What is the purpose of this topic?
For this project, I was curious to investigate the perception of mental illness in religious communities. I set out to explore this topic in Islam, through interviews and research. This was a fascinating topic for me, because I’ve grown up in a family that follows an organized religion; I never felt like mental health was something that was talked about, and I wanted to understand why.
From my findings, I’ve discovered that in the past, religious groups didn’t acknowledge mental illnesses publicly that often; part of this invalidation comes from the stigma around mental illness in various cultures. However, in recent years, as the stigma around mental illness is lessened, there has been more conversation around the topic.
A firsthand source, a Muslim 20 year-old who lives in Texas, said, ““I think a lot of people think you should just turn to God. But recently there’s been a lot of talk about how Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him), the main prophet in Islam, had periods of depression. Traditionally, people would say you just need to pray more. But now, on college campuses, there’s been more talk and discussion about this.”
Furthermore, a BBC article highlighted the story of a girl named Hanaa. She read about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and how he dealt with “extreme states and trials.” He would go for walks and exercise, and practice mindfulness through prayer. The article stated, “Hanaa feels that although terminology around mental health is relatively recent, mental health conditions have always existed, and they occur in every culture in the world.” She felt that ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ often held a stigma.
Evidence from the Qur’an
The Qur’an states, “We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. – Qur’an 29:2-3.” An article from MuslimMatters.org discussed how one person interpreted this: “[God] tested believers before, and He’ll test believers now. To say that depression is a sign of weak faith is to imply that those with bad lives are guilty of being bad Muslims, and this completely contradicts what we know about the most righteous people. In fact, the more righteous you are, the more likely you are to be tested.”
In conclusion, it seems that cultural misunderstanding and the stigma around mental illness fogs the perception of how religion truly interprets mental illnesses. Right now, I think this conversation is still evolving, and it’s important to bring light to this very important discussion. Get involved by starting this conversation with family and friends. Share your thoughts, and ask questions to those around you.
SHARE YOUR OPINION
Please share below in this poll what your perception of mental illness in religious communities is: