Al-Issa, Ihsan, Ed. Al-Junun: Mental Illness in the Islamic World. Madison, Ct: International Universities Press, 2000. xv + 382 pp. $48.00
The world's Muslim population is growing and, despite shared religious beliefs, is culturally diverse. Behaviors attributed to Islamic teachings are often the consequence of local tradition which varies between Arab and non-Arab countries, between tribal and non-tribal groups, and according to the degree of modernization in a particular country. This multi-authored review is organized both by country and by socio-cultural characteristics. Emphases vary from the nature of clinical practice by psychiatrists and psychologists trained abroad, or locally according to Western standards, to traditional healing beliefs and approaches, to the possible cultural origins of behavior considered as illness. Individual chapters are devoted to Algeria, Kuwait and Qatar, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as well as to Muslim immigrants in Europe. However, although there are many individual references to the literature, there are no chapters devoted to the vast Muslim populations of Indonesia, the countries at the periphery of the former Soviet Union, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen and a number of African countries, both above and below the Sahara. Nor is there a chapter on the growing Muslim population of the United States.
In some measure these omissions are compensated for by the more general chapters. These deal with religion and psychopathology, mental illness in medieval Islamic society, forensic psychiatry and Islamic law, anxiety disorders and their treatment, psychotherapy, and sexual concerns. While there are references throughout to witchcraft, demonic possession and traditional healers, the student of such belief systems (e.g., zar and those involving the varieties of djinn or jinni) and their different forms and manifestations in different cultures will have to look elsewhere. Similarly, although there are references to such issues as the status of women, family planning, and intergenerational conflict, these are not the major concerns of this volume.
The book ends with an epilogue by the Editor: "Does the Muslim religion make a difference in psycho-pathology?" This chapter is not, however, confined to religion, but offers a summary of the entire volume. The Editor has an excellent grasp of the general literature of what has been called variously comparative, cross-cultural or, most recently, trans-cultural psychiatry. He realizes that the epidemiological data reported from most predominantly Muslim countries suffers from lack of adequate reporting facilities and methodology; that many of the behaviors reported reflect the collectivist orientation characteristic of many less industrialized societies rather than the individualist orientation of the industrial democracies; that the interrelated processes of urbanization and modernization, along with their corollary intergenerational conflicts are significant influences on the psycho-cultural context of illness and health; but that, inevitably, the over-riding and pervasive presence of Islam as a context of daily life is reflected in all aspects of behavior, ordered or disordered.
This is a useful introduction for clinicians who will see Islamic patients, and for investigators planning research among Islamic populations.