Psychology and Islam...
 

Where Islam and Positive Psychology meet

 

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Depression versus Contentment

  Islam’s View on Depression ?
 

Islam and Emotions

 

Love in Islam

 

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Questions such as why human beings were created, and why certain events occur as opposed to others, and why someone had to die and not another, can not be answered by the human mind in and of itself. A simple reason is the fact that human beings are not even able to uncover the mysteries of their own brain! The human mind is only able to identify existing rules, which Allah has put in nature, and use them to come up with new connections. That is why Allah,

  the One and Only Perfect Creator of the universe, has sent messengers, Prophets (peace be upon them all) since the beginning of time, from among the best of human beings, to guide human beings…
 

Islam’s View on Depression?

 

One of my readers, a university student of psychology sent this list of questions which bother her:

“What does Islam say regarding self-hatred and self-harm? Does Islam condemn situational depression? What about clinical depression? What about depression over our limited human knowledge -our inability to fully understand everything- is it a trust issue with Allah?”

Actually this is a very interesting issue, because according to psychological studies, a considerable percentage of people alive today are subject to some kind of depression, even small children (http://www.depression-guide.com/depression-statistics.htm ), so it is important to explore this issue in relation to being better Muslims.

The Islamic system aims to create balance in a Muslim’s life, by putting life matters into perspective, rearranging priorities accordingly, and harmonizing all circles of relationships between the individual and his inner and outer environments:
 
“Seek the life to come by means of what God granted you, but do not neglect your rightful share in this world. Do good to others as God has done good to you. Do not seek to spread corruption in the land, for God does not love those who do this” (Quran, 28:77)

People feel depressed or sad when this harmonious emotional and hormonal equilibrium is disturbed, in which case Islam steps in, not to condemn the feeling, but to offer a solution for regaining psychological and mental balance.

What is Depression?
There is a difference between situational depression (temporary deep distress or sadness) and clinical depression, which is a mental health disorder that can affect the way you work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy pleasurable activities http://mentalhealth.about.com/od/depression/a/depression1.htm . A depressive disorder is more than a passing mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness, and it cannot be willed or wished away, because it’s a change in the chemicals of the brain (neurochemistry) which trigger a certain mood, and it needs professional help for treatment.

What causes Depression?
The causes of depression are numerous: genetic, psychological, and environmental factors are often involved. Yet, the relation between the chemistry of your brain and your experience in life is a two-way street: true your brain affects how you handle your life situations, but also the way you solve your problems and handle challenges greatly affect the mood-chemistry of your brain. So people who have low self-esteem, who are consistently pessimistic, who are readily overwhelmed by stress, or who have a severe physical illness are prone to depression.

Can a Muslim be Depressed?
To become Muslim, you submit your will to God alone and no one else, and you believe and trust that He will take good care of you, no matter what happens, as long as you keep your side of the relationship with Him. You admit your limitations as a human, so you go through life looking ahead positively, worrying only about what’s in your knowledge and ability as a human, and you leave the rest to God’s wisdom.

Existential concerns can cause serious distress as one tries to understand: why am I here, where am I going, what’s the point of living if I’m going to die anyway? As a Muslim, you get affected by life’s troubles and disturbing thoughts like everyone else, but you’re well equipped to deal with them because you have a clear roadmap of where you came from, where you’re going and why, so you have a head-start having this fundamental knowledge from its source. In other words, you’re resistant to existential emptiness, your focus is on taking control of your life to make the most of it according to the purpose it was given to you for, and you make decisions that won't cause you to feel worse in bad times.

Someone who feels completely lost and alone in the face of a crisis would be hopeless, helpless and depressed, but someone who constantly feels supported by a compassionate God who genuinely cares, who listens to desperate pleas, and who grants generous help, has a better chance of getting back on track much faster because there is a strong helping hand to reach for while dealing with life’s troubles.

Depression is not condemned in Islam:
Islam doesn’t require us to be superhuman. If one experiences negative feelings, he is encouraged to resist them with positive thoughts and actions if possible, or to seek professional help if the case is clinical, exactly like any other form of illness.

We’re required to take charge of our lives since we’re accountable for our deeds and decisions, both for ourselves and for others who will be affected. We’re not allowed to hate or harm ourselves; instead we’re taught dignity, self respect and protection; both as a right and a duty:

“And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction; but do good; for Allah loves those who do good.” (Quran, 2:195)

“Nor kill or destroy yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful!” (Quran, 4:29)

Self hatred results from low self esteem in reaction to feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt. A Muslim feels dignified and honored because The Creator bestowed upon him special privileges:

“We have honored the children of Adam and carried them by land and sea. We have provided good sustenance for them and favored them specially above many of those We have created” (Quran, 17:70)

And even if you’ve committed the worst sins, you always have hope of God’s mercy:

“And never give up hope of Allah's soothing Mercy: truly no one despairs of Allah's soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith.” (Quran, 12:87)

There is no place for despair because you have confidence in knowing that it’s God Himself who is in charge of everything, the All Seeing, All Knowing, and All Fair and Wise God:

“And for those who fear Allah, He always prepares a way out, and He provides for him from sources he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is Allah for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.” (Quran, 65: 2-3)

You’re certain there is no impossible situation which has no solution:

“So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (Quran, 94: 5-6)

You also have a simple and effective prescription against transient grief and anxiety:

(O Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your female slave, 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’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety)’

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “No person suffers any anxiety or grief, and says (this supplication) but Allah will take away his sorrow and grief, and give him in their stead joy.”

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Sahar El-Nadi Holds a BA in ancient history and culture from Cairo University. She worked in many people-related careers in parallel, including presenting public events and TV programs; instructing training courses in communication, thinking skills and cross cultural issues, and managing multinational e-communities on the internet, with award winning online projects since 1998.

She is currently a Consultant for IslamOnline.net and ReadingIslam.com, answering questions about Islamic culture in English. Her work focuses on utilizing interpersonal skills to better represent local culture in various media channels. In 2006, she created and launched Don’t Hate, Educate! www.zero-net.net a creative cross-cultural communication project following the Danish cartoons crisis. As a result, she was selected among the Women Leaders for the World by the Business School of the University of Santa Clara, California. She’s married to a Danish Muslim and lives in Cairo, Egypt.

   
 

By: Sahar El-Nadi