Sufism and Mental Health

By Nizamie, S.; Katshu, Mohammad et al. | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Sufism and Mental Health


Nizamie, S., Katshu, Mohammad, Uvais, N., Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: S. Nizamie, Mohammad. Katshu, N. Uvais

Human experience in, health and disease, always has a spiritual dimension. pirituality is accepted as one of the defining determinants of health and it no more remains a sole preserve of religion and mysticism. In recent years, pirituality has been an area of research in neurosciences and both in the nderstanding of psychiatric morbidity and extending therapeutic interventions it seems to be full of promises. Sufism has been a prominent spiritual tradition in Islam deriving influences from major world religions, such as, Christianity and Hinduism and contributing substantially toward spiritual well‑being of a large number of people within and outside Muslim world. Though Sufism started in early days of Islam and had many prominent Sufis, it is in the medieval period it achieved great height culminating in many Sufi orders and their major proponents. The Sufism aims communion with God through spiritual realization; soul being the agency of this communion, and propounding the God to be not only the cause of all existence but the only real existence. It may provide a vital link to understand the source of religious experience and its impact on mental health.

Introduction

Humans have always had the quest to know themselves, to know the world around them, and to know their place in the world. The history of mankind is replete with people who like Mitya in The Brothers Karamazov are "haunted by a great unsolved doubt." [sup][1] This quest has led man from the dogmas of religion to the discourses of philosophy and finally to the empirical sciences. Though we have made some progress in understanding ourselves vis-a-vis the nature, the answers still remain elusive. Spirituality, whether associated with particular religions or otherwise, has been practiced since ages and claims to offer answers to the "unsolved doubts." The recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in spirituality and the advancements in neurosciences offer an opportunity to understand it from a more scientific standpoint and put it in proper perspective. Across cultures, spirituality forms an important part of belief systems of majority of the people. It affects the mental well-being and the understanding of mental illnesses in terms of the etiology, meaning and the modalities of redressal. It seems important that mental health professionals should be aware of the ways spirituality affects the mental well-being of individuals in both health and disease states. This paper will outline the basic foundations of Sufism - a particular kind of Islamic mysticism, how it affects the mental well-being of individuals associated with it, and its interface with clinical psychiatry in terms of implications for diagnosis and management.

Sufism

The need to know Sufism

Human cognitions and behaviors are determined largely by a set of facts and values. The facts are mostly derived from the science and the values have their origin in religious or non-religious philosophies such as humanism and existentialism. [sup][2] Spirituality being an integral part of most of the religious philosophies provides the value system for the majority of people and thereby influences their well-being. Recognizing this, the spiritual well-being, in accordance with the social and cultural patterns, was accepted as one of the important determinants of health by the World Health Organization during the 37 [sup]th World Health Assembly in 1984. [sup][3] Spiritual teaching has already found its place in the curriculum of many medical schools in the Western world. [sup][4],[5] From a mental health perspective, spirituality seems to have a far greater role as these operate on the same ground - the brain or as some would like it call it the mind or the soul. In fact, there are studies that show positive as well as the negative impact of the spiritual and religious beliefs and practices on the physical and mental well-being of people who subscribe to spiritual or religious practices. …

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