The Prophetic Model of Learning
There are many ways to teach and pedagogy has various methodologies depending on the context and the abilities of the students and teachers. Let us momentarily consider a scenario in which everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student, whereby there are no egos at stake. People learn from the lowest person in society just and they learn from the highest. This is the glimpse of learning and teaching according to the Prophetic Model.
The prophets were humans like you and me. The only thing special about them were that they were inspired more by God to live life based on natural living. So they study learned through insights and formal study of the Scriptures, God sent to "understand" their context what they needed to do in it. This became the mission and they inspired those around them to do the same. The prophets who were given a new, fresh, divine Scripture were called "Messengers of God". A Messenger is always a Prophet but a Prophet is not necessarily a Messenger. Among the most famous messengers we know of from the Islamic perspective are Abraham (AS), David (AS), Moses (AS), Jesus (AS), and Muhammad (SWAS) who were given the Scrolls, Psalms, Torah, Gospel, and the Quran respectively. In fact, the Quran is not really a book but it is a compilation of recitations that were inspired to the Prophet of Islam (SWAS) over 23 years of his mission to humanity.
When we recite the same Scriptures, the same way, and try to live our lives modelled on those of the Prophets and Messengers we keep learning and teaching like them because our thought pattern become similar to theirs, which were the most optimum as planned by God. Thus we learn through insights but our knowledge is based on our formal study and insights. With a lack of formal study, insights cannot by themselves fill in the gap completely. Nevertheless, much research into the factors in formal fields of study can be a team of "experts" and people of insights with similar interests.
Learning and teaching is a continuous, dynamic, and fulfilling endeavour that everyone undertakes. There are no egos or status issues which should prevent us from learning directly or indirectly from even a child, nor teaching even a Prime Minister.
The number of mental health maladies and those who are affected by them is increasing, despite the development and progress in medical sciences. Since the 70s and 80s, the use of psychotropic medicines has been the standard way to address such psychotropic medicines which are on the rise with the progress in "modern" standards of living -- some of which might not be the most balanced or at least might not be lived out as such by more and more people globally.
Big Pharma and those trained in the specific field of psychiatry (treating mental health through only medicines), work closely together. We need to think positively about people's intentions and those of companies and organizations bringing medical solutions to the sick worldwide, but sometimes in our rapacious ego driven world, sometimes we, as people, might discredit the greater good for our own personal good. Sometimes, if we are a "hammer" all problems seem like "nails" to us. We need to consider why such medicines are so expensive and so very difficult to wean off to better understand the profit making factors behind modern psychiatry.
We acknowledge the use of psychotropic medicines and its proper use in treating disorders, but at some point medical ethics need to be observed more carefully to ensure that we never abuse the responsibility that society has entrusted us with. It should never be about our personal ego, but always about the greater personal good that psychiatry should be practised -- for the good of the patient themselves, especially those who have indicated to be treated voluntarily.
There have been tremendous changes in psychiatry recently. Dr Peter Levine has written much about these particular topics in his bestsellers which mental health professionals should study to better understand how to evolve their practices with the best trends in psychotherapy. Many trained psychiatrists are already changing their practices by incorporating therapeutic techniques like cognitive behaviour therapy, dialectic behaviour therapy, personal/spiritual development, holistic living, and generally understanding the "meaning of life" to develop the best versions of their patients possible using a spectrum of different natural treatments. Many are teaming up with other specialists in branches of knowledge they might not be as familiar with to jointly make decisions about the treatment of their patients and their way forward.
Dr Kelley Brogan is one of many such trained psychiatrist from New York, who turned into a holistic healer which is an increasing trend in psychiatry. After formally studying psychiatry she developed herself to holistically treat mental illnesses through a gamut of natural techniques including medicine, if needed. One of her objectives is to wean off her patients from psychotropic medicines if they are not absolutely necessary so they start living as "normal" people not dependant on medicines or other people.
Just like Christianity, Islam has been shattered into numerous sects, even tough the essential religion is the same, ie worship ONE God, Allah, and serve humanity based on the examples of the prophets and messengers, specifically on the example of the Last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (SWAS). Scholars of Islamic Studies, consider two main branches of Islam, Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam.
In a nutshell, Sunni Islam is all about its followers following the best practices (natural principles) that Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) was inspired to live by through continuous insights from God (Allah) while Shiite Islam considers that a person can be righteous if they take the family of the Prophet (SWAS) and his biological descendents as their religious leaders (imams). Whereas, Sunni Islam is all about learning and following the Prophetic Sunnah (his life pattern based on natural principles) as they were taught by him to his companions, the Sahaba (RA), some of whom Shiite scholas consider usurper of the Islamic State after the demise of the Prophet (SWAS).
As modern challenges whether they be mental health or AI ethics, can better be addressed by Sunni Islam using its methodology of insights from natural principles (the Sunnah), which can be applied to understand any phenomenon. Whereas Shiite Islam tends to relegate understanding to its religious leaders, in general. Thus, the ideal Shiite Islamic State is that led by their Shiite scholars, with the general population seldom questioning as fervent followers, in general. In contrast, the Caliph of the ideal Sunni Islamic state is equal to the general population and can be questioned by anyone, in general.
Whatever, the modern challenge, the common Sunni Muslim is able to "understand" it better from a more personal holistic religious way than a common Shiite Muslim, in general, as the former is suppose to develop a life full of divine insights using the example (Sunnah) of the Prophet (SWAS). In contrast, the common Shiite Muslim is suppose to obey their spiritual leaders (imams), perhaps "blindly".
Let us briefly consider world religions with respect to mental health, starting from the polytheistic going to the monotheistic to consider the two criteria for growth viz. (1) dependence on God (2) serving humanity.
First let us consider polytheistic religions, starting with animistic tribal religions with emphasis of worship of objects. Their focus is on worshipping several deities and they serve a small segment of humanity. Then we have traditions like Hinduism in which its followers worship statues as well as so many other creations but when we ask the priests class they assert that there is only one God (Bhrama). So their elite class just worships one God, while the rest worship several.
We can then consider Abrahamic faiths like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which are supposedly monotheistic. Nevertheless, if we consider Christianity and its various denominations it has become a shade of polytheistic due to introduction of concepts such as the Trinity, by people like Paul, 300 years after the death of Jesus (AS).
When we consider Judaism it seems monotheistic indeed, whereby Jews worship one God, but it is a tribal religion exclusive for themselves which the gentiles cannot have any claim over. So there is no conversion into Judaism. One needs to be born of a Jewish mother to enter the faith, which has very different ways of looking at people who do not believe in the faith. So its domain of sincere public service is limited to its coreligionists.
When we consider Islam, the last of the revealed religions for ALL humanity (the greatest domain of service) to the last Messenger of God, Muhammad (SWAS) and it is not parorchial as other faith. It is practiced by the whole diversity of mankind and it enjoins true monotheism -- the strict worship of just ONE God. It does not compromise on that. In fact, tawheed, or belief in ONE God, is its principal pillar.
We have seen that out of all world religions that we have considered, practicing Islam sincerely has the most significant effect on the growth of the soul ie improvement of mental health. Thus, Islam is the best way of life (not just a religion) to improve our mental state.
Have you wondered how to be truly naturally happy and motivated in life without the need for any artificial needs like caffeine, nicotine, music, out of marriage sex, shopping sprees, cheap thrill, etc? Everyone has this internal energy which is natural. When we are born we are full of it, but as we grow, it might diminish, especially after puberty. When it diminishes, we may become grumpy, miserable, and easily influenced by others so that our mental facilities might become diminished and others might end up "thinking for us" or exploiting us in their own strategic plans for success.
The general concept of human self development to grow this internal energy to become something strong and powerful in order to fulfill what Maslow calls the hierarchy of needs starting from the basics of food, clothing, and shelter all the way to the complete development of man.
In contrast to the development of man in social sciences and philosophy, there are faith based concepts of self development which can be divided into Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), and polytheistic traditions (Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Aboriginal, etc). Some of the latter are based on personal experiences of individuals like Gautam Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist tradition. Many are from a divine origin, with God sending prophets and scriptures to guide a particular community of humanity to teach them how to develop themselves naturally.
The prophets were such individual human teachers in history who were chosen by God to guide a particular segment of humanity to grow their soul/self/spirit naturally. For example, Solomon (AS) was not given a new Scripture, but used the previous scriptures, i.e. the Torah and the Psalms, to guide this kingdom. Whereas messengers were those teachers who were sent to human communities with a specific Scripture for their development. So Abraham (AS) was a Messenger because he was given the Scrolls as a Scripture, Moses (AS) was a Messenger because he was given the Torah as a Scripture, David (AS) was a Messenger because he was given the Psalms as a Scripture, Jesus (AS) was a Messenger because he was given the Gospel as a Scripture to guide the lost Children of Israel and lastly Muhammad (SWAS) was a Messenger because he was given the Quran as a Scripture to guide ALL of humanity for self development.
The Quran is still intact in its original Classical Arabic verbatim. A recent manuscript discovered in Sana'a, Yemen, was carbon dated to be found from the early era following its revelation. It was found to be essentially the SAME as the Quran we have today (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-HDFiC2boQ). The Quran is a compilation of direct communication (revelation) from God to Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) to directly guide him in his mission of 23 years to teach humanity proper self development. It has been memorized by billions of people throughout history and there are no "versions" of it per se. As "pure words of God", it is still an everlasting miracle that guides believers individually just as it guided Prophet Muhammad (SWAS).
In Islam there is no clergy as such to approach God. Every believer relates directly to God through direct worship and guidance undergoing complete self development in the process. Thus the challenges of life are a blessing for them to grow themselves and make them strong and resilient. But unlike Nietzsche's "Superman", they are never arrogant. Rather they are like the "servant leaders" of today's most successful corporate leadership, in that they lead by personal example and influence as did the prophets and messengers who taught people how to implement their scriptures (books of wise natural principles) for complete personal and community development.
Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) was the final prophet/messenger for all humanity, with other prophets and messengers relevant to only their particular communities and epochs only. Although we learn from them as well as we learn from the unique experiences of Prophet Joseph (AS) or Prophet Job (AS) for example.
The Quran and its application as taught by Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) is universal for all humanity, for all times, and for all places, as it is the most optimum/balanced for complete self development of individual and collective human soul(s). It is based on direct one-on-one learning from God, throughout the day, using the methodology of Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) taught to implement the Quran in our lives.
The real struggle/striving (jihad) in Islam is to fight the lower self and develop it through the methodology taught by Prophet Muhammad (SWAS). Unlike Nietzsche's "Superman" who fights his way up by putting people down, the Prophetic methodology is through exemplary self sacrifice and empathy for all humanity, developing incredible emotional intelligence. By doing "good deeds" for his hereafter using natural human natural principles, he created an extraordinary effect in terms of influencing those around him, causing an incredible attraction to his "goodness" due to his sincerity with God, depicted in his authentic mindful daily behaviour. Thus, rather than "putting others down", Islam is about submitting oneself to the natural forces of God while "picking up others". Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) has been reported as saying, "whoever humbles himself for God, God raises their rank".
Although other faiths do contain wisdom and paths to self development, they are not as effective as the Islamic methodology especially when it comes to mental health. Their sub optimal nature is due to several factors among them are the following:
1. Their scriptural sources are not intact any more, having been altered/corrupted/lost over centuries/millennia.
2. The practices of other prophets/messengers are not preserved authentically like that of Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) in writing and in the lives of billions in history and millions today globally.
3. They were specific to a particular community in history, geography, and anthropology i.e. not universally applicable for all humanity like Islam.
4. Except for Judaism, they take guidance from multiple sources of divinity rather than just ONE source of guidance/self development. Although Judaism is monotheistic like Islam and unlike Christianity (in a strict sense), its guidance is only specific to the Jews and not for all humanity, by its own definition.
How can one develop based on multiple divine sources? If one source might inspire them to something, another might inspire them to something opposite!
Thus, I believe that Islam is the most optimum self development option we have for mental health improvement. God has put in every potential human being a "soul" -- a spirit with some divine affinity which is different from the physical body that it is trapped in until it is separated from the body at death. The state of our soul on Judgment Day will determine our state in the heaven-hell spectrum graduation, after the mercy of God.
This world is a place to develop our souls for the next world. It is through correct belief and doing good deeds using the correct Prophetic methodology that causes the soul to grow and develop to become naturally energetic without the need for substances/medicines/rich food. Mental health issues arise when the soul is weak and withered so we lose the natural vitality of life in adulthood.
This natural vitality or joi de vivre is diminished when the internal battery is not recharged regularly from the Divine. Just like a rechargeable battery needs to be recharged regularly, the human soul needs to be recharged several times daily by reconnecting to the Divine Source regularly in the most optimum way taught by Prophet Muhammad (SWAS). The soul is corrupted when worship/guidance/charge is sought from other than the ONE DIVINE BEING. So when we worship wealth, lust, ego, the founders/teachers of religion of God rather than God Himself who they asked people to worship, our soul gets withered and eventually dies, getting no inspiration, insights, or guidance from God any more.
With a "dead" soul we cannot produce the right chemicals in our brains naturally to develop foresight and vision to where we want to go, so we lack the natural energy to pursue our goals. We end up being influenced by others and become part of their roadmap, thus compromising our own mental independence. With a well developed, purified, and refined soul, we are able to develop ourselves and our communities for universal good. Without growing the soul properly, all this is not possible and the default for the soul is to descend if effort is not exerted.
Unless we have good goals, do good deeds daily to help achieve them, enjoin the truth and mutual cooperation to pull each other up as a community, we risk withering our souls and letting it die. In that state, it becomes difficult for the mind to be inspired to good. Rather, it might be inspired to negativity, by negative (Satanic) forces in nature. Psychotropic medicines try to block such negative whisperings that can affect the soul by default, by putting synthetic chemicals in the brain which the body cannot produce any more, to prevent the soul from descending further.
So the real natural cure for mental health issues in the Islamic paradigm is to grow the soul by making it increase in natural strength based on a complete program of development based on a complete way of life designed for it. In Islamic terminology this good internal feeling of wholeness/wellness/positive energy is called emaan i.e. faith. The whole Islamic lifestyle is designed by God naturally and taught by Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) to constantly and increase emaan i.e. the richness of the soul, directly from insights from God, rather than any intermediary. As the whole lifestyle is based on this end, there are countless integrated holistic means to achieve this in Islam, e.g. the 5 daily prayers (salaat), daily affirmations/supplications (adkaar), following a Prophetic lifestyle (sunnah), self discipline through fasting, charity, pilgrimage, good deeds, serving humanity, etc.
Thus, mental health issues can be resolved if a person can sincerely self development based on Islam in a sustained and balanced manner from direct insights from God as taught by Prophet Muhammad (SWAS).
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