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Core Religious Beliefs and Values among Muslims

Dr Ali explains the significance of religious beliefs and values in the lives of Muslims, and why mental health practitioners should be aware
Hi. My name is Dr Mansur Ali, and I am a Lecturer in Islamic Studies at Cardiff University. I am one of your tutors on this course. And today we will be discussing core religious beliefs and values in Islam. So what are religious beliefs and values? Why are they important? What? How are they distinctive for Muslims? So first and foremost, beliefs are valuable to people as they express an inner core of their identity and thoughts. So money, the reason why people value money is because there is value attached to that. We can buy things with it. We can do things with it. So similarly, people’s beliefs are a part of their core identity. It is something that they value.
And as a result of which, it is important for practitioners to understand that this is important to them. It might not be important to the practitioner, and therefore the practitioner might have certain biases. But nevertheless, if the therapy or if the counselling or the mental health worker is looking at it from a patient centred point of view, then it is important to also know what beliefs and what faith, what orientates their patients. Belief is valuable because it orientates people’s lives. As far as Islamic beliefs are concerned, there are certain core beliefs and there’s many different types of things that Muslims believe in, but there are certain things which are core. First and foremost is what is known as Tawhid.
Tawhid means the divine unity. Muslims believe that God is one. God is not Trinitarian, God is not dual, God is one. And as a result of this, everything that indicates a plurality in the Godhead, Muslim will shun. So therefore, Muslims will not accept Christianity. Muslims will not accept the concept of Hinduism and many avatars and God. Muslims believe that it is this divine unity which then leads to and manifests in plurality in human actions. God is one in his divinity. However, human beings also have free will, human beings also have freedom of choice. God being God knows everything, and therefore everyone is tethered to God and God wills certain things for people.
But people also have free will and freedom of choice. The second most important is the Prophet Muhammad, the belief in the Prophet Muhammad as the last mMessenger of God. In fact, Muslims believe in nearly all of the biblical prophets. Muslims believe that Islam is a continuation of the Judeo-Christian religion, and Islam literally means to submit to God. And Moses, when he was preaching, he was submitting to God. Jesus, when he was preaching, he was submitting to God. Abraham, when he was preaching, he was submitting to God. In that sense, they were all Muslims. Muslim means the one who submits to God. The Prophet Muhammad is seen as the messenger from God, is seen as a prophet.
The Prophet Muhammad is also seen as a healer. So he had healing powers like the Prophet Jesus. And also, the Prophet Muhammad is seen as a path, or the only pathway according to Muslims, to God. Muslims also believe in the concept of the Akhira, like the Judeo-Christian version. Akhira means the hereafter, that there is life after death. And this also kind of orientates people’s
people’s views towards life and what people do. So, for example, a Muslim will put certain restrictions on himself because this is found in the scripture, this is what Islam says. A Muslim will not have extra or premarital sex. A Muslim will not, or should not, be drinking alcohol. And all of this is because what one does in this world, they will have to reap what one sows here in the hereafter. So this idea of reward and punishment in the hereafter also has an effect on how people behave in this world.
So the Akhira is known as the Judgment Day This world is seen as a test ground, and the Judgment Day is seen as the day when everybody will get their results. Similarly, how is one to live a good
life, which is conscious of God and conscious of everyone else? Then this is manifested in the Shariah. Shariah literally means the watering hole. The watering hole, or a path to a watering hole. And the idea is that in the manner that people and animals, imagine that there’s a desert and there’s an oasis in the desert where there’s a watering hole and people go there, stop, and animals go there. So the idea is that every time somebody goes through the Shariah, they become replenished. Now, Shariah has become quite a dirty word. It’s a word that has become associated with extremism and terrorism. But Shariah is nothing more than a code of life. So a Muslim’s inner spiritual life.
A Muslim’s life which is manifested outside in the way that they do things. Even ethics, how one ritually cleansed themselves, how one deals with their spouses. All of these come within the ambit of the Shariah. So Shariah is then seen as a complete code of life
Important differences that practitioners might see. Different Muslims might put different emphasis on medicine versus religion. So some of the educated Muslims, especially those who have been educated in the sciences, might put more emphasis on medicine and on science. Whereas others might attribute certain mental health illnesses to spiritual diseases, might attribute certain mental health illnesses to religious causes. So there’s that difference that mental health workers might see different. There will be a different approach to gender interaction. So somebody who is maybe from rural Bangladesh or Pakistan may be very shy, a woman might be very shy to talk to a male mental health worker, whereas from other communities it might not be so.
Muslims also, there will be a difference between communitarian versus individual. So some Muslim communities, for example, the Bangladeshi community or a Pakistani community are quite more communitarian than others. What that basically means is that the patient will bring in family members, bring in extended families to help make a choice. Whereas others will be more kind of Individualistic, they will make the choice and they will make the decision for themselves. Sometimes the communitarian Muslim might not give the consent themselves, they might ask a family member. And obviously sometimes this is open up to abuse as well. So the mental health worker has to basically pick up on all these things.
We will talk more about the impact on mental health in Week 2. Thank you very much.

In this video Dr Ali explains the significance of religious beliefs and values in the lives of Muslims, and why it is useful for mental health practitioners to be aware of these.

This step is presented by Maulana Dr Mansur Ali, an Islamic scholar, and Lecturer in Islamic Studies at Cardiff University. Dr Ali is one of the course educators for Understanding Muslim Mental Health.

These core Islamic beliefs are:

  • Tawhid (God’s Oneness and Unity)
  • belief that the Prophet Muhammad is the final Prophet of Allah
  • Akhira (the hereafter/life after death)
  • Shariah (the Muslim code of life).

Dr Ali then highlights some aspects of Muslim life that practitioners might note as distinctive when working with Muslim communities because of their religious beliefs.

In the next step, Dr Ali describes and explains core religious practices among Muslims.

Over to you

Dr Ali highlights some of the differences that practitioners may see among Muslims because of their religious beliefs (you might find it helpful to remind yourself by looking at the slide at 06:30).

Have you come across any of these differences when providing mental health support, how did you deal with them? Take a look to see if others have had similar experiences, or if you can provide any advice to others.

Make a note in your reflective diary if you come across any interesting questions or scenarios and think about how you would deal with them.

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Understanding Mental Health in Muslim Communities

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