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Mental Health; an Islamic Perspective

The Islamic educational system teaches Muslims the recommendations on human mental health from choosing a spouse, childbearing, breastfeeding and infancy, to maturity and adulthood.

The World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April. For this occasion, in the paper, mental health is discussed according to Islamic teachings. Mental health is the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is “functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment”. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health includes “subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others”.

Islam considers the existence of a human being as consisting of two dimensions i.e. mental (immaterial) and physical (material) and considers the health of each to be dependent on and affected by the health of the other. Islamic teachings regarding the comprehensive health of the Muslim man begins from the very beginning of conception. The Islamic educational system teaches Muslims the recommendations on human mental health from choosing a spouse, childbearing, breastfeeding and infancy, to maturity and adulthood. The Qur’an considers the physical, spiritual and mental abilities of the human being as well as the human soul a precious and divine trust that should be respected and honored:

وَ لَقَدْ كَرَّمْنا بَني‏ آدَمَ وَ حَمَلْناهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَ الْبَحْرِ وَ رَزَقْناهُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّباتِ وَ فَضَّلْناهُمْ عَلى‏ كَثيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنا تَفْضيلاً

Certainly, We have honored the Children of Adam, and carried them over land and sea, and provided them with all the good things, and given them an advantage over many of those We have created with a complete preference. (The Holy Qur’an, 17: 70)

Therefore, it is forbidden to harm this Divine trust. In essence, all the divine teachings aim at respecting human dignity, the promotion of the human soul and closeness to God, which is the highest fruit of Islam’s mental health system.

What follows refers to some of the most important factors suggested by Islamic teachings for developing mental health:

Belief in God

Faith in God is a great capital that, if realized in human life, is the source of many blessings, and accordingly, non-believers will be in permanent loss:

إِنَّ الْإِنْسانَ لَفي‏ خُسْرٍ إِلاَّ الَّذينَ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحاتِ وَ تَواصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَ تَواصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ

Indeed! man is in loss, except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and enjoin one another to] follow [the truth, and enjoin one another to patience. (The Holy Qur’an, 103: 2-3)

Tranquillity and peace are integral parts of faith. Faith in God has many effects that are in a sense divisible into cognitive and behavioral ones which altogether produce a strong, peaceful and calm person without any anxiety and unjustified fear:

الَّذينَ آمَنُوا وَ لَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إيمانَهُمْ بِظُلْمٍ أُولئِكَ لَهُمُ الْأَمْنُ وَ هُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ

Those who have faith and do not taint their faith with wrongdoing for such there shall be safety, and they are the] rightly [guided.” (The Holy Qur’an, 6: 82)

Detaching one’s heart from worldly pleasures

According to the verses and traditions of the Ahlul Bayt, the origin all the corruptions of this world is love and attachment to the world and its manifestations:

اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَياةُ الدُّنْيا لَعِبٌ وَ لَهْوٌ وَ زينَةٌ وَ تَفاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَ تَكاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوالِ وَ الْأَوْلادِ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَباتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهيجُ فَتَراهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطاماً وَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذابٌ شَديدٌ وَ مَغْفِرَةٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَ رِضْوانٌ وَ مَا الْحَياةُ الدُّنْيا إِلاَّ مَتاعُ الْغُرُورِ

Know that the life of this world is just play and diversion, and glitter, and mutual vainglory among you and covetousness for wealth and children like the rain whose vegetation impresses the farmer; then it withers and you see it turn yellow, then it becomes chaff, while in the Hereafter there is a severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and His pleasure; and the life of this world is nothing but the wares of delusion. (The Holy Qur’an, 57: 20)

Imam Ali (AS) is quoted as saying:

حُبُّ الدُّنْيَا رَأْسُ الْفِتَنِ وَ أَصْلُ الْمِحَنِ

Loving the world is the root of all seditions, affliction, and sorrows.” Ghurar al-Hikam, p. 139

Also, Imam Sadiq (AS) says:

رَأْسُ كُلِّ خَطِيئَةٍ حُبُّ الدُّنْيَا

The main reason for all sins and mistakes is loving the world.” Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 315.

So, detaching from worldly pleasures and disregarding its manifestations is a relief from many sorrows, stresses, and worries, and ignoring them is one of the factors of mental health and prevention of mental illness. It should be noted, however, that detaching from the world does not mean not using divine blessings in this world.

Marriage

In the Holy Qur’an, marriage is introduced as one of the divine signs and the spouse as a source of peace and calmness:

وَ مِنْ آياتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَزْواجاً لِتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْها وَ جَعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ مَوَدَّةً وَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّ في‏ ذلِكَ لَآياتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect. (The Holy Qur’an, 30: 21)

The same notion is mentioned for Adam and Eve:

هُوَ الَّذي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ نَفْسٍ واحِدَةٍ وَ جَعَلَ مِنْها زَوْجَها لِيَسْكُنَ إِلَيْها

It is He who created you from a single soul and made from it its mate, that he might find comfort with her. (The Holy Qur’an, 7: 189)

This tranquillity might be physically or mentally and individually or socially. Generally, single people feel less responsible, so suicide is more common among them as compared with the married. As one gets married, he or she will find a new personality and a greater sense of responsibility, which leads to this feeling of calmness.

The Prophet’s blessing after paying zakat (alms)

According to the Holy Qur’an, one of the spiritual effects of paying zakat is the blessing of the Prophet (PBUH) upon those who pay zakat:

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَ تُزَكِّيهِمْ بِها وَ صَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَهُمْ وَ اللَّهُ سَميعٌ عَليمٌ

Take charity from their possessions to cleanse them and purify them thereby, and bless them. Indeed, your blessing is a comfort to them, and Allah is all-hearing, all-knowing. (The Holy Qur’an, 9: 103)

Avoidance of oppressing and wrongdoing others

الَّذينَ آمَنُوا وَ لَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إيمانَهُمْ بِظُلْمٍ أُولئِكَ لَهُمُ الْأَمْنُ وَ هُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ

Those who have faith and do not taint their faith with wrongdoing will feel more secure, and they are the] rightly [guided.” (The Holy Qur’an, 6: 82)

Thus, mental security and peace can only be achieved when there are two principles in human societies: faith and social justice, since if the foundations of faith in God are shaken and the sense of responsibility towards God disappears and social justice is replaced by cruelty and oppression, security disappears from the society.

Studying the history of the past

Sometimes when confronted with the prejudices, stubbornness, foolishness, and ungratefulness of others, the feelings of despair and anxiety overcome a person’s heart and he may withdraw from the work or continue the job with anxiety, but when he studies the past and sees that all the prophets of God were involved with many problems and difficulties, but with their perseverance and patience, they overcame the difficulties and shone their good name on the page of human history, his will becomes strong and his heart calm and confident, and he goes on with high energy and perseverance. Addressing the Prophet (PBUH), God the Almighty says:

وَ كُلاًّ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنْباءِ الرُّسُلِ ما نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤادَك

We relate to you of the accounts of the apostles are those by which We strengthen your heart. (The Holy Qur’an, 11: 120).

The paper was written by Hujjat al-Islam Sayyid Mostafa Daryabari and Dr. Morteza Karimi

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References

The Holy Qur’an

Salamat-e Ravani az Didgah-e Quran, in www.matquran.com

Shaykh Kulayni, al-Kafi, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, Tehran, 1365.

Tamimi, Abd al-Wahid, Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Daftar Tablighat Publication, Qom, 1366.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_health

About Ali Teymoori

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