Source: The Muslim Sunrise; the longest running Islamic magazine since 1921: Muslim Sunrise Fall 2018
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
The word ‘course,’ can have a lot of different meanings depending on what context you are using it in. If you are in a university setting it means your syllabus, if you are playing golf it means the landscape spread in front of you and if you are in a restaurant, it means the series of dishes that are going to be served.
Likewise, the word ‘meditation’ means different things to different readers. To some it means formally sitting down in a yoga position for a given period and going through a formal ritual. But, I have something different in mind today.
Our mind is giving us a constant, an unceasing running commentary on our life during our waking hours. For a moment it focuses on the work at hand and then flies to a future ambition or to a past regret. While we have not completed that thought it catapults our attention to a worry of the future and then jumps from there to life after death and on and on without tiring. In other words, a constant music is playing in our minds and often without our choosing. Often the song is broken and we cannot get a consistent happy song to play in our mind tracks, even though that is what we crave for. The sum total of our mental processes, our thoughts, emotions, ambitions and fears running and jamming into each other, that is what I mean by meditation here. Can we tame the beast? Can our thought processes run smoothly under our command like a well trained horse? The whole nine yards is meditation and taming it is the task of this article.
The importance of taming and training our minds cannot be overstated as that is who we are and our mental states create our success in our worldly life and our salvation in the life to come.
There is no single recipe and there is no short cut to success. It is a lifelong endeavor and a search for the right ideas and the right practices to achieve the desired goal. There are countless self help books, both good and bad in secular literature, but they leave the all important domain of religion and spirituality often untouched.
The human mind is such that something has to hold its attention, an idea, a pursuit that one dwells on or obsesses over and is consumed by. For many it is a material goal, a person or fame. However, the holy Quran says that such endeavors if made the ultimate goal, despite some success become a mirage: “And as to those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water until, when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing. And he finds Allah near him, Who then fully pays him his account; and Allah is swift at reckoning.”
For a believer the focus of attention has to be constantly the All Powerful and Eternal God. The holy Quran says: “Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” The writings of the Promised Messiah, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, are replete with our constant and over arching need for devotion to the Al Rehman and Al Raheem God of Islam, the Lord of Mercy. See the chapter on Allah in the Essence of Islam, Volume I.
In Christian literature the best dissertation on devotion to One God of the Abrahamic faiths is a book, The Purpose Driven Life, which is a devotional book written by Reverend Rick Warren. The book topped the Wall Street Journal best seller charts as well as Publishers Weekly charts, with over 30 million copies sold by 2007. A few changes here and there, substituting the Unitarian God of Judaism, Unitarian Christianity and Islam for emphasis on Jesus and substituting some Quranic verses for the Biblical ones can make this book perfectly kosher for the Muslim and Jewish readers.
So, the most important part of taming our minds is a constant Zikr e Ilahi or meditating on various attributes of Allah and the verses of the holy Quran that are most akin to our psychological needs. My personal favorites are cataloged in the references. I have previously written on this theme in the Muslim Sunrise: ‘Doctor’s Orders: 20 Minutes of Meditation Twice a Day’ – How about 10 Minutes 5 Times a Day?
We need to constantly glorify Allah, until we begin to feel a degree of peace, serenity and a certainty that we are in His safe custody, as is said in the Quran: “Glorify thy Lord praising Him, and be of those who prostrate themselves before Him. And keep on Glorifying until a state of certainty is bestowed to thee.”
Prayers or Dua if not followed by appropriate actions are considered to be making fun of the religious teaching of Providence. So, what are the thought processes that we need to train and tame our minds? A lot of modern literature on meditation comes to our rescue here. Two commendable resources are, Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation by Prof. Mark Muesse and The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being by Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D.; Harvard University.
To overcome pessimism, negative thinking and despair we need to constantly guide our thought processes towards hope and optimism. In this regard I have found that the best teacher for individual growth is a Christian Pastor, Joel Osteen and there are scores of his videos available in YouTube. Listening to a Christian teacher, some Muslims worry about the influence of the Christian dogma and I don’t have the slightest fear of those false doctrines, as we have scores of amazing articles to present a rational form of Christianity and expose the absurdity of her dogma like Trinity, divinity of Jesus, birth of God, Original Sin and Eucharist. For the purpose of online links in the Muslim Times, to expose these dogmas, please go the references. In this age of information we can perhaps learn from all teachers regardless of religion and develop genuine interfaith tolerance and enhance our insights.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. It’s estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States, or 6.7 percent of American adults, have had at least one major depressive episode in a given year. Less severe depression is even more common. Columbia University reported that depression increased significantly among persons in the U.S. from 2005 to 2015, from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent. Notably, the rise was most rapid among those ages 12 to 17, increasing from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 12.7 percent in 2015.
Given these odds the importance of understanding prayers and meditation and putting these into practice cannot be overstated. This article is an effort in this regards and in conclusion, I want to link a few useful articles that we have aggregated in the last few years in the Muslim Times.      
 The Holy Qur’an, (24:40)
 The Holy Qur’an, (6:163)
 The Holy Qur’an, (9:40, 13:29, 15:57, 39:37, 41:31-33, 51:57, 55:47, 55:61, 89:28-31)
 The Holy Qur’an, (15:99-100)