"Madness" and "insanity" are words that are often used for describing conditions of the mind. These conditions produce behaviours which are inconsistent with accepted norms. These words themselves have cultural rather than scientific meaning because concepts of mental illness are socially determined. On the other hand, physiological or psychological causes, which produce such behaviour, are objective evidence that an illness exists. Through out the history of medicine one can easily discern that mentally ill persons and other persons of disadvantage were readily caught up in webs of highly variable political, sociolegal, and professional thought. On the one hand, there are the enlightened thinking of some early cultures and physicians, and on the other, mutilations, and incarceration in dark cells accompanied by harsh treatment. .
Religions, as well as cultures adhering to those religions have arguably had the greatest say in the treatment of the mentally ill at any one time during history. Even in the west, well into the 19th and 20th centuries, views of persons with mental deficits have carried with them a certain mystification which did more to hurt than to aid these persons. Islam as one of the major religions in the world has provided the most humane views of the persons with mental illnesses. The early cultures that prescribed to this religion became sanctuaries to Greco-Roman knowledge which for the most part was lost to the Europeans of the Middle Ages. Muslim scholars did much to advance this knowledge especially in the fields of mathematics and medicine. This paper will discuss some of the advances made by Muslim scholars in the field of mental illness and other fields from the conception of the Islamic culture in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. to its eventual decline in the 11th and 12th centuries. Further, it will take a brief look at the views that Muslim's, in particular those of this era, held of persons with mental deficits and the ways in which they treated such persons.