Assalaamu Alaykum wr wb Dearest Beloved Sisters,
Depression in Islam… SubhanaAllah, may Allah swt grant peace in the hearts of my sisters. So many sisters contact me about depression, sadness, and grief. Some feel guilty for their feelings, as if they are committing a sin for feeling down or depressed. But is it really a sin to feel any kind of emotion in Islam?
Why We Have Emotions:
My dear sisters, emotions are gifts from Allah swt. They are tools we can use to sense and understand good, bad, and all things in between in our world. To feel is to be human. We don’t need to feel guilt for feeling any emotion at all. Sisters might say, but many people say that feeling sad means we are losing our hope in Allah swt. But is that really true…. that we’ve lost hope in Allah swt? Often times it’s not the case. Somewhere many still have that hope, but sometimes our mind has become a bit clouded in tiny spaces, meaning that we feel overwhelmed by whatever is happening in our lives.
Will We Be Judged on Our Feelings?
Sisters, we are not going to be judged on the emotion we feel unintentionally. We’ll be judged on what we do after we experience an emotion. Do we sit and try to harbor wrong feelings and then especially if we “act on” the feelings in an incorrect way? So the test is this: we need to act correctly based on the situations we’re presented, however, our challenge is that our emotions are so strong that we tend to struggle with reacting in a positive way. So in order for us to be able to change all of that, we need to practice redirecting our thoughts and correcting negative thoughts so that those corrected thoughts help us instead of weigh heavy on us, pushing us down. (I have more articles on this down at the end of this writing.)
Types of Depression:
So, now we want to direct our focus to Depression in Islam. To understand this, we need to understand that there are varying degrees of depression or sadness. Some people have clinical depression and some people feel sadness. To put it simply, sometimes the brain has a difficult time regulating ‘neurotransmitters’ which directly effect our ability to remember, the way we feel, hallucinations, delusions, mania, depression, inhibition regulation, and our moods – plus a lot more! So if there is difficulty regulating certain chemicals in the brain appropriately, then a person will suffer from a variety of issues which is not really any fault of their own. We can read more about the causes of depression from Harvard Medical School.
The above was with regard to Clinical Depression. There are other forms of sadnesses that come which doesn’t mean someone is clinically depressed. Ups and downs in life are normal, and for the most part, people are able to take those ups and downs in stride and are quite resilient. We do seem to be able to ‘bounce’ back after most events in our lives. It doesn’t mean that if something sad happens to us in our lives that we’re depressed. However, if someone finds she cannot put things back together again for longer periods of time, daily life is quite affected, and many intruding negative thoughts prevail, then we can start considering if it’s an actual clinical depression. I hope it’ll help sisters know that the vast majority of people in this world are not suffering on a clinical level with no hope. Yes indeed some are very much suffering, and I make dua that this condition is cured, but not everyone is suffering to that extent.
Use this brief 18-question online automated quiz to help you determine if you may need to see a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment of depression, or for tracking your depression and mood on a regular basis.
All of that aside, we revisit the idea that sisters feel they are committing sins by feeling sad or hopeless, and they wonder what are they supposed to feel, and what are they supposed to do about it.
I hope this will lighten the heart when I tell you that when sad things happen, you’re supposed to feel sad -because you’re human and this is a natural emotion that Allah swt has assigned to us humans to have. So this means that your heart is alive and pumping and you’re not numb and unresponsive. It’s a good thing… trust me.
Directing Action From Emotions:
However, we have to take that emotion a bit further and know how to handle it. For example, let’s substitute another emotion that we can all understand better: Anger.
Sometimes we feel angry. It’s normal. It’s a human emotion. It’s not always negative. Sometimes it’s positive to feel anger. The issue comes when there is a lack of regulation of that emotion and we act while in the midst of not regulating that emotion. For example, we feel anger and so we yell. Anger is ok. Yelling is not. Then someone says, but I just got too angry and couldn’t control it. Right sister.. this is the issue. Lack of regulation and control.
So back to depression in Islam. Allah swt has given us all of our emotions for perfect reasons, and they are part of our being. However how we choose to respond to the even that made us sad..right? It’s the event that made us sad and to the sadness itself – well, both are our tests.
When we think about depression in Islam, we must think how can we work on retraining our hearts and minds how to respond to events in our lives which are in accordance to Islam, but we should know that we pull from all available means that Allah swt has given us in this world, while knowing that the very emotions and biochemical processes we have are a part of what it means to be human. Didn’t the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wassalam) cry when he was sad? Didn’t he turn his cheek when he was angry? Events happen, he felt emotion, he expressed those emotions, and then went on to take a positive approach to each “event” that happened. From there, he rechanneled his feelings towards the most positive thoughts and actions. Plus, he taught others to do the same. Let me give you an example: it’s normal to feel intense grief when someone passes away.
(this is just a summary of an event and not word for word transmission):
When the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wassalam) was about to leave this world. He called Fatima (ra) and whispered something in her ear. When she heard it, she began to cry. He whispered in her ear again and she smiled. Ayesha (ra) saw this exchange and asked Fatima about it:
“You cry and you laugh at the same time, Fatima? What did the Messenger (sallalahu alayhi wassalam) say to you?”
Fatima (ra) replied, “He (sallalahu alayhi wassalam) first told me that he would meet his Lord after a short while and so I cried. Then he said to me: ‘Don’t cry for you will be the first of my household to join me.’ So I laughed.”
One of the many lessons here is that to feel sadness or depression in Islam is an often brought up and addressed issue in our deen. We see this in the above example and how it’s very normal to feel sadness but also a wide variety of emotions. So, we have only the task to accept we’re human and then move forward using the other concepts we know of in Islam.
We have to lift up our perspective into a more positive outlook. I realize that for us common folk, this is more of a challenge and that Fatima (ra) was a strong woman of very strong imaan. But, nonetheless, this example shows us how we handle things and also how to give comfort to others as well. We know the rest of the story and how Fatima (ra) lived in grief after the departure of the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wassalam), and that teaches us that these emotions are real, not unIslamic, and does not mean we should feel guilty them.
However, how did Fatima (ra) live her life? She was strong in faith, realized that life and death is from Allah swt, good and bad (our perceptions of them) are from Allah swt, and she also realized that her response to all of everything that happens to her is a trial, one she must endure through the right means. So, we too must rechannel our thoughts, emotions, and actions. The pain might not ever go away, but the severity to which it affects us can absolutely be managed in sha Allah.
Whether we have clinical depression or sadness, grief, or depression to bit of a lesser degree, there are ways to positively affect our lives and manage in sha Allah. There is no degree or level which should be discounted or thought to be menial. How we approach the solutions will differ at times, and also at the same time, the approaches will share some similar strategies for the best management.
The Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wassalam) felt a lot of grief throughout his life. He (sallalahu alayhi wassalam) always felt the loss of Khadijah (ra), and that was really a tough trial for him – because this is what life is for everyone, no matter who you are.
Why? Because life was made a trial for all of mankind. Along with the trials, we have been given tools to manage then in our deen as well as through other knowledge that Allah swt has given us. We should try to follow all recommended guidelines whether in the deen or from our counselors.
At the end of the day, life is bumpy even for those who make the best decisions. Feeling the bumpiness is not wrong. It’s human. How we choose to handle everything is were we need a little direction.
Retraining Our Minds:
So, what we must do sisters is learn how to retrain our minds in how we see issues, how we come up with solutions, and what we take away from them. As for depression in Islam, this is real, and Allah swt addresses those feeling sad or grief and asks us not to, why? Because the Mumineen, the Believers, will be superior. So whatever problem we’re having, don’t worry, it will be resolved, have faith, make dua, and know that these are short lived. Our life here is short lived. We’re going to write more about this in sha Allah, however, for now, we should know that there is no reason to feel hopeless or guilt for feeling sadness or depressed. Actually Allah swt has given us our emotions, and also dearest sisters, we have the tools to face our problems whatever they are! Allah swt is our Helper, He is our Creator, and He knows us perfectly. He did not create us in vain as being without a purpose. So it is up to us to discover our purpose and to live our life with meaning, hope, and strength. In sha Allah, we’ll link the article here when published about the strategies to overcome adversities.
Please kindly see these other as well: