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You’ve Got to Have Hope!

The topic of “hope” has drawn much attention in the West due to a very high rise of depression, suicide, and medication dependency.

‘“Hope Therapy” fights depression’, says Jennifer Cheavens, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University. “Hope is a potent weapon,” she says.[i]

A growing body of research suggests that hope is a potent way to fight symptoms of depression that doesn’t involve getting a prescription.

“We’re finding that hope is consistently associated with fewer symptoms of depression. And the good news is that hope is something that can be taught, and can be developed in many of the people who need it,” said Cheavens. [ii]

“If you feel you know how to get what you want out of life, and you have that desire to make that happen, then you have hope,” Cheavens said, adding:

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“Hope is different from optimism, which is a generalized expectancy that good things will happen. Hope involves having goals, along with the desire and plan to achieve them.”[iii]

Islam’s Perspective on Hope

Islam is not only in agreement with the modern findings about hope and some of the cures for those lacking it, it adds more substantive elements which would make the process long term, meaningful and sustainable.

In the busy and chaotic modern world, religion and God have been forgotten by many, or at best have been put on the back burner. Humans are left to their own vices, intellect and life experiences to make choices.

Some do well and some don’t. Yet, by noticing the increase in cases of depression and mental illnesses in the modern world, one may safely assume that leaving humans to their own vices without God may not be a successful solution long term.

One of Islam’s main focuses is the life after death. When a person believes in this tenet of Islam, the entire picture of human existence in this world takes a different color.

Let us assume for a moment that a person was born Muslim, lived an un-Islamic life; or a new Muslim; or one who is considering Islam to be in the same situation. Persons in these categories may have committed so many sins that they sense there is no way to get back on the right path.

Not only are they not able to leave a life they are accustomed to, the issue of forgiveness by God and having a second chance does not even enter their minds.

Good News

If we assume that the hopeless person does have a belief in God, then the glad tidings for him/her are in God’s own words. He says:

{Say: O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.} (39: 53)

This is the kind of hope that needs no medication, therapy or external intervention. It is as simple as believing in the Merciful Creator and knowing that His words are true.

But does that mean that the person while hoping in the mercy of Allah, can keep sinning with the hope that it will be forgiven when he/she turns to Allah?

There are simple, logical conditions to be considered as follows:

  1. The penitent person desists from the sinful act.
  2. He feels deep and genuine regret for having committed the sin.
  3. He resolves in his heart never to return to the sin again.
  4. Finally, if the sin caused a transgression against the rights of another person, he needs to do his best to make amends.

Fear and Hope

These two combined are the prescription for healthy outlook in life.

Unlike the modern techniques that pump the person with hope without adequate attention on the consequence of inappropriate deeds, Islam encourages both and reminds the person that all our deeds are recorded and will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment. This means fearing to displease Allah and hoping for His pardon and entry to Paradise.

Repentance is a bridge between sin and salvation. It is as easy as having the will to do it and the rest is good news.

Allah says:

{Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful,} (25: 70)

It is interesting to note that once a person turns his/her face toward the Creator and seeks guidance, forgiveness and nearness to Him, an incredible process starts. The conscious is awakened and deeds are more carefully taken into account.

A Life’s Turning Point Story!

Last night, I had the pleasure to host a respected scholar and his family at my home. When I inquired about his life and how he ended up moving from Egypt to live in Hong Kong, he gave me a very short version of his life story.

He said he fell in love with a Pilipino girl, and he moved to Hong Kong to be with her. There, he got into all kinds of trouble, including drinking and other bad deeds that he knew were forbidden in Islam. “I just did not care about Islam at all” he said.

He got into singing and music and wanted to make that into his life career, until the shocking event happened.

The singer he was idolizing the most committed suicide. This shattered all his dreams and woke him up to a realization that he could be the next one doing the same. His life really did not have much deep meaning but just fun and game. He was married to the love of his life, but even that did not mean much until this even happened. He made a major decision.

“That night I just started praying. I felt I really wanted to do that.” He said. His wife inquired about it, and then next thing you know, they spent all night talking about Islam, even though he did not know enough.

The next surprise came to him when he found his wife converted to Islam on her own. That was it, he was ready to jump both feet into the religion, change his way and start seeking knowledge.

Today, he travels around the world, guiding others to the straight path and extending his hands to those that are still stuck and can’t find a way out.

Our hero’s name is Sheikh Wael Ibrahim.

No Shame No Game

When we realize that life is not a game, and that we are responsible for our actions, all we have to do is make the intention to change. Action follows and seeking knowledge goes along with both.

A person who is in a transformation journey is not ashamed of sharing their life’s mistakes with those who may benefit from the lessons learned. People seem to identify with those in situation similar to themselves and can find their way out when they see others did it already.

Finally, Islam agrees with the above study which indicates, “Hope is different from optimism, which is a generalized expectancy that good things will happen. Hope involves having goals, along with the desire and plan to achieve them.”

In Islam, our goal is achieving Paradise through the pleasure of Allah and good deeds. This only is possible if the desire is there. Allah gives us the prescription here:

{Establish worship at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night. Lo! Good deeds annul evil deeds. This is reminder for the mindful.} (11: 114)



(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Raya Shokatfard
Raya Shokatfard holds an MA in Journalism/Mass Communications and an M.A.D. in TV journalism. BA in Communication and BA in Islamic Studies. She has been Islamic propagator in the U.S and Egypt for many years and academic lecturer, writer, international presenter, consultant, foreign correspondent. She can be reached at: [email protected]