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Sufi Meditation and Positive Mental Health

Publication date: 01 September 2012

By Tahar Rajab

Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism that attempts to achieve the annihilation of the self through God. Through aspiring to be close to God, its followers – regarded as Sufis or dervishes – practice a detachment from material affairs and worldly desire. One of the ways in which they set out in doing this, is through various forms of meditation; and it is believed these exercises have a range of positive impacts on mental health. This article will explore the different forms of Sufi meditation, with a view to their effects on our mental health.

In an age where many a patient has sought out a medical solicitor to deal with inadequate mental health treatment by the NHS, alternative psychological health is needed more than ever.

Whirling Dervish

From an outside perspective, the most popular form of Sufi meditation is through a whirling dance. The aim of the dance is the abandonment of one’s personal desires by completely focusing on God, through the music and movements.

The dervish whirls counter-clockwise with the right arm directed upwards (towards the heavens) and the left turned towards the earth. During the dance, the dervishes enter a hyperconscious state. This is all done while maintaining their perfect physical balance, which includes making small rocking movements with the hands, arms and head as they spin.

There are a number of health benefits in Sufi whirling. On her website,, Amanda Solk of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers cited the whirling dance to stimulate the activity of the pineal and pituitary glands, releasing endorphins and serotonin. Such effects on the brain reduce the need for mood-elevating substances and cause a sense of ecstasy to occur.

Dancing in itself can also have a positive effect on the brain with a BBC report in 2004 citing evidence to suggest dancing as a dynamic way to exercise the mind.

Seated Meditation

Another form of Sufi meditation is through sitting down and reciting some of the Islamic names of God. Focus is attributed to specific syllables in a way that also initiates conscious breathing and the utilization of sound.

In a book entitled Sufi Healing, by Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chishti, it is written that a divine encountering can be achieved through elongating the vowel sounds of ‘ah’ ‘ee’ and ‘uh’. It states that:

‘Sufis use various formulas or combinations of these tones to produce electrifying effects that are able in and of themselves to unlock congested areas within the heart, thereby releasing one or more potentialities. This alone accounts for a considerable number of miraculous cures.’

Amongst other health benefits, it is believed that this positively affects the pineal gland, through the vibration caused by the vowel sounds. An end result of a variety of Sufi meditations using such or similar techniques is therefore a cleansing of psychological stress, which is of course, paramount to upbeat mental health.

Tahar Rajab, a young British writer, was educated at Queen Mary College, University of London where he obtained an Honours Bachelors Degree in History in 2011. He has since gone on to write for a variety of blogs.

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