The belief that mental problems are attributed to a lack of faith, spirit possession, bad karma, and the evil eye is strongly engrained in many non-Western cultures. This may encourage families and individuals to avoid seeking help for their psychological problems for fear that they will shame their family or that they are revealed as being weak. Some cultures also believe that admitting to having a mental health problem is a form of loss of face and shameful. (Aloud & Rathur, 2009; Cauce et al., 2002; Sarfraz & Castle, 2002; Vogel, Wade, & Hackler, 2007)
This quote makes me want to yell “I told you so” to my former self. I remember my family thinking I was possessed by jinns when I first got sick. It seems like most Muslims who first show signs of mental illness think that the spirits are to blame. They then proceed to do ruqaya and when that doesn’t work, we finally seek from a mental health professional. As the above quote shows, unfortunately, some Muslims continue to believe this myth and don’t bother to question because it is so engrained in their mentality and culture.
Even though my family was really knowledgable (at least I like to think so), we still fell in this trap. Centuries ago, this view was common in the Western world. But they have moved away from that. The Muslim world still believes confuses mental illness with a jinn possession.
So let’s get the facts straight. The signs of a jinn possession are:
Delay/Negligence of religious obligations
Abhorrent reactions to Quran/Adhan
Detesting of “religious” people
A decrease in cleanliness
Change in social attitude. Often towards solitude
Source: Shaykh Navaid Aziz
The above signs are very different from symptoms of mental illness. And in my experience, many of the mentally ill Muslims are practicing Muslims. So why do we blame the jinns. Ignorance. I hope to dispel that misinformation with this simple post.
Let’s look at an example on how to differentiate between a mental disorder and a spirit possession. Much too often, a Muslim hears voice, sees things and believes erroneous thoughts. None of these symptoms relate to the above signs. Next time when you or a loved one thinks jinns are in the picture, come back to this post and compare your notes to the above list and take the necessary precautions from there.
Now I can see some of you shaking your heads. Yes, I know jinn possession is real and we do believe it in Islam and we have treatments or cures for it. I just get really irritated when we confuse the spirits with illnesses like schizophrenia. My aunt told me once that a mentally ill woman in Pakistan was burned alive because they were trying to get the “jinns” out of her.
How sad that a myth can cause such ignorant abuse. And I am sure there are many cases like that. So please share this post so that we can stop burning the mentally ill not only physically but also psychologically.
Check out these posts below in the “Seven Silly Mental Illness Misconceptions” series:
Enjoy and please do share so we can eradicate mental illness stigma once in for all.