Updated: Apr 9
We find that mental health has been broadly dismissed within the Muslim community, and this dismissal may become even more highlighted within the indigenous American Muslim community, particularly from the lower class to the mid-range middle class. While we acknowledge there is an effort by secularly trained Muslims within the field to raise awareness of mental health, this effort should be better supported by the masses and further provided spiritual backing from religious scholarship within our homelands.
Facing difficult mental health and emotional challenges is not lost on our Prophets. The ninth year of the Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ advent has been documented as the year of bereavement or the year of sadness due to the intense sadness the Prophet ﷺ experienced in the loss of both his wife, Khadijah, and his uncle, Abu Taalib, that year and within a short span of each other. Mind you this was also at a time when a socio-economic boycott of the Muslims was occurring simultaneously.
Examine the intense sadness Prophet Ya'qoob ﷺ experienced due to the separation of his son, Prophet Yusuf ﷺ. He wept so much his eyesight weakened, and some say even blindness occurred.
"And he turned away from them and said, 'Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,' and his eyes became white from grief, for he would suppress it." Chapter Yusuf (12):84
We also see the degree of stress the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was under in the degree of his people's rejection of his message.
"Then perhaps you would kill yourself through grief over them, if they do not believe in this message, and out of sorrow." Chapter Kahf (18):6
Allah then provided him instruction,
"Do not let yourself perish over them in grief. Indeed, Allah is knowing of what they do." Chapter Faatir (35):8
So we see the Prophets were not immune to emotional and psychological difficulty. Attitude and perspective are key when facing such challenges. We find within Prophetic tradition,
"When Allah loves a people, he tests them." Collected by At-Tirmidhi.
"The greatness of the reward is in the greatness of the test." Collected by At-Tirmidhi.
So our Prophet ﷺ teaches us to reframe our experiences to reflect them in a positive light whilst embracing our emotions.
"Wondrous is the affair of the believer, for there is good for him in every matter, and this is not the case for anyone except the believer. If he experiences prosperity, then he thanks Allah and this is good for him, and if he experiences adversity, then he displays patience and this is good for him." Collected by Muslim.
When we examine the death of his son, Ibrahim. He acknowledged his sadness whilst still regulating his emotion. He wept as he stated,
"Indeed, the eyes shed tears and the heart is grieved, but we will not say anything except what is pleasing to our Lord. We are saddened by your departure, O Ibrahim." Collected by al-Bukhari.
He teaches us that anger is a natural feeling yet instructs us on how to handle this anger by not holding it within us but rather allowing it to pass through us. He teaches us to seek refuge in Allah from Satan when we anger and to perform ablution, for water cools fire. If we are standing at the time of anger, we should sit, and if we are sitting, we should lie down. He further teaches us that true strength isn't necessarily from without, in the physical, but true strength comes from within and is illustrated in one's ability to control the self whilst in a state of anger.
He teaches us the importance of healthy, regulated eating and sleeping habits that can also impact our mood and psychological state. We learn to eat in thirds not overfilling our stomachs but a third for food, a third for drink, and a third for our breathing, and this is if we must eat even this much. His stomach and chest had symmetry in alignment, and his diet consisted of mostly organic fruits and vegetables while eating meat as an occasional treat. We further learn to sleep early and rise early whilst initiating both with supplication and affirmation of Allah's remembrance so that we sleep and wake in a state of peaceful serenity. He teaches us to take time for self-care.
Subsequently, when Abu ad-Dardaa decided to commit all of himself and all of his time to worship, Salmaan al-Faarisi advised him, "Your Lord has a right over you, you have a right over yourself, and your family has a right over you, so give everything that has a right its rights." When this reached the Prophet ﷺ, he condoned this approach to holistic living.
He teaches us not to merely suffer in silence but to seek out treatment for our ailments, be they psychological, physical, or spiritual.
"Seek out treatment, O servants of Allah, for their is no illness except that Allah also sent a cure for it; except old age." Collected by at-Tirmidhi.
And when it comes to mental health, treatment may include any of an array from counseling to therapy to medication to holistic life improvements.
Kenneth "Aqil" Ingram II
Jumada II 2, 1442 Anno Hegirae
January 15, 2021 Anno Domini