IOS on-line lecture on “Role of religious/spiritual institutions in the management of mental health problems”

New Delhi: An on-line lecture on “Role of religious/spiritual interventions in the management of mental health problems” was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies on April 5, 2021. Chaired by Prof. (Dr.) Shawkat Ahmad Shah, dean, school of education and behavioural sciences, University of Kashmir, the lecture was delivered by Prof. Akbar Husain, professor in the department of psychology, faculty of social sciences, Aligarh Muslim University. The lecture began with the recitation of a verse from the Qur’an by Hafiz Athar Husain Nadwi.

Introducing the theme, Prof. Shawkat Ahmad Shah said that there was a large body of empirical evidence suggesting links between spiritual and religious experiences, practices and health. This explained the role of religious and spiritual interventions in the management of mental health problems. In critical practice, greater attention was being payed to the role of religious faith and spirituality in an effort to help and alleviate mental health problems and to bring a more comprehensive and holistic approach to intervention, he noted.

Delivering the lecture, Prof. Akbar Husain said that mental health problems had increased during covid-19. Everyone had a religious dimension to the mental health. Spiritual dimension was transformed from this world to the other. Thus the role of spirituality and religious in mental could not be denied. Referring to therapies of mental health problems, he observed that there were four such therapies. The first therapy, he spoke of, was remembrance of God and religion. This therapy helped release positive energy to improve mental health. The second therapy, he emphasised was the prayer. Reading scriptures, the Qur’an; etc. helped relieve one from mental stress. The third therapy, he mentioned, was taqwa or forbearance, fear and abstinence. This also worked for the improvement of mental health. According to him, Akhlaq or good conduct played a positive role in improving mental health.

Prof. Akbar Husain observed that American psychologists believed that religion played an important role in the improvement of mental health. He pointed out that three things contributed to religious interventions. These were knowledge, practice or Ibadah and experience. He explained relationship between religiosity and spirituality. He said that a study made on about 3500 people revealed that if religion and spirituality were integrated into health, the results would be very encouraging. He quoted prophet Daud who said that spirituality was a hidden kingdom. He insisted that spirituality was helpful in the treatment of psychiatric problems. Spirituality and religion should be used for psychological treatment. Quoting a report of Australian bureau of research, he noted that 16.5 percent people of the world did not identify religion. Defining spirituality, he said that there were three forms of it. One of the forms of spirituality was belief in sacredness. Under this form, any object might be sacred. The second one was the belief in unity. Under this form, body, mind and spirit were integrated with the heart. The third and the last form was the belief in transformation. This form of spirituality finally paved the way for annihilation or Baqa which meant finale to the existence of human being, he added.

Prof. Akbar Husain maintained that religious and spiritual intervention integrated body and the spirit. For this, positive thinking was very important. This called for deeper understanding of positive thinking. Referring to therapies, he said that religious and spiritual therapies of mental problems had been prescribed. He observed that there were different types of medication. Therapies could be based either on religion and spirituality, prayer or recitation. Spiritual therapeutic practices were integrated into Islam. These led to emotional and spiritual health, and purification of soul. He maintained that the Qur’an was divinely revealed and thus was the holy scripture. It provided guidance to man. Reading and recitation of Qur’an cleansed the mind to overcome all obstacles. He opined that the Tahajjud prayer offered before dawn overcame desperation. This had been revealed in several studies made in this connection. This had also been mentioned in the Sufi literature. Several studies conducted on nursing students showed that listening to Qur’an had a salutary effect on patients. These formed a part of the project to assess the effect of sound therapy. Then he touched upon two other therapies– nature and recitation of Qur’an. Qur’an recitation had been found to have mental peace because it removed anxiety. Serenity and calmness were the positive effects of Quranic recitation. The Qur’an also had positive effect on mental health of its reciter, he insisted.

Prof. Akbar Husain, opined that in order to achieve greater calm, Qur’an should be recited and listened to by the patient. Laying emphasis on the memorisation of the holy Qur’an, he said that Quranic recitation strengthened psychologically and physically. He referred to certain Hadith that supported this contention. Commenting on the spiritual significance of the prayer, he argued that prayer was a spiritual exercise. It also speeded up blood flow in the body. Similarly, practice of salat gave mental peace. Congregational salat (prayer) was a group exercise. He insisted that prayer had the power of healing and the recitation of Surah Rahman removed mental depression. According to a study conducted in 2013, recitation of Quranic verses yielded positive results among the patients of cardio-vascular disorders. Referring to the effects of Quranic recitation, he said that both memorisation and listening led to psychological and spiritual peace. Prayer had objective characteristics with the Quranic recitation as spiritual and religious therapies. He remarked that a prayer scale was developed to measure the attitude of people to prayer. Prayer and belief played an important role in the purification of soul. It also aroused internal consciousness. He observed that meditation too helped improve health. He concluded by saying that faith-based counselling should be attempted as faith aspect was very important in this type of therapy. He also stressed that Islamic therapeutic techniques should be popularised.

The lecture ended with Prof. Shawkat Ahmed Shah extending a vote of thanks.


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