Please note: The answers on Hawramani.com constitute friendly advice rather than fatwas. Where relevant, we translate the opinions and fatwas of respected scholars and present them in our answers.

Why is there little mention of mental illness in Islam?

Assalamualaikum, why is there so little mention of mental illness in Islam? Even though I know the science for it, since Islam hardly mentions it whenever I feel depressed or anxiety unexplainably I feel it is somehow invalid because Allah swt didnt comment on it much? I think especially depression and anxiety is becoming increasingly prevalent amongst people these days, do you have any idea why this could be? Or is it our new awareness of it that makes it seem like the rate is increasing? Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is little mention of any kind of illness in Islam. From the Islamic perspective illness, whether physical or mental, is part of the hardships and tests of life similar to poverty. Islam gives us enough guidance to be successful in seeking the afterlife, leaving everything else to our own thinking and creativity.

I have never considered the Quran’s silence on mental illness as somehow invalidating the struggles of people who suffer from it. God knows us better than anyone else and knows our struggles and sympathizes with us. Trusting in His mercy and compassion is sufficient for us to trust that He is aware of what we go through and will make it a cause for the expiation of our sins.

Narrated `Abdullah: I visited Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) while he was suffering from a high fever. I said, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! You have a high fever." He said, "Yes, I have as much fever as two men of you." I said, "Is it because you will have a double reward?" He said, "Yes, it is so. No Muslim is afflicted with any harm, even if it were the prick of a thorn, but that Allah expiates his sins because of that, as a tree sheds its leaves." (Sahih al-Bukhari 5648)

One important reason why depression and anxiety is increasing is that families are becoming smaller. Studies show that the more siblings you have, the lower your chances of getting depression will be. By having fewer relatives around us we are deprived from the chance of having that one close relative whom we can trust and rely on, and this leads to feelings of loneliness and neglect, which leads to high inflammation and stress hormone levels. And if this state goes on for years, a person can slowly lose their hope in life, become depressed and also get physical illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. For more on this you can check out the book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by the scientist John T. Cacioppo and Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score.

As Muslims, we can benefit from all the scientific information that is out there about depression, while also benefiting from the hope and consolation that Islamic spirituality brings us (as I discuss in my essay Islam and Depression: A Survival Guide).

Best wishes.

And God knows best.

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