By Malika Khan
In this article we explore five Quran verses about depression. Since these Quranic verses deal with emotions closely connected to depression, they can be useful in understanding how to navigate depression.
Depression is a mental health condition characterized by intense negative emotions such as sadness, pessimism, or despondency to a point that it interferes with how one goes about their day. Many people face sadness or sorrow in life. Although both grief and depression involve intense sadness and withdrawal, they differ fundamentally. Depression is varied and, likewise, there are various treatment options available. One mode of treatment that studies found to be beneficial are religious coping techniques.
With this in mind, the Quran can significantly assist Muslims with combating depression. Although clinical depression requires professional treatment, the full force of sadness or sorrow influenced by life’s difficulties, trials, and internal conflict can be buffered with the help of reciting and reflecting on the Quran. Boosting one’s spirituality can provide an inner strength facilitating a calm, healthy mindset. The stigma that depression is a defect in faith is baseless when considering the fact that the Prophets and Companions were not exempt from feelings of sorrow or periods in which they experienced intense emotions drawing parallels with what modern psychology associates with depression. For example, Prophet Ya’qub (pbuh) experienced such intense sadness when losing his son that his crying and grief cost him his eyesight. The year when Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) beloved wife Khadijah and uncle Abu Talib passed away was known as The Year of Sorrow.
Quran Acknowledges the Reality of Depression
Many times the Quran reminds one that there is no grief or fear if one remains steadfast and that the Hereafter is free of all those negative and overwhelming feelings and situations (Quran 43:68, 46:13). The Quran acknowledges the reality of these emotions and, by extension, acknowledges the reality of depression. This article presents various instances where the Quran addresses strong emotions such as grief and sorrow, extracting lessons from these five verses from the Quran that may help with depression.
Verse 1: Faith and Perseverance
“So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.” [3:139]
The context of this verse involves the early Muslims of Medina being consoled after their initial success became a defeat due to errors in decision making and emotional turmoil. Some were even in distress about rumors that the Prophet (pbuh) was martyred. This influenced their ability to function well. At this point in time, the early Muslims were despondent and sorrowful. This verse came down as a consolation, urging them not to be disheartened nor to dwell in the past about things that cannot be changed. It redirects their focus, stating that they will get through their seemingly hopeless situation by holding onto faith and having confidence in Allah. Persisting in these qualities would lead to their victory, and ultimately this proved true. From this one learns the importance of faith and perseverance. This verse teaches that setbacks occur, that wallowing in emotion is a natural reaction, yet still, even after failure or the most hopeless of situations one can rise again.
Verse 2: Solace in God’s Presence
“And let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, honor [due to power] belongs to Allah entirely. He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” [10:65]
This verse served as a comfort to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during one of the many times he experienced ill-speech and remarks during his mission. It was meant to lessen his worry and strengthen him so that he did not have to feel hurt on top of the challenges that existed. In this situation, Allah acknowledged the Messenger’s patience and efforts, assuring him that he was not alone after being assigned the arduous task of bringing the Message to mankind. The verse states that Allah was aware of all the particularities of the situation, and that the words of the opposition held no power. The Prophet (pbuh) did not have to internalize or deal with the hurt alone. Since God is described as the All-Hearer and the All-Knower, this verse reinforces the idea that He knows of one’s experiences and challenges; something one can find comfort in. Again, the overall lesson that this verse teaches is that one can find solace in God’s presence. The All-Knowing can be one’s greatest ally in situations of injustice and when one experiences inner turmoil caused by internal or external factors. One is never alone.
Verse 3: An Optimistic Outcome
“And they will say, “Praise to Allah, who has removed from us [all] sorrow. Indeed, our Lord is Forgiving and Appreciative.” [35:34]
The reality of this world is that not one single person can escape the experiences of concern, anxiety, or sorrow. The sorrow referred to in the verse above includes all states of concern and distress. The verse also refers to the sorrow and concern that will be felt about the Day of Judgement and one’s destination in the Hereafter. In the verse, the people are described as glad because they are forgiven for their errors and that God appreciated their efforts. It is explained that Allah will remove all anxieties and sorrow from the people of heaven. This can be seen as a motivation and consolation- a motivation to be continuous in betterment and consolation that any sorrows of this world will not follow into the next. The description of God being Forgiving and Appreciative is important, as scholars such as Ibn `Abbas explained that, “He forgives them for their major sins, and appreciates even the smallest of their good deeds.”
This shows that effort of every size is accounted for, every intention is acknowledged, and that despite one’s shortcomings there is always hope for, amongst the attributes of God is that he is “Most Forgiving, Most Merciful”. This verse acknowledges that this world is full of trials, hardships, and sorrows that mankind experiences and also paints a picture of an optimistic future to look forward to. It reminds one that depression is temporary.
Verse 4: Relying on God’s Support
“If you do not aid the Prophet – Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, “Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us.” And Allah sent down his tranquility upon him and supported him with angels you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah – that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [9:40]
This verse involves events surrounding the Expedition to Tabuk, a period of time that was a tough test for the Muslims for a number of reasons. They had to journey in the scorching summer heat, there was a famine, and there were also people amongst them wavering in support and sincerity. The situation was no doubt disheartening. However, the verse reminds of how during the early migration from Makkah to Medina, Allah had helped via unseen factors when Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) own people drove him out of his hometown with plans of an assassination. The only companion he had on this journey was Abu Bakr. The situation was stressful. Soldiers were on the hunt, and the only place they found to hide was a cave in which they remained for 3 days. The soldiers thoroughly searched all areas around Makkah, and some even reached the mouth of the cave. Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) felt alarmed that they would be discovered, worrying for the Prophet’s safety. However, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) remained a calm and reassuring presence, strengthening his companion’s resolve by saying “Do not grieve, indeed Allah is with us.” It is described that tranquility descended on them and ultimately they survived the situation unscathed. Again, this highlights the comfort in knowing one can rely on God to be one’s greatest supporter. One need not despair nor lose trust in His help.
From this one learns that Allah’s support is available and that no situation is too hopeless or impossible. When the odds seem stacked against one, when situations and feelings are so overwhelming it leaves one cornered, it is beneficial to remember to rely on the one who could conceal the Prophet and his Companion in a small cave with the enemy right at the entrance.
Verse 5: Glad Tidings
“Indeed, those who have said, “Our Lord is Allah” and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], “Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.” [41:30]
The descent and glad tidings of the angels as mentioned in the verse is said to occur at the time of one’s death or on the Day of Resurrection. Then, the angels will speak consoling words, replacing all grief and sorrow with serenity, bringing the good news of paradise. The objective of these verses is to mention the coming down of the angels on those who are struggling with their lives, so that they are consoled and encouraged. It is explained that the company of the angels is not restricted to the Hereafter and also occurs in this world, in that they instill peace and serenity in the hearts of those experiencing difficulties.
This verse serves as consolation for the steadfast and sincere. The significance of this verse is that we learn that the angels can be one’s guardians and companions, and at the time of death impart glad tidings of the end of bad things and the advent of good things. This verse acknowledges the grief mankind experiences in this life and once again shifts perspective to an optimistic outcome free of depression and anxieties.
Quran as a Remedy
Every person afflicted by life’s trials may find themselves slipping into states of sadness and pain. The time spent in these states is longer for some than others, and sometimes manifest into clinical depression. To feel supported by a compassionate God who is All-Knowing and known to grant ease after hardship can facilitate the healing process effectively. As described in the Quran, surah 65, Allah will prepare a way out and provide from sources one cannot even imagine if one places trust in Him. This is in line with the lessons gleaned from the verses about depression above, in which faith and reliance in God, as well as perseverance, can equip one with tranquility and, ultimately, success in overcoming tough times. Teachings provided in the Quran can help ease the pain, providing a spiritual sanctuary and hope for a positive outcome.
Reading the Quran and remembering Allah has a calming effect on the body, mind, and soul, reducing negative mental states and emotions. Furthermore, supplications or duas can be a powerful tool to overcome grief, depression, and anxiety. Seeking inspiration from stories in the Quran can indeed facilitate the path to overcoming depression, as ultimately the cure lies with God. Still, it is important to get professional advice as the Quran instructs one to “ask those who know” (Quran 21:7, 16:43). Therefore, the significance of the Quran in overcoming depression should not stop one from seeking assistance from a qualified therapist, if needed.
Stick around for future posts addressing which surahs or chapters in the Quran can be used as remedies!
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- Tafhim-ul-Quran by Abul A’la Maududi
- Ma’ariful Qur’an by Muhammad Shafi Deobandi