Conceptualising and addressing mental disorders amongst Muslim communities: Approaches from the Islamic Golden Age

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Although Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, there continues to be misconceptions and an overall lack of awareness regarding the religious and social worlds that make up the global Muslim community. This is particularly concerning when examining notions of mental ill-health, where a lack of cultural awareness, understanding, and sensitivity can impede adequate treatment. As a global religion, Islam is practiced within various cultural milieus, and, given the centrality of faith amongst Muslim communities, a conflation of religion and culture can occur when attempting to understand mental health paradigms. Whilst much of the discourse regarding Muslim mental health centres on cultural formulations, this article discusses how, historically, conceptualisations relating to medicine and mental health were ensconced within the particular medical paradigm of the day. Specifically, it considers the frameworks within which mental health and illness were understood within the medieval Muslim medical tradition and their relevance to contemporary debates in psychology and psychiatry. In sum, this paper seeks to demonstrate that cultural formulations of mental illness, often viewed as “Islamic”, are distinct from historical Islamic approaches to mental health which employed contemporaneous medical discourse and which act as the reference marker for the emergent revivalist Islamic psychology movement seen today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-774
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number6
Early online date15 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • mental health
  • Islam
  • cross-cultural psychology
  • history of medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Muslim mental health


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