According to psychological studies, a large percentage of people today are subject to some kind of depression, even small children, so it is important to explore this issue in relation to being better Muslims.
The Islamic system aims at creating a balance in the Muslim’s life, by putting life matters into perspective, rearranging priorities accordingly, and harmonizing all circles of relationships between the individual and his inner and outer environments:
Allah says: (Seek the life to come by means of what God granted you, but do not neglect your rightful share in this world. Do good to others as God has done good to you. Do not seek to spread corruption in the land, for God does not love those who do this.) (Al-Qasas 28:77)
People feel depressed or sad when this harmonious equilibrium is disturbed, in which case Islam steps in, not to condemn the feeling, but to offer a solution for regaining psychological and mental balance.
What Is Depression?
It is essential to know the difference between situational depression (temporary deep distress or sadness) and clinical depression, which is a mental health disorder that can affect the way we work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy pleasurable activities.
A depressive disorder is more than a passing mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness, and it cannot be willed or wished away, because it is a change in the chemicals of the brain(neurochemistry) which trigger a certain mood, and it needs professional help for treatment.
The causes of depression are numerous: genetic, psychological, and environmental factors are often involved. Yet, the relation between the chemistry of brain and our experience in life is a two-way street: true our brain affects how we handle life situations, but also the way we solve our problems and handle challenges greatly affect the mood-chemistry of our brain.
So, people who have low self-esteem, who are consistently pessimistic, who are readily overwhelmed by stress, or who have a severe physical illness are prone to depression.
Can Muslims Be Depressed?
To become Muslim, one has to submit his will to God alone and no one else, and trust that He will take good care of him no matter what happens as long as the individual keeps his side of the relationship with Him.
A Muslim must admit his limitations as a human, so he goes through life looking ahead positively, worrying only about what is in his knowledge and ability as a human, and he leaves the rest to God’s wisdom.
Existential concerns can cause serious distress as one tries to understand: why am I here, where am I going, what is the point of living if I am going to die anyway?
As a Muslim, you get affected by life’s troubles and disturbing thoughts like everyone else, but you can deal with them much better because you have a clear roadmap of where you came from, where you are going and why, so you have a head start having this fundamental knowledge from its source.
In other words, you are resistant to existential emptiness, so your focus is on taking control over your life to make the most of it according to the purpose it was given to you for, and you make decisions that will not cause you to feel worse in bad times.
Someone who feels completely lost and alone in the face of a crisis would probably feel helpless and depressed. But someone who feels supported by a compassionate God who genuinely cares, who listens to desperate pleas, and who grants generous help, has a better chance of getting back on track much faster because there is a strong helping hand to reach for while dealing with life’s troubles.
Depression: Condemned in Islam?
Islam does not require us to be superhuman. If one experiences negative feelings, he is encouraged to resist them with positive thoughts and actions if possible, or to seek professional help if the case is clinical.
We are required to take charge of our lives since we are accountable for our deeds and decisions, both for ourselves and for others who will be affected, and we are not allowed to hate or harm ourselves; instead we are taught dignity, self respect and protection both as a right and a duty:
(And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for Allah loves those who do goo) (Al-Baqarah 2:195)
(Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful!) (An-Nisaa’ 4:29)
Self hatred results from low self esteem in reaction to feelings of worthlessness or guilt. In Islam a Muslim always have hope of God’s mercy even if you have committed the worst sins:
(And never give up hope of Allah’s soothing mercy: truly no one despairs of Allah’s soothing mercy, except those who have no faith) (Yusuf 12:87)
There is no place for despair because one is encouraged to have confidence in knowing it is God Himself who is in charge of everything, the All Seeing, All Knowing, and All Fair and Wise God:
(… and for those who fear Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out, and He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.) (Al-Talaq 65:2-3)
a Muslim is certain that there is no impossible situation which has no solution:
(So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.) (Al-Sharh 94:5-6)
Muslims also have simple and effective prescriptions against grief and anxiety.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
No person suffers any anxiety or grief, and says this supplication but Allah will take away his sorrow and grief, and give him in their stead joy.
O Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your female slave, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every Name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Quran the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety). (Ahmad)