Muslims And Mental/Emotional Issues

24 10 2007

 Muslims are not exempt from suffering with mental and emotional problems. There, I said it. I am not saying that most Muslims have these issues and I am not saying that the majority of Muslims have these issues. Indeed, millions of people world wide suffer from this illness. But, it seems, that somewhere along the line it has become taboo for a Muslim  to admit it. 

Aliyah grew up in Muslim family. She was constantly being pushed to make the best grades and her parent’s would lash out when she failed. She was pushed to become a doctor when she wanted to be an interior designer. Yet, She was popular in school and married a good husband. She has beautiful children. However, she constantly battles the feeling that no matter what she does it will never be enough. She slips farther and farther into herself.  Finally, her husband encourages her to get professional help. So she does. She is immediately looked at with pity and the conclusion is immediately reached that it must be her religion that has her in such a state. After all, isn’t she oppressed? Doesn’t her husband abuse her? Doesn’t her religion teach women that they are inferior?

While Ann grew up in a Non Muslim household. She too was told that she would never be good enough. Her parents pushed her to excel in sports. She had to train constantly and face daily weigh ins. When she lost a match, her parents would detail all the mistakes that she had made. They would tell her that she would never get a scholarship playing so badly and ask how could she lack talent after they had spent so much money on trainers and bought the best equipment. She too, had her dreams put on the back burner. And, like Aliyah, as an adult she suffers from low self esteem. She finally stopped trying all together preferring to lose herself in alcohol. Her friend intervened and encouraged her to visit a therapist. This is where the similarity to Aliyah ends. The therapist did not make comments about Ann’s religion (or lack thereof). Instead, she went to the root of the problem. She asked Ann how she felt and when those feelings had began. She asked Ann what her childhood was like.

Both of these scenarios are real. Though, the names have been changed.

Are the standards of diagnosis and treatment in psychological patients dependant upon whether the patient is a Muslim or a Non Muslim? Sometimes, it seems that way. Again, I am not saying this is the case in all situations. However, I suspect it happens more often than not based on what I have heard.

I think hijab wearing Muslim women experience this even more. When a Muslimah (Muslim woman) suffers from emotional or mental issues people often assume it is because of her religion, Islam. People may look at her with pity and say things like, “Oh, well no wonder sweetie! I feel so sorry for you. I know your religion degrades women. Thank God, I’m not part of that. Well, just come on over to our way of life and everything will be ok.” This is utter nonsense. I’m no psychologist but I do know this much. It is this type of attitude that leads Muslim women to keep their feelings to themselves and try to deal with it on their own. Really, can you blame them? Who would want to sit and listen to someone make assumptions about you based on ignorant misconceptions regarding your religion?

On the other hand, Muslims can be so concerned with da’wah (calling to Islam) that they want to give  the impression that all Muslims are perfect.  They want to make it seem like we have no “deficiencies.”  Well, we are humans and we have problems too. If a Muslim  has a heart defect his or her brothers and sisters will eagerly tell him or her to rush to the doctor. However, when it is a mental/emotional illness he/she is often told, “Be patient! All you need is the Qur’an.”   Yes, in the Qur’an and Hadith is the answer but really can you criticize your Muslim brother or sister for visiting a doctor due to severe depression, anxiety, etc?  No, doctors can not solve everything. But did  you know that in some cases of depression and mental disorders the cause is hormonal imbalance? Sometimes, medication is required to balance the hormone levels. To do this, one must see a doctor.  Yet, unfortunately, we still see Muslims criticizing each other for visiting a doctor for mental/emotional issues. Is this Islamic? According to my understanding, no.  We know that Allah says that the Qur’an is a healing. We also know from Islam that every disease that Allah created He also created the cure.  So, for Muslims we need to make dua, we need to read the Qur’an and learn our religion. Insh’Allah this will help us to overcome grief, depression, and anxiety. However, we shouldn’t look down upon people who do need to see a doctor.

Some options for Muslims could be: See a Muslim therapist or doctor, try to reach out to your friends and family for support, or even make an appointment to talk to the imam of your local masjid.

It is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: No person who suffers any anxiety or grief and says:

Allaahumma ‘innee ‘abduka, ibnu ‘abdika, ibnu ‘amatika, naasiyatee biyadika, maadhin fiyya hukmuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadhaa’uka, ‘as’aluka bikulli ismin huwa laka, sammayta bihi nafsaka, ‘aw ‘anzaltahu fee kitaabika, ‘aw ‘allamtahu ‘ahadan min khalqika, ‘awista’tharta bihi fee ‘ilmil-ghaybi ‘indaka, ‘an taj’alal-Qur’aana rabee’a qalbee, wa noora sadree, wa jalaa’a huznee, wa thahaaba hammee .

O Allah, I am Your slave and the son of Your male slave and the son of your female slave . My forehead is in Your Hand (i.e. you have control over me) . Your Judgment upon me is assured and Your Decree concerning me is just . I ask You by every Name that You have named Yourself with , revealed in Your Book , taught any one of Your creation or kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You , to make the Qur’an the spring of my heart, and the light of my chest, the banisher of my sadness and the reliever of my distress.

Except that Allah will take away their sorrow and grief and give them in their stead joy. The Companions then asked the Prophet “Should we learn this dua?” He (pbuh) said: “Yes, whoever hears it should learn it.”

Reference: Ahmad 1/391, Tabaarni and Al-Albani graded it authentic.

An Excellent powerpoint presentation on Anxiety and Depression and the Islamic Treatment (By A Muslim doctor):