Depression affects one in ten people in the UK so the chances are that you will encounter it at some point in your life, either suffering from it or knowing someone who suffers from it. It is not something which should be trivialised, if ignored it could lead to self-harming or even suicide. That said, there are two issues to be kept in mind when discussing depression amongst Asians; firstly, depression manifests itself with symptoms that could be a direct result of some other underlying cause like a simple deficiency of vitamins from the lack of an inappropriate diet, or the lack of sunlight, which can be cured easily. Secondly, there is always a trigger for depression, an initial cause, Allah Almighty has addressed this in the Quran, “Man never tires of praying for good, and if evil touches him then he is despairing, hopeless” (Fussilat: 49)
Depression sets in when a person loses sense of reality and existence around him, failing to see how he or she fits in, this is often a sign that a person has become disconnected with their lord, Allah Almighty says, “whoever turns away from my remembrance will have a miserable existence”. Perhaps we should all lend an ear to the Prophetic advice ‘repent before you die, occupy yourselves in virtuous acts before you become occupied, and create a relationship between yourselves and your lord by excessively remembering him’.
What then for the one who is already in that place? Alone even when in a group, lethargic and distant having given up hobbies and activities. For him or her the worst possible thing we can do is yell at them telling them to snap out of it, or revisit the conversations that caused the depression, or repeatedly tell the sufferer you pity them and that you are sorry for them. On the contrary, what is often effective is to involve them, willingly or unwillingly, in brief activities in which a sense of accomplishment can be experienced.
The Prophet ﷺ once mentioned, show kindness and you will live longer. Pertinent advice for one who suffers from depression, since an act of kindness generates serotonin, the happy chemical within the brain often experienced as a chill that runs down the spine, in the one who delivers the act of kindness, or is the recipient of it, even the one who simply witnesses it. This serotonin can become a key factor in the improvement for people who experience depression. Giving charity can have this effect, but not by paying it by card over the phone to a charity but by delivering it to someone in need with your own hands. This returns us to our core existence, a weak people in need of others, and actually therein lies our cure, for whoever removes hardships in
this world has a promise of having his hardships removed in the hereafter.
Every person needs a sense of direction, an ambition, a goal, as the oft quoted proverb suggests ‘a man without a goal is like a ship without sails’ never sure of where it will be tomorrow, every day then a person should do something in pursuit of that goal, understanding and knowing that there will be difficulties and hardships along the route, but if we believe in our goals hard enough then we will accept and endure the hardships and losses related to it. Our goal is and will always remain Allah Almighty, paradise is simply a reward, so entrust your affairs to Him, and seek patience and solace through salah (prayers). Anyone who he lifts out of hardships can never be troubled and anyone who he places in hardship can never be rescued. He repeatedly mentions in his revealed verses His desire to forgive and pardon, He does not wish to punish if only you would believe and be grateful.
Shaykh Gul Muhammad
Senior Lecturer Jamia Al Karam