October 28

Mental Health and Islam

Negative emotions like grief, anxiety, depression, helplessness, hopelessness or wanting to give up are can bring about devastating consequences to our mental health if left untreated.All of us go through moments of hardship, pain and suffering of some kind.

However, by taking appropriate measures and seeking the right kind of help, these emotions can be managed. The Prophet (SAW) said, ‘There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment’ (Hadith). 

You can’t control the weather, but you know of ways to cope with it when it rains or snows. Similarly, you can’t negate difficult moments in life, but you have been given ways to cope with them and rise stronger. 

The topic of mental health in the Muslim community is almost considered a taboo and is not addressed or talked about by many. However, there are several instances in the Quran and the seerah of our beloved Prophet (SAW) that talk about grief, sorrow and utter helplessness felt by the best of men- the Prophets- who were most beloved to Allah SWT.

Let us take a look at some of the examples from the Quran and the Seerah, and the solutions that have been laid out by Allah SWT Himself with regards to mental health.

The Pain and Grief of Maryam AS: 

When Maryam AS was experiencing the immense pain and difficulty while giving birth to Isa AS, she exclaimed,

“And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” (Quran: 19:23)

Notice how even the best of creation cries out in hopelessness due to the physical, emotional and psychological pain that comes with experiencing any kind of hardship or suffering. 

Therefore, it is not uncommon to feel helpless or hopeless. But as Muslims, we must derive strength and comfort in the fact that Allah knows what we are going through and He is there to help and heal us, if only we are willing to look at His signs and make some effort – whether it be physical or spiritual. 

When Maryam AS was going through one of her most difficult phases, Allah gave her a solution. 

Allah SWT says, “…Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. (Surah Maryam:Ayah 24-25)

Even though Allah could have miraculously made the dates fall from the tree, He insisted Maryam AS to shake the tree and drink from the river that was flowing underneath. This is to emphasize that Allah’s help is near, but we must be willing to take the first step and put our efforts. 

So when you are going through some difficulty that’s affecting your mental health, it’s normal to feel a huge wave of negative emotions hitting you, making you feel like this world is too constricting. Emotions of giving up or seeking death are not signs of weak Iman, but seeking the right kind of help and taking the necessary steps are crucial to obtain Allah’s help in healing yourself.    

The Sorrow of Musa AS’s Mother: 

We all go through moments of being separated from our loved ones. This separation can sometimes be permanent or temporary. Allah understands the pain and suffering even when no one does. Death of loved ones can have a very dramatic impact on the person’s mental health.

In the Quran, when Musa AS’s mother was inspired by Allah to place her baby Musa in a casket and flung it in the river, watching her baby drift away made her emotions burst from within. She was worried about her baby’s safety. Where would he go? Will Firaun find her son and kill her? Will her baby drown in the river? 

Guilt, helplessness and fear engulfed her heart and mind. This is when Allah sent His reassurance upon her heart. He comforted her heart and allowed her to meet her beautiful son again.  

In the Quran, Allah says,

“And the heart of Moses’ mother became empty [of all else]. She was about to disclose [the matter concerning] him, had We not bound fast her heart that she would be of the believers. (Surah Al Qasas: Ayah10)

Similarly, when you are separated from your loved one, take comfort in the story of Musa AS’s mother and know that He will always replace that which is taken with something better.

The Heartbreak of Yaqub AS

Yaqub AS’s story teaches us that no matter how difficult or helpless we feel when people around us place us in some kind of difficulty or harm us, we must remind ourselves that Allah alone is in power, and no one around us can harm unless Allah wills.

When Yaqub AS learnt about the disappearance of his beloved son Yusuf AS, his older sons lied to him that Yusuf AS had been killed. The grief and worry of Prophet Yaqub AS were immense, but he uttered beautiful words that displayed courage, trust and hope in Allah, because he knew that Allah was in control.

Even while uttering words of praise, his grief was so profound that he lost his eyesight because of crying inconsolably.

Allah says in the Quran, ‘And he turned away from them and said, “Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,” and his eyes became white from grief, for he was [of that] a suppressor.’ [Surah Yusuf: Ayah 84]

This teaches us that it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to let our emotions out and not bottle everything up. Crying is not a sign of a weak imaan. Grieving is not a sign of having no faith in Allah. We are made up of these emotions and it’s okay to show these emotions, but not in excess or in ways that make us lose our hope in Allah.

What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. Allah not only saved Prophet Yusuf AS but also returned him to his father Yaqub AS in his old age, and made his beloved son the King of the land!   

The helplessness and heartache of Prophet Muhammad (SAW): 

When Prophet Muhammad (SAW) started preaching the message of Islam, he lost the support and companionship of several of his beloved family members and friends. His wife Khadija RA stood like a rock and supported him financially, emotionally and psychologically. His beloved uncle Abu Talib was a highly respected and a powerful leader at that time, and even though he didn’t accept Islam, he supported his nephew Muhammad (SAW) – making sure no force would harm him or cause him discomfort. Khadija RA and Abu Talib died in quick succession, making the Prophet (SAW) feel lonely, sad and sorrowful, so much so that it was called the Year of Sorrow. Also, six of his children died before him with some in infancy and others in adulthood making him go through immeasurable grief and sorrow. 

The Prophet SAW exclaimed, “The eye weeps and the heart grieves, but we say only what our Lord is pleased with.” (Bukhari and Muslim.)

Similarly, there were moments in the Prophet’s SAW life when he almost felt like giving up. Allah says, ‘Then perhaps you would kill yourself through grief over them, [O Muhammad], if they do not believe in this message, [and] out of sorrow.’ Quran [Surah Al Kahf: Ayah 6]

Here, the Prophet (SAW) felt sorrow over the idolaters because they did not believe in his message and kept away from him, even though they were his own people. 

Allah also states in the Quran:‘And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.’ Quran [Surah Al Baqarah: Ayah155]

Everyone suffers from periods of grief, mental trauma, stress, fear and helplessness at some point of time in their lives. This world is meant to test us. 

Ibn Kathir writes,

“It is a fact that the servant is either enjoying a bounty that he should be thankful for, or suffering a calamity that he should meet with patience.  Allah has stated that the best tools to help ease the effects of the afflictions are patience and prayer.’

Therefore, when you feel certain situations are too difficult to handle, know that pain, suffering and grief have been experienced by the best of men, and you can overcome them by seeking the right kind of support. 

How Do We Deal With Anxiety? 

If you have been feeling anxious and are too scared about what the future might hold, look at how Allah beautifully addresses man’s restlessness.

Allah SWT says, ‘Indeed, mankind was created anxious’ Quran [Surah Al Maarij: Ayah 19]

From this verse, we understand that feeling anxious and worried about what might happen or what has already happened is human nature. However, we must not let the uncertainties of life stop us from living our life to the fullest. We must step back, and thank Allah for all that He has blessed us with, and remind our hearts that it is Allah who is in control of your life, and He will never place you in a position you can’t handle. 

Heartbreaks are not permanent:

This dunya gives us moments of hardship and ease. There are times when your heart will flutter with happiness, but also experience moments when it’ll feel crushed and broken beyond measure. But Allah repeatedly reassures us in the Quran that when we remember Him often, He will give our heart peace and tranquility.

 ‘…Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.’ Quran [Surah Ar Raad: Ayah 28]

Let’s Recap!

Seek help through: 

  • Professionals who are experienced in mental health. 
  • Psychologists who can help you through counseling sessions and medications if needed.
  • Prayer and sincere Dua can change your Qadr (destiny), so keep negative emotions and Satan’s whisperings at bay.

Tags

anxious, mental health, worried


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