What you need to know about Anxiety and Depression In Islam
You want it to be over. But you can’t summon the energy to get up and put an end to it. You know you are the only one who can change how you are feeling right now. But you just want to wallow in self-loathe and self-pity, because those are the only feelings that come easy to you. And hate. You are left with not an ounce of love towards anyone, only hate. Even for the ones you once loved. Nobody understands you. They think you are “Sad”. Hah. Your dark thoughts won’t let you smile, sleep or live. You want to run away, but where? A murky cloud looms over you like the devil’s captor. And you ask yourself everyday, what’s the point of living? Yet again, you don’t have the strength to end it. You know there’s only one way to go. Steeper into the pit of darkness. Or… Is there a way back?
Ever felt like that in your life? I sincerely hope not. That my friends, is called depression. But not if you felt it for a few hours or a day, that’s normal. It’s when you feel like that for weeks on end ( atleast 2 for a clinical diagnosis).
Today I am not going to talk to you as a Medical Doctor, nor a Da’ee (one who spreads the message of Islam). But as someone who has been there. Someone who has taken that dismal ride.
In this article I will talk about:
- What is depression and anxiety?
- What do the stats have to say?
- Is there any room for anxiety and depression in Islam?
- Different aspects and causes of anxiety and depression.
- What are their deletrious effects, especially for a Muslim? And Why you need to learn how to walk out of these mental health conditions!
When we talk about depression, we need to address anxiety as well. They are two sides of the same coin. They go together like bread and butter. Like jam and jelly? (Not-such-a-good example)
How many of you have felt anxious before an interview, debate, presentation or a public gathering? I’m pretty sure almost all.
You are nervous, restless or tense, with an increased heart rate, breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, trembling, feeling weak or tired, have trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry, trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, and have difficulty controlling worry etc..
Trust me, It’s fine. Feeling like that every once in a while. It’s part of the fight-or-flight reponse in us humans. Unless you are an ET ( I’ve been told by myself that I make too many ET jokes. I know, I know. Tell me when to stop).
Now imagine someone feeling like that on a regular basis for a month or more. That’s not fine. I believe these mental health conditions are synonymous to slow-poisoning.
Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456 AH), the famous Andalusian scholar of Islām said, “I searched for a common goal amongst humankind, to which all would agree to strive for excellence. I have not found anything other than the vanquishing of anxiety [hamm].”
The interestingly sad reality of today is.. although medicine has significantly advanced and the monster of science has grown many more limbs, the incidence of anxiety and depression is increasing at an alarming rate! And the Muslim Ummah is not unharmed. This black-hole is consuming young Muslims as well.
Is there any room for anxiety or depression in Islam?
Do you see what I see? Do you see that although spirituality is closely related to these mental health conditions, there are so many other aspects/ causes of anxiety and depression.
These other aspects are not taken into consideration by the Muslims who claim that anxiety and depression are diseases of the soul. Only people with weak emaan can suffer from such conditions.
And so the young Muslims today, the keyword here is young, undergoing such mental health problems do not claim to have them. Who should they go and talk to? Psychiatrists? Oh but then they will be labelled/diagnosed as “Mentally ill“. Or their Muslim parents, teachers or the local Imaam? Oh but then they will be labelled as “Muslims with weak emaan (aka lack of spirituality)“.
So many Muslims undergoing these mental health issues might have a physical/ biological disease undiagnosed that is strongly related to depression or anxiety ( for eg., something as common as a nutritional (folate or Vit B6 or B12 ) deficiency). Others might have received it through genetics. And then there are those that are miserable due to being stuck in bad relationships that always require compromise.
Why you NEED TO walk out of Anxiety/ Depression
Despite the biological, social, and mental causes/ aspects of anxiety and depression, there’s the spiritual aspect that weighs most heavily upon the shoulders of Muslims. We as Muslims, cannot deny the powerful connection between spirituality and mental well-being. Allah beautifully reveals the link between the two in a small ayah of The Quran:
“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” ( Quran Surah13: Ayah 28)
Many times the main reason why some people fall into depression and may lose the will to live is the lack of/weak faith in divine decree( al-Qada’ wa’l Qadr).
Now there’s something else that I would like to highlight here:
Whatever the cause of these mental health conditions may be, severe anxiety and depression inevitably lead you away from Allah and Islam. Grief and sufferrings of different intensities befall everyone. Remember, grief (extreme sorrow) and mild anxiety can bring you closer to Allah, because the element of hope is still alive.
But severe depression on the other hand, strips you of all hope and trust in Allah. All the negative feelings of hate and self-loathing that nurture in the hearts of depressed Muslims, consequently lead to low self-esteem, more sinning, less duas and a weakened spiritual connection with The Almighty Allah. Similarly in extreme levels of anxiety, the Muslim loses tawakkul(trust) in Allah.
The state of an anxious/ depressed Muslim goes against the belief system of Islam.
Allah says in the Quran:
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. [ Surah Yusuf 12: Ayah 87 ]
Like I said earlier, nobody can understand what you are going through. Nobody except those that have been there. And nobody can help you. Unless you want out of it. Sometimes these mental health problems (especially depression) can lead us to a point where we are left with no desire to help ourselves.
We would rather lie flat on our backs and stare at the empty canvas of our hearts. Truly, that’s a horrible state to be in. But there’s always a way out. Islam has a way for everything in life. EVERYTHING. Allah is waiting for those in misery to realize that there’s only one way out. A way to not only come out of the dark abyss life throws you in, but stay out. And that, my friends, is calling out to Allah.
That’s easier said then done, particularly when your relationship with Allah is severely compromised due to lack of spirituality. Hence, there would have been no point of delivering this article unless I tell you how to come out as a warrior when struck with anxiety and/or depression in Islam (like I tell myself I did!).
In the next article, I will InshaAllah explain how to overcome anxiety and depression in Islam (this article was getting too long so I had to divide the content into two posts) . I request you to bare with me for my tortoiselike speed of delivering articles! Juggling medical exams, work-life, family and this blog tends to slow my operating systems 😀
- The Effect of Meditation on the Brain activity in Tibetan Meditators: Frontal Lobes, http://www.andrewnewberg.com/research.asp
- Hippocampal Volume Reduction in Major Depression J. Douglas Bremner, Meena Narayan, Eric R. Anderson, Lawrence H. Staib, Helen L. Miller, and Dennis S. Charney American Journal of Psychiatry 2000 157:1, 115-118
- Cummings JL. Frontal-Subcortical Circuits and Human Behavior. Arch Neurol. 1993;50(8):873–880. doi:10.1001/archneur.1993.00540080076020
- The Concept and Psychological Effects of Sins in Islam Alam Khan Asian Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities Vol. 4(1) February 2015
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Fifth edition. 2013.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (Data from 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.) www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml
JazakAllah for reading this article. If you found it useful, share it with your friends/family members so that they benefit from it too Insha’Allah.
Do you know of anyone who is sufferring from such mental health disorders? Do you think lack of spirituality is the only cause of anxiety and depression in Islam? Let’s talk in the comment section below.
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