Al Salam God: the Source of Personal Peace

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

This article is about the role that religion has in saving humans from anxiety and depression. This article was originally published in Ahmadiyya USA Gazette volume of February 2007.


By the Time, Surely, man is ever in a state of loss, Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and exhort one another to preach Truth, and exhort one another to be steadfast. (Al Quran 103:2-4)
Those who believe, and whose hearts find consolation in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort. (Al Quran 13:29)
He is Allah and there is no god besides Him, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of peace, the Bestower of security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah, far above that which they associate with Him. (Al Quran 59:24)
Despite man’s tremendous progress in the last century in the scientific and technologic arenas, in the moral spheres the human race is marching towards a destruction. Other than in the area of some of business ethics there is constant deterioration in all the moral spheres. This deterioration has lead to destruction of personal or psychological peace of mankind despite prosperity in physical amenities. The results of this deterioration are all too obvious and are written all over the wall.
According to BBC almost one billion people world wide are suffering from different anxiety and depression disorders that are grouped together under the label of neurosis. Not millions but whole one billion people or one fifth of the world population is suffering significant mental problems. Unfortunately, the general western media does not frequently cover these issues so very often we loose sight of or fail to appreciate as to what is happening to humanity in general.A belief in the living God especially His attribute of Al Salaam, the bestower of peace and Al Sameeh would have prevented many of these people from succumbing to many of these problems. These numbers reflect a tragedy of gigantic proportions. The western media does not commonly focus on this gigantic human tragedy. So many of our fellow citizens in the western world remain oblivious of the fact that we are in a constant need of Allah, especially his attribute of Al Salaam or the source of peace for the humanity.In USA alone, approximately 21 million American adults, or about 10 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder. Among these almost 15 million have major depression. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. As many as 20% of adolescents may experience major depression.Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder. These disorders are subdivided into Panic Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and different Phobias.In many of these cases, these problems are result of lack of belief in the living God especially His attributes of Al Salaam and Al Sameeh. Allah is the bestower of peace. He does that through many means one of which is His hearing of prayers. The lack of belief in Allah is accompanied by lack of action on the teachings of the All Knowing. This lack of belief and lack of action leads to different ills in the personal life. This results in a cascade of events that lead to loss of peace and harmony in human society. The lack of such harmony at a personal and societal level in turn leads to increasing prevalence of different neuroses including anxiety and depression. It is no wonder that we have ended up in the sorry state that we find almost a billion people suffering from these maladies. Restoring the belief in a living God and leading a moral life will go a long way in ameliorating these problems. It is reasonable to say, on the authority of the Holy Quran, that many of these mental human sufferings are the result of lack of true deeply ingrained belief in the teachings of the Holy Scripture.

This teaching is beautifully summarized in one of the verses of Sura Raad, “Those who believe, and whose hearts find consolation in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.” (Al Quran 13:29) In the very next verse the Holy Quran promises, “Those who believe and act righteously, shall have happiness and an excellent retreat.” (Al Quran 13:30)

The distinguished psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, who was a contemporary of Freud and is well known for several contributions in the field, says in the chapter, “Psychotherapists or clergy” of his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul:

During the past thirty years, people from all the civilized countries of the earth have consulted me. I have treated many hundreds of patients. … Among all my patients in the second half of life — to say, over thirty‑five — there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.[1]

The famous psychiatrist has declared in no uncertain terms that the origin of most psychiatric problems including anxiety, depression and personality disorders lies in moving away from true religious values. These disorders can be lumped under the term neuroses as opposed to psychoses.Since Carl Jung’s time we have come to know a lot more about the biology and chemistry of our brain. It is now known that many of these disorders have biological bases so such a sweeping conclusuion may not be in order. For the sake of simplicity, we could use the analogy of a computer and divide the psychologic problems into two groups. There are the hardware problems and then the software problems. The analogy, however, is not perfect. In the case of brain, unlike the computers, the hardware and the software are in constant interaction and a state of flux and can have tremendous influence on each other. For broad understanding one can summarize that, whereas, some of the neuroses are due to biological issues, most are due to lack of religious outlook, as the famous psychiatrist has so eloquently described. The term psychoses includes more serious conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar depression also known as major depression. The psychoses, in contrast to neuroses usually have a biochemical basis.What is obvious to most people is that it is not possible to achieve peace of mind in time of distress without reference to a religion. For instance, the commonest defense mechanism that the humans resort to in time of dire need is prayer. This fact is so popularly recognized that there is a common proverb, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”However, in time of peace and relative comfort we find ourselves and many people around us in relative happiness and satisfaction. This, however, is a mirage or an illusion. Without reference to Allah this happiness can prove to be without foundation and fleeting. The life of an atheist proceeds smoothly until he does not face any difficulty and he is not exposed to any trial. However, as soon as he is faced with any significant trial he loses hope and becomes susceptible to despair (11:10 and 17:84). This susceptibility is due to the fact that he does not have an infinite resource of God that he can bank on:

And when We bestow favor on man, he turns away and goes aside; and when evil touches him, he gives himself up to despair. (Al Quran 17:84)

According to Islam one of the natural instincts of man is his search for an Exalted Being towards whom he has an inherent attraction (7:173). [2] This natural instinct is manifested by an infant from the moment of its birth. As soon as it is born, it displays this characteristic in its inclination towards its mother and is inspired by her love. As its faculties are developed and its nature begins to display itself openly, this inherent quality is displayed more and more strongly. It finds no comfort anywhere except in the lap of its mother. If it is separated from her and finds itself at a distance from her, its life becomes bitter. It feels no joy apart from her. So much so that orphan children who are not adequately cared for die because of emotional deprivation. What, then, is the nature of the attraction which an infant feels so strongly towards its mother? It is this same instinct of search for his beloved God that is manifesting in a different form. When this urge is not appropriately satisfied and substituted by different idols and inappropriate goals and means that man falls victim to different psychological ills. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiahhas pointed out that, “When the attraction is misdirected, then the man remains in search of something that he misses, the name of which he has forgotten, and which he seeks to find in one thing or another. A person’s love of wealth, offspring, wife or a musical voice are all indications of his search for the True Beloved the God Almighty.” [3]

We have examined the root causes of anxiety and depression on the authority of the Holy Quran, the Promised Messiah and a well known Psychiatrist. Let us now examine some of the data that clinicians have collected over the years. Research by Diener, among others, has shown that once your basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction with life. A good education? Sorry, Mom and Dad, neither education nor, for that matter, a high IQ paves the road to happiness. Youth? No, again. In fact, older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young. And they’re less prone to dark moods: a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people ages 20 to 24 are sad for an average of 3.4 days a month, as opposed to just 2.3 days for people ages 65 to 74. [4]

In recent survey by Time magazine in 2005 on happiness they found that religion and children were the two biggest sources of happiness in most people’s life. When asked, “What one thing in life has brought you the greatest happiness?”, 35% said it was their children or grandchildren or both.” Seventeen percent answered religion to that question. [5] In other words family values and a belief in religion are the biggest source of peace. One could also argue with very solid supporting scientific data that religion, especially the religion of Islam with a belief in a living God is of paramount importance in maintaining the family values and happy families.

Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, reported especial brain wave activity in a lab while observing a Buddhist Monk Sink deep into serene meditation. Electrical activity in the left prefrontal lobe of the monk’s brain was shooting up at a tremendous rate. “It was exciting,” Davidson recalls. “We didn’t expect to see anything quite that dramatic.” He further adds, “Happiness isn’t just a vague, ineffable feeling; it’s a physical state of the brain — one that you can induce deliberately.” [6] A believer in a living God in his Salat is likely to have similar or better results. Happiness and positive attitudes also have powerful influence on the rest of the body. People who rate in the upper reaches of happiness on psychological tests develop about 50% more antibodies than average in response to flu vaccines. According to a Dutch study of elderly patients published in November of 2004, those upbeat mental states reduced an individual’s risk of death 50% over the study’s nine-year duration. [7] There is a very powerful mind body connection. Other scientists have discovered that happiness or related mental states like hopefulness, optimism and contentment appear to reduce the risk or limit the severity of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, colds and upper-respiratory infections as well.

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in USA. There is increasing awareness that there is a dramatic increase in the last two decades in rate of suicide among persons age 10 – 14 years in USA. The highest rate in the U.S. is found in white men over age 85. For the believers this is a phase of life with the greatest devotion to Allah but for non-believers it turns out to be a very risky phase of life. Four times as many men as women die by suicide; however, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men. So, if we take into consideration the number of people who try to commit suicide then the numbers become even more staggering. It is a well-known fact to the psychiatrists that suicide rate is much lower in people who are religiously inclined. [8]

The Holy Quran says, “And when We bestow a favor on man, he goes away, turning aside; but when evil touches him, lo! he starts offering long prayers. (Ha Mim Al Sajdah 41:52). In another place we read that, “When evil touches him, he is full of lamentations, But when good falls to his lot, he is niggardly, Except those who pray.” (Al Ma’arij 70:21-23) The solution to both the problems of falling prey to despair in time of distress or falling prey to niggardliness or false pride in time of ease is to pray and submit to Allah. Talking about the pressing and urgent need of having a communion with the All Mighty, the Promised Messiah may blessings of Allah be on him, writes:

Our paradise is in our God. Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and have found every beauty in Him. This wealth is worth procuring though one may have to lay down one’s life to procure it. This ruby is worth purchasing though one may have to lose one’s self to acquire it. O ye, who are bereft, run to this fountain and it will satiate your thirst. It is the fountain of life that will save you. What shall I do, and by what drum shall I make the announcement that this is your God, so that people might hear? What remedy shall I apply to their ears so that they should listen? If you belong to Allah, rest assured that Allah will indeed belong to you. (Kishti Nuh; Roohani Khazain,Vol. 19, pp 21-22)

To reiterate the concept of Sura Aasr again, which is one of the shortest chapters of the Holy Quran: “By the Time, Surely, man is ever in a state of loss, Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and exhort one another to preach Truth, and exhort one another to be steadfast.” (Al Asar 103:2-4) What are the mechanisms that lead to downfall of the people who are subject of the first part of this Sura?

One of the mechanisms through which generations go downhill is that they lose sight of what is important and what is unimportant or even harmful to them. Gradually their thoughts become chaotic and they become history. Allah says in Sura Al Hashr:

And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He caused them to forget their own souls. It is they that are the transgressors. (Al Quran 59:20)

Many a generations have been destroyed in history as they lost track and ran amuck. Roman Empire was certainly one of the examples. Allah says in the Holy Quran: Have they not then traveled in the earth so that they should see what was the end of those before them? (Al Quran 12:110)

Yet there is hope. Approximately, three hundred thousand noble souls joined the folds of Ahmadiyyat or true Islam this last year alone. When we contemplate on the attributes of Allah of Al Sameeh and Al Wassay, when we think that He hears prayers and His treasures are infinite and He is expanding the universe possibly at the speed of light, our hearts are filled with hope, pleasure and satisfaction.

Human pleasures are associated with things that give them a sort of permanence. This is true for many things like eating and sexual activity. Eating ensures our life and sexuality leads to continuation of the species. By developing one’s spirituality one ensures the longest possible survival, which is till eternity by achieving communion with the Creator. So, true spirituality translates into the greatest pleasure. It takes away the threat of non-being and nihilism. It is the best investment strategy that any human can have. The dividends are huge. This is the message in the verse of the Holy Quranthat raises the “soul at rest” to the highest pedestal, “O soul at rest that has found comfort in God, return to your Lord, you well pleased with Him and He well pleased with you. Now join My (God’s) chosen servants and enter into My garden” (89:28‑31). Spiritual attainment and development is not a fool’s paradise, it is the highest level of pleasure known to man. However, the path is long and trying.

We read a message of hope in the story of Hazrat Yaqoob may peace be upon him. He apparently had lost his son Yusuf and a few years later he lost another of his sons, but never lost hope and optimism. He is quoted in the Holy Quran, “O my sons, go ye and inquire about Joseph and his brother and despair not of the mercy of Allah; for none despairs of Allah’s mercy save the disbelieving people.’ (Al Quran 12:88)


[1] Dr. Carl Jung. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Book, 1933. Page 229.

[2] Holy Quran, chapter 7 verse 173, counting Bismillah as the first verse.

[3] Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Philosophy of teaching of Islam.

[4] Time Magazine, The New Science of Happiness. January 17, 2005.

[5] Time Magazine, The New Science of Happiness. January 17, 2005.

[6] Time Magazine, The Biology of Joy. January 17, 2005.

[7] Time Magazine, The Biology of Joy. January 17, 2005.

[8] Michael Argyle. Psychology and Religion. Routledge, Taylor and Francis group, 2000. Page 244.

Categories: Psychology, Uncategorized

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