Islam & why praying away mental illness doesn’t even make in-universe sense

I’ve been reading up on the history of psychiatry especially with regards to Muslim practices around it.

And found this good summary article which goes into both the good & the bad. Especially how positive attitudes & practices in place a thousand years ago have fallen by the wayside.

And also describes details of psychiatric treatment in medieval times, both positive & negative. But tbh much of it sounds nicer than psych wards today [more on that another time when I have emotional spoons].


I’ve read a bunch of the stuff in the article elsewhere but this part of this article is what really stood out to me:


It has been argued that positive physical and mental wellbeing are essential for the performance of religious obligations such as prayer (Awaad, et al., 2019). Keshavarzi and Ali (2019) elaborate on this point about mental wellbeing, stating that, in the Islamic tradition, legal competence (ahliyyah kamilah) is ensured by the soundness of both physical and mental capacities. As a result, positive mental health and good physical health are interconnected and are both seen as necessary for performing one’s religious obligations (Awaad et al., 2019).

Mitha K. Conceptualising and addressing mental disorders amongst Muslim communities: Approaches from the Islamic Golden Age. Transcult Psychiatry. 2020 Dec;57(6):763-774. doi: 10.1177/1363461520962603. Epub 2020 Oct 15. PMID: 33059527; PMCID: PMC7689558.

I’ve written in a past post about how I had trouble praying due to my OCD & was worried about making up all the prayers I’d missed & my mom told me not to worry as I wasn’t responsible for those prayers due to mental illness.

It’s just really striking me reading the quote above that the Muslim community taking a “pray away mental illness” approach doesn’t even make in universe sense from that perspective. If praying obligations &, from that quote, perhaps even praying prerequisites require good mental health, how does it make even religious sense (much less medical sense) to insist on mental illness symptoms being due to lack of prayer & the solution being more prayer? I mean obviously many ppl find prayer soothing but that of course doesn’t mean not getting actual medical treatment psychiatric illnesses.

I will say re the quote above the legal competence part is something I’d have to read up more on. Unsure how that applies differently to things like religious obligations vs having control over one’s affairs & even around coercive medical treatment etc. So I don’t endorse the legal competence part of fiqh re mental illness as I haven’t read up much on it [tbh I don’t endorse much of traditional fiqh because misogyny, racism, classism among other issues]. But given many of the people who promote the “pray away depression” ideas do believe in fiqh, I think it’s useful to have an in universe challenge to that idea.

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