Don't Worry, Be Happy


Emotional, depressed and wearing a hoody
Emotional, depressed and wearing a hoody
Imaani Aslam

We will all have moments in our life when we feel a bit down, miserable or in a bit of a mood. It is natural to feel some sort of sadness when we experience disappointments in our everyday life. However, The World Health Organisation estimates that 121 million people worldwide are suffering from ‘Depression’ – the illness. [1]

The difference between feeling a little low and suffering from a depressive illness is that these low feelings can last for weeks or months and seriously interfere with a persons life. There are different types of depressive illnesses; depression in its mildest form can make everything seem a struggle or pointless, but depression in its most severe form can be life-threatening as it can make a person simply give up the will to live.

Contrary to popular belief, a person suffering from depression can’t just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘pull themselves together’. It is important to understand that depression isn’t just a state of mind – it is clear that there are definite changes in the way the brain works when a person is depressed. Brain scans show that particular areas of the brain do not work as well as normal and there is an imbalance of chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which carry signals in our brain and nerves.

Islam too recognises depression as an illness. An illness which, like all other hardships, has its reasons and for which we are encouraged to seek treatment.

Who Gets Depressed?

Although depression can make you feel alone it is in fact extremely common. Almost anybody can develop the illness. Depression doesn’t distinguish between the rich or poor, the young or old – it attacks all kinds of people. However, it has been found that about 1 in 4 women will suffer from depression compared to 1 in 10 men. [2] This higher risk may be linked to hormonal changes, which occur in a female brought on by puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.

Suffering from depression is certainly NOT a sign of weakness, as no particular personality types are more prone to the illness. However, some risk factors have been identified which include genetic factors, i.e. a history of depression in the family, and other factors like traumatic early life experiences, i.e. the death of a parent when young.

Symptoms of Depression

There isn’t an x-ray, scan or blood test that doctors can do to diagnose when someone is suffering from depression. Doctors make a diagnosis of depression from the severity of certain symptoms, the duration of them and the effect they are having on the person’s everyday life. Depression can show up in many different ways. These are some symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling unloved, hopeless and worthless – like a waste of space
  • Getting no pleasure from usual hobbies, interests or everyday life
  • Feeling tired and lacking energy
  • Having difficulty sleeping or sleeping more or less than usual
  • A change in appetite resulting in losing or gaining weight
  • Lacking self-confidence, blaming yourself and feeling unnecessarily guilty
  • Feeling restless, tense and anxious
  • Being forgetful or finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • Being unusually irritable or impatient
  • Self-harming/thoughts and attempts of suicide

What Causes Depression?

There is no single cause for depression and it very much varies from person to person, sometimes involving a number of factors. An unwelcome or traumatic event such as being divorced, sacked or physically attacked or raped can bring on depression. Other stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, relationship or financial difficulties or moving house may trigger an episode of depression.

It can also be caused by a physical medical illness such as heart disease or cancer and the use of recreational drugs such as cocaine and cannabis can also play a part.

Treatment for Depression

The very nature of depression can make it extremely difficult for the person to actually seek help, as depression brings on a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness.

These feelings can make a person feel even more depressed than they were in the first place. The most important thing to remember is that depression is an illness, and it is treatable. So if you think you may be suffering from depression you will need to see your GP, as they are the ones who most commonly treat people with depression.

Antidepressants are the most common medical treatment for depression. These work on the chemical messengers in the brain to lift your mood. They can’t cure depression but they alleviate the symptoms so you can then take active steps to help make yourself better. Like most medications, antidepressants take a while to kick in which is normally two to four weeks and the treatment normally lasts six months. As with all medications they have side effects and they do not work for everyone.

Another effective treatment is counselling or psychotherapy (talking treatments), which is more frequent and intensive than counselling. It is hard to talk about painful experiences but healthcare professionals will understand this. It is advisable to see a practitioner of the same sex as yourself so you are able to be as open as possible and thus benefit as much as you can from this form of treatment.

There are various other treatments for depression also, so it is extremely important you discuss all the treatments available to you with your GP before you decide which treatment to take. If you follow and complete your treatment exactly how it is prescribed then you will be able to achieve recovery and live life as it should be lived in Islam – wholesomely, happily and productively.

What can you do to help yourself?

In life there aren’t ever any instant solutions to the problems we face. It always takes time, effort and energy to overcome any difficulties and it is the same with overcoming depression. As well as visiting your GP there are also things you can do to help yourself recover.

  • Try to keep you mind occupied by doing good deeds. When you’re bored your mind tends to wander and you’ll find yourself thinking about your problems. Keep yourself occupied by visiting loved ones, helping others and doing charitable work. Not only will your good deeds help you feel better they will also benefit you in the hereafter as we are reminded in the Quran:

    “Verily you are returning towards your Lord – with your deeds and actions [good or bad], a sure returning…” (Chapter 84, Verse 6)

  • Concentrate on the present, living each day as it comes. When you wake up in the morning don’t worry about the night and when the night comes don’t worry about the next morning. For all you know you may never see it. Being sad or upset about the past won’t change it, erase it or bring it back, and fearing or stressing about the future won’t prolong it or bring it forward. Remember that whatever is written for us we will surely receive -

    “No calamity befalls the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees – before we bring it into existence” (Chapter 57, Verse 22)

  • If you are having trouble sleeping don’t lie in bed thinking about your problems, take your mind off your worries by listening to Nasheeds or doing Dhikr (remembrance of Allah (swt)). The Quran reminds us:

    “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (Chapter 13, Verse 28)

    You can also read the Quran, its meaning and biographies and stories of our beloved Prophets and the companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

  • Don’t try to escape your problems by drinking alcohol or taking drugs. This will only make your depression worse and harder to treat.
  • Try to keep active. Lying in bed or sitting thinking about your problems will make them worse. Don’t just stay locked up in your room all day, go outside and appreciate the splendour and beauty of nature. In the Quran Allah (swt) says of the believers,

    “And they think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, saying: ‘Our Lord! You have not created [all] this without purpose, glory to You!’” (Chapter 3, Verse 191)

  • Although you may not feel like it, do some physical exercise as this will take your mind off your problems and also make you feel good. Playing sports, running or even brisk walking can stimulate chemicals in the brain called endorphins which will make you feel better.
  • Pay attention to your physical appearance. Do things that improve the way you feel about yourself, so everyday make an effort to look good so you feel comfortable about yourself. A Hadith tells us:

    “Verily, Allah (swt) is beautiful and He loves beauty.” (Tirmidhi)

    Also treat yourself and do things that you enjoy.

  • There isn’t a single prayer that Allah (swt) doesn’t hear or answer, so pray to Him to give you the strength to overcome your worries. When you’re tossing and turning in the middle of the night get up and pray to Him. When you’re struggling to cope with your troubles in the day raise your hands in supplication to Him. It doesn’t matter where, when or which language you call on Him – He will respond to your call.

As Muslims our faith in Allah (swt) plays a huge part in dealing with and overcoming the various tests and tribulations we will all face in this world. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was the best of creation, yet even he endured many hardships, as did his Companions and the Prophets before him (peace be upon them all). There is a Hadith about Urwah ibn Zubayr, the nephew of Aisha (may Allah (swt) be pleased with them both), which relates that in the duration of one day he lost one of his legs and was informed that his son had died. His response was:

“O’ Allah, to You belongs all praise. If You have taken away, then You have also given. And if You have tested (me) with hardship, You have also saved me and cared (for me). You have bestowed upon me four limbs and have taken only one away. You have blessed me with four sons and have taken only one away.”

We need to trust our talents and develop them, forget our troubles and concentrate on all Allah (swt) has given us. The Quran, Sunnah and Hadith all provide us with the guidance and solutions needed to overcome any difficulty. Allah (swt) promises never to burden us with more than we can bear, and

“Verily, with hardship, there is relief” (Chapter 94, Verse 6)


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Further reading:

Don’t Be Sad by ‘Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni – (International Islamic Publishing House, 2005).
Based on the teachings of Islam, this book is full of practical advice on how to overcome the tests and tribulations of this world.



Assalamu Ala Manittaba'ad Huda!

I really appreciate you effort towards the advice, keep it up may Allah (SWT) rewards you and clean your to do everything for the seck of Allah not for anything in the World. (Riyah).

Mukhtar Yakasai
Kano - Nigeria

As salaam alaikum
Thank you for this article. There is a lot of prejudice against depression in the Muslim world, and some people think that it is Allah's punishment, but this article has shown how it is an illness, and needs to be treated as such by Muslims and as a chance to gain reward through Sabr(patience) by the sufferer of this difficult illness.It is important to show support and empathy and not nag them to 'just get on with life'. It is only by taking very small steps at a time that progress is made, and this requires Sabr by all those involved. I would also add that diet plays a role as well in recovery.