Did you know that the first mental wards were actually founded in Muslim countries?
During the early Islamic era, many hospitals were founded. Where did this idea of care in an institutionalised manner come from?
Ibn Sina, the founder of modern medicine, was of the opinion that mental disorders are physiologically based. From this, the first psychiatric Bimaristan was founded in Baghdad, Iraq in 705 CE by Razi (one of the greatest Islamic physicians). This was the first of its kind.
Mental illness in Islam
According to al Razi, mental disorders were considered medical conditions, and were treated by using psychotherapy and drug treatments.
Muslim physicians termed psychology as a separate branch in medicine. From then on, they would refer to it as ‘‘ilaadj un-nafs’ (the treatment of the soul) or ‘tibbul-qalb’ (medicine of the heart). These physicians wrote about many mental diseases like anxiety, depression, melancholia, epilepsy, schizophrenia, among other mental illnesses.
Physicians from Islamic countries during the late Middle Ages enjoyed great respect. Their reputation was well deserved, for the study and practice of medicine was then led by Muslim societies across immense territories, which extended from modern-day Spain to Iran.
In Islamic cities which largely benefited from drier, warmer climates, hospitals were set up to encourage the movement of light and air. Patients’ dietary inclinations were taken into consideration, and where possible, accommodated into their treatment.
This level and system of support was both in accordance to the accepted medical theory and praxis of the time and its synthesis with Islamic morals and ideals, a system of medicine incorporating a balance of spiritual, physical, and mental care.
“Today, it seems that modern medicine lacks both a heart and a soul.”
Today, the secular practice of medicine, especially in the field of mental health care and treatment has found that religious beliefs can benefit and support a person’s recovery.
But is that conclusion satisfactory? Does it lead to adequate and substantive care and treatment? Do mental health patients recover and rehabilitate as part of the process or endlessly repeat a series of non-effective procedures? Today, it seems that modern medicine lacks both a heart and a soul.