If one takes a just and unbiased look at the current condition of mankind in general and the Muslims in particular, in an era where technology is at its most advanced and civilization is at its most developed in economic, medical, military and informational terms, they will find that all this worldly knowledge, information and development is inherently deficient and inept because it cannot produce people who realises the reason for his creation.
There is no doubt that this is a fact, otherwise, how can one explain the spread of ignorance and illiteracy in the era of knowledge and technology? Why is there so much poverty at a time of abundant resources? Why is unemployment overwhelming in an era of mass production and manufacturing? Why do some international researchers who specialise in community affairs call this era an era of grief and depression after they called the previous one an era of anxiety? We do not need many evidences to prove that we are suffering from the spread of this phenomenon, the phenomenon of grief and depression.
This is the destructive problem of our time and it is the most widespread amongst all the psychological diseases in the world. It is continually on the increase. An accurate International survey affirms that ten percent of the world's population suffers from it, including the Muslim countries, which means that hundreds of millions of people are living through this bitter reality. Moreover, there is proof that this phenomenon is starting at a younger age as time goes by and that it affects twice as many females as males. This has resulted from the fact that women are not practicing their natural role in the community due to them shouldering responsibilities which they were forced to, leading them to leave the role of raising their children to maids and day care centres.
The number of suicides resulting from grief and depression has exceeded eight hundred thousand annually, and this is beside the fact that eighty percent of those who suffer from it do not see doctors in order to report or solve the problem. This is not a new phenomenon and its causes are not mysterious, rather it is the natural and expected result when people become obsessed by gathering and collecting worldly belongings and when people’s concerns become purely materialistic. Therefore, this problem differs from one country or community to another and is dependent on the weakness of people’s belief in Allaah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, The Last Day and the divine decree. This is in addition to people’s behaviour and the degree of security, justice and love between the people.
This phenomenon has interested scholars of various disciplines, medical doctors, writers and journalists who have studied and addressed this problem. In many cases the articles written have been of little benefit, and as much as people have addressed this problem, no one seems to have approached it correctly. The only correct and acceptable way of curing and solving this problem is if its diagnosis is founded on scientific treatment which is based on authentic laboratory tests and reports conducted by trustworthy specialists who apply the principles of Islaam to all their tests and stay away from the purely materialistic bias which fails to attach any value to the spiritual side of the problem.
Grief is a something natural that humans feel due to their common problems, it is when it increases and overwhelms a person that it becomes what is known as depression. This is a condition that is considered to be at the highest level of grief and results in a person becoming controlled and dominated by their inner misery, the result of which is despair and loss of happiness. It is usually accompanied with headaches, bone problems, ulcers and other symptoms; it also makes a person lose their taste of joy and happiness. The results of depression include laziness, loss of energy and hatred of life which makes some people feel that suicide is the only solution. Imaam Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allaah have mercy upon him, said,
"Four things destroy the body: anxiety, grief, hunger and sleeping late."
Applying medical treatment with a religious foundation, extracted from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is vital because it is the most perfect and safest form of treatment, especially when one compares this to the hundreds of medications and tranquilizers which have flooded the market and which the human body becomes addicted to, thereby descending into a worse and more serious condition than depression.
Some medical reports state that swimming and frequently doing house work is a solution for depression, but it is ludicrous to imagine that depressed people will always remain in swimming pools or be constantly doing housework. On the other hand, it is accepted that a person can easily be remembering Allaah, glorifying him and seeking His forgiveness at all times, whether he is standing, sitting or lying down. This is how Allaah described the people of understanding when He says that which translates as, “[Those] Who remember Allaah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], 'Our Lord! You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire'”. (Aal ‘Imraan: 190-191). Therefore, we can see the importance of spiritual treatment to these problems, although there is no doubt that medication is also necessary, but the point is that we must not ignore the spiritual treatments that exist for these problems. We shall concentrate on the some of the reasons why depression exists which have been specifically addressed by Islaam and dispraised and warned against it in many verses of the Qur’aan aswell as in various Ahaadeeth.
In many Qur'aanic verses and Ahaadeeth it is mentioned that the heart which is heedless of the remembrance of Allaah, which is reflected by the heedlessness of the tongue is an indication of grief and misery for the person who is afflicted by this. Allaah says that which translates as, “And whoever turns away from My remembrance – Indeed, he will have a depressed [i.e., difficult] life, and We will gather [i.e., raise] him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” (Taa Haa: 124).
Also, it is also mentioned in the Sunnah that sins lead to depression, as stated in the book of Imaam Ahmad, may Allaah have mercy upon him, that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “If a slave’s sins increase and he does not have enough good deeds which would wipe these out, then Allaah will afflict him with grief and sorrow in order to wipe them out”.
Being anxious and concerned about the future and the lack of belief in divine decree and pre-destination is another cause of this problem. Some people worry about what the future holds for them and fear being incapable of dealing with problems, disasters and calamities, if and when they arrive. One finds that such people are in such a frenzy at times of tribulation that if they could find refuge in a cave or other remote and concealed place, they would rush like mad to get to it.
Bad dreams caused by Satan, who instils sorrow in a person, also play an important role the cause of depression. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) informed us that Satan comes to people as they sleep and makes them see things which results in them feeling grief and sorrow. This is why we see many people who suffer from depression not being able to sleep properly.
Other reasons that lead to depression are debts which a person cannot repay, cowardliness at the time of fear and stinginess whilst aggressively collecting wealth.
The proof that debts cause grief and anxiety lies in the Hadeeth where the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) went into the mosque one day and found Abu Umaamah, may Allaah be pleased with him, and said, “O Abu Umaamah! Why do I see you sitting in the mosque when it is not prayer time?” Abu Umaamah, may Allaah be pleased with him, replied, "It is due to anxiety and grief, which resulted from debts that I owe." So the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “Shall I teach words which will take away your grief and by which Allaah will help you repay your debts, if you were to say them?” Abu Umaamah, may Allaah be pleased with him replied, "Yes! O Messenger of Allaah." Thereupon, the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “Every morning and every evening say, O Allah! I seek refuge in you from anxiety and grief, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardliness, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men." After this, Abu Umaamah, may Allaah be pleased with him, commented that, "I did this and Allaah relieved my sorrow and anxiety and helped me repay my debts."
These were some reasons behind depression, and through these one can clearly see the connection between depression and straying away from the guidance and the path of Allaah, committing that which Islaam has prohibited, and being attached to worldly matters. Allaah says that which translates as, “So whoever Allaah wants to guide – He expands his breast to [contain] Islaam; and whoever He wants to misguide – He makes his breast tight and constricted as though he were climbing into the sky. Thus does Allaah place defilement upon those who do not believe.” (Al-An’aam: 125).
In order to address this topic in a comprehensive manner we must briefly point out some of the best ways of curing this problem, based on the Islamic texts in addition to the testimony of eminent and specialised medical doctors:
*The first and most important is the obligation of the Muslim nation of performing Jihaad for the sake of Allaah, propagating it and inviting people to perform it, and warning against being inclined towards this life and its pleasures. This is the way to a prosperous and tranquil heart, and a means of getting rid of grief and misery. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “When people become stingy, deal with ‘Eenah (a form of Ribaa), follow their cattle and become satisfied with agriculture (i.e., become attached to agriculture and commerce) then Allaah will afflict them with humiliation until they return to their religion”. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) also said, “Perform Jihaad because it is one of the gates that lead to Paradise, and a way through which Allaah relieves people from anxiety and grief”.
*The correct understanding and belief in divine decree and pre-destiny is another way to treat this problem. When a person believes that there was no way that he could have escaped whatever befell him and that all matters are in the Hands of Allaah, including ones provisions and death, and that no one will die until he consumes all his decreed provision and until he lives for the whole amount of time that was given to him, then he will definitely rely on Allaah completely without any worry or grief and will face all his problems with strength and resolution. Also, if people acknowledge that whatever Allaah has decreed resulted from His perfect wisdom, then they will be content with whatever He decrees. One who is discontent will become an easy victim for grief, disease and following base desires. Al-Hasan, may Allaah have mercy upon him, was asked how he attained his good manners, he replied,
"From being content with the decree of Allaah".
Abu Haatim, may Allaah have mercy upon him, reported that some of the Salaf said regarding being content,
"There is no rank higher or mightier than being content. It is the peak of loving Allaah".
This is exactly why Prophet Zakiryaa, peace be upon him, supplicated to Allaah to grant this to his son, as Allaah says that which translates as, “…And make him, my Lord, pleasing [to You]." (Maryam: 6). Contentment can only be established when the slave has firmly in his mind the conviction that whatever Allaah decrees results from His wisdom. Allaah provides and deprives for a wise reason, and this is the only thing that will make a person feel at ease during times of hardships. This also applies during times of prosperity, as Allaah informs us in the Qur’aan about Prophet Sulaymaan, peace be upon him, with that which translates as, “…'This is from the favour of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for the [benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is free of need and Generous.' (An-Naml: 40). This is also evident in the saying of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) when his son Ibraaheem died, “The eyes cry tears, and the heart becomes sad, but we will not say that which will bring the wrath of our Lord. If it was not a true promise, and that we will meet in an appointed time, and that the last will eventually follow (die) after the first, then we would have cried hard for your death (O Ibraaheem). Indeed we are saddened by your departure.” (Al-Bayhaqi & Ibn Maajah). By saying this, the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) meant that had he not known that there was a wisdom from Allaah behind taking his son, he would have extremely been saddened.
*Extra prostration and glorification of Allaah and worship in general takes away grief. Allaah says that which translates as, “…And We already know that your breast is constrained by what they say. So exalt [Allaah] with praise of your Lord and be of those who prostrate [to Him]. And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty [i.e., death].” (Al-Hijr: 97-99). Whenever the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) felt grief or worry, he would rush to prayer. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “Whoever continuously asks forgiveness from Allaah, then Allaah will make a way out for him from all his worries, and will provide him from means he never would have expected”.
*The dish of Talbeenah is another relief from grief and anxiety, as narrated by ‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “Talbeenah relieves a person’s heart from anxiety and some of its grief.” (Bukhaari & Muslim). Talbeenah is a natural medicine which is prepared by boiling wheat or barley with either honey or milk, or both of them.
*The final cure is that which the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) advised us with when he said, “Allaah will relieve any slave who is afflicted with grief and anxiety from his anxiety and replace his grief with happiness if he says, 'O Allaah! I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of Your maidservant, 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 Qur’aan the life of my heart and the light of my chest, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety. O Allaah! Teach me from it that which I am ignorant of and remind me with it that which I was made to forget; I ask You by Your mercy, for You are the Most Merciful, to grant me its recitation during the hours of night and day in the form which pleases You'” . The people asked, "O Prophet of Allaah! Should we learn (i.e., memorize) these words?' He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) replied, “Yes! Everyone who hears this should memorise it."