Question:

Dear MM,

I'm a person suffering from depression.

My elder brother is autistic and he causes a lot of problems in our house. Since he needs more care and attention than me, both my parents spend more time with him than they do with me.

I also don't have a lot of friends. I'm actually very selective when choosing my friends.

At school, it's really quite hard to find “good friends.” When I'm not at school, I spend most of my time at home. I'm also not good in my studies. Although I am improving a lot, alhamdulillah, I still have to do better. 

Moreover, I'm also a very practicing Muslim.

I offer salah five times every day and always try to be good with the people around me. But the things I mentioned here really make me feel depressed.

 Thus my question is: What is the Islamic cure for depression and what are some tips that you can suggest me to feel more happy?

Jazakallahu Khairan for your help and support.

Depressed Teen

Answer:

Bismillah wa salah wa salaam 'ala Rasoolillah.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reward you for reaching out and may He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grant you ease.

It is really a difficult struggle when a sibling requires a great deal of your parents' attention. And that is made more difficult when you do not have a social outlet from which to get support when you need to talk to someone. You mentioned that you are very selective when choosing friends. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reward you for being careful with whom you choose to develop a close relationship as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

“The example of a good companion in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the seller of musk and the one who blows the blacksmith's bellows. So as for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith's bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him” {Saheeh Bukhari}.

You will be impacted by those with whom you choose to associate with, so it is great that you're being careful about that. However, it sounds like you may be holding yourself back from developing relationships-  oftentimes people who do this tend to have anxiety about approaching others. You may very well be selective when choosing friends but you may simply be worried about being rejected if you approach others. Regardless of your reason for hesitating in establishing friendships, this is very likely impacting your feelings of sadness and loneliness.

Being a very practicing Muslim is such an excellent strength, masha'Allah. Oftentimes, we often hold a misconception that as long as we pray and fulfill our obligations to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we shouldn't be depressed. And when a practicing Muslim feels depressed, this may result in feelings of guilt because it may cause questions to arise such as, “Does this mean I don't have enough faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? Shouldn't strong iman mean that I can't get depressed?” This line of thinking can often exacerbate the issue and cause an increase in feelings of worthlessness and depression.

I want to reassure you that your depression is not a result of lack of faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Depression, as with many other psychological issues, can be at least partly attributed to brain structures and neurochemistry. That being said, if your feelings of depression are impeding your ability to socialize, affecting your ability to focus on your schoolwork or you find yourself struggling and dreading to get out of bed in the morning, consider counseling. It is actually praiseworthy to pursue this since Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) encourages us to use the means He has provided and Islamically, we are encouraged to seek an understanding of ourselves as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

“And the self and He Who made it perfect. Then He inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it; he will indeed be successful who purifies it, and he will indeed fail who corrupts it.” {Qur'aan 91:7-10}

 

Therapy helps us to gain a great understanding of ourselves and what experiences have impacted us.

Here are some tips to consider from an Islamic perspective that may be helpful:

  • Realize How Strong You Are: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us,
    “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.” {Qur'aan 2:286}

    The fact that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given you these challenges shows that you are strong enough to bear them. We often underestimate our abilities but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows us better than we know ourselves- If you've been given a test, realize that you are strong enough to pass it.
  • Everyone Experiences Sadness (Including the Prophets): There are many examples of very righteous people in the history of our faith, including Prophets, who experienced feelings of sadness. Prophet Yaqub grieved for his son until his,
    “eyes became white with sorrow, and he fell into silent melancholy.” {Qur'aan 12:84}

    After the death of his child, Ibrahim, our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) held his son in his arms and said “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibrahim, we are bereaved by your departure from us.” This also shows that feeling sadness does not mean that you are not strong in your faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) since the most righteous who ever walked this earth also experienced this emotion.
  • Increase Your Remembrance of Allah (swt): The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) knew that it was a human experience to feel sadness so he advised us regarding this. When you find yourself afflicted by something, follow this advice of what to say and notice what happens: Asmaa' bint Omays, radi Allahu 'anha, said: Allah's Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), told me, “Shall I not teach you words to say whenever you are afflicted with something? Say: “Allahu Rabbi (Allah is my Lord), Laa Shareeka lah (He has no partner).” [Abu Dawood] Also, research has found that those who view God as warm, caring helpful and dependable are less likely to be lonely, depressed or anxious. This link not only shows the importance of religion and spirituality in providing curative potential (relying on Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to help you through difficulties), but also preventative potential (establishing a close relationship with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to lead a fulfilling and happy life).
  • Reconnect with the Qur'aan: “And We sent down in the Qur'an that which is healing and a mercy to those who believe: to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss.” {Qur'aan 17:82}

    Whenever you are in pain, turn to the Qur'aan for the healing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that it provides. There's a sweetness there that cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Seek Therapy: I mentioned this above but it is worth reiterating. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was described as, “…He listens to what is best for you; he believes in Allah, has faith in the believers, & is a mercy to those of you who believe…”(9:61) Early Muslims consulted with him and shared all their problems with him including issues dealing with substance abuse, depression, marital issues, anxiety, stress, crisis of faith and adultery. This was a form of therapy and the Prophet (saw) encouraged people to speak with him about these issues.
  • Communicate: Talk to your parents about how you are feeling. Oftentimes, when parents have a child with special needs, they can become overwhelmed and don't realize how their other children are being impacted. The other children may easily fly under the radar of their parents because of an assumption that they do not need as much attention. Have a talk with your parents to ensure that your concerns have been expressed. This may alleviate some of your anxiety and sadness and will also ensure that you have done what is in your power to express yourself.
  • Exercise: The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Your body has a right over you.” [Bukhari] This shows that the maintenance of our health is a religious obligation and, therefore, a way to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Furthermore, many studies have proven the link between exercise and improved mental health. This is due to the release of endorphins, which results in positive physical and emotional feelings as well as a decrease in the perception of pain.
  • Work on Changing the Way You Think & Interpret Situations: From the way you described yourself in your question, it looks like you may have a tendency to view yourself from a negative perspective. Instead of focusing on the things with which you struggle (e.g. schoolwork), focus on the things in which you are skilled. Also, work on viewing difficult situations as a means to achieve something positive- a way to show yourself how strong you are and a way to gain reward from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, No Muslim is afflicted with harm because of sickness or some other inconvenience, but that Allah will remove his sins for him as a tree sheds its leaves.” {Bukhari} This hadith reframes afflictions to be a source of goodness.
  • Explore Activities You are Interested In: Since you mentioned that school is not necessarily your strong point right now, find activities you are interested in. Engage in activities that you are good at to increase your self-esteem. Explore options using different community resources- a lot of community centers have different classes and activities available for free or for a low cost.
  • Focus on Things You are Grateful For: Research indicates that those who tend to be grateful sleep better, are more optimistic, more energetic, and maintain better interpersonal relationships (Emmons and McCullough 2003). Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,
    “… This is by the grace of my Lord! – to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful!” {Qur'aan 27: 40}

    Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says,
    “And remember! Your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): 'If you are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you; but if you show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.'” {Qur'aan 14:7}
    Focus on the small, positive things in everyday life and pay attention to how this impacts your mood.
  • Volunteer: Volunteerism can provide an enhanced sense of meaning, purpose, and calling, which can help keep their own troubles in better perspective. Charity, which is a fundamental part of Islam, can include giving your time rather than just money. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” {Al-Tirmidhi} I would encourage you to begin volunteering within your own home- by spending time with and helping your brother who has autism. This may strengthen your bond, give you something to do that will allow you to spend more time with your parents and build a sense of appreciation in your parents for your efforts.

I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to grant you tremendous happiness and barakah. Ameen.

About The Author

Sarah Sultan is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has experience in a variety of therapeutic interventions and has worked with several age groups including children with special needs, adolescents with emotional and behavioral issues, families undergoing difficulties and survivors of trauma and domestic violence. Sarah is currently working as a therapist at a residential treatment center for teens in crisis, where she works with adolescents dealing with suicidality, trauma, self-harming behaviors, aggression and a variety of other issues. She is also an instructor with Mishkah University, where she teaches a course about the intersection between Islam, psychology and counseling. She has been actively involved in serving the Muslim community over the course of the past 10 years through providing lectures, halaqas and workshops.

14 Responses

  1. Alistair

    Very good advice, both from a religious and from a secular basis. Jazak Allahu kheyran.

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  2. Tamer

    Jazaki Allahu Khayran. I think you covered pretty much all aspects.

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  3. Balooh

    Salaam. Please take the advice given and also what may be helpful is to join a discussion forum of some sort. If you have any particular hobbies, cooking, sports, even an islamic forum? It’s a good way to take your mind off certain things.
    Sincerely my heart goes out to you. May Allah reward you for keeping steadfast with your prayers and that is the right path to be on, you will be in my duas, :-)

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    • Sarah Sultan, LMHC

      Wasalaam Balooh,

      Great additional advice masha’Allah! I agree that finding others with similar interests and engaging in activities can be very helpful. Ameen to your du’aa.

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  4. Haleh Banani

    MashaAllah Sarah you were very thorough with your answer addressing both their spiritual and psychological needs. i enjoyed reading it! Keep up the good work! :)

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  5. Shafat Mostofa Rahim

    Assalamu ‘alaikum. I’m the person who asked the question written in this post. Thank you, sister Sarah, for your kind words and advice. I found it very beneficial and it has given me hope. Please make Du’a for me. May Allah bless you.

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    • umabdullah

      May Allah ease your affairs brother. Also mentioning alot of salam on the Prophet among many other adhkar will inshallah lighten the burden on your chest. As well consider the advice of the Prophet who taught us that shaitan does not enter the home where baqarah is recited. I believe it is every 3 days. If you try it inshallah you are bound to notice the difference ya rabb. It is an amazing remedy for sadness. Also tahajjud.

      Beautiful advice mashallah.

      I would like to add that Islam gives us ruqya. I was “depressed” for years and had odd physical illnesses n toxins in my body. Wallahi Allah is my witness my life changed due to reciting baqarah daily n cupping and other sunnah remedies. All the very real physical illnesses such as hypertension and others left me! My depression and heaviness on my chest compleetely lifted.

      I sought help from various imams and a counselor. They would treat the symptoms of my problems but never were able to get to the heart of the issue.

      Ruqya is not something only from those suffering from sihr or other issues but for all of us since the Quran is a cure. Anytime we feel down reciting baqarah or ayatul kursi n other special duas among the beautiful advice given should be considered!

      I pray Allah makes a way out for you.and ease the burden of your parents and you. Pls consider applying these same advices on your brother. Reciting Quran on someone alhamdulillah never hurt! :-)

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  6. Taqwa

    Asalamualaikum I just wanted to let you know that when you had quoted ayah 2:286 you had quoted the right English translation but not the right arabic verse. JazakaAllahkhair for this article

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  7. Ahmet

    Jazakallah khairan! I thank the person who asked the question and the helpful person who answered this. Some problems discussed had similarities with mine, which I find difficult to even identify. I now have a better understanding of my situation, alhamdulillah. May Allah bless ur work!

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