Strange demonic possessions or psychological and mental illness? How does Islam deal with these strange phenominom? by Dr. Malik Badri. [This is Part 2 of two parts on "Jinn Possession" Part One click here]
This issue is now being discussed in various psychological circles in the Islamic and Western world. A few years ago, the idea of a spiritual being possessing a human being was completely rejected by western psychologist as a form of superstitious beliefs carried over from the Middle Ages. More recently, as science matured and felt secure it began to re look into the possibility of the influence of such beings on humans. Chief among the modern psychiatrist and thinkers who discussed the possibility of spirit possession is Dr. M. Scott Peck the author of "The Road Less Traveled". In one of his books he mentions that he has personally attended to cases of spirit possession in which the patient were cured after exorcism in a vary short time that does not happen in psychiatric treatment. Among Muslim psychologists there is an active group who have internet site headed by Dr. Mona Amer in which they have long discussions and evidences on this matter.
During the 1980's I was elected as a member of the World Health Organization committee (WHO) on traditional medical practices. In one meeting in Geneva we listened to doctors and researchers who delivered a number of papers in which they documented the dramatic improvement of patients in Africa and Asia who were treated by religiously oriented healers who practiced exorcism. My own research was on the traditional healing in Ethiopia and Sudan. I have also reported on similar cases.
In general those who are considered as possessed are those who are diagnosed by psychiatrists as suffering from schizophrenia and mania. The term schizophrenia is a very ambiguous term and psychiatrists give this label to any body exhibits the symptoms of delusions or false beliefs or who suffers from hallucinations in which he/she sees things that are not there or hears voices from invisible beings. In my study I listened to Muslim healers who strongly criticize this broad classification of mental illness. They say that to consider anybody schizophrenic only because he/she sees things and hears voices, is like a doctor who says that all patients who have fevers, headaches, and nausea are suffering from malaria. Since a high fever and headache can be caused by so many illnesses to stick to one diagnoses is not scientific. The same applies, as these healers argue, to the concept of schizophrenia. To be deluded and to hallucinate can be caused by a physical-biochemical imbalance in the brain or by a spirit possession or by alcoholic poisoning or some other reasons. The traditional healers also claim that the only evidence for the bio-chemical theory of schizophrenia is that patients improve when they are given the prescribed drug, but at least 25% or more of them do not improve and they become permanently kept in mental hospitals as chronic schizophrenics. These healers argue that if improvement is the evidence, then they have a number of cases of chronic schizophrenics who responded to their therapy in a much shorter time.
From this, we Muslims should not discard the possibility of Jinn possession. We have in the traditions of our prophet (pbuh) and the biography of early Muslim physicians much evidences to the value of reading the Quran and using its verses as therapy and a form of exorcism. We should be open minded in accepting the physical as well as the spiritual aspects of human nature. In May 2001 a very interesting conference was held in Dammam, Saudi Arabia in which psychiatrists and well-known traditional muslim healers discussed the value of Ruqaiyyah (prayer for therapeutic purposes as well as exorcism of Jinn possession). I took part in this conference and I was happy to see western trained Arab psychiatrists accepting the possibility of Jinn possession and showing their readiness to cooperate with Muslim healers by referring to them those who do not benefit from their modern psychiatric therapy.
It is very important for those who accept exorcism not to treat those possessed as sinful or deviant persons. Just as the body may develop a disorder, the soul can also be disordered. Both are a form of Ibtila (Trail) or test.
Article can be found at www.IslamOnline.com by Dr. Malik Badri Subject Islamic Counseling: Speak Online With a Muslim Psychologist. Date Friday, May 3 ,2002.