Jamerican Muslimah wrote a post titled, “Where do Grieving Muslims Go?” Her post was not just thought provoking, it is seriously a call to action in the Muslim community. We really need an army of psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, and social workers to deal with the host of problems that, for the most part, our community leaders sweep under the rug.
I started asking myself, where do Muslims go when we’re suffering? Have I ever attended a masjid that had a support group for me; as a convert (being the only Muslim in my family), as someone who has experienced divorce, the murder of my older brother, financial loss and so much more? I know sisters who have been homeless, on drugs, near prostitution, suffering from tremendous grief as a result of divorce or the death of a spouse or family member. I also know sisters who are single parents. They’re struggling to make ends meet, raising kids by themselves as the righteous brother moves on to his next
I really encourage you to read the post in its entirety here. But I wanted to highlight some things that came to mind as I have dealt with some major losses, upheavals, and struggles over the past 15 years. Outside of my mentor who has often given me important insight to understand the spiritual meaning of my struggles and given me assurances that in my evolving outlook that I am maturing, I received very little spiritual and emotional counsel in the Muslim community. B
Kwame Madden related a really sad story about a suicidal brother who lives in isolation. He wrote:
Mental health issues are serious .This a much needed post. Imams are not all time the solution.Professional men and woman trained in this type of work should be able to adminster it our communties.
Where is the support for this brother? Who can he call who understands the social and religious context of this brother who is struggling to get by. Are there any social workers or counselors that can help this brother empower himself and rebuild and refashion a fulfilling life for himself?
So often the Muslim communities lack the kind of support systems that would be beneficial to its members. Even worse, I’ve seen MALE perpetrators of crimes (legal, Islamic and moral) continue to work in the Muslim community, sometimes occupying prestigious positions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like, “It’s not my business”, or “He’s a good brother he just has some personal problems” or “No one else is willing to do what he does for the masjid.” Too often nothing is said AT ALL. People just pretend everything’s fine. Unfortunately, by choosing not to address perpetrators of crimes (again, legal, moral and Islamic) we’re sending a message to the victim(s) that their behavior is acceptable.
I’ve been in some long standing discussion online, through list groups, and in person with academics, activists, and community members at large who have expressed similar concerns about the predatory nature of some rock star imams and community leaders. What is sad is that often the most vulnerable members of the community are more likely to fall into their hands. Not only do they lack the clarity of vision to distinguish between healthy relationships and abusive ones, but they often lack the foresight and counsel to make sound decisions about their futures. Married sisters are often wrapped up in their problems or day-to-day affairs or fearful that the newly single sister with emotional needs will be a threat. So, a grieving divorcee or struggling single sister with kids becomes prey to a predatorial member of the community. This is why the MANA marriage initiative is very important, that we find community leaders who will not officiate marriages irresponsibly.
We need community leaders and spiritual guides who are equipped to deal with local issues. This is why I think it is important that we move away from the movement type mentality and the cult of personality. We have to think about functional communities. We need to think about providing real services that can uplift our community. This takes a different type of vision, and a different type of investment in our future. Otherwise, we will continue to limp along, highly disfunctional and prone to blaming everyone else for our problems.
What makes it difficult is that both the Black American community and the Muslim community are suspicious about mental health professionals. But both have their share of trauma and difficulties in coping with the challenges of this society. For years, I’ve seen Muslims join some group, some movement, throw themselves into some cause in a hope to fill some void or deal with some pain. We have to address these issues, by training social workers and therapists who can work with Muslims, developing wellness programs, establishing grief support groups, and help lines for Muslims in crisis. Otherwise we are not only encouraging social pathologies, but fostering a culture of denial which further exacerbates the psychological and emotional ills that our people are suffering from.