PART 2: LOST IN SEARCH OF MIRAGE

Lost in Search of MIrage by Anisha Khatoon

PREVALENCE OF EATING DISORDERS AMONG MUSLIMS

 Eating disorders have also been widespread among Muslims. Many Muslim women suffering from eating disorders wear abayas to cover their extra pounds rather than adhering to their genuine value. They misuse clothing to camouflage their eating disorder. Often certain Muslim women adopt wearing a hijab because they cannot abide by societal norms of being thin, and wearing loose clothes turns out to be the only way to fight against the oppression done to them. Anorexic patients, mostly women, consider Ramadan could be a suitable time for them to lose more weight. Even after breaking fast, they would eat very less and encounter panic attacks if food is offered to them, enough to put their BMI at risk. They often justify their fasting despite being subjected to anorexia, claiming that they are fasting for spiritual purposes in the disguise of losing weight. They take fasting as a way to starve, ‌distorting the essence of fasting. With bulimia, iftar could trigger them to binge eat. Eating disorders victims shared their stories about how Ramadan could be challenging for them. They are shredded between fulfilling their obligations and their mental health. This further makes guilt drip from their head.

“I struggle to feel connected to my religion when my experience becomes less about internal reflection and more about the mind-game of seeing how long I can resist food.” – Dahaba Ali Hussen ( a patient narrated her struggle with anorexia)

THE IMPORTANCE OF WELL-BEING IN ISLAM

Our body is Amanah given to us and on the Day of judgment, Allah will question us about how we have taken care of it. Islam provides the proper code and conduct of life. As the beauty of Islam unfolds, looking after our wellbeing is also an ibadah. Qur’an and Sunnah have been major authentic sources through which we imbibed the aim of our life and how we should preoccupy ourselves to make the best out of our life.

“O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer, eat and drink, but waste not by excess. For Allah loves not the wasters” [QURAN–7:31].

 Allah ordered us to enjoy the bounties given to us by HIM, acknowledging that whatever pleasures we relish, we need to preserve their moderation, even in the way we eat. Islam has put very much stress on keeping our diet accurately.

Eating should be such that it keeps greediness at bay. Food waste is completely prohibited in Islam. Sharing food with others is the key to being far from over-indulgence.

THE PURPOSE OF WORSHIP IN ISLAM

Islam follows the holistic approach to life. Worshipping Allah focuses not only on performing laws postulated by Allah, rather its beauty resides in the effort we are putting in to understand the depth of such principles. Worship revolves around the daily functioning of our life, involving how we eat, sleep, dress, and maintain our lifestyle. As mentioned above, taking care of our bodies also comes under an integral part of Islam. In a nutshell, Islam means submission to Allah.

Following the principles laid down by Allah will bring significance on its own. But we must purify the intention behind our deeds.

The purpose of wearing the hijab is to seek Allah’s pleasure rather than to hide any disorder.

 We keep fast to enhance our spirituality by subsiding our physical desires.

 “Oh, you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness” (Q 2:183)

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR JOURNEY

 Allah doesn’t burden a soul more than it can bear. Remind yourself it could be a test from Allah. Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (RA) reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:

“Whenever a Muslim is afflicted with a hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression — even a thorn’s prick, Allah expiates his sins because of it.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Recollect the blessings given to you and don’t beat yourself up for the things you cannot control. There is always a khair in every hardship. Be empathetic towards your journey.

Asking reflective questions like “for whom you are fasting” and “what is the purpose behind your fasting” would help you differentiate between your eating disorder and the purpose of fasting. An eating disorder creates a distorted self-image, which coerces the victim to starve at the expense of their health. Fasting for the sake of Allah polishes our intentions and exemplifies the “Riya” out of it. As prophet sallahualaiwasal said that Allah said “every good deed of the sons of Adam is for them except fasting, it is for Me and I shall reward the fasting person for it”.

Getting professional mental help clubbed with religious guidance would aid you in understanding your Ramadan journey.  Take this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with Allah. A healthy bond with Allah will allow you to peel off your distress and whoever relies on Allah, HE suffices him.

 If you cannot fast out of your illness, as Ibn Qudamah (d. 1223ce) said: “There is a consensus among the scholars regarding the permissibility of breaking the fast due to illness in general, as stated in the verse of the Quran: Yet if one among you is sick or is on a journey, [such a person shall then fast] the same number of other days (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:185). there are other voluntary ways of participating in Ramadan.

EDUCATING THE CROWD

 We have put ourselves into shame by considering our Imaan to be degraded when our mental health hits rock bottom. Completely ignorant of the fact that there is an entire legacy of Islam that contributed to mental health.  As necessary as it seems to be, making people aware of mental health is the hour of the need. We have gone far enough in suppressing our emotions by distorting the true essence of patience. Instead of belittling people suffering from mental illness, calling them by names, and making them feel guilty. We have to come forward and accept the condition that they are in and help them ‌get over it. It’s high time to construct a fresh notion and make them mindful of their disorders.

Furthermore, to answer the question of where Lina went wrong in drawing the line between her religion and health, we need to uncoil the intention behind her execution of Allah’s word.  In ‌concealing her disorder for the sake of the surrounding people, she lost the true worshipping of Allah.

 Bringing others closer to Allah should be the first step to curb them of their disorder. It is essential to make them realize, that no beauty could match with the taqwa that one cultivates in his mind and our only concern should be to please ALLAH and not the people around. It is equally important to be mindful of the disorders that they may not control and look for instincts that could be a part of their trigger.

A safe professional platform for Muslims is the need that sincerely demands our attention. Allowing them to express themselves without the fear of being judged and discriminated against would eradicate the stigma associated with mental health in the Muslim community.

-Anisha khatoon

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