Can We Please Stop Saying, “You are not religious; that’s why you’re depressed?”

Mental health and being religious don’t go hand in hand. While some would accept it, some fuel the misconceptions that being non-religious or not fitting into the framework of ‘faithful Muslims’ make you depress.

Or another assumption is jinn possession. If a person admits or reveals that he is mentally unhealthy, people quickly judge that they are possessed. Well, aren’t we living in a world that has more clarity and information to understand mental health has no connection to one’s faith?

I’ve heard people say that if you are a Muslim, you will not be depressed. Or you don’t need therapy or counseling, recite the Quran. I agree, reading Quran comforts one’s soul and mind, but neglecting professional help just because you have the Quran sounds absurd and unintelligent. Islam encourages people to seek medical help when needed, so I don’t see the point in accusing people’s faith when they are depressed.  

People must realize that these misconceptions and accusations will drive the person further away from Islam or make him feel lower than he already is.

We are Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Ummah, and he wouldn’t want his community to forget kindness because he was kindness personified. In the Quran, Allah says,

“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muḥammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” (3:159)

It’s about time we realize that depression doesn’t relate to one’s faith or religion. Even if you are a religious person, you might still have a mental illness, but it’s important to seek professional help to get it treated. Of course, reciting the Quran or praying might comfort your heart but a professional’s help is essential for treating illness from the root. 

Depression is More Than Being Sad and Unhappy

First off, depression isn’t ONLY about being unhappy or sad, and it goes way beyond that. Second off, it can happen due to several reasons such as:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Pessimistic mindset
  • Traumatic or stressful experiences
  • Post-Traumatic Stress and other mental health disorders

But all these don’t make you a person with bad faith. You are a good human, and Allah (SWT) knows that you are trying.

Depression is an illness, and it needs treatment just like every other illness. There are symptoms that people with depression experience, and taking these lightly or asking them to ignore them isn’t a humane thing to do. We need compassion and kindness, and when we are not the victim, it’s so easy to sit on the throne and judge.

I’ve helped and lived with a person who developed PTSD, and it’s not something I’d like to recall. But I’m going to talk about it, so at least then people would stop relating faith to mental illness. He was a sweet person and never asked for help from anybody, not even from his wife. He lived a comfortable life and was a happy man.

But everything came to an end last Ramadan. He got paralyzed and was bedridden for three whole months. From eating, dressing, and cleaning himself was done by others. We also hired a physiotherapist as advised by the doctor. He developed a friendly relationship with the therapist. One day, he refused to exercise, but the therapist somehow talked him into continuing the session.

After a few minutes, we heard a loud cry that turned into laughter in a few minutes. That was the first time I’ve seen a PTSD patient, although I’ve read about them. The physiotherapist explained to us that he had developed PTSD because of paralysis.

It was then we realized why he was adamant at times when we tried to help while on some days, he’d hold his wife’s hand so lovingly. Some other days, he’d try to hurt her. There were days he recited so beautifully, whereas some days he struggled to utter a word.

Some nights he would sleep like a baby, and other nights he’d scream that we were helpless to aid. However, after 3 months of struggle, he gracefully returned to Allah (SWT) –Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (Arabic: إِنَّا لِلَّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ‎, ʾinnā li-llāhi wa-ʾinna ʾilayhi rājiʿūna).

This experience changed my perspective of life. Those three months were the hardest yet life-changing. I learned a lot of things, and I realized the meaning of life. I understood the value of being married to the right person. I understood that if someone loves you so dearly, not even at the worst of times, they’d leave your side. I saw his wife standing like a pillar during the days he hit his worst.

My Kind Request to You All

Mental disorders aren’t what you assume, so don’t judge. The patients with mental illness are already going through a lot; even if you can’t make their lives better, don’t make it worse for them.

I’ve seen quotes that say being religious would save you from mental health disorders. No, it wouldn’t because mental illnesses aren’t caused by faith or religion. The person I took care of was someone who gives charity, prays five times a day, and on top of all, he was the person who woke up every neighbor for suhoor through phone calls.

I’m afraid I can’t agree with you if you say religion or bad faith is the reason for depression. Can we please stop saying, “you are not religious; that’s why you’re depressed?” The world has so much negativity, and we don’t need more of that.

Depression needs to be understood and talked about more often. The Muslim community especially tends to ignore mental illness, assuming that it’s like losing trust in Allah (SWT). This is why we need to talk about it and spread awareness.

Shakira Shareef
Shakira is a freelance writer. She loves writing on lifestyle, freelancing, travel, self-help, business, and Islam. If not writing, she'd be cleaning or reading. Yes, zero human interaction –she's pretty boring!