Depression is one of the most widely misunderstood mental illness. And it is very prevalent, especially in Pakistan. The Pakistan Medical Association this April announced that depression in this country is way higher than the world average. It is increasing at an alarmingly high rate in urban centers as compared to rural centers.
Many people in Pakistan, and across the world, don’t believe that depression is an actual illness which needs medicinal help to be cured.
Based on this assumption, they pass off various insensitive statements. One of the most common ones is “Namaz parhou tur Allah se dua karo, sab theek ho jaey ga”.
Shaykh Azhar Nasser, a Muslim scholar, has a surprisingly progressive idea about treating depression
He believes that we should never tell a depressed person to pray away the depression, just like we don’t ask someone who has a broken leg to pray instead of going to the doctor and getting medicines to help ease the situation. He believes that it is unfair to the person going through this ordeal to be told that it is as simple as just praying to be cured of depression.
To address this issue, he took to Twitter:
Don't ever tell a depressed person to treat their depression by solely reciting Quran. When someone breaks their leg, you don't tell them to just read Quran without seeing a doctor. Why do we do this to those who are depressed in our communities?
— Shaykh Azhar Nasser (@ShaykhAzhar) November 15, 2017
People were very surprised that a religious scholar was able to point this out, because what happens often is that people are misguided into just believing that it is only prayers that they need to cure themselves.
Here is how his followers responded
Thank you @ShaykhAzhar , being a depression sufferer who cant motivate herself to get out of bed , your words mean a lot to me .
— Zahra Yasoob (@YasoobHaider12) November 16, 2017
So I joined Twitter just to say your words meant a lot to me. Seriously. Thank you. I have always been made to believe it was because of my weak faith. But your words made me think it might not be my fault entirely. Thank you
— IndianIntrovert (@Introvert456) November 17, 2017
For people, who have been labelled as weak believers because of their depression, it was a ray of hope and a push towards a healthier life
I say this all the time!
Depression needs a professional, that is why the field of psychology exists.
— A Crafty Arab (@acraftyarab) November 15, 2017
I'm not even Muslim but it's wonderful to hear you say this – many more should understand this. Thank you.
— Ri•Ya (@RishInProgress) November 15, 2017
You just won my heart with this one tweet, God bless u
— Girl in redlipstick (@iamgirlred) November 16, 2017
Such statements from religious scholars may push other religious scholars to keep pace with the advancements of the world and give advice accordingly. The reason why a lot of people find themselves distancing from religious thought these days is because of lack of coherence between the worldly advancements and what religious scholars are preaching.
The purpose of this tweet was to simply highlight that depression is also similar to other illnesses. The way you take medicine for an illness and pray as well for your health, is the path that we should take when it comes to mental illnesses as well.