Growing up in a Muslim household in a time before mental health was something we openly discussed was an interesting experience. We didn’t really see depression or anxiety as something that was a big deal, and just powered through everything.
We were encouraged to just pray more if anything happened, if we were sad it was usually because there was a lack of God in your heart and you just needed to embrace religion more. When times were tough other family members would say it’s because we didn’t pray, go mosque enough and blame us for not being better Muslims. This has even happened recently and it was weird to sort of just politely ignore.
My parents aren’t even the most religious humans on the planet, but the idea of talking about things like our mental health was just never a possibility. It’s weird, especially as Muslims our religion actively encourages learning about other forms of health, its why the Eastern world had a Golden Age, whereas the Western world had the Dark Ages.
As much as I do believe praying does help people, whether you practice Islam or Christianity, regardless of the religion we can’t ignore that things like anxiety and depression cannot be prayed away. A lot of mental health issues are rooted way deeper and people suffering need professional help.
Praying away depression is like forcing someone to just smile and be happy. It’s not that easy and to be perfectly honest it can make someone worse, especially if you’re forcing the affected person to not get real sustainable help.
I remember coming home to some religious man reading the Qu’ran and Dua’s loudly over my mother, it was one of the weirdest experiences of my life as I wasn’t warned about this. He was loud, he was doing weird things, and my youngest siblings who were babies at the time were crying. I calmed them down and then he said I was good and very religious – mind you, at this point, I had just taken off the hijab so we all called bullshit on this nonsense.
Whether he was trying to pray away all of our issues, my brother’s autism or just our general state of being, you can’t just expect it to make real changes. Also I never really found out the reason for this happening because no one would tell me.
It’s all a weird mess, because honestly if your response to someone’s mental health is that they need to pray more than you need to learn more about these issues. Thankfully times are changes, people and their parents are being more open to issues and instead of ignoring it, they’re encouraging that their kids get help. So we’re getting there slowly as a community.
Gone were the times of being completely ashamed of telling your parents about depression. Fun fact: when I first told my mum about my depression she thought I was coming out as gay, so that was a weird conversation. I guess since I never showed interest in men or even women, so I get why she was worried about my preferences.
All images are taken from Unsplash