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A Man for All Seasons – 3

Mental Health

A Man for All Seasons – 3

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Introduction

Muslims who follow the guidance and both the advice of Prophet Muhammad and the commandments of God are adhering to what the world now refers to as best practice guidelines. Essentially that means they are adhering to a method or a technique that is accepted as superior.

In the previous two articles we looked at personal hygiene and health. When we compared the advice of Prophet Muhammad with 21st century best practice health care we discovered that both methods are surprisingly similar. In this article, we are going to examine mental health.

Muslims with mental illnesses are often stigmatized to the point where they are afraid to seek help. Some even turn away from their faith because of shame or fear.

The way we treat those with mental health issues is certainly something that we will be held accountable for, thus it behoves us to know how our righteous predecessors treated those with mental illnesses. They were no doubt following the example of Prophet Muhammad.

He is the man we are referring to in the title of these articles as a man for all seasons; a man who was able to succeed in a number of different ways and in a number of different activities.

Disorders and Conditions

The men and women of the 6th century were unaware that when they followed God’s instructions and took advice from Prophet Muhammad they were actually guarding themselves from some of the mental health disorders that plague the people of the 21st century. One of the biggest issues facing civilization at this point in time are mental health disorders. Even school aged children are setting themselves up for life long struggles because as a society we are not living our lives in the way God prescribed for His creation.

These days we do acknowledge that mental health issues are rife in all communities. In Australia, 45% of the population will experience a mental illness at some time in their lives and at any given time four million people are affected by a complex mental health issue[1].

Negative attitudes towards people with a mental illness are usually due to fear of the unknown and lack of knowledge. In the Muslim community people often have to deal with the extra stigma of community members believing they are possessed by demons.

While Islam acknowledges the existence of possession it might surprise you to learn that Muslim physicians often rejected this as the all-encompassing reason for mental illness. Ibn Sina (Avicenna), often referred to as the founder of modern medicine viewed mental disorders as conditions that were physiologically based.[2]

Forward thinking by Islamic scholars and doctors led to the establishment of the world’s first psychiatric ward in a hospital in Baghdad Iraq in 705CE. The great Islamic physician al Razi considered mental illnesses to be medical conditions and treated them with psychotherapy and medications[3].

Seeking Treatment

Taking medication and seeking treatment from experts is an important Islamic teaching. Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:

“There is no disease that God has created, except that He also created its remedy.”[4]

And when he was asked if one should seek treatment he said:

“Yes, you should seek medical treatment, because God has let no disease exist without providing for its cure, except for one ailment, old age”.[5]

That being said, treatment is a supplement to be taken with prayers asking for God’s mercy, cure and healing. The Quran is a book of guidance that covers physical, spiritual and mental health; the traditions of Prophet Muhammad contain the advice for those who wish to follow the guidance of the Creator. Obeying the commandments of God helps us manage mental health issues and achieve optimal mental health.

Negative life events are one of the major risk factors for depression. Islam plays an important role in helping Muslims cope with these events. It encourages them to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and actions, and it counters feelings of hopelessness and despair with hope. Islam encourages people to stay hopeful, even if they have committed the worst sin or faced the most difficult circumstances. Knowing that God is Merciful is an undeniable reason for hope in all difficulties.

{And He will provide for him from sources he could never imagine, And whoever puts his trust in God, then God will suffice him. For God will surely accomplish His purpose. Indeed God has set a measure for all things…} (Quran 65: 3)

A strong faith is a sturdy rope for those who suffer from depression, anxiety or grief. However being unable to move past these mental aberrations is not a sign of weak faith rather a sign that a person needs supplementary help, including but not restricted to such help as psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or medication.

Bullying

Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behavior that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons. It is quite a buzz word this century and a lot of effort is being put into preventing this behavior because of the long term psychological effect it has on its victims. Bullying in schools, families and the work place causes significant mental health issues as well as having physical consequences.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 35 percent of the U.S. workforce reports being bullied at work. A New Zealand study[6] of bullying in secondary schools suggests that bullied students have lower self-esteem, suffer more from depression, stress and hopelessness, and are more likely to think about and attempt self-harm and suicide than others.

This is clearly a huge problem and one that existed in the time of Prophet Muhammad. Although he did not articulate it in quite the same way as we do today Prophet Muhammad said clearly that a Muslim is the brother of every other Muslim and he does not wrong him, fail him or demean him.[7] This is in addition to the following commandment of God in the Quran.

{O you who believe, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other [offensive] names…} (Quran 49:11)

Islam is a way of life. It is not a set of rituals bought out and polished off every weekend. Worship is incorporated into all the aspects of a Muslim’s life. A believer searches for 21st century meaning in 6th century thinking.

Life’s big questions remain the same however sometimes they are shrouded in terminology that is not easily recognisable.

In the next article we will move on from mental health and talk about happiness; what it means and how to achieve it.

Read Part 4.

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[1] https://www.sane.org/mental-health-and-illness/facts-and-guides/fvm-mental-illness-basics

[2] Haque A. Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists. J Relig Health. 2004;43:357–77.

[3] Sabry, W. M., & Vohra, A. (2013). Role of Islam in the management of Psychiatric disorders. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(Suppl 2), S205–S214. http://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.105534

[4] Saheeh Bukhari

[5] At Tirmidhi

[6] Association between Bullying and Mental Health Status in New Zealand Adolescents

Carolyn Coggan , Sara Bennett , Rhonda Hooper & Pauline Dickinson

Pages 16-22 | Published online: 14 Feb 2012

[7] Saheeh Muslim


About Aisha Stacey

Aisha Stacey is the mother of three adult children. She embraced Islam in 2002 and spent the next five years in Doha, Qatar studying Islam and working at the Fanar Cultural Centre. In 2006 Aisha returned to university for a second time and completed at Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Certificate in Writing. Aisha is also a published writer in both internet and print media and in 2009 -10 she was the Queensland editor at a national Australian Islamic newspaper ~ Crescent Times.

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