Posted by: Dawud Israel | March 17, 2008

Depression and Muslims

This is a sensitive topic so it requires maturity and I should make it clear I am not a scholar or a psychotherapist. The only reason this is being written is because very little is out there on this subject. I plan on making other posts in the future regarding this and will remember to link them together due to the sensitivity and care of this topic.

Please note the difference between being depressed and being just a little sad. Occasional sadness is human nature and not abnormal.

I was sitting in the library with some friends and then a sister came by and sat down and said her salams. She was talking to some other people but it become obvious that something was horribly wrong. She was talking about her depression and how she had been engaging in sinful behavior in order to relieve herself. Obviously, I could not just sit there and be silent so I spoke to her. Especially since it was obvious I was a practicing Muslim (with my beard) she asked me, “Is suicide haraam?” To which I responded, “Yes” and then whispered her to go and read the Quran. For some reason this didn’t register and so she returned to her talking about how crummy her life was. I knew I had to be firm so I told her again to go right now and get a Quran and read the translation or recite it. She left, I uttered a quick duaa for her and she returned after reading the Quran saying she felt much better. Alhamdulillah

These sorts of events are ones that really make you realize how vulnerable Muslims are. It’s not as if we are perfect. Being humans we are just as vulnerable to psychological damage as others. In this sisters case it was especially severe. She had seen many shrinks (psychologists) and had a complicated childhood. Furthermore, she was a convert and so there was an extra factor involved. It was no surprise to see her the next day complaining again.

This was not the first time I had encountered this sort of scenario although this was a very severe one. The other cases had mainly involved non-Muslims.

There are few things that get me as angry as these sorts of people. They have so much and yet they waste their life as if they are the weakest in the world. But one cannot stop there.

So let’s take a closer look at this discussion:

Causes

1) We live in a deeply materialistic society. People spend a great deal of time around objects that do not communicate. When we are on the computer there is little social interaction and when there is in ways of chats–it is often lacking the personal features of communicating. So almost by osmosis we pick up the ‘robotic’ features of computers and inanimate non-human objects.

2) Modesty in Islam for some of the more serious brothers and sisters adds another further complicating feature. Sisters will often not smile in order to not attract the opposite gender. So this results in the frowny face sisters and the brothers who avoid eye contact. Compound this with the fact that you are around very few practicing Muslims in the first place and you get a very ‘oppressed psyche’.

3) In our era there is very little emphasis on knowledge and learning. Although people are literate, not many actually go out and read or learn. Many people use the Internet as their primary and only source of learning. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet as a tool for learning but ignoring the other sources such as books is what is problematic. And so this adds to the problem simply because less focus on knowledge means a stronger focus on emotion. And so the human mind is more occupied with emotions and is more likely to feel than to anything else. Books make a nice companion and can help you direct your thoughts to more constructive efforts.

4) Another cause is when a person is told, “You are depressed,” this gives them an identity. This is like a condemnation to them and by telling a person they are depressed even though they are not it will make them cling to it and in time become exactly that. If I were to tell you, “Your depressed”–it would make a lasting impression on you and you would find yourself remembering that and wondering if it is true and at your weak moments–make it true.

5) From what I’ve read there are two types of depressed people. The first group is one that is constantly searching for approval from others to what they are doing and so this leads to an identity issue. They are what people want them to be. They are naturally unaggressive and give up easy. They lack confidence in their own abilities and will often achieve something impressive only when they do so passively or aren’t very conscious of it. The second group are those who are extremely active. These people are so occupied in life that it is their default nature–this is considered “normal” for them. When they aren’t active–than they go into depression.

Solutions

The world of the kuffar is steeped in sin and this is mainly because, in my opinion, they believe it to be a means of relief and salvation from pain. They do a good job of hiding it sometimes but this is the basic reality. They live in a world without spirituality and this is very dangerous. Even in the Christian tradition there is a strong element of Gothic sadness that amounts to some very frightening thoughts. But the Muslim has solutions and alternatives.

1) Quran is the BEST source of spiritual and psychological healing. Just open it up and read. Nothing more really can be said because this is the end-all and be-all.

2) Duaa is a powerful means of venting and communicating your concerns to Allah. I personally believe the wisdom behind feeling down is that Allah is calling us back to Him. He is pushing us to sit in His presence and call upon Him. It doesn’t matter how much you have sinned–just call Him. Don’t think by calling upon humans you will find peace. Hearts only find peace in the remembrance of Allah.

3) Good friends and close relations with people you have always been close to. Keeping in touch with the people who really know you is always good. These people make you SMILE which is something you should be doing lots of. Muslims need to remember that we were never really meant to be alone, in Heaven and Earth, only Allah has the right to be truly Alone.

4) Exercise! This not only keeps you active but it has an effect on your body and can really shake off the feeling of feeling down.

5) Stop complaining!

6) Weather can be an issue. Some people think they are depressed when really all they may have is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and so in the wintertime they may feel down. One way of solving this is to simply go out for a walk during the day–after Fajr can be especially soothing when the sun is just breaking the horizon. Some people recommend taking Vitamin D supplement pills–but I think sunlight is good enough.

7) Occupy yourself with helping others so that you have little time to think about yourself. If you have time to waste just wallowing over things than there is something really wrong. Get busy!

Conclusions:

Recall the behavior of the Sahabas (ra). Much of their psychology was totally transformed by the deep connection they held to Allah and His Deen. It was not unusual for them to cry every single day in prayer. Or even cry in every single prayer at times. So there is a level of emotionalism that is developed through worship. But this is one that is in the form of duaas and so there is always a response from Allah. People who actually call upon Allah with their heart, soul and tears are usually the ones that people comment on the amount of nur emanating from there face–a sign of the content soul. 🙂

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdik ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.


Responses

  1. Whooooooh! You DA MAN!

    I love this blog.

    I swear, I’ll be thinking about a particular issue on a particular day, and I come home to here that it has already been discussed. Its like an RSS feed of my brain.

    Keep It coming Uncle!

  2. Asalaamu alikum wa rahmatuallah,

    Jazak’allah for sharing this post- reading your thoughts on this issue is quite insightful.

    I would like to contribute two references that you and your readers might find useful:

    1) How to live a humble life- a student of psycohology considers the epidemcie of psychiatric disorders in the light of the Qur’an.

    Part 1

    Part 2

    2) Dont be sad by Aaidh ibn Adbdullah al-Qarni is a beautiful book for those looking for truthful comfort and solace (in the Qur’an & Sunnah).

    Kind regards,

    Dont be sad

  3. Jazakallaahu khayran, this was very helpful, may Allaah bless you, ameen.


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