The Journal of Islamic Human Services and Mental Health
Science Confirms Quranic Miracle: Respiration Key to Intellect, Emotions, & Behavioral Regulation: Toward a Modern Islamic Psychological Framework.
Hamzah Alameen, Mhs, PMFT, CHSP, DRCC.
President of the National Institute of Muslim Human Service Practitioners (N.I.M.H.S.P)
Alameen, H. (2016). “Science Confirms Quranic Miracle: Respiration Key to Intellect, Emotions, & Behavioral Regulationy: Toward a Modern Islamic Psychological Framework.”. Al Asr, Journal of Islamic Human Services and Mental Health. Winter, December 22, 2016. 1(1). Online. Retrieved from, https://nimhsp.com/2016/12/23/winter-2016-vol-1-issue-1/.
This paper examines newly discovered link between breathing, cognition, and transformative or spiritual essence from a modern Islamic psychological prespective (Quran and sunnah) and K.A.S.M learning theory (Alameen, 2009). Religiosity, bioenergy science, and positive psychology’s subjective wellbeing are factors important to the development of an Islamic mental health approach. Traditional Islamic psychology can help fuel a modern approach and benefit western psychology as a whole. Islam has a built-in mental health framework with a rich untapped scholarly history, neglected and potentially invaluable to modern approaches, especially in the west.
Read, how modern science has finally recognized that there is a connection between breathing, cognitive functioning, and behaviors (News, 2016).
Scientists at Northwestern Medicine, have discovered that the tempo of respiration creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall (Zelano, Jiang, Zhou, Arora, Schuele, Rosenow, & Gottfried, 2016). This study tested a subject’s ability to recognize images when nasal inhaling, versus nasal exhaling, and found those tested were “smarter” or had increased cognition when inhaling, as opposed to exhaling or oral respiration (Zelano, et al, 2016). Respiration is not just to sustain oxygenation, additionally, there is a correlation between neuropsychological functioning, perception, and behavior (News, 2016; Zelano, et al, 2016). When oxygen in the blood is decreased pathological stress related symptoms occur: avolition, extreme fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of judgement, and possible threat of becoming comatose (Yahya,1994a). Former atheist Patrick Glynn, Ph.D., of Harvard, converted to theism confronted with emerging scientific findings in cosmology, psychology, and medicine which amounts, “to a powerful–indeed, all-but-incontestable–case for … the existence of soul, afterlife and God” (Glynn, 1977, pg. 2).
“Oh you who believe! Fear Allah and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed achieved a great achievement.” [al-Ahzaab 33:70-71].
. The K.A.S.M. learning theory, allows the psychologist, and scientist in general, to benefit from the Quran as a source of healing (Alameen, 2009). K.A.S.M. utilizes psychological investigation of the Quran, sunnah (the example, methods, judgements, and wisdom of Muhammad (S) and those narratives in the Torah, and Bible which are consistent with the Quran (Alameen, 2009). Reflect, that Allah (swt) has accredited Himself, with the expansion of the entire universe, “And it is We Who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it.” (Qur’an, 51:47) Know that the Quran full of wisdom contains guidance for the modern scientist which should not be ignored. Scientific research is continually confirming the fact that the Quran is not the work of any man, but rather the uncontaminated truth which is humanities’ greatest gift from our Creator. (وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا عَسْعَسَ), “I swear …by the night when it draws in. (وَالصُّبْحِ إِذَا تَنَفَّسَ) and by the dawn when it exhales.” (Q. 81:17-18).
Recognize, that Allah (swt) swears by the inhalation of the night, and then by the exhalation of the morning “itha tanaffasa”, which refers to the systemic ecological reality that the processes of respiration and exhalation are relative across the entire universe. All that lives in the visible world must breathe. Reflect, verily mankind was animated by divine effusion of the Creator’s, ruh (spirit), “And remember when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo I am creating a mortal out of potter’s clay of black mud altered. So, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My spirit . . .” Qur’an 15:28-29.
Observe that life is a cycle of changing times, stages, and transformations. All observable matter is humanly indestructible and not even a sub atomic particle can be created by anyone. Every atom of existence merely transforms from one state to the next. Realize, that humans are somatic (corporeal) and asomatous or “spiritus” creatures. Prophet Jesus (Isa) (S) was by the power of Allah (swt) allowed to transmit animating energy into an inanimate object (clay bird), which then came to life. “And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah… Indeed, in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.” (3:49) The above supports the creative theory, which in scientific terms allows one to say, that human beings are composed of asomatous transformative bioenergy which is the greatest divine gift, from the Fashioner of humankind. Ideas that support metaphysical concepts like Sheldrakes’ theories concerning morphic fields, bioenergetics and telepathy are lampooned and highly criticized as scientific heresy (Horgan, 2016).
Reflect, that the amygdala (see fig.2) receives oxygenated brain fluids and neurotransmitters that control behaviors when under stress and pressure. These biological processes may have a spiritual aspect. Know that conditions like alcoholism and addiction in general, are brain disorders, which causes poisoning, stress, corruption of the spirit, and enslavement to dysfunctional brain and bodily processes. For example, addiction is a deviance that causes distraction, isolation, enslavement, and systemic disconnection from some of the incorporeal aspects of human functioning. Addiction is a process of spiritual and physical, dysregulation, and disassociation, resulting into a type of enslavement, that one must break or one may waste and destroy their life, including everything they love. Addiction is a brain dysfunction which can often be eradicated or managed. Addiction causes social dysfunction, physical pain, emotional distress, neurosis, and social pathologies. Know that addictive thinking produces: uncontrollable urges, undesirable behaviors, and reoccurring negative systemic social outcomes. The conditioning process of addiction begins with an idea which binds the addict to some belief, substance, a place, or even a person. Addiction produces asocial behaviors that are toxic and pathological. Addiction often can be a substance use disorder (SUD), a negative and altered state of mind (obesessive compulsive disorder), but typically it includes, a way of thinking and behavior that ensures spiritual slavery and unhappiness (anhedonia). Escape from such enslavement is possible and spiritual transformation is the means of such an escape. Know humans are not mere flesh (لحم lahm) and blood (دم, dam), but rather humans also possess a spirit (روح, ruh) dimension. The ruh or spirit is self-aware, it is intelligent, blessed with inspiration (إلهام, ilham), and we are systemically connected to the Divine Sustaner (رب, Rabb) via five daily communications or prayers (صلاة, salah). Human beings are in need of ongoing reflection (أفكار, fikr) , maintenance (صبر, sabr) and spiritual fortification (التقوى, taqwa).
Therefore, any science that does not recognize the composite corporeal, and incorporeal nature of the human being has “mismeasured” humankind. Reflect, that Allah (swt) has accredited Himself, with the expansion of the entire universe 1400 years ago, “And it is We Who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it.” (Qur’an, 51:47) Contemplate, that this metaphysical process was revealed in the Quran over 1400 years ago. We have just barely come to vaguely understand the great gift and miracle of the Quran, which has been so beneficial to all of humanity.
Consider, that the glorious Quran full of wisdom informs, “Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him aright, He expands his breast for Islam, and (for) whomsoever He intends that He should cause him to err, He makes his breast straight and narrow as though he were ascending upwards; thus does Allah lay uncleanness on those who do not believe.” (Qur’an, 6:125) Therefore, someone high above sea level may faint and go into a coma because of limited oxygen, which causes toxins in the blood to not be purified, which stresses the entire body. This deprivation causes compression of the cardio-vascular system, including the level of respiration, cognition, and motor response (Yahya, 1994b). Allah (swt) has informed us that the Quran can heal the spiritual hearts of the human being. There is a process revealed upon investigation of the Quranic phrase “O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers”, (Q.10:27), which includes: respiratory expansion, cognition, and then behavioral direction which is certainly a mercy from the Creator. Reflect, that Allah (swt) said to Muhammad (S), (أَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ), “Did We not expand for you, [O Muhammad], your breast?” (Q.94:1) In this verse there is indication that chest expansion (spiritual super charging) is related to not just the relief of stress, anger, and negative mental health issues, but provides insight to the reality that Islam increases health and overall wellness.
The tajweed, the practice of reciting the Quran in measured breathing, and stopping at the waqf (period) could very well be related to the curative nature of the Quran. “The understanding of Allah’s words cannot be realized, nor comprehension achieved, without this knowledge. One scholar described the stop (waqf) as: “The stop is sweetness of tilawah, beautifies the reciter, an announcement of the succeeding, understanding for the listener, pride of the scholar, and through it one knows the difference between two different meanings….” It has been reported that ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, when asked about Allah’s statement [concerning the slow measured recitation of the Quran, which requires correct breathing and stopping], said, “Tarteel means tajweed of the letters, and knowledge of stops.” Imam Al-Jazaree’s book: An-Nashr 1:209. [Note: This statement of Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, is not traceable by a chain that we can find.]” (Tajweed, 2007).
Dr. Malik Al Badri’s [one of the smoking guns of Islamic mental health] recent translation of, “Masalih Al-Abadan Wa Al-Anfus” (Sustenance for Bodies and Souls), by the 9th century Islamic scholar of CBT, Zayd Al Balkhi, illustrates that Islamic scholarly psychiatric treasures have gone unused in the west [Badri says the manuscript was lying in the Turkish museum untouched in perfect condition] (Badri, 2016). Al-Balkhi, developed diagnostic criteria and grouped psychiatric disorders, he recommended music therapies, and even prescribed psychiatric medicines (Awaad, & Ali, 2016). In the 19th century text, Dawa’u‘l-Waswas, “The Cure for Satanic Whispering”, by Shaykh Abdullahi ibn Muhammad Fuduye, he describes a systemic psychoeducational methodology for the regeneration of one’s spirit (Shareef, 1994). It is well known among the Believing Muslims that freedom from the waswas silkinas, (satanic whisperings and distractions) turns our dua (supplication) and salah (prayers) into spiritual weapons (Shareef, 1994). The Islamic scholars of Biladus Sudan (Black Lands) or Maghribi (African) Islamic pedogogia play a unique role in the transformative identity of African American Muslims in particular, and the possibility of globalpolitical African Islamic solidarity in general.
Islamic psychology (ilmul Nafs) has been ignored by the west, and by some Muslim clinicians as well. Modern Islamic counseling and mental health requires a broader lens than the traditional study of ilmul nafs, and should include the benefits of modern psychometrics, especially emerging fields like positive psychology which has measured subjectivity among Muslims with beneficial results (Abdel-Khalek, 2014; Jayawickreme, Forgeard, & Seligman, 2012) and bioenergenics which is an organic spiritual energy approach that agrees with the Islamic methodology and framework (Lowen, 2016). Additionally, West African Islamic texts, which have been ignored, contain psychological methodologies, which should be investigated to develop, and improve Islamic therapuetic interventional modalities. We can no longer ignore this legacy, which has been virtually ignored even by most Muslim so called psychology experts [many of whom are unfamiliar with Islamic sciences and history and tend to treat religiosity from a post-modern viewpoint or even as a neurosis].
Sufi scholars have long practiced therapeutic healing modalities, especially dhikr (remembrance) using: singing, music, instruments, dance, trance, syncopated breathing, the recitation of Quran, and other incantations for spiritual cleansing; and to help therapeutically regulate emotions such as, joy, sadness, delight, anger, jealousy, and associated behaviors. Some orders believe “the quantity and quality of breath have a definite and direct effect upon human health. This is so because various physical events can alter or in a sense cover over the divine essence that is being conveyed on the breath. Industrial pollutants, alcoholic beverages, and various foods can all intermingle with the breath and disturb its intended purity of action” (Chisti, 2016). However, many Muslims do not accept nor practice these teachings because of eschatological, sectarian, and cultural differences [literally the baby thrown out with the bath water]. Those methods that work within the Quranic behavioral health framework, especially medical and mental health modalities, like K.A.S.M learning methodology (Alameen, 2009) and which are also within the consensus of the Ummah (world community) on all sides, should be adopted and promoted with all speed. See video explaining KASM and the TAUBAH Project (Recovery To Practice)
KASM learning methodology involves understanding the basis of the pursuit of knowledge, acting and calling to it and perseverance in these pursuits (Alameen, 2009; Al Uthaymeen, 1997). The need for the adoption of KASM methodology as a framework for modern Muslim mental health is urged and will provide a needed common starting point or touchstone in the investigation and development of Islamic related practice theories. Muslims like everyone, are threatened by the fact that alcoholism, dementia, substance abuse and gambling are scourges of our society, and regrettably many Muslims are adversely affected by medicine resistant chronic severe mental illnesses proportionate with the general population. Competent evidenced based approaches in the treatment of Muslims and all human beings facing mental health challenges are scant and needed (Alameen, 2009). Islam has shown to improve the mental health and subjective wellbeing of people in recovery who were suffering from chronic severe mental illness consistently (Abdel-Khalek, 2014).
Know that among the best stratagems for success is to study what made others who have come before us successful. We have a model of success in the age of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his companions may Allah be pleased with them. They were a successful generation, and a blessed one. The majority maybe as high as 98% who abstained from substance abuse; and left a legacy of: optimal living, abstinence (as a marker guiding to righteousness), and wellness. KASM learning methodology is based in such divine life coping strategies that our Lord gave to mankind (Alameen, 2009).
As Muslim therapists we should value our critical understandings of Islam as therapuetic currency which can be used to accomplish mental health objectives. A recent study relates that, “Al-Owasi (2001) underscores the importance of associating spirituality and counseling because the Holy Quran encourages Muslims to feel security, safety, peace, relaxation, tranquility, comfort, connection, sympathy, contentment, and reliance on Allah (SWT) and plants in the individual optimism and confidence in the Creator as also in the self, and the sense to avoid everything that is not beneficial to the self.”(Al-Thani, 2012). These views highlight the therapuetic importance of integrating Islamic: traditions, values, counselors, Imams [who provide 50% of mental health services to Muslims] (Ali, Milstein, & Marzuk, 2005), and client centered culturally specific services. Conseqently, Inayat (2001) underlines the significance of applying Islamic principles and traditions in aggregation with the Holy Quran and the Prophet’s (s) spiritual teachings. Al-Malki (2004) considers spiritual counseling in Islam works as a platform and foundation for facilitating supportive client change in accordance with values they already are familiar with and hold in high esteem (Al-Thani, 2012). Altareb (1996) states that when non-Muslim psychotherapists are at work with Muslim consumers the client should feel free to share their spiritual issues in an environment of acceptance. Saleh (1987) put emphasis on the need for Muslim clients to be encouraged to support themselves resolution and transformation of their own difficulties within an Islamic framework. Family values and mores are critical in attempting to join therapeutic relationships, and mediate familial conflicts (Moracco, 1978). Researchers have cautioned that practitioners should be competent in the fundamentals of Islam, that is the Quran and Sunnah which form the cannons of Islamic reality (Al-Thani, 2012; Johansen 2005 p.182). The future of psychology is headed toward the validation of religiosity which until late was itself considered pathological and a form of neurosis. Islam has been proven to decrease mental illness, and increase optimism, subjective wellbeing, and even has been shown to increase life expectance across cultural divides; Amazingly, regardless of geography, or income, Islam seems to improve physical and mental wellness (Abdel-Khalek, 2014). Positive psychology science has continually shown Islam to be an effective and beneficial modality in producing a life worth living (Jayawickreme, Forgeard, & Seligman, 2012). Positive psychology research is expanding into Islamic academia, and Muslims can certainly benefit from understanding basic prinicples which promote optimism, engagement, reilience, subjective wellbeing, and strength of character (visit National Institute of Muslim Human Servicec Practitioners (NIMHSP) at the VIA; character strength assessments for Muslims (Alameen, 2016).
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