The writers are from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir and are PhD, BTech students at SKUAST-Kashmir, NIT Srinagar respectively. They can be reached at: sadafmumtaaaz@gmail.com; and hamid_23bece17@nitsri.net

The pursuit of emotional balance and the dissipation of anxiety is indeed universal and continues until today. Despite the immense scientific progress and medical advancements that have been achieved in the last few centuries, there seems to be a decline in mental health.
Abstracting meaning from the world is one of the core features of spirituality. Thus, these studies point to the tremendous value spirituality brings to regulating emotional imbalance. Developing one’s spirituality is more important than financial achievements. People often believe that transient states of happiness obtained through entertainment, wealth and possessions will enable them to escape their anxiety. Some people tend to think about mental illness and emotional states in purely biological terms. While it is true that there are biological components to our emotions and our mind, they are not the only components.
Modern psychology has recognized that a core aspect of the human mind involves spirituality. In fact, Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading researcher in the psychology of spirituality, proposed that spirituality should be thought of as a separate type of human intelligence. Spiritual intelligence is essentially the ability of a person to process the world around them and discover meaning and significance. In the Islamic tradition, this process involves contemplating the ayaat (signs) of God that exist in the world and extracting knowledge to inform us on how to act, think and feel.
For example, when a person witnesses the change in trees during the season of fall, he sees it as an ayah from God. Perhaps it reminds them of the temporal nature of this world, inspiring them to strive for loftier aims in life. Or perhaps the different colors inspire them to recognize the beauty of the diversity of humankind. When a person with high spiritual intelligence goes through life, his mind is constantly abstracting positive meaning and significance from the events that unfold around him. This fuels positive spiritual states such as inspiration, optimism, gratitude and perseverance.
People with lower levels of spiritual intelligence will either abstract false meanings from the world around them or fail to recognize the ayaat of God altogether. This will fuel states such as anger, jealousy, arrogance and conceit. The Quran provides us with an excellent example of this reality through the story of the man with two gardens. After describing the beautiful nature of these gardens, The Quran quotes the false notions this man abstracted from it due to his poor spiritual intelligence: “He said, ‘I do not think this will ever end. And I do not think that the hour will be established, and even if I am returned to My Lord then I will find in with Him an even better placing’.
As the years in the garden passed, this man failed to recognize the ayaat of God manifested in the changing of seasons and the continuous cycle of death and rebirth. This should have directed him to realize the temporal nature of his own life and the fragility of what he possessed. Furthermore, the cycle of death and rebirth should have been an ayah of the reality of the hereafter. The righteous companion of this man who had a high level of spiritual intelligence explains what should have been abstracted from these ayaat, “And why didn’t you say when you entered your garden”, ‘(This is) What God Wills and there is not capability except through God.’
Starting to recognize the role of spirituality as an essential part of both prevention and treatment for mental illness, in a paper in the Medical Journal of Family Practice, the author concludes, “When appropriate, spiritual issues should be addressed in patient care since they may have a positive impact on health and behaviour, and recommend that the medical model be expanded to a biopsychosocial-spiritual one.”
A systematic review of multiple studies (which represents one of the highest levels of clinical evidence), showed that increased levels of spirituality and religiosity in adolescence correlated with better mental health. As we can see, spirituality and the quest for meaning appear to be very important in providing optimal mental health care. Ibn al-Qayyim explains, “The past can never be changed or corrected with sadness [huzn], but rather with contentment [rida], gratitude [hamd], patience [sabr], a firm belief in destiny [iman bil qadar] and the verbal recognition that everything occurs by the Decree of God [qaddarAllahu wa ma sha wa fal]. There is a very large body of literature in the field of positive psychology that correlates self-regulation and gratitude with lower incidence of mental illness.
Self-regulation is the will power that enables people to act in accordance with their values and long term benefit despite costs to energy or short term pleasure. This construct seems to be represented in the Islamic spiritual tradition as ?abr. Ibn al-Qayyim mentions that linguistically sabr has three connotations: (1) restraining, (2) strength and (3) building. He explains that sabr is the strength of will that enables people to act in ways that brings them benefit. This concept of self-regulation is so significant that Dr. Timothy J. Strauman has proposed that clinical depression is actually a disorder of self-regulation. Regarding gratitude (shukr), a study was done correlating gratitude with many different measures of subjective well-being and demonstrated an inverse relationship with several unpleasant states. It showed the strongest negative relationship with depression.
Spirituality is an important component in the healing and protection of the mind. The Islamic spiritual tradition contains a wide variety of practices and beliefs that can be analyzed for therapeutic benefit.The Islamic tradition sees hardship and adversity as opportunities for establishing absolute dependency on God, submitting to Him, learning truth, and building virtue. It is important for us to realize the profound psychological insight our tradition has and extract this timeless guidance for all to benefit.