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Mental Health: An Islamic Perspective Salahuddin Muhammad

Professor Hamada 11/20/12




Argumentative Essay


Address how Islamic chaplains risk becoming coercive in counseling settings and how they
might avoid it. How are Islamic chaplains' ethical obligations similar or different than a
mental health professional's or therapist's obligations to the individuals they serve?
The Islamic chaplains Code of Ethics obligates the Islamic chaplain to be committed to
the belief in God. Islamic chaplains looks at the Quran, the Prophetic model, authentic
traditions, and established scholarly opinions to promote spirituality, goodness, compassion and
justice. Their commitment to the belief in God causes the Islamic chaplain to become a
representative of God. This Ethical Code of having a commitment to the belief in God is more
potent with the Islamic chaplain than the therapist. This commitment to the belief of God can
be seen as ethical value by some therapists. A unique feature of the American Association of
Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) code of Ethics is its explicit affirmation that pastoral counselors are
committed to a belief in God and in the dignity and worth of each individual made in Gods
image, the AAPC Code of Ethics closely parallels the Ethical Principles of the American
Psychological Association.
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Therapists are now realizing the importance of religion in therapy
sessions to help complement their clinical approach to counseling patients just like chaplains.

The role of Islamic Chaplain is to provide spiritual care to a diverse community. This includes
patients, inmates, professional staff and community members. Islamic chaplains constitute a
power that heals, sustains and guides across religious beliefs and practices that are influence by
his Islamic faiths orientation. An Islamic Chaplain does not proselytize his Islamic faith to
others but uses its universal principles to reach across different faith groups boundaries. An
Islamic chaplain is not different from a Christian chaplain or Jewish chaplain, when it comes to
providing supportive spiritual care. Islamic Chaplains gives supportive spiritual care through
active listening just as any other chaplain would do. This active listening demonstrates empathy
towards the person in distress. In addition, Islamic chaplains conduct Islamic religious services
as well as helping to plan and facility other religious faiths holy days. Islamic chaplains educate
in colleges, university, correctional centers and hospitals regarding their relationship of religious
and spiritual issues. They interpret and analyze multi-faith and multi-cultural traditions as they
impact clinical services in addiction to conducting professional clinical education programs for
seminarians, clergy, and religious leaders.
Despite their calling to assist people Islamic Chaplains are at risk of not actively listening to
those to whom they minister. They may become coercive in counseling perhaps because they
have not been trained properly, or they want to proselytize those of other faith. Another way
Islamic Chaplains may show poor judgment is by not actively listening to the patients spiritual

1
Wicks, Robert J., R.D. Parsons, and Donald Capps. Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling. Vol. 1. Clinical Handbook of
Pastoral Counseling. New York, NY [etc.]: Paulist Press, 1993.,623
needs, perhaps because he/she is trying to formulate a thoughtful response to the patient before
he or she has finished speaking. In this case, it appears the Islamic chaplain is more concerned
about how he/she is going to respond to the patient then what the patient is trying to say. This
type of listening causes the Islamic Chaplain to dominate the conversation between the patient
and the Chaplain. The Islamic Chaplain in these cases is not being empathetic with the patient
and is not being compassionate towards the patient spiritual deficiency. The lack of empathy
causes the formation of a derogatory attitude towards the patient. This derogatory attitude can
manifest itself as the Islamic Chaplains beginning to become preachy.
Islamic Chaplain can avoid becoming coercive first by getting properly trained through CPE
(Clinical Pastoral Education).This training gives the Islamic Chaplain tools of how to approach
and interact with different faith groups in diverse setting. The Islamic Chaplain will have to take
on what I have coined the Ministry of listening. This ministry of listening promotes active
listening and less talking. Next the Islamic chaplain will have to become compassionate towards
the patient. Karen Armstrong said being compassionate is when we put our feet in the other
person shoes. This requires the Islamic chaplains constantly trading places with the patient to
produce a mentality of empathy. Finally the Islamic chaplain will have to recognize that his role
is not of Imam but of a chaplain and that preaching is not a part of his function. The Islamic
Chaplains function is to nurture, care, and provide spiritual healing to the patient.
The word ethics comes from the Greek root word ethikos, that means dealing with human
nature, and it relates to the overarching interest of a good life. The Islamic chaplain Code of
Ethics obligates the Islamic chaplain to be committed in the belief of God. Islamic chaplain looks
at the Quran, the Prophetic model, authentic traditions, and established scholarly opinions to
promote spirituality, goodness, compassion and justice. This committed to the belief in God
cause the Islamic chaplain to become a representative of God. This Ethical Code of having a
commitment to the belief in God is more potent with the Islamic chaplain than the therapist. This
commitment to the belief of God can be seen as ethical value by some therapists. A unique
feature of the AAPC code of Ethics is its explicit affirmation that pastoral counselors are
committed to a belief in God and in the dignity and worth of each individual made in Gods
image, the AAPC Code of Ethics closely parallels the Ethical Principles of the American
Psychological Association.
2
Therapists are now realizing the importance of religion in therapy
sessions to help complement their clinical approach to counseling patients just like chaplains.
Islamic Chaplains ethical obligations are similar to a therapists ethical obligation. The
Islamic chaplains have Codes of Ethics that they have to oblige by and the therapists have a code
ethics that he/she is require to follow. These Codes of Ethics that Islamic chaplains and therapists
have to follow are put together by the organization that they are under. All chaplains are obliged
to follow the codes of ethics that are put together by the Association for Clinical Pastoral
Education (ACPE).Therapists that are under a particular association also have Codes of Ethics.
These Codes of Ethics may or may not be in line with either the Islamic chaplains faith
orientation or the therapists faith orientation. This is because Islamic chaplains and therapists
cater to broad diverse society.
Despite having these Codes of Ethics, their religious theology in some case may not be ethical
in the realm of their counseling and care for patients. A good example of one ethical value that
both the Islamic chaplain and the therapist have in common is to communicate effectively
towards the patient so that they are given strength, integrity and healing. And sometimes the

2
Wicks, Robert J., R.D. Parsons, and Donald Capps. Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling. Vol. 1. Clinical Handbook of
Pastoral Counseling. New York, NY [etc.]: Paulist Press, 1993.,623
Islamic chaplain or the therapist faith orientation may not be able to fulfill all of the requirements
for that particular case. More challenging are instances where a persons religious identity
offers a negative perspective on his/her current situation. If a woman is rescued from the river
after an attempted suicide and speaks afterwards of her membership of local Protestant church,
religious care might at first sight suggest enlisting its support as source of care. What if she is
reluctant, even resistant, when the offer to make is made, and it emerges that the church is
strongly and theologically opposed to suicide.
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This example shows that also relying on the
patients faith orientation to aid in healing the patient may not be adequate either. Knowing that
religious faith is a central part of an individuals orienting system tells us something about that
person, but it does not tell us how that persons faith expresses itself in specific situations.
4

Thats why both the Chaplain and the therapist deal in the realm of clinical knowledge to help
those who are in need of mental and spiritual wellbeing. This clinical understanding or lens that
both perceive their patients through also gives them parallel ethics obligations towards their
patients that they interact with.
Islamic Chaplains and therapist also have an obligation to ensure the safety of public sphere
that they are serving. After reviewing the ethical codes of the American Psychological
Association, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and the American Association of
Counseling and Development, one is struck by the similarity among them. The principles of each
code are primarily directed toward ensuring the safety of the public served by the counseling
professional.
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The ethical principle of ensuring the safety of the public causes the Islamic

3
Phil Barker. Mental Health Ethics. Routledge, 2010.,125
4
Koenig, Harold G. Handbook of Religion and Mental Health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998.,116
5
Wicks, Robert J., R.D. Parsons, and Donald Capps. Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling. Vol. 1. Clinical Handbook
of Pastoral Counseling. New York, NY [etc.]: Paulist Press, 1993.,619
chaplain and the therapist to impart an environment and foundation that helps the Islamic
chaplain and the therapist to construct a remedial and healing rapport with the patient.
The title of therapist alludes to a sense of authority when it comes to the patient and therapist
relationship. This relationship between the therapist and patient is similar to one who confesses
to priest. They are putting their destiny in the hands of someone they hope will be
understanding, protective and helpful. This bestows an authority on the therapist, which might
appear lacking in everyone else, who so far has failed to help.
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This authority gives power to the
therapist that is equivalent to parent and child. The Islamic chaplain presences bestows an
awareness of authority when interact with the patient also. The tile Chaplain warrants and
justifies to the patient an opportunity to relinquish all barriers that would prevent openness and
transparency. This sense of authority from both the therapist and the Islamic chaplain necessitate
a strong power dynamics, that requires to be check by some form of accountability. It is both the
Islamic chaplain and the therapist ethical obligation not to abuse their power and authority.
Both the Islamic chaplain and the therapist are duty-bound to care for the Public. This is done
by honoring the ethical code of confidentiality. Confidentiality is the foundation and the
bedrock upon which is built the counseling relationship. Under confidentialitys protective cover
clients freely discuss their most private lives.
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Disclosure of the patient or client conversation
by the Islamic chaplain or the therapist can result in an ethical reprimand and ultimately a
criminal or civil liability. Despite the requirement of confidentiality, there are cases when a
patients safety trumps confidentiality. For this reason, the Islamic chaplain also has an ethical
obligation to report an incident that he or she feels that is threat to the patient and the public. This

6
Phil Barker. Mental Health Ethics. Routledge, 2010.,111
7
Wicks, Robert J., R.D. Parsons, and Donald Capps. Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling. Vol. 1. Clinical Handbook
of Pastoral Counseling. New York, NY [etc.]: Paulist Press, 1993.,626
is done by being able to distinguish what is confidential and what is not. Most professional
Ethical Codes warn therapists that exceptional circumstances may arise where a breach of
confidentiality may be indicated: for example, if it appears that the person may seriously harm
someone else, or come to harm.
8
The Islamic chaplain also shares the same ethical
responsibility to distinguish between what is confidential and what is not. If someone shares
with the chaplain in the course of an exchange that he made a violent knife attack on another
within his family, and that this is the basis for his detention, this hardly a secret.
9


The care of public is essential for both the Islamic Chaplain and the therapist. Direct care of
the public underlies the ethical standards of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors
and the American Psychological Association. These principles are: responsibility, moral and
legal standards, and the welfare of the consumer.
10
These principles of the wellbeing or welfare
of the client should not be a foreign to Islamic chaplain who prescribe to doctrine of Maqasid al-
Shariah(Objectives of the Sacred Law). The Maqasid al Shariah promotes the well-being of the
people, which lies in safeguarding their faith (din), their self (nafs), their intellect (aql) their
posterity (nasl) and their wealth (nafl). Whatever ensures the safeguard of these five serves the
public interest and is desirable, and whatever hurts them is against public interest and its removal
is desirable.
11
The Maqasid Shariah for the Islamic chaplain should confirm and act like a
cosigner to help the Islamic chaplains consciousness of the patients or clients rights that are

8
Phil Barker. Mental Health Ethics. Routledge, 2010.,113
9
Ibid.,128
10
Wicks, Robert J., R.D. Parsons, and Donald Capps. Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling. Vol. 1. Clinical Handbook
of Pastoral Counseling. New York, NY [etc.]: Paulist Press, 1993.,623
11
Chapra, M. Umer, Shiraz Khan, and Anas Al Shaikh-Ali. The lslamic Vision of Development in the Light of Maqsid Al-
Sharih. London: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2008.,4
established by both the ethical codes of the Islamic chaplain and the therapist. The right
treatment of the patient or client is an ethical obligation that is recognized by Islamic chaplains
and therapist.
The most important ethical obligation in my opinion is the continued training and education
that both the Islamic chaplain and the therapist are highly recommended to do if they are to
maintain their professionalism. This is done by keeping their professional knowledge and skills
up-to-date when it pertains to the convolutions of ethical matters. Gawthop and Uhleman
(1992), among others, showed that the recognition of ethical dilemmas and the ability to resolve
them improves with training.
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As time changes and society changes new ethical matters will
appear.
It is important that the Islamic chaplain and the therapist are aware of new ethical issues and
how to deal with them. If not trained properly then those ethical codes that both the Islamic
chaplain and the therapist are obliged too will become empty shells. To ensure that Islamic
chaplains and therapists are doing the right ethical thing in the time and space in which they live
there has to be a constant reading of the publication of professional articles on new topic in both
Mental health journals and chaplain or pastoral care journals. Also the Islamic chaplain and
therapist need to participant in conferences and seminars that introduce new research on new
ideas on how to deal with ethical issue that are fresh to the American Society. This will aid the
Islamic chaplain and the therapist to have clear and relative understanding of the ethical issue in
the sphere in which they patient or client operates because at the heart of the matter, the patient
and the client are changing as much as the society is changing. So the approaches to the patient

12
Palmer Barnes, Fiona, and Lesley Murdin. Values and Ethics in the Practice of Psychotherapy and Counselling.
Buckingham, England: Open University Press, 2001.,44
will take more researching on how to deal with them in an ethical way that protects their
wellbeing. Protecting the welfare and the wellbeing of the patient or client is the ethical
obligation of the Islamic chaplain and the therapist that links the Islamic chaplain and the
therapist together.



Conclusion

As Islamic chaplain the honoring of all human beings, but specifically the patient that I am
counseling can be found in the verse were Allah says Verily we have honoured the Children of
Adam.
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This verse should be the lenses that the Islamic chaplain perceives or sees the patient
that he is contact with. The Prophet Muhammad model how to interact with those who were in
need of encouragement. He was merciful towards those who he advice. As Islamic chaplain it is
our obligation to emulate the example Prophet Muhammad. We are expected to be merciful, to
bring good and to seek the benefit of the patient. This ethical obligation of treating the patient
with mercy is something that the Prophet warned against if not taking into consideration. The
Prophet Muhammad said God will show no mercy to those who show no mercy to
humankind.
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So for the Islamic chaplain the honor, respect and welfare of the patient is rooted

13
Pickthall, Marmaduke William, and Fateh Mohammed. Holy Quran. Delhi: Taj Co, 1983.,17:70
14
al-Bukhri, Muhammad ibn lsmil, and Muhammad Muhsin Khan. The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari.
New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1980., Volume 9, Book 93, Number 473
in his/her Islamic tradition. So the ethical obligation that the Islamic chaplain should have
towards the patient should not be foreign to his/her profession.
What unifies the Islamic chaplain and the therapist is their ethical obligation that they
both have for the patients wellbeing. The Islamic chaplain and therapist have an obligation to
treat the patient with respect, honor and with integrity. This position is a universal ethical
obligation that is promoted and followed by both the Islamic chaplain and the therapist.