Faith and Uncertainty
Guest blog by Saiqa Naz
Trainee Clinical Psychologist, Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Chair of the BABCP Equality and Culture SIG, Co-author of the IAPT BAME Positive Practice Guide
At the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020, I found myself away from my family for a more prolonged period than I was used to. The early days were the most difficult. Uncertainty over the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities created a great deal of anxiety in me. I genuinely feared for my parent's wellbeing and would find myself jumping to the worst case scenario. I lost weight due to the constant worrying. So what helped? My faith kicked in. For me, when science does not have answers, faith does. There was so much uncertainty surrounding Covid, that in the end I decided I was not in control. I could only follow the guidance. My faith teaches me that you do what you can and leave the rest to God. I decided if I was going to lose weight, it would be the result of working for it in the gym, and not because of my anxiety! I set myself three goals: to look after my new house plants, to ensure I had nice skin at the end of all this, and to ensure people did not lose sight of the IAPT BAME Positive Practice Guide.
At the BABCP conference 2018 I co-presented a workshop with Shaykh Abdul Aziz Ahmed. Our respective lectures can be accessed online; (SN) and (SAAA). The discussion is summarized in the BABCP podcast on spirituality.
Shaykh Abdul Aziz used quicksand as a metaphor for managing difficulties; “It is mud, if you move, you sink further. So how do you get out of quicksand? You don’t move. You stay still and you submit to the situation you’re in and you cope by using this supplication. There is no power to get out of here, other than his power. And you wait until you’re sent a lifeline... by the one you believe in.”
Prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) taught his cousin a prayer for falling into quicksand; “If you fall into quicksand, In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful. There is no power, no ability other than Allah.” These references can relate to uncertainty and anxiety. Rather than avoiding the difficult situation, or over engaging with it, can we look to a higher power and pause in the moment until the situation passes or until we are presented with a viable solution.
Over the past few years, my relationship with uncertainty has started to change. If I cannot control something, I pass it to God and focus on what I can do. The impact is I feel free of anxiety and unburdened. I untangle myself from the worrying. If something is going to happen, it will happen regardless of my worry. I still have to remind myself of this. I believe every challenge has something to teach me.
I once heard a female scholar say 'Patience is at the first strike.' I try to hold onto this. Trials are seen as a way of bringing you close to god and patience is required to be able to tolerate and deal with these trials. Shaykh Ninowy refers to abstaining from sin and being persistent in good deeds. He describes seeing difficulties as opportunities to thank God and become closer to him. All of these concepts can be helpful in dealing with uncertainty in everyday life.
Following the event in Glasgow, I attended another lecture being delivered by Shaykh Abdul Aziz. He was teaching an Islamic text 40 hadith of Imam An-Nawawi, a 13th Century Islamic scholar. At the end of the session, I showed him the Dugas et al GAD model featuring intolerance of uncertainty, and discussed what he had covered that day mapped on to the model. His advice to me: keep things simple and do not reinvent if we do not need to. I am sharing this story as often in psychology we miss out spirituality as a resource to help people manage their mental health. We assume there is no room for spirituality in psychology. I see it as giving people a double dose of treatment. There is already a lot of psychology in different faiths. We just need to learn about them!
Many thanks to Layla Mofrad for her support with writing this blog.
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Unicorn team: @Covid19Study Saiqa Naz: @saiqa_naz BABCP Equality and Culture SIG: @BABCP_Equality