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Attitude of a Muslim towards Depression
Muhammad Adeel Zaffar


If you have grown tired of life, or wish to go someplace where you can be alone, or you are always nervous, stressed and gloomy, you are probably suffering from depression. One could expect such a person to be suffering from this ‘illness’ who is incapable of fulfilling his needs or a time has come in his life that he feels totally helpless, defeated and lonely, either as a result of an unfortunate death, a missed opportunity, a financial loss, persistent feeling of depravity, or some other unexpected disappointing experience. This can invariably contribute towards feelings of jealousy, fear, cowardice, pessimism and insecurity. A heightened form of this ‘illness’ could force the sufferer into committing suicide or even setting himself ablaze. It is a pity though that today this ‘illness’ has become rampant at every level of society and its disastrous effects result in the form of all sorts of hideous crimes depending upon the circumstances and history of the sufferer.

My objective in this article is not to delve into the causes of depression, rather to focus on just the ‘illness’ itself from a different perspective. The analysis is from a religious perspective and becomes all the more important for a Muslim since the word despair should not exist in his dictionary.

In layman’s terms, depression can be of two forms: one finds its roots in the chemical disorientation of the sufferer whereas the other can be attributed to social circumstances. A psychiatrist can help recuperate the victim belonging to the former category whereas a psychologist can attend to cases forming the latter group.

From a social viewpoint it can be said without any misgivings that a true Muslim can never suffer from this ‘disease’. The answer lies in this fundamental understanding, which governs (or should govern) a Muslim’s life: his life with all its ups and downs is a trial. The Qur’ān emphatically says:

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ وَنَبْلُوكُمْ بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ(٣٥:٢١)

Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial. To Us must you return. (21:35)

It also points out:

لَا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا (٦ :١٥٢)

No burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear. (6:152)

 Therefore for a Muslim, difficulties are perhaps as vital for the continuation of life as is oxygen for breathing. It cannot be that life goes on at a relative level of poverty or affluence till the end. The crests and troughs of this wave of life have an implicit existence. Every rise is sooner or later followed by a fall.

فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا  إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا (٩٤ :٦-٥)

So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief. (94:5-6)

 There are some for whom the sea is more turbulent hence the rise and fall of the tide is more marked. There are others who experience this rise and fall in a manner that almost defies the existence of any alteration. Despite the odds in a given condition, a true Muslim with his strong faith in the Almighty, observes the silver lining, something that promises him a more desirable and everlasting reward in the Hereafter:

 وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنْ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنْ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ وَبَشِّرْ الصَّابِرِينَ  الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ  أُوْلَئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ وَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْمُهْتَدُونَ(٢ :١٥٥-٧)

Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the harvest that you sow; but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere; who say, when afflicted with calamity: ‘To God We belong, and to Him is our return’. They are those on whom [descend] blessings from God, and mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance. (2:155-7)

 The torture suffered by Bilal (rta) is well known amongst the Muslims; clad in steel armour he was made to lie down on the burning sand. In addition, the Quraysh dragged him around in the hope that he would renounce his faith. Yet every time ‘Ahad’ was the only cry that came out of his mouth. History shows us that Bilal’s patience was rewarded for he became the Mu’adhdhin of the Prophet (saws) (despite the fact that his pronunciation was not the best amongst the Companions of the Prophet (sws)).

The idea is that for a Muslim, each incident has both a bright side and a dull side to it. It is part of his faith that Allah knows everything that lies ahead. And that if apparently there is no remuneration from Allah in this life then surely: ‘God never fails in His promise’ (3:09). For Allah says in the Qur’ān:

 إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ  جَزَاؤُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ خَشِيَ رَبَّهُ(٩٨ :٧-٨)

Those who have faith and do righteous deeds, -- they are the best of creatures. Their reward is with God: Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever; God well pleased with them, and they with Him: all this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher. (98:7-8)

 Hence, the Qur’ān says:

إِنَّهُ لَا يَيْئَسُ مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْقَوْمُ الكَافِرُونَ(١٢ :٨٧)

Truly no one despairs of God’s soothing mercy, except those who have no faith (12:87)

 It is important to understand that seeking help in times of despair is something that Allah expects from us, for we are mere creations:

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِي إِذَا دَعَانِي فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ(٢ :١٨٦)

When My servants ask you about Me, I am indeed close [to them]: I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way. (2:186)

 Even the Prophets of Allah called for help in times of gloom for that was for us to understand that they are guided human beings who pray and praise their Lord for help as well. The Prophet Jacob (sws) said:

قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّهِ (١٢ :٨٦)

I only complain of my distraction and anguish to God. (12:86)

When, during his stay in Makkah, the Prophet (saws) was persecuted by the Quraysh, Allah said:

فَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ  وَمِنْ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْهُ وَأَدْبَارَ السُّجُودِ(٥٠ :٤٠-٣٩)

Bear, then, with patience, all that they say, and celebrate the praises of your Lord, before the rising of the sun and before [its] setting. And during part of the night, [also] celebrate His praises, and [so likewise] after the postures of adoration. (50:39-40)

 Again, when Prophet (sws) hid in the cave of Thawr with Abū Bakr (rta), he comforted his companion by saying:

لَا تَحْزَنْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَنَا (٩ :٤٠)

Have no fear, for God is with us (9:40)

In the end, it has to be said that the so called ups downs are a necessary part of our lives which are a blessing in disguise for they can help us earn greater rewards in the Hereafter. Man on the contrary puts up a shameful performance:

فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِي  وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَن (٨٩ :١٥-٦)

Now, as for man, when his Lord tries him, giving him honour and gifts, then says he, [puffed up]: ‘My Lord has honoured me’. But when He tries him, restricting his subsistence for him, then says he [in despair]: ‘My Lord has humiliated me!’ (89:6-15)

 We do not have to think as to what we should be doing in times of difficulty (or in times of joy for that matter). The Qur’ān has already done the job of identifying a path for us; we merely have to realize what it is and then tread that path:

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا  إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا  وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا  إِلَّا الْمُصَلِّينَ  الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُونَ(٧٠ :١٩-٢٣)

Truly man was created very impatient. Fretful when evil touches him. And niggardly when good reaches him. Not so those devoted to Prayer. Those who remain steadfast on their prayer. (70:19-23)

And finally:

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ(٢ :١٥٣)

O you who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for God is with those who patiently persevere (2:153)


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