Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil, a core member of the SeekersHub Answers service, offers much-needed, effective online pastoral care – to those who seek help. What about those who suffer in silence?
Taha has reached rock bottom. Perhaps he is struggling with some form of addiction, or he is depressed. He has tried numbing his pain, but he knows that if he does not get help, then he may end up walking a path he will later regret.
He paces his room, thinking of his parents and his younger siblings. They all need him to be invincible. He doesn’t know how.
By the time he summons up the courage to speak to his parents, he is shaking from nervousness.
“Baba, Mama, I need to speak to you.”
Taha’s parents look at each other, worried. They have noticed that he has been distant lately. He barely speaks to them, eats poorly, and spends a lot of time in his room.
“I think I’m depressed,” he blurts. “I-I need to get help – I need to speak to someone.”
His parents gasp. Their firstborn son – depressed? This happens to other people, and to other families. Not their Taha.
Their fear for him takes on familiar, well-worn forms – anger and anxiety.
“When I was your age, I didn’t have time to be depressed. Who are you going to speak to? Dr Phil?“ his father snaps. “Stop being so weak.”
“You need to get married”
“You need to get married,” his mother says hurriedly. “That will help you feel better. What about Aunty Jasmin’s niece?”
Taha slumps in his seat, closes his eyes, and looks away.
Taha is a fictional character, but his struggle is very real. Many Muslims around the world today are tested by some form of emotional, mental, and/or spiritual imbalance.
Not enough families are equipped with the right tools to deal with this trial. Worried parents often blame themselves when their children come to them with their troubles. It is heartbreaking to realise that your beloved child is struggling with something that has no quick fix.
Parental worry can quickly transmute into impatience, because it hurts us to see our children hurting. The harder, but more fulfilling path, is to stay present, see our children for who they truly are, and make space to seek help.
Our Beloved Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) gave us a dua to guard against depression. Surely this, if nothing else, is a sign that mental, emotional and spiritual struggles are real, and something that can be remedied.
حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدُ بْنُ مَخْلَدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عَمْرُو بْنُ أَبِي عَمْرٍو، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَنَسًا، قَالَ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ “ اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ، وَالْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ، وَالْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ، وَضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ، وَغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ ”.
The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) used to say, “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from worry and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from cowardice and miserliness, from being heavily in debt and from being overpowered by (other) men.” [Bukhari]
Jabir reported Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) as saying: “There is a remedy for every malady, and when the remedy is applied to the disease it is cured with the permission of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.” [Sahih Muslim]
The dunya is a place of struggle. There is no shame in seeking help, and seeking a culturally-sensitive counsellor is one of the means of seeking help. A calm and objective professional can help untangle difficult knots.
- Renew our intentions daily.
- Nourish our own spiritual lives through our connection to Allah Most High.
- Stay connected to our children and build rapport from birth, and beyond. E.g. Create regular opportunities for authentic connection and honest conversation – do acts of worship together, play together, no phones at the dinner table, bedtime dua rituals etc.
- Recognise when the problem is too big to handle alone and reach out for help.
- Be part of a community that learns and grows together.
I pray that with education and a return to the Prophetic example of mercy, more Muslim families will see the wisdom in speaking to culturally-sensitive counsellors, and encouraging their children to do the same.