Before we start discussing anything, let us just say that if you’re someone who is going through some sort of depression and you still decided to read this article, then you must know how strong you are! It is not a small deal that you still have the power to look for answers, it is not a small deal that you still have the power to look for help, meaning, healing, light and peace. It is not a small deal, and it will not go unnoticed by Allah. Not a single minute you spend in difficulty will go unnoticed or unrewarded. That’s His promise to us all.
“Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
There will be relief for you here before the hereafter, and you will see that if you remain steadfast on your faith and trust Allah (subhanahu wa ta’la).
“…and despair not of relief from Allah. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (Qur’an 12: 87)
You know this verse is mentioned in the Chapter that narrates one of the best human stories; the story of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him).
Yusuf was a righteous, faithful and sincere servant of God. While this is the case, he was faced with difficulty, after difficulty after difficulty…His own brothers plotted against him and wanted to kill him. He ended up being thrown in a well as a helpless child. He was taken from his beloved father and was sold to strangers. He faced more temptations as he grew up, and he was thrown in jail unjustly for years for something that he hasn’t committed. Imagine long years of being in jail for something you haven’t done…!
If you think about it, he had all the reasons to be depressed, give up and lose faith. But he didn’t, he continued to have faith and patience. Eventually, everything was resolved in ways he couldn’t have imagined. Not only did he come out of jail and has been proven innocent, but he also became a major ruling authority in his land. He confronted his brothers and had the strength to forgive them, and he was reunited with his beloved father after long and hard years… at this point he said the powerful words Allah documented in the Qur’an:
“Indeed, he who fears Allah and is patient, then indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.” (Qur’an 12: 90)
This story is there to show -among many things- that no matter how difficult our situations may be, the relief will come. Sooner or later, it will come. But the most important aspect to be concerned about is the strength of your faith.
You know when we die, we will not take anything with us. We will not take loved ones we lost or still have, we will not take the piles of money, mansions or any possessions we may be after now. The grave is empty, we don’t truly own anything or anyone. But what will last is your faith and the moments of patience you gracefully endured.
We all are going through some sort of a test. Even the people you think are happy, you do not know what might be happening to them behind closed doors. You do not know what’s in their hearts and minds. Each one of us has his/her individual test.
The entire purpose of life is for us to be tested. The Creator says that it is He who “who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving” (Qur’an 67: 2)
This is not something to depress us, or make us accept hardships passively, this is just to give us perspective. One of the best things to do in tough situations is to put matters in perspective and in the right context.
So let us remember a few aspects that could help us put matters in perspective.
The Nature of Difficulties
Being in a difficulty does NOT mean you are doomed or that you are less than anybody in anyway. Being in ease does NOT mean that you are off the hook or that you are better than anybody in anyway.
We are all being tested through difficulty AND ease.
Allah says: “And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.” But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.” No!” (Qur’an 89: 15-17)
The message is that both difficulty and ease are tests. Do not be deluded by whatever ease you might think others have. We do not know how they may be performing in their test. We do not know their rank or results. While being in a difficulty, you may be in a much higher rank than they are, and you may be excelling and receiving the aid and blessing of Allah and His Angels in ways that you can’t imagine.
So don’t judge by outer appearances or let this be a source of depression for you.
Actually, the difficulty -in and of itself- could be a sign of your high rank and status with your Creator. How come? Because the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) was asked which people are the most severely tested? He replied: ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.’” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
What do we take from that?
Even the Prophets and most noble, most righteous and most virtuous people have severe difficulties. This is not a reason to be depressed. This is a reason to know that you are strong enough to handle what others might not be able to handle. Knowing of your strength and potential, Allah gave you this test accordingly.
Because the toughest tests are given to the best performers. You will not find a teacher giving a PhD exam to a kindergarten student. Right? The exam is given to those who can handle it, those who have the knowledge and ability to work hard, achieve great results and later help and inspire others through their example and what they’ve learned.
Some people wonder why good people may have major calamities.
Well, they are indeed very good people. That’s why they’ve been chosen for this. Allah [swt] doesn’t charge a soul more than it can handle, and He knows they can get through this situation even better and more beautiful as human beings with reflections, understandings, experiences and knowledge that not only illuminate their hearts, but the hearts and minds of many others around them who look up to them and learn from them…
Some of the most beautiful realities emerge from some of the most excruciatingly painful moments. If you don’t believe this, then just contemplate on the process of giving birth to a child. The pain, the long days/months of waiting and adjusting, the mood swings…
If the woman didn’t know that after this suffering there will be light, there will be love and there will be a gift… maybe she wouldn’t have endured. Right?
But she knew there will be relief.
We too know that there will be relief! This is the promise of Allah that is true!
“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (Qur’an 94: 5–6)
“[It is] the promise of Allah. Allah does not fail in His promise, but most of the people do not know.” (Qur’an 30: 6)
This is something to remember always when facing hardships or feelings of despair and depression.
The reality of this world
One of the things that we need to remind ourselves of is that this life is temporary. Did anyone live forever? Never.
We know from the Qur’an that the Day of Judgment will be 50 thousand years long (70:4).
On that Day, people would think they haven’t lived but an hour of the day on this earth (10:45).
So let’s think about it: what is 70-80 years we live on this earth compared to 50 thousand years?
What is 70-80 years compared to the eternal life that follows the Day of Judgment?
According to the hadith, on the Day of Resurrection, a righteous person who has experienced extreme misery in the life of this world will be dipped in Jannah. Then he will be asked: ‘O son of Adam! Did you ever experience any misery? Did you ever encounter difficulty?’ He will say: “By Allah, no my Lord, I neither experienced misery nor passed through hardship” [Muslim]
So one dip in Jannah would have the most miserable human being forget the most miserable experiences he/she ever had in the temporary life of this world.
Why are we saying that?
Because no matter how hard, difficult our situations may be, they will end. Life in its entirety will end. We shall not be saddened too much about matters of this worldly life. What we should be concerned about, however, is our relationship with Allah. This is the one thing that we establish here, and we take with us for eternity. What we do here determines our eternity.
Remembering Our Purpose
When Allah [swt] created Adam, He said “And He taught Adam the names-all of them…..” (Qur’an 2: 31). This is not a fleeting moment of history. This is a reality of life: Allah [swt] teaches us. The word ‘Rabb’ (Lord) in Arabic comes from the word ‘tarbiyaa’ (education). Allah [swt] is the Supreme Educator. We will learn from everything that happens in our lives. There is a lesson, a message, a meaning and a wisdom that is placed for us in every experience we go through- good or bad. We just need our hearts and minds to be attentive.
We also understand from the Qur’an and the prophetic hadiths that Allah [swt] essentially wants us to deeply know Him, fall in love with Him and develop a relationship with Him. This relationship will be carried with us when we live near Him for eternity in an eternal Jannah.
Allah [swt] says that He created mankind to worship Him (51: 56). This is not an empty, robotic kind of prayer. This is a day to day commitment. Just contemplating on the meanings of what we say in the five daily prayers would reveal that not a day passes but we acknowledge Allah, remember Him, seek wisdom from Him, seek meaning, clarity, aid and guidance…
And Allah [swt] says that if we turn our back or walk away from Him that He would bring other people “He will love, and who will love Him” (5: 54).
So, the essence and core of our relationship with Allah [swt] is to absolutely and entirely love Him. How do you love someone without getting to know them? If you wish to know someone, you need to listen to them and spend time with them. Right?
Allah [swt] has given us His Words [the Qur’an], and a life time to get to know Him, experience His names and attributes and grow in knowledge and longing to Him.
Now when someone is in a loving relationship with someone else, doesn’t he/she promise to hold on to the other for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health?
Now if we maintain our loving relationship with Allah, obey, follow, worship, commit and think highly of Him only when things are going well….. Is this really true love or sincere commitment?
What is the purpose of life if it’s ease, after ease after ease, and then we die and end up in eternal ease…?
Tests and challenges give life meaning and show the true nature of people and their faith.
We will continue to be put in situations that test our true faith. This is not to break our backs, but this is to elevate us in status and connection with Allah Almighty, if we continue to hold on to Him.
The Last and Final Messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself went through a series of major difficulties. His people boycotted him for 3 years. He and his companions had to eat tree leaves out of hunger. It was a major economic and social crisis for them. He then lost his uncle who was his loyal protector and main social support. Shortly after, he lost his wife, the most beloved person to his heart in the world and his main source of emotional support. When he attempted to travel and carry on with his mission of calling people to their Creator, he was received with insult and humiliation to the extent that children ran after him calling him names and throwing rocks at his blessed feet until he bled (peace and blessings upon the beloved!).
But then what happened?
His love of Allah and neediness of Him only grow stronger, and Allah honored him and elevated him beyond any other human being! He was granted the Isra’ and Mi’raj journey. It is the incomparably honorable opportunity to ascend to the Highest Heaven, and get closer to the Creator more so than any other man or even angel was able to get to The Source of Existence, The Source of Light, The One God.
So, sometimes the darkest moments are means to receive the greatest gifts.
If you are going through struggle or hardship, do not think that Allah is not with you, do not think that He is neglecting you, or that His help won’t come.
You are currently being rewarded beyond your imagination. You might think you’re doomed, but your rank with Allah might be higher than all those around you whom you think are in ease. There is nothing heavier on the scale than your patience “Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.”(39:10). Allah can give you what you want easily and He can resolve all your problems. “When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.” (2: 117) He can bring the whole world at your feet, but this is not the point. We were not created to merely experience ease or get material gains without testing, faith and struggle. Can you get a PhD degree without the long hours, days and years of studying, struggling, persevering and working hard?
If we do get this degree easily, would it have any meaning, value or prestige? This struggle is what makes the journey worth it. It is not about loving and committing to the Creator in the moments of ease. That’s easy; anybody can do that, but it’s about holding on to Him for better and for worse, in sickness and in health…isn’t this what true lovers are meant to do? Your reward will be tremendous and eternal, that’s guaranteed, but your faith has to be real. It’s not about what we say in ease, it’s about what we do in hardship.
And if you think you don’t have enough faith, then again, you reading this and being inspired to get closer to Allah means He wants you to get closer to Him! Allah is The One who opens doors. He knows what’s going on in your mind right now, He is closer to you than the screen you’re looking at to read those words.
So speak to Him, and repent to Him and Allah’s doors are ALWAYS open! He said He LOVES those who repent. “Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.” (2:222)
So turn this around. Doors are open for you. YOU have the power. You are not defeated. Yes it’s difficult, you are saddened and your feelings are respected. But don’t let this sadness define who you are, define your life or limit you. You are created for a noble purpose.
Stand up and do something you love. Find a passion and start following it. So long as it’s meaningful, good, pure, brings you closer to Allah Almighty and helps you serve His people, then do it.
Find people who need help and help them. You have no idea how when you’re helping people, you will be helped, and when you’re relieving their pain, you will be relieved and when you’re supporting them, you will be supported.
Satan wants us to give up and lose hope in life. But Allah wants us to trust Him and trust that He WILL bring His relief no matter what we’re facing. This is the path of the prophets and this is the path of true success.
“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. We [angels] were your allies in worldly life and [are so] in the Hereafter. And you will have therein whatever your souls desire, and you will have therein whatever you request [or wish]” (Qur’an 41: 30-31)
* Note: This is just a reminder to all of us; we all need it as we all go through our ups and downs. However, if you feel you need someone to talk to professionally, then by all means do that. Do salatul istikhara asking Allah to guide you to the best and most trustworthy professional to help you. You can consult the Imam at your masjid as well for recommendations, and there is no shame or harm in speaking professionally to a trustworthy person as a means to bring you the clarity and relief that you need.
May Allah heal all of you and descend peace and tranquility upon your hearts and minds and be with you always, protecting you and showering you in His Mercy until you meet Him. Ameen!
Written by Dina Mohamed Basiony