MuslimMatters is excited to welcome Haleh Banani on board, a trained and experienced psychologist and practicing Muslim sister. She has a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston, and over 10 years experience in diagnosing mental and emotional disorders and administrating programs of treatment. She has given inspiring lectures in the U.S., Dubai, Jordan and Egypt. Read more of her biography here. Haleh will be helping MM take the next great leap in helping our communities and families by providing information that will help the healing process where psychological disorders or social problems are taking a toll. We are formulating a column where Haleh will answer selected reader questions on a periodic basis. If you have suggestions of what you would like to see, feel free to add them here.
Join us in welcoming Sr. Haleh!
If you are breathing and interacting with others you need psychology! You may think that psychology is just common sense and not really a necessity. But I beg to differ. Limiting beliefs and cultural taboos of “shrinks” may be hindering you from seeing the value of what this field has to offer. Now, I'm not suggesting for all of you to run out and make an appointment with the nearest therapist, but what I am asking from you is to have an open heart and an open mind while reading my articles. If your cup is full or turned upside down you will not be able to receive any benefit. Knowledge of psychology can either simply enhance your life or completely transform it. In my practice, I have worked with many suicidal clients that had lost their will to live. Using psychology in the light of Qurʾān and Sunnah, they not only choose to live, but they are living with purpose celebrating life, alḥamdulillāh. Psychology can help you to understand yourself, which will affect every aspect of your life. By understanding yourself you will be much more capable of relating to others. That means having a better relationship with your spouse, raising your kids with ease and deliberateness, learning to be a better friend, and achieving success at school or work.
Learning psychology can help you to understand yourself on a whole new level. It's absolutely fascinating to learn how your psyche works – what makes you tick, what motivates you, how to overcome fears and phobias. Once you know how your mind works, you can start programming yourself for success. You no longer have to stumble upon success – you can aspire, plan and achieve while putting your complete trust in Allāh. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allāh, certainly, Allāh loves those who put their trust in Him (Surah Al-Imran 3:160). You will no longer be at the mercy of other peoples' approval or validation because you can learn to accept yourself and in accepting yourself you can accept others. In learning about behavior modification, you can learn how to motivate yourself and others to make that oh so necessary change; like shedding 20 pounds, giving up bad habits, forgiving others, controlling your anger and getting organized. Allāh will never change the state of the people until they change themselves (Surah Al-Anfal 8:53).
If it's not motivation you are lacking, you can learn to cope better with all of life's challenges. Learning coping skills can be a matter of life or death. Thousands of people die due to heart attacks and strokes because they never learned to cope with the daily stresses. Your outlook on life can become optimistic by becoming aware of your internal conversation which is called self-talk and you can even reinvent yourself by vigilantly avoiding negative thoughts the way you would avoid a poisonous snake. The pursuit of happiness has to begin within. If you don't like yourself, you can't expect others to make you happy. Once you like yourself, you will be able to embrace the people around you and focus on giving to them on a deep, emotional level. Each one of these concepts I have mentioned requires an article to explain; however this is an introduction to the psychological material I will be covering inshā'Allāh. Consider this article as a preview of coming attractions!
When you start becoming happier with yourself, the first people who will notice the change will be your friends and family. Your relationships with them will improve significantly because you will no longer be consumed with your inadequacies. Learning to accept yourself with all your shortcomings and imperfections will make you less judgmental of others. You will be able to be more tolerant and respectful of people even if they are not your ideological clones. Many times we classify differences in others as flaws and we quickly dismiss them. This way of critically judging everyone prevents us from achieving a higher level of empathy and insight. Many times in hearing different perspectives, we broaden our understanding and become more compassionate. This compassion is essential within families. Kind words and forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) (Surah 2 Al-Baqarah:263). Genuine acceptance, sympathy and forgiveness creates an environment conducive to effective communication and conflict resolution. Learning the fine art of expressing your needs and resolving problems could drastically improve the quality of your family life.
As you nurture yourself and improve your family life, you will become more at peace, exuding happiness and confidence which will make you more appealing. But all the appeal in the world cannot compensate for a lack of interpersonal skills with your spouse. Having the skills to nurture this vital relationship and the diplomacy to resolve conflicts will transform your married life. He grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and whoever is granted wisdom is indeed given a great wealth (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:269). When you acquire the necessary tools and wisdom to nourish your relationship, serenity will descend and difficulties will become more manageable.
Having a strong and stable relationship with your spouse should be a prerequisite to having children because of the impact it has on their personalities and their lives. Not only do people lack the skills or role models in having an efficacious relationship, they also believe they can just improvise on parenting without any prior training or knowledge. Ask people of knowledge if you do not know (Surah Nahl 16:43). It's disheartening to know that a person is required to take courses and seek training from experts in order to drive or hunt, but when it comes to becoming a parent and raising the future generation there are absolutely no criteria. Seeking knowledge within psychology regarding effective parenting and applying the beautiful example of our beloved Prophet (peace and salam upon him) will enable us to have a map which will guide us in the rugged and unpredictable terrains of parenting.
Empowered with the knowledge of psychology within the Islamic framework will have you parenting with ease and deliberateness, while reaping the rewards of gratifying relationships. You will introspect and understand your emotions, which will enable you to be more accepting of yourself and others. Aspirations will be achieved with simple guidelines when accompanied with perseverance and trust in Allāh. It is my hope that this article has wet your appetite for learning more about psychology in the light of the Qurʾān and Sunnah, inshā'Allāh.