Winter Blues: An Islamic Perspective on Sadness
Many people, young and old, of both genders, experience sadness during the winter season due to many reasons including the temperature dropping, staying indoors, and shortening of daylight hours. Sadness, in general, is a normal emotion experienced by healthy human beings at different points in their lives due to particular circumstances. In the Quran we find many examples of Messengers (A) and righteous figures experiencing sadness, including Prophet Muhammad (S), the most steadfast of believers.
Allah (SWT) states, “We know that you, [O Muhammad], are saddened by what they say. And indeed, they do not call you untruthful, but it is the verses of Allah that the wrongdoers reject.” (6:33) And of Yaqub (A), “And he turned away from them and said, ‘Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,’ and his eyes became white from grief, for he was [of that] a suppressor.” (12:84) And He (SWT) states about the Companions (R), “Nor upon those who, when they came to you that you might give them mounts, you said, ‘I can find nothing for you to ride upon.’ They turned back while their eyes overflowed with tears out of grief that they could not find something to spend .” (9:92)
In many other instances in the Quran we find evidences of the condition of sadness or grief that humans experience. However, the believer deals with sadness in a completely different way than someone who is lacking in his or her faith. A believer does not allow sadness to stop him or her from achieving their purpose in this life or cause them to feel hopeless.
Depression is something different from what our righteous predecessors experienced. It is characterized by a complete loss of the ability to experience joy and is often associated with self-depreciation and wanting life to end. Although a human might experience the symptoms of depression intermittently during their lifetime, if it is prolonged, it becomes a clinical issue that needs the attention of a medical professional. Islamically, a Muslim is required to seek treatment for any illness, mental or physical, which they may have. Therefore, it is important for us as a community to break away from cultural stigma surrounding the treatment of mental health disorders.
The Quran and Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) address the symptoms of depression head on and we should study both closely to prevent ourselves or our loved ones from reaching such a state.
Our perception of this life and its burdens is key to treating sadness. Allah (SWT) explains, “Allah will never place a burden on a soul that it cannot bear…” (2:286) Allah (SWT) created an innate strength in human beings that can be strengthened through worship to overcome the most difficult of trials. We all know of believers who were challenged with innumerable difficulties yet were able to overcome them through the decree of Allah (SWT). We must be confident that Allah (SWT) would not place a burden upon us that we could not handle.
Allah (SWT) says, “There is ease after hardship, Indeed there is ease after hardship.” (94:5-6) Therefore, when faced with a difficulty, we must remember that only ease can come after it. The nature of this life is that it is filled with trials and tribulations but Allah (SWT) has promised that ease will always accompany hardship.
We must also remember the purpose of these tests and tribulations. Allah (SWT) says, “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and crops, but give good tidings to the patient.” (2:155) And He (SWT) states, “Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” (2:214)
Allah (SWT) tests us to remind us of our purpose in this temporary life and to reward us in the next permanent life. The true calamity is if after difficulty we still are not reminded of why we are here. Any loss we suffer should remind us of our humanness and our need for Allah (SWT) in addition to the great reward that awaits us in the next life. We cannot control what happens to us but we can choose to be closer to Allah (SWT) and the actions we take can lead us to His pleasure and ultimate reward.
The nature of this life and everything within it is fleeting. Nothing stays the same. Most changes are spontaneous and we can do little about that. This is why it is important for us to maintain realistic expectations for the events of this life while remaining optimistic about the actions we can take that will make us better Muslims and prepare us for the next life.
These actions include maintaining our fara’id, obligatory acts of worship, starting with our five daily prayers. This is the best way to connect with our Creator (SWT) and a time to seek His help and mercy. Another way to overcome feelings of sadness is to find ways to help others who are in need. Through helping others we are able to receive reward and be reminded of the favors which Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon us. It is also important to surround ourselves with good Muslims who can help us remain positive and support us through difficulty. We should also do our best to find healthy ways to take a break from the stressors in our lives and seek the counsel of Imams and professionals for guidance on how to best deal with sensitive situations.
And finally, we should never underestimate the power of dua’a. Turn to Allah (SWT) with sincerity and beseech Him stating, “O Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your female slave, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every Name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.” The Prophet Muhammad (S) said: “No person suffers any anxiety or grief, and says (this supplication) but Allah will take away his sorrow and grief, and give him in their stead joy.”