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“Scholars Are Not Psychiatrists!” Dr. Qadhi on Faith & Depression

Scholars are not psychiatrists or therapists.

Once, I remember in the summer of 1999 (or 2000?), I was giving a lecture, and during the Q and A someone handed me a question about depression.

While I don’t remember exactly what I said (and alhamduililah that particular lecture wasn’t recorded), it was along the lines of ‘If a person has strong iman, he won’t be depressed,’ and I went on to ‘answer’ the question by discussing how to develop iman.

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I was wrong. Very wrong.

Depression is real. While faith, family, friends, and many other factors can help, in and of themselves they are not a sure guarantee that depression won’t exist.

READ ALSO: Mental Illness… Real or Sign of Weak Faith?

 People who specialize for years in Islamic studies (such as yours truly) are typically looked up to by the masses to solve each and every problem. But both the questioner and the questioned need to know their areas of expertise.

I studied ten years in one of the most rigorous seminaries in the world. I studied many disciplines and read hundreds of works. Never once was the subject of counseling even covered (and I’m not suggesting every seminary needs to cover it, although it would be nice if it did).

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Average Scholar Is Not a Counselor

The default is that clergy are asked questions of a legal or a theological nature. Ask them about a verse you don’t understand, or a hadith, or a fiqh ruling.

But, and I say this loud and clear, the average Shaykh is NOT qualified to be a family counselor, or a marriage therapist, or a psychiatrist who can help you with OCD, depression, mental trauma, sexual abuse, substance abuse, or a host of other issues that they haven’t been trained to deal with. (Obviously, some of them have undertaken specialized training after their seminary education – I am not talking about that group).

PLEASE, if you need help, go to a trained person. Yes, family, friends, your local Shaykh, etc., can insha Allah be a secondary support mechanism in some cases (again, a case by case basis). But realize that the primary person you need to see if you’re dealing with depression is a trained therapist, not someone who has a beautiful Quranic recitation or can give a great academic talk about Islam.

The Quran tells us:

{Verily, along with difficulty, there is ease. Along with difficulty, there is ease} (Ash-Sharh 94:5-6)

{And do not kill yourselves, for verily Allah is ever-merciful to you} (An-Nisaa’ 4:29).

May Allah help us all overcome our struggles, and forgive us for our mistakes and sins.

This article is based on a post by Dr. Yasir Qadhi