How Can I Recover From My Eating Disorder?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I have recently discovered I have an eating disorder, it is a form of anorexia.
Should I do a ruqya? I hear a voice in my head that tells me not to eat or that my husband doesn’t like me because I’m not beautiful. My self-confidence and self-esteem are extremely low now. Also I have read that I should do some meditation – is there an Islamic form of meditation?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah grant you lasting shifa, and ease the sorrow which you carry. Truly, Allah is the Turner and Healer of all hearts, so find comfort in the knowledge that through His Mercy, recovery is within your grasp.

Health professional

“O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers.” [Quran 10:57]

Alhamdulilah, I am so glad to hear that you have contacted a Muslimah coach to help you in your journey of healing. Anorexia is a challenge which you will need lots of support to get through. This is not a sign of weakness, but it’s a sign of your humanity. Remember that Allah never burdens us more than we can bear, I pray that through your recovery, you will attain even greater closeness to Allah. Be gentle with yourself throughout your recovery – it may take a short time, or it may take longer. Allah knows best.

Ensure that your Muslimah coach helps is qualified to help you overcome your eating disorder. Some coaches are, while others aren’t, but because of the specific steps required to heal, please consult someone who is trained in helping others recover from eating disorders.

Islamic healing

Deep Prophetic healing is a vital part of your recovery. In addition to your self-work and counselling exercises, remember to attend circles of knowledge, read Qur’an regularly, give in charity, and increase in your voluntary fasts. Slowly increase in your acts of worship, as a means of healing. Do not rush headlong all at once and overwhelm yourself, rather, start slowly, and make these acts of worship consistent before adding another one.

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) said: Our Lord (glorified and exalted be He) descends each night to the earth’s sky when there remains the final third of the night, and He says: Who is saying a prayer to Me that I may answer it? Who is asking something of Me that I may give it him? Who is asking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him? [Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud]

There is something deeply restorative about waking up before Fajr and crying out to Allah. This intimacy with Allah will help you tremendously with your healing.

Islamic meditation and inner peace

“… Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!” [Quran 13:28]

Seek Allah, and inshaAllah He will bless you with inner peace. Commit to a regular daily dhikr which will help to soothe you. There are many Prophetic invocations which soothe hearts, and this is a wonderful collection you can refer to Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long.

Having total confidence and reliance in Allah, not yourself, is key to your recovery. Admitting our weakness and seeking comfort in Allah is a lasting balm for our hearts. Yes, it is important to have a healthy baseline of self-love, and as Muslims, it is also so important to link our self-acceptance with Allah’s love for us. He loves you, right now, as you are, with your imperfections. If He wanted you to be perfect, He would have created you in the form of an angel. In His Wisdom, He chose for you to be a flawed human, and in your journey of healing, inshaAllah you will attain a closer relationship with Him.

As for ruqya, if you do know a qualified scholar who can help you, then do consult him/her for their advice. Be wary of who you consult in these matters, and ensure that you seek out a trustworthy scholar. The voice you hear in your head could be waswasa, or it could be your inner critic which has developed over the course of your eating disorder. Please refer to this reader on waswasa.

Forgiveness

I am very sorry to hear that you had a difficult time with your mother, and this contributed to your eating disorder. I pray that one day, you will find it in your heart to forgive her, and inshaAllah, that will be another milestone of your healing journey. Muslim parents who end up abusing their children often have deep, unresolved wounds of their own. InshaAllah your own recovery will help you become a more emotionally present and supportive mother when Allah blesses you with children.

Your marriage

Shaytan and his minions are fond of breaking up marriages. While you are being tested with the legacy of your eating disorder, other couples are tested with financial difficulties, infertility or interfering in-laws. Sometimes, all of the above! This is part and parcel of being married in this dunya – we will be never be free of tests, but we can still strive to nourish our marriages and strengthen our bond with our spouses. In addition to your own individual healing, continue to do things which nurture your relationship with your husband. Spend at least one night a week enjoying each other’s company e.g. dinner, coffee, go out for a walk. This will help to remind both of you of the sweetness of your marriage, and increase your gratitude for each other.

Please refer to the following links:

The Butterfly Foundation
Bites of spiritual protein – Ustadha Tamara Gray
Finding peace through “The Comforter”
Advice for a young man with OCD and struggling with pornography and other major sins

Raidah Shah Idil

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.