Evil and violence have always been a part of the human story. While every individual has both angelic and devilish aspects, many of the most violent atrocities have been committed by powerful authority figures who have been consumed by paranoia. The lead article in this issue lists a number of past dictators and tyrants who, driven by irrational fear, persecuted people on baseless grounds. The example of the Pharaoh who feared the baby Moses (pbuh) because of a dream is not only a past story, but sadly a historical reality that keeps repeating itself. Pharaohs keep coming back with different names, in different outfits, but with the same mental and spiritual disorder of paranoia. Sadly, these individuals never come alone: they always have supporters who ensure they remain in power. This network of sycophants and cronies have benefitted from their proximity to power. The lead article suggests persecuted believers should pray and pursue spiritual growth by full submission to the will of the Almighty.
There are two pieces in this issue that offer solutions to mental health problems, like paranoia. Asli Uzun draws a connection between our biological heart and spirit. Uzun speaks of how we seek equilibrium by balancing the whisperings of the heart with consistent worship and remembrance of the Divine. She does not forget to mention that alongside spiritual therapies, one should also seek professional support from pharmacologists and psychologists.
The second piece is from Mehmed Gokcel, who puts in words the voice of any human being not free from sin and its discomforts. This predicament becomes even more difficult for immigrants, Gokcel emphasizes, who usually have to grow up in societies that “have different moral norms to that of their cultural upbringing.” The author defines sin, and how repentance is different for a regular person and for spiritually elevated ones, while underscoring the importance of “diversifying [your] relationship with God” through contemplation of His creation.
Ahmet Kurucan’s “Dialogue with the Qur’an” offers a perspective for both Muslims and non-Muslims on how to approach the Divine message. For Kurucan, “The verses of the Holy Qur’an are not detached from the social realities experienced between 610 and 632 in Mecca and Medina. … Severing this correlative link between God and the community of revelation is the foremost reason for triggering what may be called the alienation from the Qur’an.” And this is one major reason why Islam is unfairly associated with violence.