By: Sagher Mahmood Bajwa (Missionary Canada)

It’s quite clear that mental health awareness is continuing to grow more than ever before. Mental health can range from simply just feeling unhappy and lonely to a severe medical illness. Islam has paved the way for man to avoid such feelings. In this article I will shed some light upon the various methods through which Islam can protect one from suffering from mental health issueses such as depression.

First and foremost, it is vital to point out that Islam advocates seeking aid from medical professionals. If someone finds themselves mentally unwell, Islam strongly advises getting a medical diagnosis. Whilst availing all your physical means of treatment such as consulting a psychologist and/or taking prescribed medication, Islam turns our attention towards prayer. Allah states in the Holy Quran:

Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort1

This shows that search after God is the innermost yearning of human nature and the real goal of man’s life, and that when this goal is attained, man begins to enjoy perfect peace of mind. When we turn to the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), we see that whenever he would be overcome with grief, he would pray to Allah in deep agony. The Promised Messiah
(as) explains this verse:

“The general meaning of the verse “Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort,” is that the hearts find comfort in remembering Allah. However, the philosophy is that when man remembers his Lord with sincerity and loyalty and always feels himself in His presence, his heart is overcome by the divine grandeur which in turn helps him abstain from unlawful and forbidden things. Then man progresses in righteousness and purification until a time comes that angels descend upon him, giving him glad tidings and the doors of revelation are unlocked for him. At that time, it is as if he sees God and witnesses his hidden powers. Then no grief can ever reach him, and his state of mind forever remains strong and filled with joy.”2
Thus, according to Islam, prayer and remembrance of Allah is the most primary and sufficient solution for mental health es. In addition to this, the teachings of Islam also provide various other methods which have proven to help fight mental health problems.

Taking Care of Your Physical Health
We have all heard and to some extent experienced the truth to the famous expression “healthy body equals healthy mind.” Exercise has proven to prevent and improve many health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and much more; and well, mental well-being
1 Holy Quran 13:29
2 Tafsir Hadrat Masih Maood (as), Volume 4, Page 426
is no exception. Research shows that physical exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. By releasing feel-good endorphins, endogenous cannabinoids and other natural brain chemicals, exercise enhances one’s sense of well-being. In addition to this exercise has
proven to also help mental health patients take their minds of worrying thoughts that feed depression and anxiety. In a 2004 clinical study conducted by the Division of Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, Dr. Lynette Craft concluded:
“Results indicated that the aerobic training program was associated with a clear reduction in depression compared with the control condition, and the improvements in depression were maintained at 3 months post intervention. In another study, just 30 minutes of treadmill walking for 10 consecutive days was sufficient to produce a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression.”3
Considering these findings, we must also commend Islam’s teachings, which 1500 years ago stressed the importance of physical exercise. In Islam, we consider every action of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) worthy of obedience. Aisha (ra), wife of the Prophet (sa) relates that her and the Prophet (sa) would race one another.4 Similarly, the Prophet (sa) even once took part in a wrestling match with Rukhanah, who was well known for his strength.5 In a hadith reported by Ali (ra), he described this way of walking of our Prophet Muhammad (sa): “When he walked, because of the speed and force of the legs, it seemed as if he was descending from a high place.”6 Muslims as a whole understand that remaining physically fit will allow them to better offer their worship and as a result even their exercising for this cause will make them the recipients of Allah’s blessings.

Family
Experts have strongly advised that having strong relationships with family members also helps defeat feelings of depression and severe cases of loneliness. Many ignorantly hold the notion that more financial income will be a means to contentment, however studies show that strong family ties are a much bigger predicator of contentment.7 When family relationships are stable and supportive, not only are patients of mental health more responsive to treatment, but companionship also has a great positive impact on someone coping with mental health problems. Islam has also put great stress on upholding good relations with your kith and kin. The Holy Quran lays great stress on treating those around you in the best manner. Allah states:

3 The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed, Lynette L. Craft, Pd.D. and Frank M. Perna., Ph.D. Boston  University School of Medicine, Division of Psychiatry (2004) 

4 Sahih Al-Bukhari 

5 Sunan Abu Daud 

6 Jam’i Tirmidhi 

7 Boyles, Salynn. “For Happiness, Seek Family, Not Fortune.” WebMD. June 19, 2008. Accessed December 02, 2018.  https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20080619/for-happiness-seek-family-not-fortune#1

 

Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and  forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that  you may take heed8 

So, not only has Islam given importance to treating one’s immediate family with respect,  rather it has guided us to treat all human beings as though they are our next of kin. Adopting  such a lifestyle would surely result in having strong, genuine relationships in one’s life,  protecting one from feelings of loneliness and depression. 

Furthermore, it is also worth mentioning here that adopting positive and righteous company is  also key to avoid mental and emotional stress. Often times, people attribute their mental  health issues to negative and toxic companionship. Allah advises us to withdraw from all  types of negative influences. He states in the Holy Quran:

O ye who believe! fear Allah and be with the truthful.9

Hadrat Musleh Maood (ra) explains this verse:

“This verse directly following the verses that speak of hypocrites and those weak of faith, lays  down one of the most important rules of conduct that contribute to the building up of a  person’s moral character and to his spiritual growth and development. This consists (1) in  one’s own effort to perfect his righteousness by developing the fear of God and (2) in seeking  the company of the truthful and sticking to it. As a matter of fact, to keep company with the  righteous and the truthful is highly essential. It serves to remove moral and spiritual rust from  one’s heart and exercises a very wholesome influence on it. It leads a believer to the fountain  of purity and righteousness. It provides a moral and spiritual environment for man.”10.  

Attitude of Gratitude
Mental health experts say that an attitude of gratitude has immense health benefits; one of which  is improving your mood. Gratefulness is an attitude that man must practice to make it a  permanent way of life. Allah states in the Holy Quran:

Then lo! man is ungrateful11

There are so many blessings in a person’s life that he should be grateful for, but rather than  keeping the good in mind, man only focuses on the difficulties and grief in life. In order to  combat this flaw in man’s nature, The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) has advised us to look at  those who are less fortunate in matters of the world, for this is the best way not to belittle the  

8 The Holy Quran, 16:91 

9 The Holy Quran 9:119 

10 

11 The Holy Quran, 42:49

favours of Allah upon you.12 How simple a saying, yet so profound in meaning! I can surely  relate to this statement of the Prophet (sa) personally. Living in the west and in a country like  Canada, my difficulties or worries are no more than minor inconveniences in comparison to  those who are living in countries torn by poverty and political distress. Yet, even those humans who are living in the most difficult circumstances are also blessed with moments of joy and  contentment. For those of us who struggle adopting this approach, I turn their attention to the  following prayer of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa):

“O Allah, make me content with what You have provided for me, bless me in it, an appoint good for me in everything I do not have.”13

Allah the most Gracious, out of his sheer mercy has blessed every person in the world with an  abundance of favours, how accurate does He state:

And if you try to count the favours of Allah, you will not be able to number them.14

Helping Others 

Renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger was once asked what to do about a patient who felt a  nervous breakdown coming on. Rather than recommending any prescription drugs, he answered,  “Leave your house, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.” Helping others  

has been clinically proven to help humans feel better about themselves. Not feeling any self worth may be one of the most driving emotions behind depression, therefore, we should try to  adopt a habit of helping others. Whether it be by carrying the old woman’s groceries or mowing  your neighbor’s lawn, or by giving charity, Islam has advocated for all of these and much more. In Islam, we are taught to adopt the attributes of Allah, one of which is “The Giver.” The Holy  Prophet Muhammad (sa) once stated:  

“When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless  charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the  deceased).”15 

We should strive to inculcate the habit of helping others, as the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa)  did. The Prophet (sa) was the most generous person to ever live. The following is a testimony of  his wife, Khadija (ra): 

12 Sahih Al-Bukhari  

13 Al-Daʻwāt al-Kabīr 

14 The Holy Quran, 16:19 

15 Sahih Muslim

I swear by Allah that He shall never humiliate you. By Allah, you join ties of relationship, you  speak the truth, you bear people’s burden, you help the destitute, you entertain guests, and you  help against the vicissitudes which affect people.16 

Similarly, his companion Musa bin Anas (ra) relates:

“It never happened that Allah’s Messenger (sa) was asked anything for the sake of Islam, and he did not give that”17

This was just a tip of the iceberg; Islam has truly paved the way to safeguard ourselves from all  mental health problems. In the end, I pray that this brief article proves to be beneficial for those  searching for solutions and may Allah protect us all from mental health problems and cure all  those who are suffering, Ameen.