Faith: A Cure for Psychological Illness



All praise is due to Allah, the Lord and the Cherisher of the Universe. May the peace and mercy of Allah be upon our beloved prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), his household, companions, and all followers of the right guidance till the Day of Judgment. Allah, the Exalted, says in the Holy Qur'an:

"And We send down in the Qur'an that which is a healing and mercy to those who believe, and to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss". Q17:82

Islam is a perfect way of life, it teaches things that will make this world and the Hereafter a peaceful abode for mankind. There are many ahadith (sayings of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH)) that help Muslims to maintain a healthy life and environment. Islam teaches cleanness, prohibits harmful foods, drinks and acts; and emphasizes the importance of mental balance and fitness to remove, or reduce to the normal level, depression and anxiety that may cause illness.

In a study carried out by the World Health Organization in 1995, the causes of various illnesses are categorized into two groups. These are: Physical- malfunction of organs, infections, genetics, etc, and Psychological- depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, boredom, environment, etc. It was claimed that 50 percent of illnesses are caused by psychological related problems in which depression, environment and anxiety are the most prominent. It was acknowledged that nobody is completely free from these psychological problems and that it is normal to experience them but they become a problem when prolonged, and apart from causing illness like hypertension and cardiac diseases, they can lead to psychiatric or mental illness. Some people try to solve their psychological problems by drinking alcohol and smoking cigarette but these on their own can cause illness.

Depression is sadness, gloominess, distress over unfavorable events. Anxiety is a painful uneasiness, fear or worry of mind over anticipated things or events. Islamic solutions for these problems include:

1. Believe in Preordainment (Qadar).

Allah says:

"Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who created and proportioned it; and Who has measured (preordained each and everything); then guided". Q87:1-3.

"Whatever of the mercy Allah may grant to mankind, none can withhold it, and whatever He withholds, none can grant it thereafter." Q35:2

Whatever happens to us is with the knowledge of Allah after we have done what is humanly possible. We should strive to achieve our targets, if we achieve them it has been written that we will accomplish them otherwise, may be, it is not the best for us. We should not be miserable when we fail to achieve our targets and we should not loss hope. We should believe that there is always a better alternative for everything.

2. Reliance on and Trust in Allah (Tawakkul).

"When thou has made up your mind concerning a matter, put your trust in Allah" Q3:16.  "Believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His revelations rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put their trust in their Lord". (Q8:2).

"Allah is sufficient for him who puts his trust in Him". Q65:4.

A hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas (RA) and transmitted by Tirmidhi in Mishkat 0062 relates thus:

"Once I was riding behind the prophet (PBUH), when he said, 'O boy, I want to teach you something. Be careful to follow Allah's orders steadfastly, and Allah will protect you; safeguard Allah's rights, and you will always find Him with you; if you are in need of anything, ask from Allah; and when you need help, ask Allah alone for that. Know that if all people joined together to grant you some benefits, they would not be able to, excepting in what Allah has decreed for you, and know that if all people joined together to do you harm, they would not be able to, excepting in what Allah has decreed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink (of the book of divine decrees) has dried'".

The above verses and ahadith are self-explanatory and if well understood and followed, will help us guide against or reduce anxiety.

3. Fear of Allah (Taqwa).

Many people fear poverty, death and powerful/wicked men in the world. Islam teaches that only Allah should be feared because He alone has absolute power. He is the Most Merciful and the Most Strict in punishment. No one can safe himself and others from the punishment of Allah except by believing in Allah doing good deeds, and encouraging others to do the same. The punishment of Allah is incomparable with the suffering due to poverty or inflicted by powerful/wicked men. All sufferings in this world are temporary while the punishment of Allah is eternal. Again, this teaching guides against anxiety. Allah says:

"It is only the Satan that suggests to you the fear of his votaries; be you not afraid of them, but fear Me, if you have faith". (Q3:175).

"...And for those who fear Allah, He prepares a way out, and He provides for them from (sources) they never could expect. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is Allah for him". (Q65:2-3).

4. Patience, Perseverance and Prayer (Saber and Du'a).

There is a popular saying: To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed. Some Islamic teachings prepare the minds of Muslims for the worst so that they will not be disappointed or miserable when an unfavorable event happens to them. It is a known fact in Psychology that the worst disappointment that usually leads to depression is that that happens to a person that does not believe it can ever happen to him/her or the person that least expect it. Allah says:

"For sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives and fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere- who say, when afflicted with calamity: 'To Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return'". (Q2:155-156).

"So verily, with every hardship there is relief. Verily, with every hardship there is relief". (Q94:5-6)

"What is the matter with you? How judge you? Or have you a book through which you learn that you shall have all that you choose (or desire)? Or have you an oath from Us, reaching to the day of Resurrection that yours will be what you demand? Ask them which of them will stand surety for that".(Q68:35-40)

"O you who believe! Seek help with patient, perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere". (Q2:153)

Our beloved prophet, Muhammad (PBUH) was reported to have said:

"Be moderate and stand firm in trouble that falls to the lot of a Muslim, for it is an expiation (for his sins) for him, even the stumbling on the path or the pricking of a thorn" (Muslim 6243).

"Everything that happens to a Muslim is good. If Allah gives him what he desires, he thanks Allah and Allah will reward him. And if Allah tests him with adversity, he exercise patience and perseverance and Allah will forgive his sins and elevate him spiritually" (Muslim)

All these will prevent depression if well understood and followed.

However, some so-called 'religious persons' preach miracle and that it is unusual for people to have problems. This is really strange because if one study the life of all the prophets (PBUT) of Allah (Jesus (PBUH) inclusive) one will be amazed with the problems and trials that befell each of them. For example, Abraham did not have any child till he became old, Allah tested him but he exercised patience and perseverance and Allah exalted him and made him the father of faith and a friend of Allah. Similarly, Job was tried with adversity, he became sick and lost all his properties. He did not look for miracle but he exercised patience and perseverance, he prayed then Allah blessed him. So, we should be ready for our own trials. We should pray that Allah should not test us with what we have not the strength to bear and we should know that after every hardship there is ease (Q94:5-6).

5. Remembrance of Allah (Dhikr).

Allah says:

"Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah; for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction". (Q13:28)

"...And establish regular prayer: for prayer restrains from shameful and evil deeds; and the remembrance of Allah is the greatest (things in life) without doubt. And Allah knows what you do". (Q29:45)

A popular saying is: "An idle mind is a workshop of Satan". The psychologists say that idleness and/or boredom can cause psychological problem especially in teenagers. Islam teaches Muslims to avoid idleness or boredom by engaging in Dhikr, which include the five daily obligatory prayers, reading the Holy Qur'an and ahadith and saying some words to praise Allah.

If the above teachings of Islam are understood and practiced, one will be free from prolonged depression and anxiety that can lead to illness. May Allah have mercy on us, may He make it easy for us to follow His commandments and protect us from dangers.

Wa salamu alaykum warahamotullah wabarakatuh.