Mental Wellness: Balance and Trust

This is the first in a series of articles on mental wellness taken from the Mental Wellness Workshop: Balkhi’s The Health of Bodies and Souls.

Imam Abu Zaid al-Balkhi wrote “The Health of Bodies and Souls” in which he expounded upon physical wellness as well as mental wellness. The self refers to your mind, heart, emotions, and soul, it refers to what makes you you. 

Our life has a purpose. We were created here for a purpose which is what Allah has given us. What we do in life should be in fulfillment of that purpose. Our life and what we have are gifts and they are a trust so we take good care.

We also have to be aware of the nature of this life as a whole. The nature of this life is that it is a test. We have been created in a test. This test is not just external but it also relates to the choices we make in our life. We are also tested concerning our health. We are tested with respect to our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Our Responsibility

In relation to our tests, we are not responsible for the outcomes themselves but we are responsible for how we respond to the tests. Allah says:

لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًۭا ۚ

“To try you as to which of you is finest in works”[Quran, 67:2; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

You do not choose the tests you have that come to you. The loss of a loved one, the loss of your job, or the breaking of an engagement. Nor do you choose the tests related to your physical health such as being born with a particular physical condition. So we have to be very careful, especially how we deal with others.

Just as we are tested in our physical health, we are also tested in our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives. There is no moral responsibility that you be physically healthy because you cannot control that output but the trust is fulfilled in the means that you take. Likewise, concerning our mental health, this could be the primary test that one has. 

Therefore, in embarking upon this topic, we have to keep that perspective in mind. 

Maintaining Balance

There are many elements to balance. There is an ideal balance that we strive for which is knowing the good and striving towards attaining it. That good with respect to our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness comes from the Prophet’s words, “Give all who have a right their due right.”

That balance is built in accordance with Prophetic teachings. And on classical medical, and civilizational wisdom (which Abu Zayd al-Balkhi draws from deeply) on having balanced routines. Those routines are grounded in a purpose, that you know with clarity who you are as a servant of God and what the nature of life is (it is a test). 

You will be tested because that is what life is all about. All you have to try to do is to make the right choices. In those routines, strive for consistency. Plan in a good way. Look holistically at a matter with purpose and make a plan. This is needed for sound mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Planning requires knowledge.

Planning as a believer also requires knowing that there are things that you cannot plan and that is what happens to you and what the outcomes of things are. There are things that are outside your ability to plan so do not try to control them. You cannot program your feelings just on your own. If you lose somebody, you feel sad. You cannot do anything about the feeling that comes to you but you can do something about how you respond to what comes to you externally. 

The Trust

As believers, we look at the fact that there is an aspect of mental and emotional health that as a trust, is obligatory for us to take care of. Given that our bodies and selves are gifts from Allah, we have an obligation not to harm ourselves mentally and emotionally. 

Certain matters are prohibited such as intoxicants. Allah has prohibited intoxicants. They affect your capacity to make the right judgments. Likewise, drugs that affect your mind’s capacity to make the right judgment are prohibited. Other things are obligatory to avoid and there is a wisdom in the Sacred Law related to these. For example, certain types of thinking are not allowed.

There is a responsibility towards safeguarding mental health with respect to having sound beliefs. It is obligatory to have sound beliefs. Our beliefs are not so that we can argue with other people, but, it is for us to live a faithful, upright, and purposeful life so we view reality, life, and our purpose and responsibility correctly. Just as you avoid intoxicants, drugs, and other things that affect the mind, you be careful about what you read, whom you listen to, and whose company you keep as it will affect your thinking and perspective as a believer. 

Cultivate Mental Health

Cultivate mental health by cultivating the means of sound thinking. Having a sound spiritual and religious perspective helps put our emotions in perspective. Cultivating our knowledge of how to view reality spiritually helps put things in an emotional perspective. 

It is obligatory for a believer to take the means to maintain their emotional health. Of the recommended Sunna teachings related to that are keeping good company, maintaining family ties, having a good circle of friendship, and being with the community. 

The Sunnas of the religion help us maintain general emotional health by particularly keeping good company, maintaining family ties, upholding good character in dealing with family and friends, having healthy spiritual routines, and also having healthy social routines. These cultivate good emotional health.