Mental Health and Islam: An Integrative Perspective
24 November 2022
Mental health and wellbeing is an element of our lives that often goes ignored or is not prioritized as it should. We tend to give a lot of importance to our physical health, while mental health issues are often brushed aside.
But the truth is that our mental health affects all aspects of life. In fact, mental health issues can manifest physically, impacting our appetite, stress, and energy levels, amongst other concerns.
Taking care of our mental health is extremely important, and as an institution, Islam recognizes this. This article delves into mental health and Islam’s role in addressing such challenges.
What Are the Most Common Mental Health Issues?
According to the United Nations, nearly one billion people worldwide have mental illnesses. Mental health issues are now much more common owing to economic, social, political, and environmental concerns. Depression and anxiety rates have recently gone up by 25%.
With one in every eight people suffering from some type of mental disorder, awareness about the best way to handle these issues is more critical than ever.
Here are some of the most common mental health problems worldwide:
Also known as the common cold of mental illness owing to its prevalence, depression affects nearly 10% of the American population alone.
It is fast increasing amongst teens and young adults and is considered to be at an epidemic level as a leading cause of suicide.
Anxiety disorders are pervasive, with an estimated 31.1% of American adults experiencing one at some point.
Other Common Mental Health Issues
These mental health conditions impact a significant part of the population:
- Bipolar Disorder – affects around 2.8% of adults in the United States
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – 6% of the population will experience PTSD at some point
- Schizophrenia – this affects around 0.32% of the global population
- Eating Disorders – 9% of the US population struggles with some type of eating disorder, such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder
- Disruptive behavior and dissocial disorders
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
Misconceptions Regarding Mental Health and Islam
A common misconception is that mental health and Islam are in conflict and that Muslims often consider mental health wellness a Western philosophy. However, this is untrue.
Psychology, mental health and Islam are all deeply connected, and mental health is often considered through a highly spiritual perspective amongst Muslims.
Some Muslims believe that mental illnesses are a test from God and must be overcome with resilience and prayer. There is also a certain denial about the prevalence of mental illness amongst Muslims, as is the case with most communities steeped in tradition. However, increasing awareness and education are changing these beliefs.
Understanding the connection between mental health and Islam will aid in promoting an acceptance of mental health concerns.
The Connection Between Mental Health and Islam: Addressing Mental Health Issues
Mental health is crucial for spiritual well-being and building a deeper connection with one’s faith and God. Therefore, mental health and Islam are inherently connected and interrelated.
Beyond that, mental health and psychology have also been addressed in the Quran, which provides guidance to help overcome the inner turmoil caused by mental illness.
The Quran also describes the nafs, or self, and suggests that it operates in three states which command the psyche:
- Nafs al-ammara (commanding self) – When this is in control, it distorts our thoughts and causes us to see everything in a cynical, negative light and take issues personally. The Quran offers guidance on relaxation exercises to reduce the influence of the nafs al-ammara, which can adversely impact our mental health.
- Nafs al-lawwana (accusatory self) – When this is in control, we become aware of problems in our feelings and behaviors. The Quran suggests the Alif-Laam-Meem technique to strengthen the nafs al-lawwana, which can be correlated to modern mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Nafs al-mutmainna (peaceful self) – Achieving this stage, the ideal ego, can be done with proper control over nafs al-ammara and strengthening of nafs al-lawwana.
IMANA and Mental Health
Part of IMANA’s advocacy is to create greater awareness about the realities of mental health issues. We thus provide free resources that include a directory of mental health professionals and a list of useful resources. We also host educational events to reduce the stigma and help the public become more well-informed. In addition, we celebrate World Mental Health Day and use it to encourage relevant discussions about mental health issues. Those who wish to volunteer and be part of our efforts are encouraged to get in touch with us.
Mental health is an increasingly dire medical concern worldwide, and addressing or approaching psychiatry from the unique standpoint of Islam can benefit Muslim individuals.
Inculcating and integrating spirituality and religiosity in psychotherapy can be highly effective in harnessing the power of faith and religion when coping with mental health issues.