Islam and Mental Health: a Step-by-step guide towards Contentment

  • 26 July 2021
Islam and mental health are highly correlated but unfortunately, this perception is widely alienated in most Muslim households due to cultural influence. It seems to be a taboo, where most Muslims families almost never discuss their feelings. Instead, they expect all members to obey rules, become what is expected of them and conceal their true emotions.
Recently, more people are coming forward to destigmatise the taboo of Islam and mental health, and it has become a wake up call to Muslim communities. Many mental health advocates are helping out those who are struggling, and hotlines are established as a medium for victims to communicate.
In this article, we will be discussing the meaning of Islam and mental health, what the Qur’an and hadith say about mental health, and lastly; steps towards becoming a better and happier person, Insha’Allah.
What is mental health?
According to WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
However, what is the relation between Islam and mental health? From the Islamic perspective, mental health is directly related to a human being’s ability to actualize their primordial spiritual purpose. All human beings are created to tread a path that will ultimately ensure their salvation in the afterlife and their ability to acquire God’s pleasure. So, to reach true and ultimate happiness is to realise our purpose in this world: to please Allah the Almighty and His Messenger, and to work towards achieving that purpose until our last breath.
What does the Qur’an and Hadith say about mental health?
The Qur’an and hadith does not mention the term ‘Islam and mental health’ specifically. However, there is an abundance of verses and narrations which are related to the importance of health and the acknowledgement of distress in human beings. The verses below are just a few:
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
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. [Qur’an, 2:155]
Surely, we will all be tested some way or another. Nobody will ever stay complacent with their lives and have no problem at all! Allah the Merciful gives us tests to cure our corrupted souls. The bitterness of the world can only bring us closer to Him.
فَإِنَّ مَعَ ٱلْعُسْرِ يُسْرًاإِنَّ مَعَ ٱلْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
“For indeed, with [every] hardship, there is relief. Indeed, with [every] hardship, there is relief” [Qur’an, 94:5-6].
Have you ever gone through an emotional turbulence one day, and when that problem has been resolved, you feel much stronger and emotionally mature? Problems won’t last, and there is always a solution to every problem. As the old saying goes, what does not kill you makes you stronger.
"There are two gifts which many men are unmindful about – good health and leisure”. [Prophet Muhammad ﷺ]
The most overlooked blessings we are endowed with: health and leisure. Sometimes, we never know we need those two until they’re gone. Good health isn’t just about physical health, but it encompasses all; emotional, mental, spiritual and physical. Overall good health can do wonders and possibilities are endless for you!
A Step-by-Step Guide Towards Contentment
1. Acknowledging the truth about mental health
The biggest culprit of all comes from within us. You might have this strange feeling of      denial, that everything will be okay and life will go as planned. You might deduct all possibilities of failures and expect perfection in life, but in reality, this can only harm your mental health.
The first step to contentment is accepting that tests are a part of life. Sadness, anxiety, worry, fear are all emotions that we experience to a certain degree in our lives. Even the blessed Prophets (Peace be upon them all) went through these emotions and there is much to learn from their stories, which we find in the Qur’an.
2. Socialise, Socialise, Socialise!
Socializing is good for your mind and body. The world can be a harsh place to live alone for people who suffer from mental health issues, but when you have others to talk to, it becomes much easier. 
“We are social animals by nature, so we tend to function better when we’re in a community and being around others,” Dr. Sawchuk says.
Socializing not only staves off feelings of loneliness, but also it helps sharpen memory and cognitive skills, increases your sense of happiness and well-being, and may even help you live longer. In-person is best, but connecting via technology also works.
If your number one issue is feeling lonely and you have no one around you at the moment, try and reach out to your friends, family members, relatives, or you can even join any support group or organisation to keep you around positive people. 
3. Start taking care of your body
Self-care is underrated! People say that taking care of ourselves is just a waste of time, but the Qur’an mentions that self care is just as important as taking care of your brothers in Islam. 
Some people who struggle with mental health eat very poorly and go to the extent of suffering from food disorders that affect their physical health in the long run. The Qur’an emphasises you to take care of your body by consuming what is healthy and nutritious for you.
“So eat of the lawful and good food which Allah has provided for you, and be grateful for the favour of Allah…” [Qur’an 16:114]
“Eat and drink and do not commit excesses; indeed He does not love those who are excessive.” [Qur’an 7:31]
Remember, try to include Sunnah foods in your life such as dates, nuts, barley, honey, milk and much more. All of these foods have their own nutritional value which can enhance your bodily functions.
 4. Help Others
It may seem ironic to help others while we need the help ourselves. However, it is scientifically proven that helping others enhances our moods and it makes us feel better overall. Try and help out whenever you can, like giving charity, prepare meals for your family, do household chores…the list goes on. 
“A charity is due for every joint in each person on every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity; a good word is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” [Prophet Muhammad ﷺ]
“Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” [Prophet Muhammad ﷺ]
 5. Remember that Allah is always with you
One of the ways we can remember Allah is through dhikr, du’a, contemplation, or prayer. The entire existence is constantly worshipping Allah the Almighty, and remembering and surrendering to Allah is our natural purpose and state of mind. Therefore, it makes sense that remembering Him would bring peace to our hearts.
Let your heart out. Speak your mind and pour it all as if He’s right there by your side.
“And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” [Quran 50:16].
 6. Practice Gratitude
“Be grateful!”, “You’re lucky you don’t have to…”, “There are people out there who..”
These statements can be ruthless and dismissive, even harmful for us. Victims of mental illness could no’t even get a peace of mind hearing these repetitive so-called encouragement over and over again.
Some of us don’t even know how to practice mindfulness and gratitude due to our traumatic childhood, or whatever that stems from the environment around us. To overcome the scarring past, you should practice mindfulness and gratitude, and InshaAllah, if you get to do this as a routine every day, you will be more aware of the things you should be grateful for.
Here are some of the helpful journal applications to help you get started:
  • Moodpath: Depression & Anxiety
  • TalkLife: Depression & Anxiety
  • Daylio Journal
  • Youper
  • What’s Up?
  • Happify
 7. Realising that you are responsible for your own happiness
The past can hurt, and some of our parents…aren’t really the kind of role models we’re looking for. However, instead of pinning them down and blaming them for our mental illnesses, it does nothing in reality. 
We should be responsible for our own happiness and try our best to fix what is broken. Blaming people is just an endless cycle of toxicity and the only way out of it is to always be the bigger person. Learn from your mistakes, past trauma, grow and mature.
 8. Ask for help
Above all, never think that you have to go through hardship alone. Part of taking care of your mental health is knowing when to ask others to help you take care of it. Never think of seeking help as an act of the weak or vulnerable. It is completely okay to find help to be a better person.
Allah the Merciful is always on your side, but don’t forget to reach out to your family and friends who you trust. If you don’t feel you can talk to them,  try to consult your local GP and get a certified counsellor to help you break down your anxieties and alleviate contentment within you. 
If you would like to reach out via hotline, do not hesitate to click on these links:
About The Author:
Written By:
Lily Syahirah Ramlan
Lily Syahirah is a Content Writer of SimplyIslam Academy based in Selangor, Malaysia. She recently graduated with a Bachelor's Degree of Education (Teaching English as a Second Language) from International Islamic University Malaysia in 2020. She is actively invovled in public speaking, English language debates, poetry and theatre and loves to express her work through writing. Her love for language arts and imagination has led her to produce, direct and write experimental plays she's passionate about during her degree years. She was also actively invovled as a Master of Ceremony (Emcee) where she hosts minor and major events in IIUM.