I feel genuinely uncomfortable at the beginning and ending of every supplication. Ever since I was told that I should begin and end my du’a by praising Allah and sending peace upon the Prophet, I have had a gnawing at my mind before and after the prayer.
Praise be to Allah, praise be to Allah, praise be to Allah, I would repeat in a murmur (or in a thought, of course). Then, I would reflect on what I had just expressed, just to make sure that it was solid. You know—to make sure the words were really there. Then, I would pray. That part was usually ok. At the end, though, I always felt somewhat imprisoned by the mantra that was supposed to give me relief; praise be to Allah, and may peace be upon the noblest of the Prophets and messengers…
I had no clue that OCD symptoms can manifest themselves in religious practices, before I experienced the illness, myself. I had always thought of religion as a peace-granting institution, shielded from any worldly pain or discomfort. The idea that negativities present in life can intermingle with and taint Islamic rituals we carry out is…distressing, to say the least.
That being said, mental illness is a formidable opponent…it can ruin life to an unimaginable point. And it doesn’t mind if you are a pious, God-fearing Muslim, or not. (Sometimes, being firm in faith is actually the driving force behind its strike; it tries to shake your faith in Allah through its blows.) Mental disorder will clutch you in a most painful grasp, and will refuse to let go until either you give up, or it sees that your sabr is stronger than its hold.
My own disorder and I have wrestled some rough brawls. I have suffered through psychosis, depression, and OCD at the hands of mental illness. And yes — I have wondered such thoughts as “why me?” and “when will this end?” in the midst of the battles. But I have learned through my war with mental illness that a good Muslim is not one who never distresses, or who doesn’t ever waver in her faith (for, if there was such a Muslim where would Allah’s test be in the life of that person?); a good Muslim is one who, after falling down in spirit, rises back up, again, and again.
“Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: “When will the help of Allah come?” Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near!” the Qur’an teaches us (Qur’an, 2:214).
I have the painful fear of my prayerful words fading away into oblivion, when I make du’a. The fact that words do not fade away into oblivion (what does that mean, anyway?) does not help me, while I’m in the moment. While I’m in the moment of making du’a, I am afraid that Allah . will not answer me, because I may not begin (or end) the supplication with “praise be to Allah, and peace be upon His prophet” sincerely enough…hard enough. So, I repeat the words, over and over, concentrating, firmly, on them. I know that this is irrational, but this is part of my illness. It’s a part of my test. And Allah loves those who endure their tests, patiently. Alhamdulillah, for that.
Writer Ethar Hamid is a Sudani-American who finds inspiration in her mental illness and says “the issue of mental wellness is not one of being forever free from mental distress, but one of coping with and thriving despite of mental health issues”. She writes creatively about her mental health struggles on www.muslimbipolar.com.