April 11, 2017


Being a citizen of a 100 percent Muslim nation, I can’t help but hear and expeience the sights and sounds of a waning of spirituality within our midst. Many mosques are built and many more people go for prayers too it appears; even though certain days and periods of the year seem to draw increased crowds to these spiritual portals as if they are the moments to cash-in on the “1000 for the price of one” type of merits we seem to run after. We look to spiritual merits in the same way as we do for material merit. Sadly this is the miscoception borne out of ignorance again spawned by a lack of engagement of youth with the spiritual leaders. And even in the instances of such engagement, of the inability to translate the high morals Islam calls for into acceptable daily social contexual realities. 

There are many reasons why this is so, but that would be a lengthy discussion. Let’s surmise that this is the state of things in our country and merely dwell on how the spiritual nature of belief can be better understood. For the young mind in our local midst, the question of religion is not an active daily inquiry item for we were born into this faith and we practice it taking it for granted. We pray and parrot the quaran without true engagement just as a cultural ritual rather than for the spirutual quality we must seek within it. Sad to say many don’t even know the meanings of the stuff we utter in our daily five prayers even though we come in reverance to the mosque and struggle to get a place in the first row behind the imam even after rushing into the mosque just in time for the Iqaam. Many explain this away as a case of dwindling belief. The weakness of our iuthiqaadh. 

Why don't we believe now or we believe less now than in the old days? I don't know if we believed more in the old days. Perhaps it was because there was a lack of intervening and disrupting forces as we do now. There was no TV, the internet, no other media or other people telling us otherwise, and so we tended to accept the status quo for if we didn't we would be seen as renegade and be visible being that. But now we have many of these sources that give us strength to refute and the ego always wants to have it's deemed view paramount which is always biased to the unconventional. If we can have even a bit of room for doubt or a semblance of an argument against, it would run us towards that opportunity to refute. Ego is the tool of the Shaaitan and when it is fuelled, we go astray, for it is what makes us crave for this world – this ephemeral abode; for us to be seen as worth our salt in this world and little thought given to the needs of the Hereafter. This way Shaithan keeps us  in the dark and steeped in disbelief.  So, while the absence of distratictions may be noted as a caveat, we can say that the older generation was steeped in more eman than of the present surrounded by the enticements of modernization. But the point here is to emphasize that our state of eman is an active process we nurture within us rather than a passive one imbued from outside us. Our strength as Muslims (or for that matter a person of any faith – religion or philosophy, or culture or creed etc.) ensue from the conviction of the truth of or faith, devoid of nagging doubt.

True belief must come to us whether there is intervening disruptive thoughts or not. It must come from a deep conviction of the truth we can witness from the evidence and the profound thoughts of our Maker in the Quraan; in knowing that the Quraan is the Truth and the reliable source without doubt is the bedrock of belief. This staunch belief in its narrations, lessons, and commands cannot be swayed by the intervening ego-supported distractions that is the audio-visual entertainement laden environment of today’s world.

This timeless Book is where our Modern muslims, just as the devout seekers of the past have had, must look for the meaning and practice of Islam and the strength of conviction. We must read the quran and ponder and reflect and understand its wisdom. Intervening doubtfull and militant thoughts will not then occupy the mind. The idle mind is the playground of the devil as they say. We have to then go through the confirmatory behaviour also that deepens our belief into Eman, by way of  daily prayers,  supplication, zikr, and the giving of charity. We will soon see our lives transform as we engage in these activities. The mind is the most powerful thing we have as humans. As we strengthen this, our lives transform and we are elevated to become better human beings as we journey along the path of Allah.


April 6, 2017

World Health Day: Talk may not be enough!

Every year the World Health Organization marks the 7th of April as the World Health Day, highlighting a most pressing world health problem. Depression is the focus of 2017 WHD, with the slogan "Let's Talk!". Three hundred and fifty million persons suffer from depression and related illness across the globe, and based on this, mental illness is deemed the main cause of ill-health and disability in the world. The last 10 years has shown a 20 percent increase in this affliction.

Mental illness is primarily the result of depression. The most important immediate action we can take is to recognize this state of ill-health globally and also locally in our nations, and begin remedial work in urgency. And that is firstly to talk to those afflicted. To see that they are in the focus of attention and for them to know that they are being attended to by people who care and are trustworthy in their eyes. In the first place their state is the result of being neglected over an extended period of their lives; perhaps a lot of trust of caretakers is lost during this stage because their concerns were not being addressed in urgency or being pushed to the back-burner because we in our modern families see that there are more urgent things for us to deal with.  When the nascent problem, over time, blows up into an observable phenomenon for the family, the issue is often beyond the pale of the family to address. The usual treatment is therapy and medication or a combination of these. But even in the higher income countries of the world, it is reported that only a mere 50 percent of the needy receive such treatment. The state of low-income countries should be so much lower by comparison. This neglect and related anxiety is also contributing to push up the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) across the world. Anxiety and depression bring on heart disease, and diabetes etc.

Stress and neglect is pervasive even in Maldives. The unmanaged urban condition has much to contribute; at the home, the workplace and in the evolution of the nation. Neglect in the home of the elderly because of the tight physical space and the small nuclear family that lacks the caregiving capacity to the elderly or the physically challenged siblings, the chaotic and politically laced workplaces and national governance, the economic hardship of the urban populace, 50 percent of which live in single room apartments, and having to deal with every aspect of life in that confines, and the congested roads where motor vehicles and human being have to vie for space and the anxiety of those pedestrians who have to move in fear for dear life, etc. are all concerns that cannot be swept under the rug and left to be dealt with later. Indeed, the baby monster will grow inexorably with time into an unmanageable menace; if it hasn’t already!

The causes of anxiety and then the resulting state of depression and mental illness is myriad. There is not one cause, but each having its contribution to a degree depending on the tolerance level of the victim.  Those in these anxiety laden and depressed states, experience persistent sadness, change in appetite, if employed, loss of interest in the job they do and in thing that others normally enjoy doing, and loss of energy for extended periods – for weeks at a time. Often they do so in silent despair. If undetected these lead to thoughts of self harm and even to suicide. Other symptoms are a part of this syndrome; sleeping more or sleeping less, anxiety, reduced concentration, indecisiveness, restlessness, hopelessness, and feeling of worthlessness and guilt.

For any problem to be solved, the best way to begin is by understanding the causes; in this case of the anxiety and the depression. Research indicates the following; the conditions of your past, current conditions, use of alcohol and substance abuse, stress of the present situation, grief, difficult life circumstances, lack of social support, genetics, hormonal changes – in illness, body chemistry of life stage changes. Even the flood of pharmaceutical medications in present use has its contributing effect. These when looked at from the point of view of a nation’s or community circumstance will reveal a broken social and civil system that extends the reason for individual, family or community anxiety. Those with less tolerance will succumb to the stresses faster than others who are more resilient to these. The brain chemistry is critically affected by anxiety and with extended experience, alters the functioning of the brain into a habituation.

A strategy of "Let's Talk" is a good beginning, but it will certainly not be enough.. Talking about it or talking to those affected are both possible, and campaigns can begin a process but let it not fizzle out. Real action to address the issue has to be by tackling the causes; and these causes are dispersed in society. We need to begin right away by correcting these situations of social neglect by advocacy and good governance. Taking the cue from this WHO initiative, nations must take action at the local level to temper the objectives of our materialistic society. Materialism is a non-inclusive philosophy.  Competition and winning by hook-or-crook is the order of the day. in this movement. Corruption and deception seems okay along the paradigm of "the objective justifies the means", however irregular the means maybe. Obviously, these, and the situations precipitated by such actions create the tension that move social and individual anxiety, and many to depression and mental illness. These situations of cause must be corrected, and is best possible by better governance in society. We have to plant these seeds once again, even if it is to begin again from square one, even as we work on the curative methods of therapy and medication. Otherwise, we will be just giving aspirin for the symptoms. As the advocacy wanes, anther social issue will soon occupy the pole position of the  social issue-attention cycle. 

Women and the elderly are, it appears, more prone to depression than men. This maybe because women and the elderly are more prone to the persistent states of stress in the household, in the workplace or in situations of illness when helplessness is most experienced.

Our Nation, like others, is brimming with these concerns. Those in charge of national duty must look into these and systematically, with the involvement of the public, seek to address these before the monster will overpower us irreversibly!