By Ismail Rotimi Lawal
Psychologists define depression as a feeling of intense sadness which may follow a recent loss or other sad events that persists for a considerable length of time. Sadness and unhappiness are common human emotions particularly exhibited in response to distress circumstances.
The increase in the numbers of depressed people who end their lives by suicide has raised an overwhelming concern in the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2015 report on suicide-prone nations, more than 300 million people are suffering from depression globally and Nigeria is ranked 30th. This short piece x-rays the causes and effects of depression and presents Islamic prayers and practices that are useful to overcome depression.
In relation to depressions, WebMd listed causes of depression on its website as loss of loved ones, battling with a life-threatening disease, poverty, job loss, marital problems, loneliness, unrequited love, genetic, and chemical imbalance in the brain.
Resultantly, in a situation where people that are battling with depression fail to overcome any of these issues, they become frustrated and sometimes, end up taking their lives. It adds that it is normal at one point in life to have the feeling of sorrow, loneliness, helplessness and estrangement, but it becomes a disorder when one cannot overcome these emotions with time (days to weeks) which then require medical treatment.
However, in the modern time and with the proliferation of social media sites, addiction of young adult to social media and its contents have proven to have negative impacts on their emotions.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2016 conducted a study on the effects of social media habits on the moods of users, the research showed that “the more time young adults spent using social media, the more likely they are to be depressed.”
Exposure to highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives.
Life on the social media are not often the same in reality, a lot of people are living fake lives on social media which poses threats to the peace of young adults who cannot afford such standard. These young adults become anxious, depressed and feel inferior when they see their mates appearing successful than they are.
People often appear successful on social media, they flaunt their achievement to attract attention and gain media credits while they conceal their failures or ugly sides of life. Many people only share their good moments on the social, which makes other users feel jealous and also triggers negative emotions in them.
However, sometimes last year, there were two suicide cases in Nigeria that went viral on social media and also raised awareness on the rate at which Nigerians commit suicide. One of these was the story of a 300 level student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who drank poisonous substance and left a letter in which she blamed her parents for not showing her love and not being supportive. Similarly, a Lagos-based disc jockey was reported to have drank poisonous substance to end his life due to intense marital challenges. Though the examples may not have their causes from the social media, they point to the fact depression and frustration have contributed to the increasing rate of suicide in our society.
With all these happenings, it shows that there is urgent need to address depressions in Nigeria by sharing helpful information to address its symptoms. Drug therapy (tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), psychostimulants) is the cornerstone of treatment for depression under a doctor’s supervision. Having said that, I will talk about alternative ways to overcome depression using the teachings of Islam.
The Holy Qur’an describes all that causes humans pains and fears such as loss of lives, wealth, fruits as trials from God.
The Holy Qur’an, chapter 2 verse 156 states:
“And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient,”
Allah has informed the believers that they will face adversities in life as a trial from God. These misfortunes will bring fears, grief, tears, sadness and pains, but believers who display high moral qualities, patience, and forbearance; who do not seek help from any other deities; do not show weakness in faith, and do not kill themselves out of frustration are the fortunate ones. These are the true believers that have successfully passed the trials of Allah.
So, Muslims should neither be overwhelmed nor despair, rather they should put their hopes in the All-Mighty when they are faced with afflictions. Also, they should spend their times in the remembrance and glorification of Allah, and should engage more in asking God, the All-Almighty for His forgiveness and mercy.
Similarly, there are prayers reported to have been taught by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to overcome depression.
A companion of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Abd-Allah ibn Mas’ud said, he heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) says:
“No person suffers any anxiety or grief and says:
“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” but Allah will take away his sorrow and grief, and give him in their stead joy.” (Musnad Imam Ahmad 1/391).
Similarly, it was reported that the Holy Prophet used to say this prayer:
“O Allah, I hope for Your mercy. Do not leave me to myself even for the blinking of an eye. Correct all of my affairs for me. There is none worthy of worship but You.” (Abu Dawud 4/324, Ahmad 5/42. Al-Albani graded it as good in Sahih Abu Dawud 3/959).
Having presented these prayers, it is worth stating that Muslims should be contented with whatever Allah has blessed them with. Most people forget their true purpose in life and focus on accumulating wealth and materials, thinking that it will bring them happiness. The true happiness is derived from Allah and in the remembrance of Allah.
Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Promised Messiah and Mahdi, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, wrote in his book “Fountain of Christianity”, while explaining true salvation:
“Salvation, in fact, is the abiding peace and happiness which man, by his very nature, hungers and thirsts for, and which is achieved through personal love and recognition of God, and through a perfect relationship with Him- a relationship in which the fire of love is ablaze on both sides.
But people very often try to attain this happiness through other means which only serve to increase their pain and misery in the long run.”
He furthered describes where true happiness can be derived in another place in the same book as thus:
“Through the guidance of the Holy Quran, we arrive at the subtle truth that everlasting happiness lies in the recognition of God, and in pure and perfect and personal love for Him, and in absolute faith, which causes the heart to become restless like a true lover.”
The Khilafa of Islam, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (atba), also advised people suffering from symptoms of depression during a question and answer session:
“In the Holy Qur’an Allah the Almighty has said, ‘Surely in the remembrance of Allah, hearts can find comfort’ (chapter 13 vs 29). Basically, remembrance of Allah the Almighty and you will achieve peace of heart”
The Khilafa then gave practical steps for those suffering from depression:
First “Practice the remembrance of Allah the Almighty. Pray for yourself, and bow down to Allah. So one’s cure is the remembrance of Allah the Almighty. The second is to step forward to serve humanity. The third cure is to mix with people even at home or internal Jama’at gatherings as well as outside, interact with other people. Those suffering from depression feel like crying and the peak for this feeling is around 11 or 12 o’clock during this time they should leave the house, go outside and walk in fresh air.
Life is full of ups and downs and these can bring change in emotions. People that are in depressed state should seek medical advice from experts for proper diagnosis and treatments. Depressed people are advised to stay away from substance and its abuse, exercise more, eat healthy food, control their consumption of social media contents, stay away from thoughts and events that triggers the emotion, and adopt general healthy lifestyles.
In addition, teachers, parents, friends, colleagues are in better position to identify people that are depressed and might attempt suicide. These set of people should pay attention to anyone who is showing symptoms of depression – sad mood, apathy, withdrawal from friends and social situations, reduced capacity for pleasure, feeling rejected and unloved, sleep disturbance, self-blame, poor appetite, thoughts of suicide, giving away valuable possessions, new physical complains, among others.
Muslims should draw near to God All Mighty and seek from Him only, peace and happiness. They should place God above everything, fulfill their duties to God and to their fellow beings, recognize that this earth is temporary. Only then will they find everlasting salvation, happiness and comfort in this temporal world.
Moreover, Muslims suffering from depression should engage more in supplications, in remembrance of God, reading of the Holy Qur’an in which lie happiness and hope. The prayers taught by the Holy Prophet (saw) should also be used by Muslims having symptoms of depression.
Muslims should also be very wary of what they view on the social media as it negatively affects the emotions of users.
“Surely there is ease after hardship.” Qur’an 94:6
- https://www.upmc.com/media/news/lin-primack-sm-depression date accessed 9th September, 2019
- Fountain of Christianity, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as). The Promised Messiah and Mahdi and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at.
- The Merck Manual of Medical Information. Mental Health Disorder John P. Glazer, MD. Senior Attending Psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry. Lecturer on Psychiatry, Part-time, Harvard Medical School.
About the writer:
Ismail Rotimi Lawal is a graduate of pharmaceutics. He’s a keen writer and Assistant Secretary Media & Publications of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Organization, Nigeria. He is also a member of Muslim Writers’ Guild of Nigeria and the Programs Manager of Health Volunteers Naija, a Non-Governmental Organization – committed to enhanced community health in Nigeria.