releasing stress.
iii. Spiritually speaking, we find the best people there, not the worse.
iv. Perhaps most importantly, the mosque is marked by the absence of dunya. Many of our concerns and worries in life relate precisely to worldly issues. The mosque in an anti-dunya zone and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wanted this place to remain dunya-free. He asked us not to talk about worldly matters, for that is often the cause of our stress. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
‘A time will appear upon people where the conversation of theirs in their mosques will be worldly matters. So do not sit with such people, for Allah has no need for them.’
v. Going to the masjid is physical. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) talked of the great reward for walking to the masjid, rewards for every step conducted. As we do so, we are also improving our physical wellbeing, which is so important in helping our mental wellbeing. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
Verily, when one performs ablution and does it perfectly, and then proceeds to the mosque with the sole intention of praying, then for each step he takes towards the mosque, Allah upgrades him a degree and crosses out one sin till he enters the mosque (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Prayer).
vi. In a climate where people talk of the disconnection with wider society, the Congregational prayer (Salah al-Jama’at) in the mosque is the perfect antidote. It is a chance to meet fellow Muslims, enquire of their wellbeing and feel a true sense of community. Muslims stand together in prayer, increasing the feeling of belonging. Supplications are performed collectively, only adding to the unity of the Ummah. When Muslims pray in the masjid, they meet friends and relatives. They mingle with the elders and greet the youngsters. They learn of community news, like births, deaths and marriages. Such acts make us human again.
The Friday prayer (Jumu’a) is extremely important for Muslims. Of the many wisdoms behind this prayer, one is to ensure that at the very least, Muslims come to the mosque once a week, so that they reap the benefits of this spiritual heaven. Salah al-Jama’at is the perfect way to reconnect once again with humanity.
*Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) encouraged Muslims to recite the following often:
He described them as the words from the ‘treasures of paradise’ (Mirqat al-Mafatih, V: 229). He also asserted that reciting this often is the ‘cure to ninety-nine illnesses, the least of them being sadness’ (Ibid., V:230). If we are coming to the masjid every day, then we will recite this at least twenty times a day, for this is what we are required to recite when we hear ‘hayya al-Salah’ and ‘hayya al-falah’ in the azan, which precedes the prayer.

Dr. Hafiz Ather Hussain al-Azhari
BA Principles of Theology, al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
MA Arabic and Islamic Studies, Dar al-Ulum Muhammadia Ghawsia, Bhera, Pakistan.
BA Political Science, MPhil Theology & PhD Theology, University of Birmingham.

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