Mohammed Sbahuddin Rafiuddin, UK
My name is Mohammed Sbahuddin Rafiuddin. I’m an Ahmadi Muslim from Watford, UK. From the age of 22 to 32 (2013-2023), I suffered from severe mental health challenges, including severe depression, severe anxiety and severe psychosis.
Because of these illnesses I was left bed-bound and unemployed for 7 years. I struggled with every aspect of life, including basic tasks like leaving my home. Doctors told me there was slim to no chance of recovery.
I’ve now not only overcome all of my illnesses (by the Grace and Mercy of Allah) but I’ve also dedicated my life to serving humanity. I’ve written this article to highlight the importance that my faith played in my recovery. I also want to give hope to anyone suffering from any sort of illness (mental or physical). Recovery is indeed possible, God willing.
My journey started in 2013, when I was 22. I’d just finished my postgraduate Legal Practice Course studies at the University of Law in London Bloomsbury. I was working at a globally ranked law firm called Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP in Central London; I was on my way to fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a lawyer.
Whilst working there, I began to experience symptoms of mental illness. This was completely unexpected; nobody in my family or circle of friends had ever suffered from mental illness. It seemed like it was coming completely out of the blue. I was scared of the stigma and didn’t want to be labelled ‘mentally ill’ so I put off going to the doctor for over a year. My illness got so bad that photocopying a piece of paper at work or making a cup of coffee became impossible.
I lost my job and was made redundant from my dream workplace. This triggered a severe onset of depression, psychosis and anxiety which would last for over a decade. For the next 10 years, I would visit seven different therapists and take four different prescription tablets every single day just to stay alive. I spent my 30th birthday in a mental health hospital in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. I struggled with the most basic and simple tasks on a daily basis. I had no hope and no future.
As a devoted Ahmadi Muslim, it was my faith and the love, prayers and guidance of the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) that kept me alive when I was in severe pain.
At first, I was too embarrassed to write to His Holiness about my mental illness because I thought he would deem me as being a weak Ahmadi Muslim.
This could not have been further from the truth. My illness allowed me to grow closer to His Holiness than I could ever have imagined.
From April 2021 when I was in the mental health hospital, I had no energy and wasn’t well enough to write letters to His Holiness on my own so I’d dictate the contents of my letters to my mother who’d sit beside me. His Holiness was regularly updated about my illness. From April 2021 to today (February 2024) I have not missed a single day without writing a letter to His Holiness.
His Holiness would be kind enough to personally write back to me himself and his letters would be filled with prayers, well wishes and motivation to keep fighting my illness. In one letter he quoted a verse of the Holy Qur’an: ‘And when I am ill, it is He who heals me.’ (The Holy Qur’an, 26:81)
The letter touched me deeply and was a huge motivating factor in my recovery because it made me believe that I could be cured, and that recovery was indeed possible – a feeling that no doctor could give me.
On average I’d receive a personal letter from His Holiness once a month inquiring about my health and containing love and prayers for me and my family.
Despite leading the global Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, he would still find the time to reply to my letters personally every month.
This increased my love for the Caliphate even more. Every time I’d receive a letter from His Holiness, I’d put it inside a frame that I’d order from Amazon and place it on my bedside table. I’d then read all of His Holiness’ letters every day and this would give me hope and motivation to keep fighting knowing that he was praying for me.
If it wasn’t for my faith, my story would have ended in 2013 and I wouldn’t be here in 2024 to share the lessons that I’ve learnt from my experience and help other people who are suffering.
I don’t want to be misinterpreted here as saying that just by having faith all of your health problems will go away – that’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that my faith and religious beliefs gave me the weapon that I needed to fight and combat my illness. Otherwise, I would’ve been defeated within a matter of weeks.
My faith and religious beliefs gave me the hope and inspiration I needed to get through each 24-hour period. I would just tell myself all I have to do is get through the next 24 hours.
During my illness, not only did I pray five times a day, but I would lead the prayers in my house for all of my family members who joined me in prayers.
Every day, I’d pray to Allah the Almighty and study the Holy Qur’an with the commentary written by the Second Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) in English. This would give me hope and motivation to keep fighting and not lose hope.
There were specific verses of the Holy Qur’an that I’d read several times every day – these were:
‘Surely after hardship comes ease’ (The Holy Qur’an 94:7)
‘Allah does not burden a soul beyond its capacity’ (The Holy Qur’an, 2:287)
And also the verse that His Holiness specifically mentioned and referred in his letters to me:
‘And when I am ill, it is He [Allah] who cures me’ (The Holy Qur’an, 26:81).
At the worst point of my illness back in 2020, I went to see a specialist in psychosis who had over 30 years of experience in treating patients with severe psychosis. He said to me that because I had left my symptoms untreated for such a long time it was extremely unlikely that my illness would ever go away. I would need to be taken care of for the rest of my life. This deeply upset me and shook me to my core.
However, I kept praying and wrote to His Holiness every single day. I never gave up my fight against mental illness. Within 3 years not only had all traces of my illness gone away but I had moved out of my home in Watford and was living independently in Morden working a full-time job for the first time in over 8 years.
In 2023, I went back to that same doctor and explained how I had recovered from all my illnesses and his exact words were ‘Mohammed your recovery is nothing short of a miracle which I have witnessed with my own eyes!’
I am currently working with the NHS in England as an expert on mental health with specialist expertise in depression, anxiety and psychosis and am also working with leading national and international mental health charities including Mind, Samaritans, Rethink Mental Illness, Anxiety UK and Hertfordshire County Council to improve mental health services not just in the UK but all over the world.
I am passionate about breaking the stigma around mental health within Asian, Middle-Eastern and ethnic minority communities.
Unfortunately, the stigma attached to mental illness is costing lives as people are too scared to seek treatment for fear of being judged or labelled as being mentally ill.
This needs to change and this can only change through education and awareness which is the change that I hope, with Allah’s help, I can bring in the world.