Akhlaq is most commonly translated in English dictionaries as: disposition, nature, temper, ethics, morals or manners of a person. Malakah comes into existence through repetitive practice and is not easily destroyed. A particular malakah may appear because of one of the following reasons:. Although fitra produces certain dispositions, man can surpass nature through free will and effort. While dispositions caused by mental faculties i. When we speak of man's capacity to change his dispositions, we do not mean he should destroy instincts of reproduction or self-preservation.

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Human experience in, health and disease, always has a spiritual dimension. In recent years, pirituality has been an area of research in neurosciences and both in the nderstanding of psychiatric morbidity and extending therapeutic interventions it seems to be full of promises. Sufism has been a prominent spiritual tradition in Islam deriving influences from major world religions, such as, Christianity and Hinduism and contributing substantially toward spiritual well-being of a large number of people within and outside Muslim world.

Though Sufism started in early days of Islam and had many prominent Sufis, it is in the medieval period it achieved great height culminating in many Sufi orders and their major proponents. The Sufism aims communion with God through spiritual realization; soul being the agency of this communion, and propounding the God to be not only the cause of all existence but the only real existence.

It may provide a vital link to understand the source of religious experience and its impact on mental health. Humans have always had the quest to know themselves, to know the world around them, and to know their place in the world.

Across cultures, spirituality forms an important part of belief systems of majority of the people. It affects the mental well-being and the understanding of mental illnesses in terms of the etiology, meaning and the modalities of redressal. It seems important that mental health professionals should be aware of the ways spirituality affects the mental well-being of individuals in both health and disease states.

This paper will outline the basic foundations of Sufism — a particular kind of Islamic mysticism, how it affects the mental well-being of individuals associated with it, and its interface with clinical psychiatry in terms of implications for diagnosis and management.

Human cognitions and behaviors are determined largely by a set of facts and values. The facts are mostly derived from the science and the values have their origin in religious or non-religious philosophies such as humanism and existentialism.

Recognizing this, the spiritual well-being, in accordance with the social and cultural patterns, was accepted as one of the important determinants of health by the World Health Organization during the 37 th World Health Assembly in In fact, there are studies that show positive as well as the negative impact of the spiritual and religious beliefs and practices on the physical and mental well-being of people who subscribe to spiritual or religious practices.

From a more philosophical point of view, Sufism provides an opportunity to understand the source of religious knowledge in general and Islamic knowledge revelation in particular. In Sufi traditions, it is believed that Sufis can have similar knowledge revealing experiences as are the source of religious knowledge in the form of revelation of the Quran the scripture of Islam to Muhammad the Prophet of Islam. The study of these Sufi experiences which share phenomenological ground with the prophetic experiences of revelation provides a possibility for the scientific study of the sources of religious knowledge.

The term Mysticism had its beginning in the mystery cults of the Greeks, which involved a close circle of devotees who because of their innate capacity were believed to have the knowledge of the divine revealed to them. Etymology aside, mysticism has been practiced since ages across all the cultures and has been a vital part of the major religions of the world. Perhaps it represents an innate desire of the man to understand himself and the world around.

All forms of mysticism aspire for a union with the divine and believe that it is only possible through the purification of soul to receive direct knowledge and revelation from the divine.

The close contact between the Muslim and the Christian communities during the formative years of Islam had its influence on the development of the Sufism — the mystic traditions of Islam. Sufism established itself within the traditions of the Islam as laid down in the Quran believed to be revealed to Muhammad by God.

The Sufis believe that communion with God is possible through Muhammad, who was the recipient of the knowledge of the heart Ilm-e-Sina besides the outer knowledge Ilm-e-safina.

Ali, one of the Muhammad's companions and son-in-law, is considered to be the first Sufi to whom the Ilm-e-Sina was revealed by Muhammad to be taught to those capable of understanding it. Contrary to the mainstream, some schools of thought in Islam denounce Sufism as heretical and consider it an innovation in Islam. Sufism in the beginning was primarily an individual endeavor.

The Sufis would usually live in isolation practicing self-mortification and were distinguished by a cloak of wool Suf , a tradition of Muhammad, which is believed to be the origin of the word Sufi.

These people of the bench Ashab-e-suffa , 45 to over in number, were given to much weeping and repentance and are believed to be the origin of the Sufism. The Sufis in the early period were primarily ascetics and Sufism had not yet evolved into a fully developed system of theosophical doctrines, which became the core feature of the later Sufism.

As the early Sufi masters started teaching those in search of divine, a distinct tradition in the form of closely-knit communities centered around these masters flourished.

The transformation of such communities into those, which shared a spiritual lineage, took place around the 11 th century and led to the formation of Sufi orders silsilas , chains through which they would eventually link their disciples to Muhammad.

The Sufi orders practiced presently run in hundreds but most of these represent the off shoots of the earlier ones. The 13 th century considered the golden age of Sufism was marked by the development of comprehensive mystical and theosophical doctrines of Sufism by the Sufi scholars like ibn ul Arabi of Spain, ibn ul Farid of Egypt and the popular Persian Sufi poet Jalal ud Din Rumi After the golden era the Arab-Muslim world produced only few notable Sufi scholars though the influence of Sufi orders continued to grow.

The rise of Wahabism in the late 18 th and 19 th century that condemned Sufism as a heresy and the social and political reforms in the Muslim world during the 20 th century that considered Sufism as an impediment to development restricted the growth of Sufi philosophy and confined it to closely-knit circles of spiritual education. Apart from the Christian asceticism, Hinduism had a significant influence on Sufism both in terms of the philosophical basis and the meditation practices, which started much before Sufism reached the Indian subcontinent.

The concept of existential unity of being wahdat-ul-wujood propounded by the ibn ul Arabi in the 13 th century bears striking similarity to the Advaita philosophy unified Brahma-Jnana of the Puranas ancient Hindu religious texts.

The concept of wahdat-ul-wujood has been a dominant philosophy in the later day Sufis which brought them closer to the Hindu mystics like Ramanand, Chaitanya, Ramanuja, Namdev, Mira Bai, Tukaram, and Ramdas, resulting in social movements like the Bhakti movement. The Sufis also incorporated some of the meditation techniques from the Hindu mystics like the breathing techniques to facilitate their Sufi practices.

The ultimate aim of the Sufi is communion with God through spiritual realization, which is achieved through the knowledge revealed by Quran ilm and the practice of Islam amal.

The early Sufis adhered strictly to the Quran in their interpretation of the concept of the God as infinite, eternal, unchangeable, creator, all-powerful, merciful and the cause of all existence. With the growth of Sufi philosophy, the concept of God changed from the one as the cause of all existence to the idea of God as the only real existence.

This philosophy reached its ultimate in the concept of the wahdat-ul-wujood. Sufis regards the soul as the agency for communication with God. It is the higher soul, as Sufis believe, created before any human being came into existence, consisting of heart qalb , spirit ruh , and conscience sirr that has the ability to know God.

They said: Yea, verily. We testify. That was lest ye should say at the Day of Resurrection: Lo! The nafs has to be transformed from nafs-e ammara lustful soul; cf. Id to nafs-e lawwama self-blaming soul; cf. Muhammad, has a special place in Sufism. The spiritual enlightenment or the ascendance of the higher soul for communion with God is believed to go through a chain of transmissions to Muhammad as through him only can the communion be achieved.

Sufis believe that the ascendance is possible only through the process of purification of the soul — the way tareeqa. Sufis outwardly follow the sharia while on the way tareeqa for communion with the God haqeeqa. The first stage represents the traveler's salik's striving for his lord and is achieved through self-mortification mujahida.

The salikis supposed to pass through the stations of repentance tawba , piety zuhd , trust in God tawwakul , poverty faqr , remembrance of god zikr , patience sabr , thankfulness shukr , and contentment rida to reach the final station love mohabba of the first stage.

The states ahwal are believed to result from the divine graces tajalli flowing from the God and occur during or after the first stage. The ahwal, as a matter of faith, are solely dependent on the God's grace and cannot be induced by the Sufi. The final stage of achievement tamkin represents the end of the quest when the Sufi is supposed to receive the gnosis marifa , the divine knowledge and become one with God.

While on the tareeqa, the Sufi is first supposed to annihilate himself in his mentor fana-fi-shaykh , then in Muhammad fana-fi-rasul , and finally in God fana-fi-allah before he achieves eternal existence in his God baqa. Spiritual or psychic experiences are a quite common occurrence across cultures and religions. The psychic experiences occur in the domains of thought, perception and feeling a complex perceptual experience and share certain features regardless of the domain.

The psychic experiences, partly based on individual accounts of Sufis, are immediate, usually transient, ineffable, unanalyzable, involving intimate association with a unique other self, transcending time, space and person, and felt as a deep sense of bliss.

Historically, psychic experiences have been attributed to divine experiences, possession by demons, regarded as heresy and even insanity. The experiences have been interpreted to promote or discredit a particular political thought and even used as a plea for insanity.

The case of two famous Sufis who claimed extreme forms of mystical experiences, Mansur al Hallaj and Bayazid Bastami needs a mention here. Both were and are considered as great Sufis on one hand and as heretics on the other and were even sentenced to death during their times for heresy.

Psychic experiences involve some experiences beyond the normal and Sufis claim these to be the source of ultimate knowledge marifa or gnosis. The possibility of such knowledge yielding experiences has been questioned from philosophical and scientific perspectives. Kant rejected the possibility of the knowledge of ultimate as falling outside the sphere of human experience and hence its irrational nature. Sufi philosophers have argued for the possibility of such experiences as being only an extension of normal human experiences.

The Sufi philosopher Fakhruddin Iraqi considered the possibility of these experiences as located in different orders of time and space divine time and space consequent to changes in the level of human consciousness.

The knowledge yielding and the spiritual nature of these experiences have been questioned based on this semblance. It has been argued that all kinds of mystical experiences and hence religious beliefs have their origin in psychosis with the underlying assumption that all psychotic phenomena are abnormal. Psychotic phenomena hallucinations and delusions have been shown to be fairly common in the normal population as well as during spiritual experiences, which are apparently benign in nature.

It has been argued that all psychotic phenomena are not abnormal and that abnormality needs to be redefined. The higher Sufi experiences of annihilation in the ultimate reality and eternal existence occur rarely but experiences such as transcendence, tranquility, sense of pleasure, and detachment occur more frequently.

Though there are no specific neurobiological studies of Sufi experiences, it seems plausible to extrapolate the findings from studies of other spiritual experiences, given the similarity between such experiences. Such experiences have been reported in certain specific biological states such as near-death experiences, temporal lobe epilepsy, psychosis, and under the influence of drugs.

It seems pertinent to mention here that the elucidation of the underlying biological substrates for spiritual experiences does not prove or disprove their authenticity; it merely explains the mechanisms underlying these experiences.

From a more philosophical perspective, it does, however, suggest a biological determinism and the unlikely extracorporeal nature of these experiences. Increased religiosity and mystical experiences have been frequently associated with temporal lobe epilepsy.

However, positive experiences are extremely uncommonly reported with temporal lobe epilepsy and many studies have failed to show any such relationship especially after controlling for brain damage and psychiatric comorbidity.

As the mystical experiences involve modulations of these neuropsychological functions, mystical experiences have been attributed more to the right temporal lobe. The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin have been associated with religiosity and spiritual experiences. The level of religiosity and the positive emotional aspects of religious and spiritual experiences may be modulated by dopamine.

Self-transcendence, a trait associated with spirituality, has been found to be inversely related to 5HT receptor density. Again, it has been found that psychedelic drugs like D-lysergic acid diethylamide and psilocybin having serotonergic effects lead to spiritual experiences. The term psychiatry is derived from the Greek words psukhe meaning psyche or soul and iatreia meaning healing; healing of the psyche or soul.

The relationship has been greatly influenced by psychoanalysis; Freud considered religion pathological neuroticism and amenable to naturalistic explanations. The incorporation of the medical model into psychiatry led to its identification with the empirical sciences based on observation as the means of knowledge.

From a clinical perspective, psychiatry deals with the aspects of human life, which are governed by scientific facts as well as religious values. Psychiatry, thereby, is in need to shun the indifference and get actively engaged with the study of religion both from a philosophical and a clinical perspective.

Like other forms of spirituality, Sufism has resurged in the oriental as well as the occidental world in recent times. Sufi practices, or a belief in these, form an important part of the belief system of an increasingly large number of people both in the Muslim world and outside.

The manifold increase in the mental-health related problems in recent years,[ 42 ] means that more and more such people will come into contact with mental-health related services. The contact of people with Sufi orientation with the mental health services gives rise to issues that need to be addressed at multiple levels. There is evidence to show that a consideration of the spiritual needs of patients by the mental health professionals confers benefit to the patients.


Sufism and mental health




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