How many of you have heard this line or “miracle cure” before? Too many of us and much too often. Funny thing about this mental illness myth is that it sounds so good and who could argue with praying to Allah. I mean it’s gotta be right. And if you don’t think that praying is the solution, then what kind of a Muslim are you anyways? The Journal of Muslim Mental Health, there is an article titled “Mental Health Help-Seeking Behaviours of Muslim Immigrants in the United States: Overcoming Social Stigma and Cultural Mistrust” in which the authors state: Mistrust” in which the authors state:
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).
Not having strong iman or being told to pray more is the culprit preventing Muslims from seeking help. The dilemma isn’t just our well-meaning families and friends perpetuating this myth but too often we also believe it. I remember when I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar, I used to feel that there was a monster inside me. And for the longest time, I tried to pray my problems away but it didn’t work. The monster just got bigger and bigger until it overtook me.
It’s so hard to recognize this myth because many of us, who are practicing Muslims, are accustomed to praying whether it’s sunny or rainy. But the problem comes when we try to pray the storm away yet don’t bother to take shelter. Or if we do take shelter, we run to our straw shacks and then blame the tornado for ruining our lives.
Mental Illness comes with frightening thunder and horrendous winds but it doesn’t have to be that way. I know that when you first get sick, it’s hard to pick up the pieces. But once you get well, and in sha Allah you will, start building your brick house by learning about your disorder and setting up a support system. Anas bin Malik narrated that a man said:
“O Messenger of Allah! Shall I tie my camel and rely upon Allah, or leave it loose and rely upon Allah?” He said: “Tie it and rely upon Allah.” Vol. 4, Book 11, Hadith 2517
This hadith is a perfect example of what I mean. Many people put prayer before prescription but these should be reversed. Another example of this concept is in this ayah:
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” Surah Baqarah, Ayah 153
Now don’t get me wrong. Just because I am saying to pray after you’ve done your homework doesn’t mean I think salah is unimportant. Rather, I would advise to say bismillah and point your heart towards Allah when you start treatment, during treatment and when you are in maintenance mode. Always remember Allah but don’t just sit there and wait for miracles. The All Mighty makes miracles happen when you move.
So how do you deal with a myth like “Just pray more?” Well, the first step is to read this post which you just did so good job. Now, in a poised manner, share this post with your family and friends, especially with those who ever so gently throw this line in your face.
Next begin taking action in helping yourself get better. Build a brick house against the storm by using my blog for support and help. And of course pray, pray and pray. Offer your five salah, make dhikr while you pick up your meds, pray for your doctors as you sit in the waiting room and contemplate on the wonders of the brain that can lose touch with reality and then bounce back with resilience.
Now, alhumdulillah, you can gracefully take the prayer prescription from well-meaning Muslims because you’ve got the other prescription of seeking professional help and support covered.
Do your best, Allah does the rest.
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.