Submitted by Anonymous:

Many Muslims in the United States, particularly those in the 20-40 age group, gained their Islam from attending Islamic lectures and conferences. It may have started with an Islamic lecture, then attending a conference, then becoming a regular attendee of particular Islamic figure. Then they would volunteer regularly for these organizations and figures. These students and volunteers have viewed these shaykhs as “heirs of the Prophets” and many would travel all around the country to sit at their feet. It was viewed as nothing short of an honor. They aspire to go close to them and be like them. There was also a feeling of belonging to something bigger than oneself – something divine. These “scholars” become nothing short of a bridge to Allah.

So what happens when this rosey pictured is shattered? When this “heir of the Prophet” is nothing but a snake and bully? What becomes of one’s deen when every association to your deen turns out to have been a façade? What was once a bridge to Allah has now been burned and you are left with a big, gaping hole between yourself and Allah. The doubts creep in and it is very unsettling.

In my experience, reflecting on the seerah has been the most beneficial. In the face of scholarly abuse, it is best to ask yourself what the Prophet Muhammad would have done. When someone complained to him about another person, did he turn away? Did he cover for the person? No. He would call for both parties and find a solution and attain justice. Our Master Muhammad was kind, honest, and transparent.

Another adjustment I had to make was learning to keep people’s personas simple. In other words, someone being a master of Hanafi fiqh or aqida does not mean I should put that person on a pedestal and assume anything regarding his or her rank with Allah. The rise of the “celebrity shaykh” over the past couple of decades has unfortunately made this all trip all too easy. But there is no need to assume extra good of a “scholar” because of their studies or how many followers he or she has. Even in the case of wilaya, keep it simple. Wilaya is not incense, tariqas, turbans, or studying the “Islamic sacred sciences.” Wilaya is nearness to Allah.

Recovery can be a long and hard process (though does not have to be). In any situation when a mentor or authority betrays those entrusted to him or her, it is difficult and complicated enough. When one is betrayed by a purported purveyor of the Divine, it is exponentially more difficult. Recovery from spiritual abuse takes some refocusing and unconditioning. In my experience, it helps first to actually process what happened and accept the situation at hand. It also helps then to find other ways to reconnect with Allah directly such as focusing on basic worship and prayer. Removing oneself and “taking a break” from organized religious group activities (with the exception of group prayer and iftars) is also surprisingly helpful. Ultimately everyone’s journey to recover will be different, but if possible, one should also seek the counsel of someone, preferably a professional, who is familiar with spiritual abuse.