Islam and Mental Health Care, Part 1

“Several reports on the application of prayers in psychotherapy illustrate the positive outcome in the individuals exhibiting pathological symptoms such as tension, anxiety, depression and anti-social tendencies.”

I found this to be an excellent work on the therapeutic benefits of Islam and Yoga. Unfortunately I found no link to the original resource and have decided to share this directly on my blog. Please note that this text is not written by myself. Not all what is stated here is a reflection on my personal opinions. I believe Islam is a very big house with many families living under one roof. This text is a typical orthodox Indian approach to Islam with a high emphasis on gender seperation, rules, nutrition and yoga.

The Islamic prayer (Salah/Namaaz) and yoga togetherness in mental health, Part 1, by Shabbir Ahmed Sayeed and Anand Prakash

Religion and its practices have been duly implicated in treating not only problems related to medical health, rather, intervening and preventing such problems as well. In the present article, the authors have reviewed significance of the Islamic prayers (Salah/Namaaz) in healthcare in general and mental health in particular. The nature, procedures, practices and the benefits of Salah have been comprehensively described and discussed. In addition, an attempt to combine yoga and its practices with Salah has been made for intervening and preventing the problems of mental health as an expeditious tool. In upshot, the clinicians in the field of mental health care have been suggested to incorporate these two viewpoints in their intervention program, at least, for the Muslim patients for a more desirable outcome.

In an increasingly stress ridden and emotionally distraught world the need for providing appropriate and adequate counseling and psychotherapy has made the therapists look for novel and integrative approaches to meet the challenge. In the course of the last century, psychotherapy has evolved into a varied source of techniques and therapies to cater to the problems of the new order where rapid progress in science and technology has rendered life more to be of a materialistic meaning devoid of mental peace and contentment. Attempts to draw from diverse sources such as alternative and complementary treatment modalities, use of spiritual healing processes, yoga, Reiki, etc., have yielded mixed results. Religion at large has always been at hand to lend useful guidance to approach both the physiological illnesses and psychological maladjustments. In this regard, counselors and therapists have looked up to religious texts and acts of worship for help in their practice to address the specific needs of religious minority patients where a spiritual approach was more acceptable to the client. Major religions in the world have contributed enormously to this process and resulting advancements in therapeutic efficacy are widely documented.

The Planets, 2019

Islam, Yoga and Mental Health Care in the Indian Sub-Continent – an example
That Islam as a major religion followed by well over a billion people has made its impact in this aspect of alleviating physical and mental afflictions among its followers is very obvious. The Indian sub-continent alone is home for nearly half the world Muslim population. Similarities in the socio-cultural practices and economic status in this population, besides its remarkable religious coherence makes it a really vast segment of the society that deserves to be treated as a unit. Muslims in the sub-continent largely occupy the lower and middle rungs of the social strata and therefore, a fair share of the psychological and health problems as well. Traditionally conservative family and religious values of this community serve as a formidable barrier for openly seeking access to medical help, particularly for the psychological maladjustments. Professional counseling and psychotherapy as a mainstream solution to cognitive disorders in Muslim patients has not been known in Islam as it is recognized in the western context, however, the concept itself is not new.

Attempts to integrate indigenous knowledge from religious practices in Islam have resulted in increased awareness about its effectiveness and application value to a wide range of human health problems. One of the most basic and mandatory acts in Islamic tenets is the 5 times daily obligatory prayer. Perhaps this act of worship alone can provide solutions to most psychological and somatic problems in humans.

Daily prayer referred to as Salah (Salat) in Arabic language is an act of worship specific and unique to Islam both in its form and spirit. While the English word prayer conveys a general meaning of supplication or invocation, Salah is an act of submission to the Supreme Creator Allah and is expressed in a specific and well defined physical act embodying the spirit. This act of worship is ordained upon all Muslims as a duty and is the second pillar of the faith. While the prescribed five daily prayers are mandatory on all individuals post puberty as commanded in the Holy Book “Verily, Salah is an obligation on the believers to be observed at its appointed time.” (Qur’an 4:103), voluntary prayers in excess of the above are highly encouraged and are recommended as a means of turning to the divine help at times of personal grief and distress. The second form of worship which is called Zikr, meaning meditation is an individual act of remembering Allah at all times to glorify Him and remain thankful for His mercy and beneficence. Through both these means the Muslim individual seeks closeness to the Creator and attains inner peace and tranquility Allah knows best His creation and thus says in the Qur’an “Verily, man was created impatient, irritable when evil touches him and niggardly when good touches him. Except for those devoted to prayer those who remain constant in their prayers…” (70:19-23).

Several reports on the application of prayers in psychotherapy illustrate the positive outcome in the individuals exhibiting pathological symptoms such as tension, anxiety, depression and anti-social tendencies. These studies have highlighted the efficacy of Salah as a cure to mental distress when followed in the correct form and measure. Since Salah is an act of submission to Allah, the believer puts his/her total unconditional faith in the Lord and pleads for acceptance of the prayer and grant him/her remission from the condition of ill health, irrespective of its nature. Studies have proven that non-Muslim participants merely going through the physical movements of Salah also showed appreciable results from the exercise. This observation is of significance for a comparative analysis of similar approaches from other religious practices.

Islam is not only a religion but a complete way of life that provides a comprehensive methodology for practice and solutions to problems of mankind in the realms of spiritual, intellectual, and physical challenges (“Verily, the prayer keeps one from the great sins and evil deeds” Holy Qur’an 29:45). All such prescriptions in form and function and the underlying philosophy are firmly rooted in the two authentic texts namely the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, the latter being the teachings and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, PBUH). It is important to note that any attempt to add or delete, modify or even try to interpret the procedure otherwise is considered innovation and is strongly abhorred, to say the least. It is this divine and pure nature of Islamic worship that lends it the distinction of being unique and a spiritually enriching experience.

As the second pillar of Islam, Salah is performed by all Muslims across the globe in exactly the same manner and measure, at least the mandatory five prayers. The steps and specific supplications are demonstrated by example by the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) as mentioned in various Hadith. In order to realize the far-reaching and deep-seated impact on the attitude, behavior and life of a believer Salah must be understood properly and exercised appropriately as given in the authentic texts. This paper is an attempt to briefly outline the procedure and the underlying philosophy of Salah such that it may be understood and applied as an effective tool to mitigate psychological issues of Muslim patients and possibly others as well by the therapists. Furthermore, we shall try to seek similarities in the physical details of yet another ritualistic act well recognized as a therapeutic tool – Yoga.
Part 2 of Islam and Mental Health Care

If you enjoyed this article you may also want to read:
Islam and Psychosis, Part 1: The Psychiatric Dystopia
Islam and Psychosis, Part 2:  Islamic Traditons of Mental Health Care and Treatment

On the Islamic Treatment of Psychosis and Iatro-Genesis (Over-Medication) with Psychiatric Medication

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Posted in Islam & Psychiatry, Islamic Esotericism & Mysticism, Islamic Psychology, Islamic Spiritual Health, Islamic Trauma Treatment, Mental & Spiritual Health, Spiritual Health of Women, Spiritual Psychology, Traditional Islamic Treatments and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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