What Causes Sadness and Depression?

This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.

“Don’t cry, get over it. Where’s your iman anyway? We’re Muslims – we don’t get depressed. Trust Allah. In fact, you should fear Allah – what are you going to say on Judgment Day for being so ungrateful?”

Depression and anxiety are buzzwords of current times.

Nearly everyone knows someone who is struggling with extreme sadness for a myriad of reasons.

It is impossible to categorize those who go through difficult times in boxes, because everyone has their own journey to traverse, but feelings of grief, sorrow and sadness are normal challenges that every person faces – this is something that Allah has already put in us.

Sadness becomes dangerous when it spirals out of control into depression and anxiety, but still, as far as the Quran is concerned, there is always a way out; and going down that path is not an irreparable representation of one’s level of faith. In fact, rising from it is a sign of one’s determination and effort to make amends in a bad situation.

While modern society is well-known to turn to medicinal drugs for repairing almost anything, the problems of the soul (such as depression and anxiety) have also not been spared. In fact, it’s so common to hear that the same will “fix” whatever is broken, alluding to a belief that humans are in fact, broken and need constant repair.

The Quran takes quite the opposite perspective. Allah takes pride in the creation of the human being. Allah even requested the celebration of Adam amongst His worshippers at that time (the Jinn and Angels).

Allah continues to talk about Himself creating man in the best of stature in Surah At-Teen, after taking many oaths to prove His point.

Without even going into depth of these verses, as Muslims we accept Allah’s word as the truth and therefore need to honor the fact that we were created with nobility and dignity, but it’s up to us to put in determination and effort to live up to His expectations amidst a world of temptations that could also be a source of depression and anxiety.

Through this lens, it becomes easier to see sadness, depression and anxiety, as realistic challenges of the human being. Therefore, it is not a sign of a weakened iman, but an opportunity for a person who is dealing with obstacles to come closer to Allah’s Book in order to rise above adversities.

Tales of Sadness in the Quran

To prove this point, every sad story that is seen today, has already been recorded in one way or another in the Quran, providing solace for those who are in the midst of their struggles.

Not only does God take these excerpts very seriously, but He also transcribes worst-case scenarios in order for us to be reminded that whatever challenges we are facing cannot be compared from a pea to a carrot, because stories in the Quran are a lot more devastating than what we face today. This is not to belittle our own challenges, but to put Allah’s Mercy in perspective and to give us hope in His plan alone.

(Note: The below examples barely scratch the background, depth and morals of the stories, but are starting points for you to reconcile your challenges by looking them up in the Quran and consulting reputable scholars for help).

Dysfunctional Marriages Found in the Quran

If you’re struggling with a non-committal spouse, think of the wife of Lot (peace be upon him), who was transgressing the laws of marriage between a man and woman.

If you’re struggling with a non-practicing husband or wife, think of the despair of Noah (peace be upon him) who struggled for an insane number of decades with his family, including his wife.

If your spouse is an abusive one, Asiyah, Pharaoh’s wife, probably had the most tyrannical husband in the course of history. Even if your marriage is simply failing due to irreconcilable differences (probably the hardest circumstance to explain to naysayers), then there is the record of divorce between two great companions – Zaynab daughter of Jahsh and Zayd ibn Haritha.

Family Strains Are Also Normal

Just know that only Noah – a highly recognized Messenger and great father – was commanded to give up on his son of many years, so keep reaching out to your children as their books are still open for reconciliation.

Jacob (peace be upon him) had to deal with multiple sons who attempted to murder their younger brother.

Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was tormented by his father and his entire village and was even cast off into the wilderness to fend for himself. And probably no one has an uncle like Abu Jahl and had to deal with him the way Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did.

In fact, when it comes to family relations, reading about the difficulties the first companions had when converting to Islam will help put difficulties into perspective, as they too were cast out, beaten, tortured, and had their ties cut with their own next of kin.

Their solution was to find their own ways out of the difficulty, to turn to Allah and to keep open lines of communications with their loved ones, in the event there was hope to mend broken bridges.

Again, Noah keeps coming up for his continuous da’wah efforts for 950 years for which he was tortured, assaulted, boycotted and ignored.

Moses struggled endlessly with the stubbornness and ingratitude of Bani Israel, whom he would put his life down for.

Prophet Muhammad himself, came face-to-face with death during Uhud, due to the breaking of chain in command by the archers who were placed on a hill in defense of the Muslim army, leading to the loss of 70 precious lives of loved ones.

Different Circumstances Bring out Different Forms of Anxiety

If you’re worried about childcare, think about Moses’ mother throwing him into an apple basket as the soldiers of Pharaoh hunted the baby boys down in their village.

If you’re worried about provisions, think about the trials of the Man with Two Gardens in Surah Al-Kahf, for perspective. The Sleepers in the Cave (of the same surah) faced challenges of temptation and assassination for their non-conformity – so if you’re struggling spiritually in an environment full of fitna, find solace in their story.

In dealing with a difficult pregnancy, a challenging birth environment, lack of parenting support, an environment full of judgment – recall the du’a of Maryam when she was giving birth all on her own, without the knowledge of her family and people for fear of exile.

If you are concerned for your children, think of Hajar’s heart-wrenched soul, while running to and fro in the middle of the barren desert in search of water for her crying infant son.

If you’re worried about becoming a social outcast, having a notorious past, difficulties finding a job, and just are spiritually, economically and socially deadbeat, (without even a spouse to provide emotional support) – or a combination of two or more of the above – think about Moses traversing the sands from Egypt and ending up in the deserts of Madyan after accidentally killing a man.

Read Part 2.