By Sadia Khan

These days the term “mental health” has become somewhat of a buzzword, but how is this relevant to the average Muslim? Here we explore some common myths about Muslims and mental health.

Myth #1: Depression means your faith must be weak. No one who is close to Allah should ever feel depressed. 

This unfortunate myth is usually coupled with advice about reciting more Qur’an, performing more salah or learning to be patient with horrific circumstances. If you’re still sad, the logic goes, this must indicate a deficiency in your faith. 

This could not be farther from the truth!  Sadness is acknowledged in the Qur’an and even the Prophets experienced moments where they felt shaken in spirit or suffered long bouts of sorrow. Our beloved Muhammad (SWT) even suffered an entire year of depression after the passing of his wife and uncle. Are we saying the Prophets were weak in faith? Of course not!  

Islam does not tie faith to human emotions. This world has its joys and has its sorrows and we are encouraged to expect both and manage our feelings appropriately.  But even if you’re a patient and grateful person, sometimes a situation can overwhelm. In those instances where we have trouble managing our feelings, it is perfectly OK to seek help. And while we are encouraged to ask first of Allah, sometimes the help Allah sends us is in the form of another person. That person can help you understand and manage your feelings and help you solve the underlying issue, whether it’s internal or external. 


Myth #2: Talking about our problems only makes things worse.

Imagine you have a really messy, disorganized closet in your home. Every time you use or even walk past this space, you feel frustrated and overwhelmed. One day you decide to finally get it clean. You start by taking everything out and your room actually looks worse than before you started! You start to regret starting the project. You may even abandon the plan, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work. But then you slowly, gradually, start sorting through the items, getting rid of the excess and putting the remaining items neatly where they belong. Somewhere along the way you build some momentum and actually start enjoying the process. At the end, you feel great. This is how talking about your problems with a trained professional can help. Of course things will get worse before they get better, because you’re finally acknowledging the mess you’ve been avoiding. But if you stick to it, there’s a lot more to gain.


Myth #3: Therapists & Life Coaches don’t understand my cultural context and won’t give me advice rooted in Islam

This may have been true in the past but not anymore. There are many mental health resources available in the Muslim community now; you just have to know where to look. Muslim therapists and life coaches follow an Islamic paradigm to help you find faith-based solutions to your problems. Moreover, they are well-versed in the nuances of immigrant family dynamics and back-home cultures because they themselves are often from the same backgrounds.


So what’s the difference between a therapist and a life coach?

Therapists are intensively trained to help you examine past issues, blockages and traumas and identify how these may be affecting your current emotional and mental health. They can help you overcome the habits of mind that may be holding you back. They are also equipped to diagnose and prescribe medication, if necessary.

Life Coaches focus on the future, helping you define your beliefs, pinpoint your goals and organize your life so its aligned with your highest potential.  Furthermore, coaches are allies, trained to motivate you, help you make difficult decisions with confidence and give you the tools you need to take charge of your life.

If you’re not in a place where 1:1 therapy or coaching is an option for you, then I encourage you to read, listen to and benefit from the advice of these professionals anyway. They have a lot to offer and in the age of social media, they often offer a lot of it for free! But it’s one thing to understand the changes we need to make and quite another to implement them with strength and consistency.

Still, your world can only ever be as pleasant as your thoughts, for your thoughts define your reality. Understanding your mindset and nurturing your mental health is the fastest way to a happier marriage, healthier relationships with our children, better friendships and an overall sense of personal fulfillment. My hope for everyone reading this is that you take your mental health and self-care seriously. It is not only essential for YOU but also critical for the overall well-being of everyone you love. 

About the Author

Sadia Khan is acertified educator, curriculum developer, writer and certified professional life coach specializing in helping Muslim women live their fullest, most authentic lives. To see more from Saadia Khan or to book a 1:1 coaching session, please follow her on Instagram @strongmuslimah_lifecoach