Kashmir being a conflict-stricken society has unleashed myriad mental and physical health agonies on its citizenry. Even as natives frequent healthcare specialists and faith healers to get going, a shadow of ignorance is only growing and becoming a new worry.
An elderly lady nestled in between two plastic seats out in the hall of Super Speciality Hospital in Srinagar’s Shireen Bagh scoffs at my question.
“Whether you go to a peer, or you go to a doctor, it doesn’t matter. You can try and get yourself checked, but the real problem is—,” she jabs her finger toward her shriveled heart, “—in here.”
Ignorant to many of us, the Qur’an has assiduously mentioned hopelessness or despair (yās) within its chapters; the Almighty attributing it to be the second greatest sin in Islam after shirk (polytheism).
While polytheism, in the following context, refers to associating anyone or anything with Allah, despair has a unique disposition that is directly connected with the spiritual well-being of a believer.
Say: “O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who’ve transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (39:53)
After ‘Shirk’ no sin could be greater than to despair of Allah (S.W.T.)’s mercy and benevolence, Ayatollah Abul-Husayn Dastghaib Shirazi, the elected representative in Shiraz of late Ayatollah Khomeini (who spearheaded the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979), wrote in his critically acclaimed book, Greater Sins-Volume I: “This attitude reduces a person to a state of utter hopelessness. He imagines himself to be destined for Hell, and therefore he sees no benefit in doing good and avoiding evil.”
Consequently, Shirazi continues, the person tries to achieve as much worldly pleasure as possible and thus gets further involved in all kinds of sinful acts.
“Any other type of sinner could be pardoned if he repents. But the one who despairs does not deserve to be pardoned because the mental condition of such a person does not lead him towards repentance, but instead, induces him to continue to commit further acts of transgression against Allah (SWT)’s commands.”
Seeing my face torn between amusement and apprehension as I swallow her words, the elderly lady explains: “Come here. Listen.”
I scuffle closer and lean towards her seat.
“You’ll see a daughter-in-law going to the peer for greater control over her husband,” she tells me. “You’ll see the mother-in-law of the daughter-in-law going to either the same or a different peer for an identical solution. You’ll see a father forcing the peer to help cure his son’s puberty-driven love.”
Doctors who’re new to the field often believe that the usage of medicines alone can cure any disease, Dr. Syeda Aatika, currently practicing in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital or Headwin Hospital in Karan Nagar, states over the phone.
“However, senior doctors with years of experience know that such is not the case. Many a times, one needs the Will of Allah to survive,” she says.
The lady shakes her head, spits a glob of phlegm beside the legs of the seat and wipes her mouth.
“These are all phases that will never last,” she says. “Why do you think people do this? Because they’ve no faith in Allah! They’ve fallen into hopelessness and shamelessness, resorting to such disgusting acts to make their life look better on the outside!”
The Qur’an juxtaposes its position in such a situation by attributing depression to the word ‘despair’.
London-based Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Sarfaraz Jeraj, in an email conversation, believes that there exists a common theme between depression and despair.
“What depression has in common with despair is that they describe negative mood states and can include a sense of hopelessness. Therefore, trying to understand depression through the Qur’an is not contradictory,” he says.
Sharing Quranic approaches can add value to people suffering with aspects common to sadness/ despair and depression, he observes, reconciling with spiritual and scientific perspectives from the point of view that ‘emotions are a part of a human being and serve a purpose designed by the perfect Creator’.
A man seated beside her cracks into a grin and gives me a look that says ‘crazy talk’.
“You think I’m wrong?” she throws a sharp gaze at the man, who chuckles to himself. “Go into any house and peep past the beautiful furniture and the western bathrooms. You’ll see what I’m talking about,” she concludes, turning her face away and muttering angrily with herself.
Her words flash through my mind at sporadic intervals as I absent-mindedly exit the main hospital gate and walk along the road.
In Raheela’s case, the psychiatrist diagnosed her with ‘clinical depression’, a mental health disorder characterized by a persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. According to experts, the disorder is treatable by a medical professional within a span of few months.
However, the treatment includes methods not isolated to anti-depressant medication, such as therapy related to changing the thinking patterns and behavior of the client, known as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the client is under anesthesia, called Electro-Convulsive treatment (ECT), both of which have been neglected to be offered to her and other such similar cases, mostly due to a lack of infrastructure or organization in Kashmir.
Simply put, once a condition such as hers persists in a conflict-ridden region, without a proper course of treatment by a trained medical professional, a condition of hopelessness, or despair is inevitable.
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