Posted by: Dawud Israel | July 18, 2007

Dawah from Modern Psychology

There are a few things that Muslims forget. One of them is the fact that Islam, unlike any other religion, is not separated from daily life. I realized this while studying Psychology and realized that essentially, this was a class on how a person can do Dawah to people, Muslims and non-Muslims and the mechanics that are at play in the Dawah setting.

Catharsis is one of these and it has to do with talking to a patient and having them discuss and express those emotions and events that they have never really expressed and kept hidden away. The mere talking of it, helps the individual release and the psychotherapist can then address the needs of the patient. Now how can a Da’iee implement this? Essentially, all it comes down to is–being a friend and talking to the person you are advising as a friend. Let them talk. Let them get it out and then deal with it. Don’t argue. You should be thinking of yourself as treating a sick patient. Would you insult and argue with someone who comes to you sick and asking for help? Remember, these are deep spiritual matters they have most likely never discussed or only done so with someone they trust.

Now here is an actual step-by-step procedure that psychotherapists use in dealing with the person. The acronym to remember this by is ICCI. Everything here has been modified for the Dawah setting.

1. Identify: What is the problem? You can simply ask them this and it is enough.

2. Clarify: Are there any associated problems that could possibly be intertwined or confused into the issue? Are you misunderstanding the person? Are there any apparent contradictions? Ask them, “So tell me if I am understanding what you are saying…”

3. Confront: You tell them what they did was wrong and why it was wrong. This is the point where you will find out if you made a mistake in the last two steps. This does not necessarily have to be in the literal sense, (i.e. “What you did was wrong…”) nor do you have to be too stern. You could try telling them a story about yourself and how you dealt with the issue at hand and how you realized it was wrong. This is needed because you make them feel uncomfortable with what they are doing and so will push them to improve.

4. Interpretations: This is where you interpret, why the problem occurred in the first place. In doing Dawah in a rush, this step usually gets missed and therefore gets the person no farther in facing these difficulties. Is there a need that is not being meet and so this is seen as the solution to it. Did the person simply not know? Do they not see the need to change? This is what is going through your mind. What you do next is the application of this thinking. More than likely, the Sahabas encountered a similar situation and all you have to do is replicate what they did. Now what you do is you try and create a change in them. You get to their heart and allow them to realize how close death is and that they are not prepared to meet their Lord. It cannot be forced–but you must make them understand.

Two constants are present in this whole endeavor:
a) The person actually wants help and is genuine in their interest. This cannot be known for certain and often one has to keep going along and look for ‘signs’ in the persons body posture or facial expressions. Even this can be completely wrong. However, depending on this one can adjust their approach so as to be more direct or more friendly.

b) The Dai’ee actually want to help them, knows how to help and not criticize and condescend upon them. This means sincerity, knowledge and experience. Ex: saying fasting is the solution to not being able to marry is different from telling a person, “Yes I had the same problem and I fast and I have begun to change and realize how easy it is to stay on the Straight Path.” Sincerity, knowledge and experience all come together to make a mark in the person and allow them to consider this seriously.

There are two processes which always take place in the Dawah setting as they do in the psychotherapy session. These aren’t known to most Muslims however a Dai’ee knows these feelings. It should be noted that these terms are used differently and applied differently in the field of psychology–but they are the closest terms to describe this phenomenon in Dawah.

Transference is when the person you are trying to help, mentally transfers all the characteristics for a person or situation onto you. They may blame you for they’re unanswered prayers, a Muslim who set a bad example, or even they’re devout Christian parents with whom they have conflict with. This is totally unconscious and their is no way of stopping this from happening. There is no logic behind this, it simply happens. This is the part of catharsis, in psychological terms, where they are releasing these deep spiritual emotions. They may come off as completely hostile and ignorant. One can deal with this by knowing when it is happening and to simply listen to them. However, it should be noted that this is a sign of progress. This ties in with resistance and is where the Dai’ee actually gets moving.

Counter Transference is the more dangerous of the two. It involves a mental transfer of characteristics of the subject on to that person. So if a subject reminds you of a similar person you dealt with–you will automatically denote ALL the traits and emotions you felt previously with this new person. If this person appears like someone you know and love–you may treat them with more respect and care. However, if this person reminds you of someone you absolutely loathe–you will treat them in a likewise manner. You will have to overcome these mental barriers and use the same method you use, equally upon all people and adjust it if necessary so as to have a positive approach. One useful aspect of counter transference is that you can gain insight into the feelings and emotions this person induces in others, by seeing it in yourself, and what response this would elicit. You can then work off of this and try a new approach to the situation.

Resistance will be faced regardless of transference or not. This is natural. However, this has an effect on the dai’ee. The dai’ee begins to show counter resistance. This is where the dai’ee puts up barriers for the progress of the dawah. They may see that this individual cannot pray Fajr and seeing this same aspect in oneself may make the dai’ee shy away from addressing the issue and change the subject to a soccer match or simply allowing it to be silent so as to show they are uncomfortable. This becomes really obvious when it occurs and is very counterproductive. This usually stems from a fear in the dai’ee. One should remind themselves that they have gotten this far and it will be very difficult to make the same progress. There is no going back for Allah is in front and behind but the reward of Allah is in the here and now.

In conclusion, there is much more at play in the Dawah setting. Shaytaan and the Nafs can manifest their influence in more ways then mentioned above. How does one tackle the above issues if they are in oneself? In psychology a therapist–gets regular therapy so as to make sure they are safe. What a Dai’ee should do–is the same–only take Allah as the therapist and schedule and attend these appointments for late night in prayer, Qur’an and deep contemplation. By achieving this Allah will hide your faults and make this task easy for you, if He so desires.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfirukaa wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.

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