Belief in the Power of Belief


An aspirational New Age lifestyle has emerged in Gulf countries in recent years, one based on the central tenet of positive energy. An amalgamation of feng shui, Reiki, Quantum Touch, and corporate happiness strategies, this “belief in the power of belief” is manifested as a deliberately optimistic mindset. Its proponents circulate on daytime talk shows and YouTube channels, while a Silicon Valley inspired, New Age office culture has infiltrated the offices of governments and corporations. With conference tables that double as ping-pong tables, feng shui consultants on staff, relaxation zones, and government sanctioned “brainstorming sessions,” happiness and productivity go hand in hand in the Gulf’s contemporary office culture. The state predicates its achievements on the success of its individual subjects; and as a way of developing human capital it aims to mold its subjects into happy, and therefore efficient, productive, and capital- generating members of the economy. Recently, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced the establishment of a Minister of State for Happiness to foster both “social good and satisfaction.” But what are the implications of applying the same strategies meant for individual “improvement” to the mechanisms of the state? How is the notion of positive energy reconciled with aspects of Arab culture that are traditionally rooted in sadness—or with orthodox Islam? With the increased militarization of society, should personal coaching or holistic healing practices be an essential service provided by the government? To what extent has a community or “industry” of New Age practitioners formed in the Gulf in recent years? And to what degree has the belief in positivity become a popular phenomenon? We posed these and other questions to positive energy healers and life coaches from states in the Gulf countries. Below are excerpts from our conversations. 


Naturopath/Feng Shui Consultant

GCC Many aspects of Arab culture are traditionally rooted in sadness. How do you reconcile this with the seemingly opposite notion of positive energy?

YAB That is the reason why we’re so backwards! There are two things that keep us from moving forward and modernizing, and those are fear and sadness—sadness over the past, and fear of what’s to come. So you’re stuck. It keeps you from achieving anything, because you’re afraid to fail in your future endeavor, or you’re be too busy lamenting lamenting the disasters of the past. This goes against the culture of Islam. God said, “Those who have faith . . . on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” He also said, “In order that ye may not despair over matters that pass you by, nor exult over favors bestowed upon you.” Why is that? It is because you must balance the issues. So positive thinking doesn’t mean that I simply say I’m a positive person, but in fact this negativity you mention is in our very being. We [as Arabs] are made of burden and melancholy. Over time this has become part of our DNA, which we bestow upon our children. So turning a person who has inherited this intergenerational negativity into a positive person is a big challenge!

The amount of light generated while sending the energy from one point to another is very big, just like a pizza.

GCC Do you think people in the Gulf are more accepting and open to the idea of alternative healing and positive energy than they used to be?

YAB Yes, thank God! When I started fifteen years ago, people thought everything I said was fantasy. Now the situation is much better. Just look at how people [in Kuwait] are consuming organic food, for example, or at the upswing in health consciousness, in the rise of meditation and yoga, in stress management, and feng shui. Actually, you are now sitting in a feng shui office. I’ve had this office for fifteen years—the same paint, the same furniture, the same things. It’s relaxing here. You see that chair over there? It cost 4,500 Euro. It’s made of pure leather and pure wood. If we sit at this desk for two to three hours, we won’t be tired. The slight curvature in the shape of the desk has made the conversation with the two of you so much easier. So, yes, people are much more open than they used to be.

GCC Do you see the success of Dubai as directly related to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s positive outlook?

YAB Sheikh Mohammed is the government. When the market collapsed in 2008, Dubai came to a halt, but he decided to go on. When you decide to persevere in the face of catastrophe, that is the biggest sign of success. Had he faltered, then the Burj Khalifa would have stood unfinished, a decaying monument to stagnation and negativity. The real nature of a positive person shines when he is down but continues to be productive, despite the circumstances. Dubai’s budget is relatively small when compared to the rest of the Gulf, and look at what he’s done! But it’s not just about what he’s done. It’s about how he did it, creating something from nothing, despite all of these limitations. Dubai was nothing, just dirt and humidity, and now even the humidity is gone!


Life Coach

GCC Do you see the desire to become more productive or more fulfilled as operating on a governmental or social level?

DAJ A couple years ago I read this Harvard study on happiness. No one had ever spent so much money on studying happiness before. It described how the US government is now involved in this happiness project. It was funny to read that happiness is good for business, not just good for society. It’s good for the economy. Previously people believed that, if you want to be happy, you must be successful—and then you will be happy. Be rich, and then you will be happy. Get married, and then you will be happy. Today, we understand that no, that’s not the way it is. It’s actually the other way around. Be happy, and you will be successful in your job. Be happy, and you will be successful in your relationships. Be happy, and you will fall in love. People are beginning to understand that this is the original building block to any structure you want to build in your life. This is coming from social media. It’s coming from Oprah Winfrey. It’s coming through The Secret. People today really understand that happiness cannot be bought. This is something that may have not been so prevalent or obvious some ten or twenty years ago.

GCC We’ve been talking about happiness as a way to influence productivity, which means that it is in a nation’s best interest to promote happiness. Should personal coaching or holistic practices be an essential service provided by the government, for example?

DAJ If I were to just blurt out and answer, then: “Yes!” I read somewhere that Dubai has set the goal of becoming one of the happiest places in the world. I don’t know where Kuwait is going with this. I know that the Kuwaiti people have chosen to be happy regardless of what’s happening, and they are choosing to block stuff that doesn’t work for them. A lot of people have stopped listening to the news. They no longer listen to parliament, and they no longer want to discuss all this stuff about money and government corruption. We don’t care what’s not working. We’re going to focus on what works. It would be nice if the government helped, but it will happen regardless.


Quantum Touch Healer

GCC What is Quantum Touch?

AAQ You heal people by running the energy, but it’s not like normal energy. It enters from your crown chakra, and it goes through the rest of your body chakras, and then goes out through your feet. Three things must be there. The breathing and sweeping, the intention, and of course be open to the energy. Be positive. It doesn’t matter if you work on someone who doesn’t believe. There are skeptics all over the world. It’s like the law of gravity. You cannot deny it.

GCC Tell us about distance healing.

AAQ There’s no need to heal people by actual touching. In fact, when you run energy from country to country, it’s stronger. Distance healing is stronger. Why? We radiate energy. And if someone is sending energy from Bahrain, and someone is receiving energy in America, that energy is like rays coming out from the center of a circle. And these rays, they go out and meet. When we do distance healing on Skype, it is more powerful because the amount of light generated while sending the energy from one point to another is very big, just like a pizza.

Dubai was nothing, just dirt and humidity, and now even the humidity is gone!

GCC A lot of healers use stock imagery in their company branding, including their Instagram profiles, YouTube channels, and websites. Is this visual language helpful?

AAQ For meditation, yes. When you meditate, you have to see a beautiful view, because you need that kind of energy—that consciousness. It needs to be pretty and beautiful and positive. But if you’re an artist wanting to send a message about what’s going on in Iraq or Syria, then you have to draw reality.

GCC There’s a big demand for this practice and a growing supply of providers. We see more and more healers and practitioners on TV talk shows, with Instagram profiles, and with YouTube channels. What are the implications?

AAQ Actually, in 2012 I was invited to appear on Bahrain TV. It was the first time that a practitioner was on TV in Bahrain. It happened coincidentally, a call from the universe. I was sitting at a funeral, and as we were all making small talk, one lady commented that a healer had and tried to heal this guy, and then he had died. So I said, “Come on, it’s not the healer’s fault. Everybody has to die.” I talked more about healing, and then they asked me to heal them. So I started working on the ladies at the funeral. There was a lady with a back problem. So I ran the energy into her, her spine started straightening and she began walking normally. Then the presenter from Bahrain TV called me and said, “What did you do to my aunt? For three years she hadn’t walked properly and had back pain.” I said to him, “I use Quantum Touch.” So he invited me to the show, and even though I was only on air for thirteen minutes, the director told me that they received a hundred calls: “What happened? We have never received that many calls?!” I showed some posters on the show—before and after images, people’s transformations—and people went crazy. I wasn’t ready for it.


Positive Energy Entrepreneur

GCC Many aspects of Arab culture are traditionally rooted in sadness. How do you reconcile this with the seemingly opposite notion of positive energy?

LK I was one of those sullen, depressing people who loved this moody stuff in my era of ignorance, as I call it. I used to love the sad songs, crying, and sentimentality, until I changed. You know, people’s tastes are prone to shift. One day you like apples, and the next day you don’t, and that’s because of energy. So when we work on someone and shift their energy, their tastes change. This person won’t be able to handle the depressing stuff anymore, the sad songs, the melodramatic TV shows. If you ask all the people around us right now if you can play them a sad song, they’ll say, “No, we can’t stomach it!” Why? Because with this energy a person can only listen to something agreeable. You appreciate a sad song when you are down, but if you are a happy person, you don’t.

GCC Do you see a conflict between what you do and orthodox Islam?

LK In the beginning, yes, there were a lot of attacks against us, until people realized that dealing with our brains and our bodies is different from dealing with God. So for example, when I’m healing you, I’m healing your body. It has nothing to do with religion. Just like when you go to the doctor and he gives you a pill—it’s the same thing.

GCC Do you think it’s being applied as policy in Dubai?

LK Yes it is. Any project without a system will lead to chaos. You see, I have a system for my daily life. I know exactly what my daughter is doing right now. It shows up on my phone. I know what she’s eating, I set up a system with the staff at the house, so whatever she does—she ate this, she said that, she sang this song, she took this many steps—they update the program, and I see it on my phone. So every person must have a system, and Mohammed bin Rashid has a strong one. He knows about all the stuff we’re talking about right now. He has a life coach. He has a twenty-year vision—not what he’s going to have for dinner tonight but what he’s going to be doing for the next twenty years!

GCC Some people use techniques similar to yours for financial gain. What do you think about this?

LK I’ve noticed that some people have the wrong idea. What do they think? They think money is a disgrace! This is the mentality of a poor person. Money helps treat illnesses. It helps facilitate things. It’s the reason I have this place. It’s the reason I’m here with you now.

GCC is a collective based in the Arabian Gulf. Their name is taken from the English abbreviation for the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf. GCC creates works rooted in a multidimensional, fictional narrative that underlies systems of capital and power across various levels of government and society. The members of the collective are Nanu Al-Hamad, Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Aziz Alqatami, Barrak Alzaid, Khalid al Gharaballi, Amal Khalaf, Fatima Al Qadiri und Monira Al Qadiri.

IMAGES: Ohood Al Roumi, UAE Minister of State for Happiness, gives an oath during her swearing-in ceremony, 2016; video still of Reiki master teacher Maha Nammour, 2002. Maha Nammour, Lebanese Reiki Jin Kei Do master, discussing Reiki and non-Western healing on Omani national TV. With offices in Paris, Kuwait, and Beirut, Nammour was one of the first practitioners to introduce the Gulf public to New Age healing and the concept of energy; GCC, Frequency Pyramids, digital collage; Sirma Natural Water exclusive edition for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum; still from YouTube video of Laila Kaizen, 2012