How should we see the illnesses like depression and stress from the point of view of religion, how should one be treated spiritually? Are there any hadiths of our Prophet regarding the issue?

Details of the Question

How should we see the illnesses like depression and stress from the point of view of religion, how should one be treated spiritually? Are there any hadiths of our Prophet regarding the issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

Depression is one of the most common diseases of our age. The uneasiness or, to use the frequently used word, the stress that causes that disease brings along many other diseases; it can cause cardiac diseases and many similar diseases. When its reason is examined, it is seen that the delicate balance among the cells are influenced directly by the stress.

For instance, our immune system protects us from many diseases including cancer. A healthy immune system is only possible through a lifestyle that is free from stress. When we have no troubles or apprehensions, our lymphocytes struggle against infections, rheumatic diseases and even cancer and overcome them.  

Praying Allah and trusting in him is necessary for it. Doubtlessly, a person who always prays Allah and who is aware that anything that happens to him is a special test from Allah and who trusts in Allah will overcome the trouble more quickly. The attributes of our Exalted Lord, who eliminate the troubles and answers our prayers are stated as follows in the Quran:

" Or, who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him, and who relieves its suffering, and makes you (mankind) inheritors of the earth? (Can there be another) god besides Allah? Little it is that ye heed! (an-Naml, 62)

Our Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) stated that stress caused illnesses as follows in hadiths:

"Whoever has a bad temper keeps his spirit in trouble; whoever has a lot of grief makes himself ill."

"Various types of anxieties bring about various types of illnesses."

"There is nothing worse and fiercer than anxiety in the creatures of God Almighty."

"God Almighty did not create an illness (trouble) without a remedy. Whoever finds out about that remedy, recovers; whoever cannot find out about it, lives with that illness. However, death has no remedy." (For hadiths, see Önder Çağıran, Tıbbi Nebevi, 1st Impression, Boğaziçi Yayınları, İstanbul 1996)

Troubled, or in today’s words, stressed life is a result of the life of people who do not believe or who live far away from the high ethics that belief gives man. Today doctors state that it is necessary to have a tranquil and peaceful constitution, and an easy, secure psychology free from anxiety in order to be protected from the effects of stress. A tranquil and peaceful psychology is only possible through practicing the high ethics of the Quran. The promise of our Lord for his believing slaves is stated as follows:  

"Whoever works righteousness, man or woman and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions." (an-Nahl, 97)

"Say: "It is Allah that delivereth you from these and all (other) distresses..."    (al-Anam, 64)
Answer 2:
As a matter of fact, depression, which is described as: “the state of hopelessness that a person falls into when he cannot realize his targets, cannot protect the nice things he has or he notices the probability of losing those kinds of things”, can be said to be the problem and even the “fate” of the people not only in this age but throughout history.

Man is “week, poor, ephemeral and mortal; unlike animals, man is aware of that fact.” He wants everything but he cannot own anything in its real sense; He is afraid of and influenced by everything but he cannot dominate anything; he knows that everything is mortal that everything will end one day even in his best times; so, in my opinion, it is amazing when he does not fall into depression not when he falls.

It usually happens due to heedlessness. He tries not to think about the things that he is afraid of; he consoles himself with the things that he seemingly owns; he tries not to remember death and separation. However, when some inevitable incidences destroy the heedlessness, the postponed fears and hopelessness flood the body and he falls into depression.  

Depression almost seems to be a natural outcome of being a human being. As a matter of fact, the researches show that depressive findings (sleeping disorder, common groundless physical complaints, frequent crying, hopelessness about future, lack of self-confidence, exhaustion, not enjoying life, etc) are present in 60% of people in various levels. As a psychiatrist, when people whom I am introduced to say jokingly, “in fact, I need to see you”, it seems to me that they confess that truth insensibly.

Is it not possible to overcome depression, which is such a common and general annoyance? Is there not a remedy for those troubles of weakness, poverty and mortality? There is, of course; and he who looks for it will find it; if he looks for, of course. Besides, people generally make a mistake when they think that the problems of weakness, poverty and mortality that are very disturbing at the beginning are unsolvable and imagine that they do not exist.
When a trouble is visible, it can be solved; however, someone who closes his eyes and consoles himself with imaginations cannot possibly find a solution. Only a person who carefully listens to the warning, “laugh at the death like a man; listen to it and find out what it wants” and who says, “yes, I am weak, poor and mortal; they hurt me a lot but what can be the remedy of those problems?” can approach the solution. It certainly means to suffer somewhat but there is “no gain without pain”.  

Let us ask the question in a different way. Is a patient who says, “Everything is in vain; what I want does not happen; we will die in the end; life is meaningless” more consistent or a consoler who says, “take it easy; let it go; do not think about them; do not think deeply”? Is it not inevitable for those people who use the logic of the ostrich to fall into the same pit of depression when their heads hit the wall?

As a matter of fact, are we all not in a tiny room with walls made of mirror? Since all walls are made of mirror, the intertwined images make us feel as if we are in a larger room; however, do we not understand that we are in a tiny dungeon when we hit the wall with our heads? Do our imaginations not fly away then? Do we not lose our sleep? Do the sweetest situations not give us pain? Does the polish of the false paradise in the world not crack with each death, loss and grief?  
I never forget a piece of news that I read in the tabloid supplement of a newspaper. A group of artists went on a picnic in order to have a very enjoyable day. The article that described the entertainment in detail ended with the following sentence: “When the day ended, everybody was very sorry because a very nice day had ended.” How strange! Isn’t it? Even the best things give pleasure only when they are being experienced; when they end, they are replaced by pains. “Loss of the pleasure is pain.

I remember one more thing; when I was young, I used to listen to the commentary of the football matches of my favorite team on the radio with excitement; what I hated most while I was listening to the commentary was the words of the commentator, “the last 15 minutes of the game”, “the last 10m minutes”, etc. It gave me pain to hear that the thing that I took pleasure from was going to end soon. To know that something nice will end destroys the pleasure taken from it at that moment. “To think about the loss of the pleasure is also pain.”

Some of you may say, “Yes, you are right but give us the remedy if you know it” but we should not forget that it is a dangerous deception to talk about the problems superficially and to try to find solutions without realizing the seriousness of the problems. Therefore, we should continue some more. Let us think about a young man. There is someone that he loves very much and he imagines a happy future with her. However, he notices that the sentence, “We will be together forever, my darling” is a lie. Let alone forever, it is doubtful whether they will be together for a year. He will be separated from the person that he loves so much sooner or later. He will probably have to do with a togetherness that will probably not be correspondent with his imaginations and ideals. He tries to console himself by giving his heart to her overlooking those facts. How long will it last? 

Let us imagine a mother. Her child, for whom she can donate her life, can face an illness or a misfortune any time. Even if she guards her all the day, a tiny microbe can make her beloved child ill, cripple him/her or kill him/her. What can console her? Let the professors and philosophers speak and answer that question!

No, what they will say is, “they are the harsh truths of life; you will accept it. Occupy yourself with other things; take up hobbies. Try to be happy with what you have succeeded and what you have; realize yourself, etc.” We want to ask using the words of Badiuzzaman: Can someone condemned to death take pleasure from the decoration of the dungeon? Can a spirit that can only be satisfied with a paradise as large as the world be deceived by villas whose water and electricity can be cut off? 

However, for a man who looks at things through the glasses of belief, the following expression in the verse is valid: “la khawfun alayhim wa la hum yahzanun” (on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve).
A person having real belief loves the people he loves for Allah. His darling is the reflection of Allah’s mercy and beauty. He has the hope of living an eternal and peaceful life together with them without being separated from them in the everlasting life.
When he is separated from his beloved ones, he consoles himself by saying, “separation is temporary”. He entrusts his beloved ones to the mercy and protection of Allah, Who is the best of the protectors and the most merciful of the merciful ones.
He sees misfortunes, disasters, illnesses, as divine warnings and kaffarah adh-dhunub (sin eliminators) thanks to what he learns from the Quran.
When he earns or loses worldly goods, when re reaches a rank or falls down from a rank, he says, “it is He Who gives and it is He Who takes”; he aims the ranks of the hereafter and the eternal rewards, which are the permanent and real goods and ranks.
He welcomes temporary troubles and problems by saying, “since this world is a temporary place of testing, there will be some discomfort in the testing.”
He says, “This world is a waste book”; he does not blur his mind with the dirt and confusion that he cannot correct; he becomes busy with keeping his own book of deeds clean. 
He says, “Let us see what God will do; whatever he does, he does well.”; he watches it all through the window; he does not go inside.
If he has fallen into sins, heedlessness and disobedience, he says, “it is wrong to abandon hope from the mercy of Allah”; he opens a new page by entering through the door of repentance, which is always open. He finds the real peace and happiness in this world.  

The way to get rid of depression, which is not the disease of this age but all ages, is to pay attention to the message coming from beyond ages.

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