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Grim health alerts and safety recommendations fell upon the nation like an eerie fog, confining families to their homes beneath a thick blanket of uncertainty and fear. As students, teachers, and families acclimatized themselves to their familiar, yet foreign workspaces, many were unable to manage the severe blow of Covid-19 to their mental and emotional well-being. Dar-us-Salaam, teamed with certified social worker, relief counselor, and therapist, Walida Mukhtar, endeavors to provide the Muslim community with the proper psychological and spiritual instruments to mend the wounds of Covid-19. 

iMuslimah halaqahs present Muslim women with an Islamically sound platform to address the various challenges exclusive to women. Zaynab Abdullah, Al-Huda School’s AP English and Government instructor, prefaces Mukhtar’s halaqah, ‘Converting Negative Energy into Positive Actions,’ with a remark acknowledging the necessity of mental health discussions during “these days of confinement, of masks, and many social and physical challenges.” 

Mukhtar encourages Muslim women to reflect on the lives they wish to lead, providing them with relevant discussions to steer them onto a path of firm iman and mental wellness. 

“This pandemic has been the most isolating and lonely period of my entire life and the complete 180 [degree turn] our lives made it very easy to fall into a hole of despair, hopelessness, ingratitude, and self pity,” a participant of the iMuslimah halaqah said. 

“I realized that to keep from burying myself into a hole I had already relied heavily on strategies like creating a gratitude journal and reframing negative experiences in my head as positive necessities and signs of Allah’s love and mercy. Sr. Walida’s talk was very beneficial, because she articulated these strategies very clearly and also helped me to identify several other negative thinking traps to avoid falling into. I felt reaffirmed in myself and more optimistic about my ability to one day grow into a positive beacon of Allah’s light,” the participant remarked. The sisters-only program promotes unity amongst the Muslimahs, as it strives to grant each listener the opportunity to feel seen, heard, and uplifted.  

“We have to be careful about what penetrates us within –in our hearts, and in our brains, and in our bodies–because that has a direct impact on how we behave. It has a direct impact on our actions,” Mukhtar advises. She illustrates the link between one’s mental health and deen, and offers the community the rare jewel of a Muslim mental health professional.

“The worst of all is when we have negative thoughts about Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. . . that Allah is out to get us. Why am I the one who is constantly being tried or tested where others don’t have tests in their lives? If you think good of Allah, you will change your whole viewpoint. Even when negative things happen in your life, when heartbreaking things happen in your life, you view it differently,” Mukhtar said. 

“We have to be careful about what penetrates us within –in our hearts, and in our brains, and in our bodies–because that has a direct impact on how we behave. It has a direct impact on our actions,” Mukhtar advises. She illustrates the link between one’s mental health and deen, and offers the community the rare jewel of a Muslim mental health professional.

She urges Muslim women to reframe experiences in alignment with Islam. 

“It doesn’t mean the heartbreaks aren’t going to be there, it doesn’t mean that the financial struggles, the family dilemmas and dysfunction [won’t be there], but your viewpoint changes. Instead of blaming or pointing fingers, you go — subhaanallah–  my Lord knows I can handle this. The One Who controls the heavens and the Earth gave me this because he does not test anybody with that which they cannot handle,” Mukhtar continues. iMuslimah simultaneously evaluates the wellbeing of community members, and offers discussion, validation, and comfort. It begs the questions, ‘how are you doing?’ and ‘how are you coping?’ within the embrace of an ummah sharing the same values and concerns.

“Stagnation leads to a lot of depression. . . what do you desire that will make you more content, not necessarily happy? I pray that’s a relationship with Allah, because a relationship with Allah covers all other aspects. . . Does that mean returning to the Quran? Does that mean attending the iMuslimah once a month…,” Mukhtar said. 

In an effort to align with the Quran, her prescriptions intertwine Islam with the tangibility of self-help techniques. 

“Stagnation is not the Muslim way. We have to be people who work towards goals. We’re always moving forward because we understand that we have to return to our Lord, and when we go to Him we have to be able to say, ‘I took advantage of all the blessings You’ve given me.” Mukhtar urges listeners to implement daily affirmations, to acknowledge and avoid negative thinking patterns, to set goals, and reframe situations in a positive manner cognizant of the qadr of Allah. The demand for Muslim mental health professionals and an acknowledgment of the psychological challenges facing the ummah has long gone neglected. Dar-us-Salaam intends to displace the stigma of mental health within the Muslim community one halaqah at a time.

 

Author: Mecca Mustafa

Mecca Mustafa graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a degree in English and minors in Creative Writing and Arabic. She also attended Al-Huda School as a young Muslimah :)