I found myself asking that question when I read a heartbreaking comment from Amina, a Muslim mother who had postpartum depression, on a piece I had written about postpartum depression and different religious faiths.
I’m Muslim and had postpartum two years ago with my 4th child. Never had it before then. I remember when I told the Sheik’s(kinda like pastor’s) wife that I needed help. They made me feel so small, like I wasn’t a practicing Muslim, and said stuff like “You don’t need those pills.” or “They are just going to make things worse.” or “It’s all in your head. You just need to pray more, pray harder”. It was like saying you’re not a believer in God because you have this issue. I was devastated. I went looking for support and was dragged down even more. I even bought a book from their library and in the book it blamed “the devil or spirits ” and insisted I needed to pray more, or pray certain prayers. Thing was I prayed and prayed and prayed til I could barely move or speak. Did everything I was told to and it didn’t help at all. I never went back to that mosque after that day. It felt like they made things worse on me. I felt like I was being told I’m not a “real” Muslim or a true “believer” or I was simply “weak”.
This happens so often. Women made to feel horrible by people in their religious communities. This is something I cannot abide. Postpartum depression or anxiety (or antenatal depression or anxiety) are not moral failings. Period.
I reached out to my buddy HK to see if she was aware of what the Islamic position on PPD is, and she, being the awesome person she is, found the following for me from Ask The Scholar. It’s not specifically about postpartum depression, but it does provide an Islamic perspective on mental health issues:
Question: What does Islam say about mental disorders/illnesses? Is it due to the effect of jinn (demons) or Satan? What is the Islamic treatment for mental disorders?
Answer: It is indeed very unfortunate that some Muslims today cling to folklore that was not even accepted by those Muslims who came before us.
Even a casual glance at Islamic history reveals that, while much of Europe in the Medieval Period viewed mental illness as demon-related, Muslim scholars of the time, including Ibn Sina (known in the West as Avicenna – the founder of Modern Medicine), rejected such notions and viewed mental disorders as conditions that were physiologically based.
This kind of forward thinking about mental health by early Muslim scholars is also what led to the creation of the first psychiatric ward in Baghdad, Iraq by al Razi (one of the greatest physicians Islam has ever produced and known in the West as Rhazes). Based on the view that mental disorders were medical conditions, patients in these wards were treated not only humanely and compassionately but also using psychotherapy and drug treatments.
All this should be ample proof that in Islam, mental disorders are considered as illnesses that warrant medical attention and treatment, including medication, if prescribed.
In fact, taking medication and treating ourselves via experts is an important Islamic teaching. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is reported to have said, “Treat yourself through medications, for God has sent down a cure even as He has sent down the disease.”
All this being said, one should supplement treatment for all illnesses with prayers asking for God’s mercy, cure and healing.
I welcome other perspectives, as I am not a Muslim myself. I have to tell you, though, that I think this persective will remain my favorite. To me, it is beautifully supportive and healing.