Integrating Islamic Spirituality in Mental Health Treatment
Islam is a perfect, systematic and organised religion. It is a way of life as it guides human beings how to lead life meaningfully. The perfection of its teachings covers various aspects of human life, including mental health care and emotional well-being. As mental health and illness are conceptualised within the biopsychosocial framework, hence, Islam itself has specific perspective in viewing mental health and illness and well-being.
Imam al-Ghazali R.A., for example, considers mental health and illnesses stem from the underlying conflicts of human morality and ethical code of conducts as triggering factors. It happens when people do not maintain or obey morality education and training as taught by Islam. It also happens as a result of being disrespectful or disobeying Islamic guidance in performing the acts. For example, when someone is thinking or imagining something which is prohibited, it truly causes a sin as it violates the teachings of Islam. In other words, mental health can be considered as a reflection of inner personal conflicts that emerge in the form of behavioral manifestation as symptoms of mental illness.
The theoretical and conceptual perspective in dealing and understanding mental health and illness determines to a certain extent the ways how they are treated. Therefore, the modern approach in dealing with the matter adopts a more biological kind of intervention that includes psychotropic drugs and substances, whereas some other perspective consider other approaches and options that involve talking therapeutic techniques like in counselling while some others adopt behavioral methods.
In Islam, the approach is more preventive in nature, besides the direct interventional approaches for specific disorders, dependent on the type of disorders. As Islam uses a preventive approach, in addition to treating and rehabilitating existing mental disorders and illnesses, the medical methods are, however, highly recommended and allowable in treating mental illness as according to the Islamic teachings.
As it is well understood, Islam prioritises the preventive aspect by using the teaching elements based on educational standards in approaching treatment of mental disorders. Very frequently, the educational treatment used in Islamic teachings is more in the form of religious cognitive restructuring and behavioural forms of psychoeducation. Furthermore, Islam also prioritises the approach of religious ritual practices in treating stress and mental disorders, as there are many verses in the Quran and from the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. that teach and guide Muslims to adopt when they are in distress or face calamities and life difficulties.
Among the examples of Islamic interventions is using cognitive restructuring method by placing the belief that everything that happens in life is based on God’s destiny, and that every event that happens has some underlying wisdom behind it, and that all the trials that happen are as an expiation or the removal of sins or education towards patience and so on. Such a form of cognitive restructuring is then combined with religious ritual practices that are interconnected with the intention to help and strengthen the formation of positive and stable personality and behaviour in humans. Some examples of religious ritual practices are contemplating in dhikr, reading the Quran, taking the ablution, performing the Qiamulail practices, fasting, giving alms, paying zakat, performing prayers in congregation, recreational activities and others.
The Islamic treatment of this approach is known as Islamic Psychospiritual Therapy which has several versions, with different techniques and methods. It combines the concepts of manners and morals which are closely related to the aspects of aqidah (belief), or spiritual and spiritual as well as jurisprudence (Fiqh) in the context of the Quran and Sirah Rasul S.A.W and applicable to various human psychological problems nowadays. The Islamic treatment approach is also compatible with the modern scientific psychotherapy approach which is popularly known as cognitive behaviour therapy or CBT.
CBT is the approach that involves some integration of religious-based concepts and beliefs in the context of treatment. The approach involves some techniques like replacing damaging beliefs and attributions about the self, others, and the world with more positive religious-based beliefs and attributions, as well as utilising various other cognitive approaches. Therefore, the CBT-infused Islamic approach is the more integrated way in incorporating Islamic spiritual-based treatment for mental and behavioural disorders by targeting cognitive and affective issues, as well as behavioural, within the context of aqidah, as well as on akhlaq (moral).
This is an approach in which unproductive beliefs are identified and later on modified or replaced with more practical beliefs derived from Islam. It is an Islamic spiritual meaning making exercises, between the therapist and the patient or client, and in fact considered as another variation of cognitive therapy making use of religious themes. Another goal of these forms of religious psychotherapy is to revive spiritual strength as a way of coping with an illness or situation. During the treatment process, the client may be reminded to rely on Allah in times of difficulties, to supplicate to Allah in times of need, to turn to Allah in repentance when in error, and to focus on the five daily prayers and reading of Qur’an. Prayer, in particular, is viewed as a form of meditation that promotes relaxation and a general sense of well-being.
To conclude, Islam also has some guidance in the treatment of various mental illnesses. The Muslim therapist needs to consider treating their Muslim fellows as part of their training and approach in helping their clients since the approach has its specific strengths and benefits.