What Does Islam Say About Therapy and Mental Health?
Islam considers mental health as important as physical health. It is widely believed that Prophet Mohammad laid down the groundwork for research on mental disorders.
Ilm An-Nafs (or Islamic psychology) addresses different topics related to neuroscience, psychology, psychosomatic medicine, and psychiatry. Islam takes a holistic approach to mental health and mental illness. This approach emphasized the connection between mental and physical health.
There was a strong belief that it was necessary to maintain good health in order to be able to participate in prayers and other religious obligations.
Many Islamic scholars have highlighted the importance of mental health through their literary works. The 8th-15th century is considered the Islamic Golden Age. During this period, various Islamic physicians, polymaths, and psychologists such as Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (known as Rhazes in the western world), Abu-Ali al-Husayn ibn Abdalah ibn-Sina (known as Avicenna in the western world), and Abu Zayd al-Balkhi wrote several books on topics related to mental health. These scholars were some of the earliest contributors to psychosomatic medicine.
Several Islamic scholars have discussed Melancholia, a subtype of depression in their works. Medieval Islamic scholars described melancholia as a state of constant sadness. They believed that abnormally high amounts of black bile in the body results in the mental disorder.
The nature of sadness that a person with melancholia experienced was classified into three different categories:
- Sadness from external factors
- Regular, everyday sadness
- Sadness from trauma or stress.
This classification is very similar to how modern treatment models analyze depression. Medieval Islamic scholars considered melancholia a variation of other health issues such as mania and epilepsy.
Medieval Islamic scholars recommended medications, medicated baths, talk therapy, hijama (cupping), aromatherapy, and music therapy to treat mental disorders. Medicines were prescribed to re-balance the four humors of the body.
It’s unfortunate that despite the fact that so many Islamic scholars have contributed to the field of psychology, mental health is a taboo subject in Muslim communities around the world. When a person is diagnosed with a mental illness, the most common assumption is that they are disturbed by evil spirits or are being punished by Allah for their sins.
If you are grappling with a mental disorder, do not hesitate to ask for help. Open up to a loved one or friend. If you are trying to help a Muslim friend with a mental disorder, find a culturally sensitive Arab psychologist near you.
Psychologists encourage their patients to talk about their problems. They use various methods to establish trust with their patients and assure them that they can discuss anything with them without the fear of being judged.