How many times when a so-called religious person or believer hears about some kind of psychological problem or mental illness they say, ” You must not be connected to Allah” or “You just have to offer prayers” or “Well a sinner gets mental stress and piety is the answer”. This way they are simply giving the notion of false belief that ” Muslims can’t or should not be depressed. They just need to pray more.”
In doing so they do not realize that rather than trying to help the person, they are making him guilty and in fact doing more damage. Unfortunately, this kind of denial towards psychological problems runs really deep in muslim community. And then there are also a lot of people who ignore the biological, genetic and physical aspects of mental illness and insist that such kinds of issues can or should only be treated spiritually. We have to realize that Islam acknowledges mental problems and psychological conditions. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) not only addressed psychological challeneges but He himself laid the very front ground works for generations of muslim scholars to discover, classify and even treat psychological conditions.
Let’s start from the lives of Prophets who were the best among people. Were they immune to mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression? Yes all the Prophets were the best among all humanity but as humans they also experienced grief, stress and other emotional difficulties during their prophethood. Even from the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) we know that he experienced grief and sadness at several occassions like the one year long grief after the death of His wife Hazrat Khadija (RA) and his uncle Abu Talib.
The Prophet Yaqoob [Jacob] A.S lost his eyesight due to the grief he felt for losing his son Yusuf [Joseph] A.S .
[Jacob] said, “Rather, your souls have enticed you to something, so patience is most fitting. Perhaps Allah will bring them to me all together. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise. He turned away from them, lamenting, “Alas, poor Joseph!” And his eyes turned white out of the grief he suppressed.”Surah Yusuf Verse 83-84
The Holy Quran, also speaks about managing stress and coping with grief. When The Prophet (Peace be upon him) was experiencing stress due the constant denial of Allah’s message by disbeleivers. That is how Allah SWT adressed him.
Now, perhaps you ˹O Prophet˺ will grieve yourself to death over their denial, if they ˹continue to˺ disbelieve in this message.Surah Al-Kahf Verse 6
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) gave us guidelines of adopting healthy attitude towards illness and diseases both physical and mental.
Due to current psychological advancements we know that hope is a way of coping with stress. The Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him taught his companions that suffering can actually be a blessing from Allah SWT with many benefits.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.”Sahih Al Bukhari, 5645
This cognitive reframing that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) taught us to reduce the stigma people have associated with suffering. That someone who is suffering deeply can also be beloved by Allah SWT.
Suhaib reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said :Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer for if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (God), thus there is a good for him in it, and if he gets into trouble and shows resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it.Sahih Muslim, 2999
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) also taught us the importance of acknowledging and embracing one’s own emotions. When tears were flowing down the face of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) when he was holding his son Ibrahim taking his last breaths, he said:
“The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieving by your separation.”Sahih Al Bukhari, 1303
The Prophet Peace be upon him acknowledged his own sadness, spoke about it and highlighted that when you focus on coming to terms with reality and accepting the will of Allah SWT enables holistic healing. (Holistic Healing is the practice of health and wellness that considers the entire person and all of the internal and external factors affecting them.)
The Prophet Muhammad SAW taught us not to bear suffering and be silence about it but to seek out and find cures for all the illness including psychological one’s.
Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age.Sunan Abu Dawood,3855
Hazrat Ayesha (May Allah be pleased with her) was among one of the earliest muslims who used to diagnose and treat illnesses including psychological illness. One example is that she used to offer a dish made of Honey, Barley and milk “Talbinah” to treat those experiencing anxiety, depression and even induced psychosis.
Narrated by Aisha R.A: “I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying, ‘The Talbina soothes the heart of the patient and relieves him from some of his sadness.”.Sahih Al Bukhari, 5417
It is proof that physical remedies can be used to treat emotional illness.
Now it is clear that Islam does not even acknowledges emotional and mental illness but also teaches us to seek help and cure.
Mental illness is a condition that affects one’s thinking or behavior. Mental illness is not a choice. It is not laziness, bad diet, seeking attention, mental or spiritual weakness.
I am not denying the power of spiritual healing and the Quran especially for emotional and psychological problems. But simply stating that we should acknowledge it and help those who are suffering from such conditions. There is no harm and no shame in seeking professional advice or therapy. As Almighty Allah Says in the Holy Quran.
So ask those who possess knowledge if you do not know.Surah Al-Nahl Verse 43
If you or anyone you know is experiencing signs of emotional, psychological or mental illness, do not be afraid to seek professional help.