My Experience With Psychological Determinism and Religious Responsibility

Bad stuff has happened to me in life. Bad stuff has happened to a lot of us in life. Hell, it’s life, and bad stuff happens. The question, however, is how does one deal with said bad stuff. Now, without going into detail, when I say “bad stuff,” I’m not talking about “my mom never liked me” type of regular teenage angst. I’m talking about, well, pretty bad stuff.

And so, dealing with said bad stuff, my teenage years were a disaster. I barely remember them. I do, however, remember the gist: everyone sucks, I hate the world, screw everyone, yadda yadda yadda. Please remember, however, while all this might look somewhat normal (or, rather, not uncommon), don’t sell me short when I say, “trust me, it wasn’t common.”

One of the things that greatly contributed to my angst was my interest in psychology. The world, you see, had dished out brutal punishment on me, and I had become as I was. Disrespectful, heedless, suicidal. This kind of grammatical passivity of life is, I find, quite common in the students I have in the local Youth Education Program (YEP). I am always the subject, but the sentence is in passive voice (unless describing how cool I am, in which case there is no passive). I was wronged by my teacher. I am disliked by my teacher. In another variation of the same type of sentence, we replace “I” with “me”. My teacher wronged me. My teacher hates me. This was very similar to my own sentence structure, though my teachers disliking me was the least of my concern.

My exposure to sociology and psychology, in my opinion, allowed my an “out,” as it were. I was not responsible for my behavior. I was not responsible for the way I feel, or the way I interact with people. Those years of my life of pain and suffering, and the people that inflicted it, are responsible. This type of thinking gave me a leeway to do whatever I wanted without questioning my moral responsibility in doing it. Allah, Rabbur Rahman, you see would appreciate what I went through and be on my side (and yes, I love free indirect speech in relating thoughts and dialogue).

This way of thinking, this responsibility-less and objectified way of life, also produced a great amount of suffering. I am not who I say I am, I am that which people have forced me to be. One can imagine how devastating this way of thinking might be. The eternal object feels completely cut off from any agency. I can’t do my work because I am depressed, and my depression is brought on by such and such. Frustration, agitation, objectification.

And this is where I’ve truly come to appreciate religious morality and the words of the Prophet (SAW). Religion in general, and in my particular case Islam, is truly an emancipating force. It’s not as if Allah (SWT) is unaware of what happened to me, or what happens to abused individuals. That abuse, however, isn’t a free-pass for immorality, a get-out-of-jail-free card. The abused individual is just as morally responsible as the un-abused one.That’s not to say Allah (SWT) isn’t aware of suffering and pain.

Suhaib reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer for if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (God), thus there is a good for him in it, and if he gets into trouble and shows resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it.  (Book #042, Hadith #7138)

This hadith, for me, says it all. Notice how the strangeness, the amazing nature, of the believer is that he converts possibly objectifying experiences into subjective ones. He takes everything that is done to him and makes it an opportunity to do something. He doesn’t stop at “done to me.” Thus, if good happens to him, he is thankful to Allah. And if bad happens to him, then he is patient and trusting in Allah. And from that subjective, active, dynamic mind set, he is emancipated from the victim’s mentality.

I’m not really prone to saying such things, so let me just get it out of my system. Isn’t Allah (SWT) incredible? Instead of letting us trap ourselves in our own misery, he lifts us up. He teaches us how to lift ourselves: active patience, trust in Allah, and belief that he will pull us out of it. Living a life in accordance with HIs principles, despite the pain and suffering we may have been afflicted with. Because, in the end, we must recognize that there is no object in us. We must choose to be objects or subjects. And, through the principles of religious morality, through the principles of Allah, we make ourselves subjects.

سبحانك يا رب الرحمن و لك الحمد والشكر على نعمة الإيمان


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