Mawlana ASHRAF ALI THANVI (1873-1943)
Ali Thanvi, referred to by many South Asian Muslims as ‘Physician of the Muslims’ [Hakim al-ummat] (blogger: correct translation would be sage) and ‘Reformer of the Nation’ [Mujaddid al-Millat], is a towering figure of Islamic revival and reawakening of South Asia in the Twentieth-Century.
Thanvi was an eminent Muslim theologian, a Sufi mystic, and a prolific author of numerous Islamic texts.
His followers claims that his distinguishing mark and guiding principle was his remarkable sense of balance and straightforwardness–a trait manifested in his speeches, writings, and training of scholars and Sufis.
Thanvi is posited by his followers as a reformer of the masses, an exemplary spiritual guide [shaykh], a successful author, a spiritual jurist, an intellectual sage, and a fortifier of Islamic tradition.
The most famous books of Ashraf Ali Thanvi include the famous “Behishti Zaiver” and “Tarbiyyat-ul-Shalik”
His views are identified by the three titles:
a) Personality Theory
b) Causes and Classification of Disease
C) Treatment or Therapies
(a) Personality Theory: According to Thanvi, a child is born with innocent nature. He learns good and bad things from his environment. Three types of “Nafs” are developed in his personality: (I) Nafs Ammara (turning to evil), (ii) Nafs Lavvama (cursing after sin) and (iii) Nafs Mutmainna (following divines).
(b) Causes and Classification of Diseases:Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi explains the causes of mental diseases as follows:
Causes: When a human being becomes detached from religion and goes away from God it makes him worthless. This also removes distinction between good and bad; greed and material gain becomes all-important goal of one’s life in the world. This worldly gain and greed expose one to mental diseases.
According to the Maulana, there are two forces within a human being: constructive force and destructive force. He lays great emphasis on training of the child so as to strike balance between the two forces. In the early days, parents especially mother plays greater role while bringing up the child on right lines. Wrong training spoils him making him prone to mental diseases.
Kinds of Mental Diseases:
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi divided the mental diseases two categories:
Organic and functional disturbances or diseases.
The organic diseases may be cured by medicines but the functional or psychological diseases are to be cured by individual and group therapies. In the individual therapy, the disturbed individual is made to understand his own self-known as right path. Maulana Thanvi cured thousands of persons suffering from organic and functional disturbances through his therapy. He simply provided the reading material and inspired the individuals to develop an insight to communicate with Allah directly.
For the group therapy, Maulana Thanvi invited his patients to his “Khanqah” to stay with other members of the group and assigned them different responsibilities. As they lived together in a group, they were trained and guided to live a normal life.
C) Thanvi’s Therapy Approaches: Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi believed in individual potentialities and qualities of human beings. Before asking an individual to come down for therapy or treatment, he made it absolutely clear that his therapeutic techniques do not lead to the following:
-Miracle and “Kashf”
-Guarantee for forgiveness on the day of judgment
-Promise of material gain or better prospects in life
-Automatic cure through counselor’s attention
-Possibility of action without will
-Promise or surely for inner experiences
Maulana Thanvi emphasized the importance of the patient’s own will and effort in the cure of disease or illness. The counselor (pir) only assists the patient to understand causes of the disease and overcome adverse factors while organizing his own self. The patient should have full faith and confidence in the counselor and do as advised.
Kinds of Therapies: Ashraf Ali Thanvi divided his therapies into two kinds:
(I) Reading therapy,
(ii) Communication therapy
(I) Reading Therapy: Reading therapy is individual therapy. At the start of treatment session, Ashraf Thanvi asked his patient to write down his problem believing that a strong psychological link existed between the patient and the therapist. This association was developed through an exchange of letters. The patient must be conscious of his anxiety and explain his trouble in writing.
The therapist believed that some individuals needed direct guidance and counseling. After reading the contents of patient’s letter, he put some questions to satisfy and prepare his (patient) for treatment.
More often that not, Maulana Thanvi provided reading material out of religious scholar’s books to his patients. He never failed to let those read and received verses of the Holy Quran.
Reading therapy depends upon the faith in ALLAH. Based on Muslim Philosophy, the reading therapy believes that man is a whole unit. He has a definite purpose of life. His primary concern is fulfilling this aim. All directed towards definite goals of life. These are to purify one’s soul and seek His pleasure and gratification.
(II) Communication Therapy: In this therapy, Maulana Thanvi invited patients to his Khanqah “Imdadia” where people always gathered together. The Maulana used to sermonize on a certain topic which the patients had to listen intently and act upon as advised. He thought the sermon was the best spiritual group therapy. The patients uttered again and again what they heard. Remaining near to the therapist was important for effective treatment.
This way of treatment applied to those who fully believe in religion. Belief relates to purity of thought, uprightness of character, nearness to ALLAH and commitment.