In Islam, mental health is an amanah (trust) from Allah. We each have a responsibility to learn more about how we can have healthier minds, as it’s our mental health that influences the way we think, feel and act, as well as how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.
As such, many verses in the Quran and ahadith (narrations of the words, actions and character of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)) address the issues around mental health and wellbeing and offer tips that we can and should apply in our daily lives.
Acknowledge the Reality and Importance of Mental Health
“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.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:155)
In the Quran, Allah (SWT) makes it very clear to us that our life on Earth is full of tests. Every single one of us will be tested in one way or another, including through our mental health. Even the prophets (peace be upon them all) went through hardships that caused them great sadness, anxiety and worry and took a toll on their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Prophet Yaqub (peace be upon him), for instance, was so distressed at the news of losing his son Yusuf (peace be upon him) that he cried to the point of becoming blind.
Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him), in turn, experienced doubt and frustration while we felt disheartened by the lack of progress he was making as a messenger.
Even Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) experienced a lot of deep sadness and worry in his life, especially in the Year of Sorrow, when he successively lost his beloved wife Khadija and his uncle Abu Talib.
By mentioning these stories of despair and distress in the Quran, Allah (SWT) acknowledges those difficult emotions that we go through as human beings. But it is also within these stories that He reassures us and gives us the keys that we need to overcome them. When all the prophets experienced their hardship, Allah (SWT) gave them guidance that gave them ease. This is exemplified by this Quran verse:
“For indeed, with [every] hardship, there is relief. Indeed, with [every] hardship, there is relief” (Qur’an, 94:5-6)
Look After Your Body and Physical Health
Research has shown that the way we take care of our bodies has a direct impact on our mental health. When we take the time to perform actions that improve our physical health, such as exercise, establishing a good sleep routine and eating healthy food, it can make us feel less anxious or stressed and give us the energy we need to get through our day.
Islam, in turn, within the Quran and Sunnah, reminds us of the importance of having a balanced diet and lifestyle.
“Eat and drink and do not commit excesses; indeed He does not love those who are excessive.” (Al Araf, 7:31)
Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-As (RA) narrated, Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “O `Abdullah! Have I not been formed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?” I said, “Yes, O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)!” He said, “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” (Bukhari)
Our body is a trust that Allah (SWT) gave us to look after and treat as a great blessing. It is our obligation to take care of it properly and ensure that we understand how the different aspects of our health are intertwined and affect us individually.
Ask for Help When You Need It
When you face hardship, you shouldn’t force yourself to bear it all on your own. Part of taking care of your mental health is knowing when to ask others for help.
When we become sick or break a bone for instance we seek medical advice and attention from experts, such as our family doctor or specialist. Similarly, if we regularly experience feelings of anxiety, worry and fear that keep us from functioning normally or affect our relationships with others, we should also seek help from experts who are knowledgeable in mental health.
In a hadith narrated Usamah ibn Sharik (RA), he says: “I came to the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions were sitting as if they had birds on their heads. I saluted and sat down. The desert Arabs then came from here and there. They asked: Messenger of Allah, should we make use of medical treatment? He replied: Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
So don’t ignore your mental health or believe your problem can’t be shared, explained or understood. It takes a lot more strength to deal with a problem alone than it takes to share it, so you should trust in Allah (SWT) and ask Him to help guide you to the people who love you and want to help you with your struggles.
Mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment and acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s an exercise that helps challenge negative thinking through peace of mind and contentedness. With practice, mindfulness can ease a lot of the anxieties present in our everyday lives, especially when living in the age of social media.
One hadith that emphasises mindfulness is this narration from Ibn ‘Umar, who said: “The Messenger of Allah ( PBUH) grabbed me and said: ‘Be in the world like a stranger or a passerby, and count yourself among the inhabitants of the grave.’” Ibn ‘Umar said: “When you wake up in the morning, then do not concern yourself with the evening. And when you reach the evening, then do not concern yourself with the morning. Take from your health before your illness, and from your life before your death, for indeed O slave of Allah! You do not know what your description shall be tomorrow.” (Tirmidhi)
Many of us have regrets and anxieties about the future that hold us back. It’s easy to forget that each of us has our own journey and we have all been blessed by Allah (SWT) in one way or the other. Remembering this allows us to focus more positively on ourselves, loved ones and dedication to the One and Only Creator, and thus help our mental health and wellbeing.
Give and Be Kind to Others
Being kind, helpful, and generous towards others increases our own happiness. Helping and giving joy to others brings a contentment that is unrivalled, which is why kindness and goodness are traits that are highly revered in Islam.
In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (RA), he said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Every joint of a person must perform a charity each day that the sun rises: to judge 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. And the good word is a charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
In the above example, it is shown that acts of kindness can take on many different forms – from helping out our loved ones to giving money to charity, picking up rubbish from the ground to greeting your neighbour. Thus, it’s with these acts of kindness that we not only bring positivity to those around us but also help our collective mental health and wellbeing.
Have Faith in Your Ability to Cope
When we’re struggling with our mental health, it can be difficult to feel hopeful or preserve through our day-to-day tasks.
During these times we feel lost or troubled, it helps to slow down and pour out our thoughts and think about the things we are happy to have in our lives. Write everything down so it stops circling all around your head. Make time in your day to de-stress, even when you are too busy. And remember that even if you feel you have too much on your plate, you’ll be able to get through it.
In the Quran, there is a verse that states, “Allah does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:286)
You have the strength and ability to cope with every task and problem you face in life. Have faith in yourself to pull through and ask Allah (SWT) to help lighten the burden for you. Through His guidance and the help of the support networks around you, you’ll be amazed at how far you can go and how much it helps your overall mental health and wellbeing.
Ultimately, the Quran and the Sunnah offer us a practical and reassuring guide to help us cope with our mental health issues, no matter to what degree. It provides a number of positive ways you can look after your mental health and overcome your biggest obstacles, as well as help others around us who might be in more difficult situations and need our support. So, don’t despair – remember you are not alone and you’ll always have guidance.