Prevention of Depression: In the Light of the Quranic Teachings

Prevention of Depression: In the Light of the Quranic Teachings

Prevention of Depression: In the Light of the Quranic Teachings

مصنف: Dr. Misbah Saghir مارچ 2023

Prevention of Depression

(In the light of the Quranic teachings)

Misbah Saghir; Psychological Research Officer


Depression is a rapidly growing dangerous illness, affecting around 280 million people yearly. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 3.8% of the world's population is affected by it, including 5.0% of adults and 5.7% of those who are more than 60-years-old. Every year, more than 7 lac people lose their life due to depression, and accordingly many young boys and girls commit suicides, which is the fourth leading cause of death in youth lying in between the ages of 15-29 years. Depression was declared the as the top third major disease in 2008. Its growth rate however indicates that by the year 2030, it is projected to take the top position .

The concept of depression:

American Psychiatric Association defines depression as follows:

“Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home”.

This is a psychological state, in which a person becomes intensely sad, anxious, and hopeless. Psychologists have highlighted some symptoms, but all of these may not necessarily be present in every person affected by it. If a person manifests four symptoms, which persist for more than two weeks and his routine life is disturbed, then most probably he is caught into the problem of depression. Symptoms include: persistent sadness, loss of appetite, sleep deprivation, mental and physical weakness, tiredness, low-esteem, plunged in blames of one’s past mistakes, thinking about suicide, and consequently  making attempts for it.

No matter whatever the cause of this illness, including for example the death of a loved one, irrecoverable loss, to get divorced or domestic disputes, unfulfilled desires and expectations, or other similar experiences , sadness or sorrow is a natural and innate reaction to all these incidents. Nevertheless,   entrapment in a persistent  sorrowful despair and  drawing disturbance in all the facades of daily life indicates that one is certainly depressed.

Psychology and causes of depression:

The first cause of depression is your personality:  getting very upset over trivial matters, overthinking negative aspects and continuously declining self-confidence, makes you vulnerable to depression.

The second category of causes includes environmental factors: continuous physical or sexual violence, imbalanced environment at home, consecutive failures, separation from a dear one, feeling ignored by the dear ones or parents, and financial issues could also lead to depression.

Third reason is associated with the abrupt chemical changes in the neurotransmitters which play an important role in the regulation of your mood.

Fourth reason lies in genetics or heredity. If someone in your family is facing depression, then the issue may be carried to the present or next generations through inheritance. Moreover, if someone does not take part in physical activities, then he may face depression.

Quran and causes of depression:

Spiritual weakness:

A human being is essentially created  with a combination of a physical body and soul, in which spiritual aspect lies at the centre of human life, through which man in fact establishes connection with his lord and creator. And he endeavours to become His perfect servant, through knowing Him. One who knows his creator and lives according to the divine will, he will not be overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, and sorrow. If he falls into forgetfulness, and does not use his spiritual faculties in satisfying the divine will, then he will face anxiety and predicament, which may ultimately lead to depression as Allah S.W.T says (Quran, 2:38):  

“whoever will follow My guidance, neither shall any fear (obsess) them, nor shall they grieve”

Trials and tribulations:

Islam conceives life within the ebbs and flows of trials and tribulations. Everyone has his own regime of tests here in this world. Satan has a task to pollute man’s mind with fears and suspicions and drive him away and make him hopeless from the Mercy of Allah. With dwindling in man’s spiritual faculties Satan’s task becomes easier. He makes every effort in pushing us in fear and hopelessness.

Allah S.W.T says in Holy Quran (2:268):

“Satan makes you afraid of poverty (to stop you from spending in the way of Allah) and enjoins you to commit indecency. And Allah promises you His forgiveness and bounty. And Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.”

Conversely, Allah calls His servant to firm belief, faith and reliance in Allah, and self-confidence so that a person may get rid of daily problems and live for higher purposes. For this reason, sending Hazrat Muhammad S.A.W with a great purpose is stated in Quran (3:164) as follows:

“Indeed, Allah conferred a great favour on the believers that He raised amongst them (the most eminent) Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) from amongst themselves, who recites to them His Revelations, purifies them, and educates them on the Book and Wisdom though, before that, they were in manifest error.”

Hence, it is clear that according to Quran human life is conceived in a great spiritual purpose, and in order to actualise this goal, it is purposefully strengthened by Allah S.W.T through challenges and tribulations.  As Hazrat Saad R.A narrates that, “I asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which of the people are passed through highest scale of challenges?’ He said, ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. Scale of test a person is put to, parallels to the scale of his spiritual attainment. More steadfast one is in his religious commitments, more severely will he be tested, and the one who is weaker in his religious commitments, accordingly the severity of test will match his religious state. Man ever lives among these trials until (because of patience) afflictions leave him and he walks on the earth with no sin associated with him.’”

In Quran (2:214), Allah S.W.T says,

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise (for nothing, without any trial,) whilst you have not yet undergone the predicament of those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with a diversity of sufferings and hardships and were jolted (in such a manner) that the Messenger (of that nation) and his companions in faith (too) cried out: ‘When will the help of Allah arrive?’ Beware! The help of Allah is definitely at hand.”

After passing through all these ordeals, human behaviour is divided into different modes. Some of them become fed up with these sufferings and fall into fear and despair. Here, Satanic whispers add fuel to the fire, and one gradually becomes preoccupied with negative and irrational thoughts which ultimately breed depression.

Coping with depression in the light of Quranic teachings

To cope with mental and psychological illnesses, Quran prescribes a unique remedy which consist of two stages. In the first stage, for establishing someone’s faith in Allah, Quran describes different types of advices for ordinary and special human beings, which provide a firm  psychological, emotional, and mental foundations to deal with depression, and prepares them for the second stage of treatment, where human beings set out in pursuit of the Ultimate Reality through establishment of prerogatory worships. Here, person’s mind, heart, and soul all converge to fulfil the wish of Allah, and instead of submitting to the hardships, he challenges them and submits to the will of Allah Almighty.

Quranic advice for the prevention of depression

At several places in Quran, there are numerous stories and advice that increase one’s morale as well as courage. The basic perspective of Quranic philosophy which is demanded by Allah from a human beings is described as follows (3:139; 10:62):

“And do not lose heart or feel grieved; and it is you who will be victorious, provided you maintain (perfect) faith.”

“Beware! Verily, the friends of Allah will not have any fear, nor will they grieve.”

When it appears that we are left with nothing in this world, we have no one who cares for us and loves us, in that very moment, we ought to realize that a great Being is ever there, who never forgets us; as Allah S.W.T says (19:64),

“And your Lord is never forgetful (of you).”

According to Quran, fear and anxiety are natural processes, which God employs to build trust in Him. Even prophets had been challenged with fear and anxiety occasionally, until they attained perfect trust in Allah. When Hazrat Musa A.S and Hazrat Haroon A.S were sent towards Pharaoh, they said (20:45),

“Both of them submitted: ‘O our Lord, we fear lest he should commit some excess against us, or become (more) rebellious.’’”

In response, Allah S.W.T, for dispelling unknown fear and for trusting in Him, asked them (20:46),

“(Allah) said: ‘Do not fear. I am indeed with you both. I hear and see (all).”

In essence, a person falls prey to fear and sorrow because of the following factors which lead him to the state of depression:

Fear of deprivation and poverty:

According to a recent research in the popular international journal ‘Science’, the increasing poverty and malnutrition which has become more pronounced after COVID-19, is one of the leading causes which are affecting human mental health. Consequently, health issues such as depression are rising in staggering figures. Malnutrition, poverty and deprivation are proven facts; turning a blind eye to which is not only impossible but also leads to other problems. For solutions, these issues invoke human thought as well as action. If a person only thinks that in these difficult circumstances, how is he going to feed himself and from where help will arrive, it surely is going to paralyse his thinking abilities and would certainly lead to depression. To dispel this fear of poverty, Quran builds man’s trust in Allah (20:6):

“(So) whatever is in the heavens (i.e., the upper divine and celestial spheres and spatial terrestrial spheres) and whatever is in the earth and whatever is in between (i.e., the atmospheric spheres) and whatever is beneath the soil to its bed, all are (functioning in compliance with) His (command and control system).”

Moreover, Allah S.W.T says (17:31),

“And do not kill your children due to fear of poverty. We alone provide for them and for you (as well). Indeed, killing them is a major sin.”

In fact, this style of the Holy Qur'an is quite psychological and analytical: which beautifully indicates the matters happening in the depths of the human personality, and to take him out of the vortex of useless thoughts, it encourages his nature to keep perfect belief in Allah. When a person believes that the responsibility of his sustenance lies in the court of the most Perfect, the One who is giving sustenance to the insects living inside stones, then he is bestowed with courage. The Quran then grants such a person with the power of action as Allah S.W.T says (8:53):

“This (torment) is because Allah never changes any blessing that He grants affluently to some people till they change their blessed state themselves (i.e., when they commit ingratitude, disobedience and sins and even lose the sense of loss, they are seized by destruction and devastation). And Allah is indeed All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”

In this way, when a person sets both his faculties in the right direction and works harder, then Allah gives him more courage by saying (29:69; 9:120):

“And those who strive hard (and struggle against the lower self vehemently) for Our cause, We certainly guide them to Our ways, and verily Allah blesses the men of spiritual excellence with His companionship.”

“in recompense of everything is recorded a good deed to their credit. Surely, Allah does not waste the reward of the righteous.”

Fear of life:

For the protection of his life, man has been doing his best since the beginning of his career. For this purpose, he goes from building  large castles and palaces up to the materilisation of latest weapons, so that no one may impart any harm to his life. Similarly, many people are so preoccupied with the security of their life that they are frightened from the very idea of death, which is also termed as death anxiety or thanatophobia in psychology. American research institute ‘The National Institute of Health’, considers that death anxiety is also one of the main causes of depression and other mental disorders. The dilemma of life and death is explained at different places in the Holy Quran, in a unique way, aiming to dispel the fear of death from human beings, and invoke them to the refuge of the Protector (Almighty), whose self is free and transcendental from death and annihilation, He neither sleeps nor drowses. The Holy Quran introduces that eternal Ultimate Reality as (67:1-2; 2:255):

“Blessed is He in Whose (Mighty) Hand is the kingdom (of all the worlds). And He enjoys perfect command over everything; He Who has created death and life (so that) He may test you as to which of you is best in conduct. And He is Almighty, Most Forgiving”

 “Allah! None is worthy of worship but He, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting, the One Who sustains and protects (the entire universe with His strategy). He is seized by neither slumber nor sleep. Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth belongs to Him alone.”

Similarly, Quranic philosophy of life and death describes that share of man’s life in this world is temporal, whilst the afterworld’s life is real life, for which he is actually prepared here in this world. Likewise, death in this world is also temporary, which in fact does not imply permanent cessation of one’s existence but rather his transfer to another eternal realm, where death itself will face death, and man will live forever. Hence, every soul shall have a taste of death, so rather than fearing death, one should live with courage and bravery and face death manly.

Allah S.W.T says in Holy Quran (3:185),

“Every soul is going to taste death. And your full recompense will be paid back only on the Day of Resurrection. So, whoever will be saved from Hell and admitted to Paradise will be truly successful. And the worldly life is nothing but illusory wealth.”

Considering the finality and irrevocability of death, the Holy Quran says (4:78),

“(O you who abstain from the armed struggle due to fear of death!) Death will overtake you wherever you may be, (even) if you are in unconquerable fortresses.”

Quran does not describe death as an accidental or natural process fabricated in randomness, but as a well-established Divinely ordered system, so that man believe that death will take him to the Merciful court of Allah Almighty. Thus, instead of harbouring sadness of accidental death, and lose pleasure of all the blessings of life, he should conceptualise the joy of meeting with Allah (6:61-62).

“And He has dominance over His servants, and He sends to you (angels as) guardians until when death approaches any of you, (then the angels) We send take his soul and they do not err (or default). Then they will (all) be returned to the presence of Allah, their true Lord.”

This dilemma of life and death is explained by, the thinker of the Quran, Allama Iqbal as follows,

The imprudent have considered/thought of death to be the end/conclusion of life (but) It is the dusk of life, (and) dawn of eternal life

Grief of wealth and children:

Concern for the protection of one’s own life is followed by the concerns for his children and accumulated wealth. Thus along with taking protective measures for the security of one’s own life, he strives to ascertain the protection of his children and property. Yet negative thoughts related to the insecurity of his children and wealth may occupy one’s mind. Parents are not only concerned with the protection of their children from any harm, but they also plan best for their education and upbringing. Thoughts and worries because of the whirlwinds of uncertainties lying in these aspects, may also bring them into depression. Consequently, it may also affect their children and might pass to the next generations.

Whereas in the Holy Quran, Allah S.W.T guides man that he has been bestowed with children and wealth only for the purpose of trial, which in fact aims  to free man from the psychological and emotional burdens associated with them. Here man is directed  to come out of these worries and contemplate to materialize higher  purposes of life, with employment of all his capital, including the wealth and children in the way of God. As by Quran, everything is created by and belongs to Almighty Allah.. In the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty says (64:15):

“Your riches and your children are merely a trial. And there is a mighty reward in the presence of Allah.”

And then addressing the believers, He says (9:85):

“Let not their riches and their progeny make you wonder. Allah wants only to torment them in this world (too) by means of these things, and that their souls may depart whilst they are (still) disbelievers.”

While teaching the Abrahamic way of dealing with wealth and children, the Holy Quran mentions the prayer of Abraham A.S to Allah Almighty (26:87-89):

“And disgrace me not on the Day (when) people will be raised up (from the graves), The Day when neither wealth nor sons will profit. But he alone (will be the gainer) who appears before the presence of Allah with a heart protected (from) and pure (of all evils).’”.

And then in the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty gives lauding comments on the attitude of those who consider wealth and children as the trust of Allah Almighty in the words (2:156):

“(They are the ones) who, when afflicted with some distress, say: ‘Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.’”

It is affirmed that such people are those who are free from all kinds of sorrows, worries and fears, i.e. they are free from all kinds of mental anguish and depression and are at peace (2:262).

“Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah, and then do not follow up their spending by reminding of their benevolence or by hurting, there is reward for them with their Lord. And (on the Day of Resurrection) they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.”

Quranic guidance to prevent depression:

When a person attains a certain level of self-trust that his life, wealth, and children all belong to Allah Almighty, and no power in the universe can either impart benefit nor harm to them without Allah's will, and if any calamity befalls, it is either the result of his bad deeds or he is being tested by Allah, then he attains steadfastness in his existence. Here he begins to follow the commands of Allah for the sake of getting closer to Him, which grants him not only peace of mind but also the satisfaction of heart. Some of the important directions to follow the commandments and actions are as follows:

Islamic worships:

The Islamic system of worship consists of such deeds, by which a person becomes a chosen servant of Allah, and a source of goodness and benefit to the creation. By performing these good deeds, the attention of a person is converged on seeking the pleasure of God, instead of pondering in the problems of life. And this tendency of thought, has a pivotal role in the treatment of depression, which psychologists try to achieve by doing various types of therapy exercises. While encouraging to pray and give alms, Holy Quran says (2:277; 2:153; 29:45):

“Surely, those who believe and do pious acts and establish Prayer and pay Zakat (the Alms-due) regularly have their reward with their Lord. And (on the Last Day) they will neither fear nor grieve.”

“O believers! Always seek help (from Me) through patience and Prayer. Certainly, Allah is (always) with those who observe patience.”

“(O Esteemed Beloved!) Recite the Book which has been revealed to you and establish prayer. Surely, prayer prohibits indecency and impiety; and verily, the remembrance of Allah is the greatest. And Allah knows whatever (deeds) you do.”

Zikrullah (Meditation)

If we contemplate into the Quranic teachings, we find that Quran provided a solution to cope with depression, and attain peace of mind 1400 years ago. It affirms that remembrance of Allah is the only solution, by which a person can find contentment. Allah Almighty has ordained to remember Him at several places in the Holy Quran, so that the body, mind, heart, and soul are aligned and man always remains in peace, Almighty says (13:28):

“Those who believe and their hearts become calm and contented with the remembrance of Allah know that it is the remembrance of Allah alone that brings calm to the hearts.”

Although there are many methods of dhikr, the Qur'an has described the most beautiful method - in Surah Al-A'raf, Allah the Exalted said (7:205):

“And remember your Lord in your heart with humility and tearful submissiveness and fear and repentance and also by calling in low tones. (Persevere with His remembrance) morning and evening and be not of the neglectful.”

If we understand the wisdom for mentioning the breath in this verse, then this fact becomes clear that the breath is directly related to the heart and soul.

At another place, Allah Almighty said ():

“Satan seeks only to breed enmity and spite amongst you by means of wine and gambling, and hinder you from remembering Allah and observing Prayer. Will you abstain (from these evil-generating temptations)?.”

While practicing remembrance with breath, when a person concentrates on the blessed Name of Allah, and breathes in the remembrance of Allah, then all the distractions in mind are dispelled, and when its effects penetrate in the heart, heart is bestowed with a state of perfect faith. This is the actual course or method, on the pinnacle of which, one comes together with his Real Creator and thus accomplishes the ultimate goal of his life.

Final Word:

Depression is a rapidly growing illness in today’s world, due to which people are becoming mentally and psychologically paralyzed. To combat with it, psychologists and medical experts recommend both medication and meditation. The Holy Qur'an grasps this problem at its principle cause, and directs to seek its roots in one’s inner self and soul. The Qur'an emphasizes on crystalising the faith that everything belongs to Allah Almighty and He is the all Powerful. This realization then makes that person worship Allah S.W.T, with the sole purpose of His pleasure. By taking help from the Qur'anic method of meditation, that is, remembrance of Allah and prayer, he sets out on the search of his Real Creator. With Almighty’s Mercy, when he meets with Allah, then all worldly problems leave him. The Holy Quran thus provides us with this lesson that in this tumultuous period, in which peace of mind, heart, and spirit has declined, we should pay attention to the teachings of the Holy Quran, and through reading, understanding and following it, we must build our spiritual relationship with Allah S.W.T.

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