It is interesting and comforting to find Allah talking about anxiety and mental health in the story of Musa alayhisalam and his mother. Allah says, “The next day, Moses’ mother felt a void in her heart––if We had not strengthened it to make her one of those who believe, she would have revealed everything about him.”(Qur’an 28:10) The intensity of separation of Musa alayhisalam and his mother caused a huge psychological disturbance and an emotional void in his mother’s heart. Allah, in His infinite wisdom knows the need for talking about mental health. Hence the need for Islamic counseling is reaffirmed by the fact that Allah addresses mental health directly in the Qur’an in relation to His help to Musa alayhisalam’s mother.
The basis of every Muslim’s relationship with Allah is their imaan, the faith in their hearts. Aqidah (creed) or imaan (faith) is integral in man’s life because it has positive effects on the well-being of the psyche and is the depiction of the noblest or highest component of Islam. Faith is closely interlinked to Islamic counseling because it impacts a person psychologically and a person considers a problem as a test from Allah, as a sign of His love rather than view his situation as a calamity or Allah’s anger. The aspect of faith for Muslim clients can only be brought up in a setting wherein contemporary counseling practices are in congruence with Islam.
Religion of the Therapist
Trust is a broader category which involves the religion of the therapist. As a Muslim client, reluctance to talk about psychological and spiritual issues is augmented by lack of trust between the client and therapist. This can be resolved by knowing the religion of the therapist.
“I think that they (therapists) need to show that they really respect our religion. Show it maybe in some way that they really respect Islam” a participant said in an interview conducted by Non-Muslim researchers in 2009 in the U.K.
Muslim clients may feel hesitation to seek professional help from Non-Muslim therapists for fear of going against Islam in any aspect that meets their psychological needs. This entire situation can be taken care of if the term “Islamic counseling” is advocated, normalised and offered by competent Muslim therapists.
In the above mentioned U.K study, participants also communicated the Muslim community’s powerful narratives of the embarrassment and stigma linked to accessing of mental health services. This is heavily due to the lack of counseling services being rooted in Islamic beliefs and practices. The comfort associated with counseling based on Islamic principles might do away with the shame of accessing mental health services in the long run.
Islamic counseling would integrate psychological interventions as well as spirituality connected to the Qur’an and Sunnah to aid the therapy process. However, contemporary psychology is often neglected and rituals like prayer, fasting etc. are given weightage in direct solving of psychological problems. Even though prayer is powerful since it is reflective of the individual’s relationship with Allah, it should be taken jointly along with medication and/or counseling to achieve psychological balance. Islam and Psychology must therefore function mutually to achieve remarkable results.
Islam has identified forms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) in the form of religious presentation as Waswasah,. This affects their prayer, daily activities and overall progress and poses a risk to their psychological homeostasis. Waswasah is not included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) or International Classification of Diseases (ICD) due to lack of research. Before the advent of Islamic counseling, Muslims dealt with this condition by approaching community leaders. Further, general clinicians unfamiliar with the concept of waswasah being of religious nature might also not be of great help. As a result, individuals suffering from this condition are in a dilemma whether they should get help and if so, then the quality of treatment is questioned. Islamic counseling thus is highly the need of the hour, for Muslim clients with specific mental health distresses.
Positive results through religious psychotherapy
Even in mainstream western psychology there has been recognition of the role of religion in the psychotherapeutic process and acceptance that it can be integral to the solution of psychological problems.
Dr. Aisha Hamdan (may Allah have mercy on her) discussed several beneficial cognitions from Islamic beliefs that may be unified with the counseling process. These include an understanding of the temporal nature of this world, focus on the Hereafter, trusting and relying upon Allah and a focus on the blessings of Allah. Since these form the components of Islamic belief, it is highly beneficial for Muslim clients to be reminded of them during the counseling process. Without these, focus on merely symptoms might result in short-lived effects.
Extensive research in counseling discovered that religion plays a crucial role in giving hope and confidence to individuals in conflict situations. It also has a far-reaching positive effect on a person’s mental health. Keeping Islam as the foundation and assimilating secular therapy mechanisms in congruence with Islam can be the most suitable form of counseling for Muslim clients. The work of the therapist or counselor must also be highly appreciated and seen as very valuable to the Ummah. Islamic counseling must not only be encouraged for the above reasons but also due to its indirect impact on the empowerment of Muslims, giving them therapeutic opportunities for introspection and reminding them of their purpose in life, that is, to worship Allah. All these ultimately have spill-over effects in addressing the psychological needs of Muslim clients.
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It is interesting and comforting to find Allah talking about anxiety and mental health in the story of Musa alayhisalam and his mother. Allah says, “The next day, Moses’ mother felt a void in her heart––if We had not strengthened it to make her one of those who believe, she would have revealed everything about him.”(Qur’an 28:10)
Islam has identified forms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) in the form of religious presentation as Waswasah,. This affects their prayer, daily activities and overall progress and poses a risk to their psychological homeostasis.