Character Development of Flood Victims through Understanding the Concept of Ibtila’ (Trials) To Overcome Flood Trauma: Case Studies in Temerloh, Pahang
Trauma is an emotional response resulting from horrifying experience. Natural disasters are one of the events that can trigger trauma. In Malaysia, flood is considered as such natural disaster. The year 2014 has witnessed one of the worst floods in national history. The catastrophic flood does not only cause material losses, but also affect victims’ psyche. In Islam, the occurrence of disasters can be viewed as God plans and trials (
Keywords: Traumafloodibtila’ (trials)Islamgood character
According to the National Security Council (2012), a natural disaster is defined as one incident that cause disruption to social activity and state affairs, involves casualties, material and economic losses and environmental destruction that is beyond the capacity of the public to resolve and require an extensive allocation of resources.
In Malaysia one of the incidents that are considered as natural disaster and a frequent occasion is flood. However, the year 2014 had witnessed flood that caused huge impact as compared to the previous years, especially in the number of victims and the incurred losses. The flood had even been known to be the worst in national history when it involved 225,731 people in the year alone (Ahmad, 2014). In fact, Mstar (2015) reported various government agencies had estimated that the losses and destructions caused by the Great Flood of 2014 to be closed to RM 1 billon.
Based on the definition of disaster as mentioned above, flood which is considered as natural disaster has caused numerous damages, losses and costs that can affect victims especially on their mental and emotional aspects. This psychological effect according to the American Psychological Association (2015) and SAMHSA (2014) is known as trauma; an emotional response when one experienced a negative incident. Although trauma is a normal response to an unbearable event, the consequences can be detrimental and could influence the capability of the victim to lead a normal life, especially for those who have been affected by natural disasters.
This study will explore the religious understanding aspect, specifically on the concept of
According to the American Psychological Association (2015), natural disaster victims will generally face and experience some reactions and responses that can be identified based on these factors: i) The appearance of an unpredictable emotion such as panic; ii) Changes in thoughts and behaviour for example by often recalling the disaster incident and being disturbed by it; iii) Sensitive towards surrounding factors such as the sound of a siren and other factors that may stimulate their memory to recall the incident; iv) Relationship with others may be affected such as elevated conflict with other individuals and family members or unusually withdraw from social activities; and v) Physical symptoms that are related to depression such as headache, queasiness and chest pains.
The symptoms above obviously disrupt everyday life and may change the personality and character of the victims. Therefore, as mentioned by American Psychological Association (2015) and SAMHSA (2014), many methods had been proposed by the experts in the field of psychology and psychotherapy to overcome trauma and emotional distress, such as by gaining support and sympathy from the people around them, recounting the experience faced by family members and friends, leading a healthy lifestyle, joining a professionally organized support groups and so on.
Several solutions on trauma problems that were suggested above were more focused on the external aspects, perceived to support victims’ emotions and feelings. Psychological and medical approach as explained above considering that human behaviour was determined by law or an external response. However, do human have the potential to overcome trauma and disruptions internally without any support or any other environmental factors mentioned above? Some of the symptoms suffered by victims showed the existence of a relationship between soul and body. It was proven by Bhamani (2012) and Meichenbaum’s (n.d.) finding that the depression in the psyche also affects the physical aspect. Thus, the solution on depression and trauma should not only involve physical aspect and external factors, but more importantly should prioritize the internal aspect which is the spiritual development of the victims.
The development of spiritual and character of the victims were also related to self-administered treatment (psychotherapy or auto therapy) that was usually linked to faith or religion as examined by Muhsin & Saari (2015) and Jalaluddin (2005). In this context, there was a relationship between faith and spiritual development that can be seen in the manifestation of submission and surrender to the powers of God. It may create an optimistic behaviour as affirmed by Hamat & Nordin (2012) that leads to other positive attributes such as peace, tranquillity and feeling loved. Life was considered to be more meaningful especially when human faced incidents that are beyond their control.
Therefore, in the aspect of character building, religion has a role to rehabilitate the victims affected by the disaster especially on their thoughts and behaviour. According to the Islamic teaching, matters regarding all that happen in one’s life including natural disasters were related to their belief in
In theory, having the faith described above can heal trauma or depression that may befall to the victims who were facing
Hence, religious faith could change the perspective on
The above explanation has conceptually shown how the understanding of
The study applied qualitative study methods with case study approach (Lebar, 2014) involved two subjects. A case is defined by Stake (1995) as “a bounded system that is “a specific, complex and functioning thing”. The subjects of a case study may be an individual, an organization or else, in order to “understand the context with which it is suited” (Heinz, 2007). As done by Beal & Millenbruch (2015), the case in this study was “drawn from larger study that examined” how the understanding of
Subject 1 who was interviewed lives in Kampung Bintang, Temerloh, Pahang. He is 47 years old (as of 2015), works as a blacksmith and has five dependents. He holds Sijil Rendah Pelajaran and attending informal religious study in the local mosque. Meanwhile Subject 2 was from Kampung Ira, Temerloh. He is 42 years old, performing general village works and has five dependents. He only undertook formal education at the secondary level.
The two subjects of study were chosen amongst flood victims that had suffered huge property losses and damages as recorded and suggested by the Village Chiefs in Temerloh, Pahang, Malaysia as well as their income compared to other villagers. Both subjects did not have steady income and had done many types of works to support themselves and their families. In terms of damages, both Subjects estimated that they had lost around RM10,000 or more when their house was submerged, causing appliances and utensils to be washed away. No casualties and injuries recorded for both families during the flood.
The questions had been divided into four sections concerning firstly subjects demographic data; secondly at what extends the subjects understanding on the concept of
The results of this study were presented based on the three sections as mentioned above, as follows.
Understanding the concept of ibtila’
The interviews indicated that both subjects did not have a precise understanding of the concept of
Acceptance towards ibtila’
As had been described, even though both subjects had never heard of the term
At the emotional level, both respondents were sad and were at the verge of tears when expressing themselves over the catastrophic incident. However, both respondents were seen to be forgiving when they took the stance to be contented to receive what they called as trials for their own self. They also expressed gratitude when the catastrophe did not cause them to suffer casualties or sustain any injuries. The help that they had received in the post-disaster whether in terms of manpower, goods and financial donations were seen as divine blessings that were given by God as a result of their patience in facing the trials of the flood. In the conducted interview, there were no complaints and hopelessness voiced by both subjects. The optimism and positivity could be seen in the subjects when they took the initiative to be involved in rescue missions to help other flood victims and were actively involved in the disaster action committee that was established by the village residents. Subject 2 for example, had the view that the flood disaster was a test that had to be faced collectively. With this in mind, he chose to share the goods donated by contributors with other flood victims.
In terms of the relationship with God, both victims agreed that the recent flood made them closer to God. They also agreed that the feelings of anger and disappointment should not be expressed to God, but instead, prayer and grievances were the things that should be addressed to Him. In short, even though both subjects could not verbally express their understanding on
The relationship between understanding of ibtila’ with character development
The two subjects acknowledged that the disaster had direct impact onto themselves, but the consequences were more physical, (e.g. weariness) rather than psychological. Disappointments and sadness expressed were also related to external factors such as the unfairness in aid distributions and in the existence of some uncooperative village residents in helping other victims. The symptoms of trauma for example, continuous sadness, guilt, anger and others did not exist. Subject 1 for example only had one cognitive symptom because the incident still haunted his thoughts especially when approaching the end of the year (monsoon season). For Subject 2, as he lived beside the Pahang River, he had seen flood regularly, so for him precautions was what he thought about rather than immersed in bad feelings and emotions. Therefore, the consequences of trauma for example, aggressiveness, depression, withdrawal, unkemptness and others were not experienced by both subjects. The faith related to
In terms of religious knowledge, both subjects admitted that they wanted to continue learning about Islam.
Discussion and conclusion
The results above showed the understandings of the
Both subjects had mentioned that the aid received by them were more in the forms of physical help rather than psychological. Thus, it could be seen that both subjects had opt for self-rehabilitation via their own faith and understanding of religious teaching on fate and destiny to limit the threat of trauma from themselves. The most interesting finding from the study was that the understanding in the concept of
These positive values did not exist if it was not for the understanding and faith in religion. Sympathy and empathy, teamwork and other things could only exist when the victims did not have stress and that they were calm and positive with what they had undergone. Subsequently, the understanding on the concept of
The study concluded the understanding of the concept of
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