Asif Mahmood Rana, Missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat
وَ مَا خَلَقۡتُ الۡجِنَّ وَ الۡاِنۡسَ اِلَّا لِیَعۡبُدُوۡنِ
“And I have not created the jinn and the men but that they may worship Me [Allah].” (Surah al-Jinn, Ch.51: V.57)
It is our common observation that when an object is not used the way it is meant to be, it fails to perform its actual job properly. Defects appear in it and if returned to the manufacturers, complaints are not entertained because of the wrong usage of the object that contradicts with the given manual.
Likewise, we, humans, are meant for something. If we fail to perform our duties according to the manual given by our Creator, we are prone to face spiritual, mental, physical and emotional ailments; anxiety and depression being examples of these. And if the consequences harm us in anyway, we cannot hold our Creator responsible for it.
The summary of our manual is described in the above-mentioned verse of the Holy Quran i.e. the centre of all our goals and achievements must be a special bond with our Creator for which He created us. Worship is not merely any specific formal way of prayer, rather whenever we try to fulfill the aim of our creation, we are worshipping our Creator.
The ever changing social, political and religious condition of the world from personal, national and international levels is a reason for increasing tensions and material competition among people. Though the dramatic increase in the usage of modern technology in the form of social media has brought distant people nearer, it has disconnected those who live close to us.
The globalisation has woven people of all the nations in one network. An event anywhere on the Northern Hemisphere disturbs those who live on the other side of the world in one way or another. As a result, our regrets and fears are, in a sense, much more than the people of the past.
Regret for the past and fear of the future kills hope and one stops to appreciate the blessings of God Almighty and fails to serve humanity. Curbing anxiety and depression therefore becomes a great challenge for world religions, who claim to have come to remove burdens of the material world and pave a righteous path for salvation. Almost every divine religion has addressed the issue in one way or another.
Ancient Indian religions, for instance Buddhism and Jainism, have described the material bond to be the reason of dukkha i.e. the suffering. Getting rid of the worldly bonds altogether is the only way, according to their philosophy, to attain mental calmness. These religions suggest that one should experience extreme suffering and pain and practice celibacy for the moksha of soul and removal of material bonds.
Though the idea is not all in vain and it might have done well to achieve the purpose in ancient times in some aspects, but to run away from the actual causes of stress and anxiety in the form of isolation from society does not serve the cause of religion i.e. to serve humanity. From such practices, one can save oneself from acquiring pain from others or possibly restrain themselves from giving pain to others, mentally or physically, but serving humanity is much more than that.
Isolation itself brings about anxieties and stress. Such solutions can give rise to new social and moral issues. Therefore, we should look for solutions that are free from these drawbacks and fulfill the needs of the body and soul in a way that is practical for everyone.
Let us look for such solutions in Islam that not only claim to be divine and universal, but also testify to the true teachings of the previous religions. Allah the Almighty says:
اَلَا بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ الۡقُلُوۡبُ
“Aye, it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.” (Surah al-Ra‘d, Ch.13: V.29)
The principle solution for all emotional and psychological disorders have been given in this part of the verse of the Holy Quran i.e. the remembrance of one’s Creator; the Sustainer of everything, and Destroyer of evils. When a man knows that there is someone who created him or in other words, programmed him and created the universe, then he can realise someone is more powerful than his worries.
As we see, inventors know the limitations, needs and drawbacks of their inventions, similarly or more profoundly, the Divine Creator is All-Knowing. When man entrusts to Him everything, his worries about the results of his plans no longer disturb him.
Here, I wish to make my point clear with a story and an example. There was once a king. He was always worried about the matters of his kingdom that kept him awake at nights. With his anxiety and depression, he went to his guru, who was a saint, and told him the matter. His guru told him to entrust his kingdom and all his matters to him.
The king happily agreed and asked to leave. The guru asked him where he would go. The king replied that he would take some money from the treasury and go to another kingdom where he could start a small business and live happily. The guru said, “Now the treasury belongs to me and you are my subject. You cannot take anything or go anywhere without my permission.”
The king asked his guru, “What should I do then?” The guru said, “You are my minister from now on. Go to my kingdom and perform your duties on my behalf.” The king agreed and went back. After a few months, the guru made a visit to the royal palace and met his minister, the king. The guru asked, “How are the matters of the kingdom going?” He replied, “Everything is going well.” When the guru asked him about his former worries and depression, he replied, “Why should I worry about anything now while performing my duty in the best way I can? The kingdom is yours; the subjects are yours. If something wrong was to happen, I would tell you. It would be up to you to make it right.”
Here, with the help of this story, we understand that depression and anxiety about the results of our matters arise when we think that all things and their consequences are in our hands and we must solve these issues solely on our own.
But if we entrust our matters to someone responsible or to whom we believe can make our struggle fruitful, our “burden” is instantly alleviated. The Holy Quran mentions a believer who stood in Pharaoh’s court to support Prophet Mosesas. When he had delivered his message and fulfilled his responsibility, the Holy Quran mentioned that he said:
وَ اُفَوِّضُ اَمۡرِیۡۤ اِلَی اللّٰہِ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ بَصِیۡرٌۢ بِالۡعِبَادِ
“And I entrust my affairs to Allah. Verily, Allah watches over His servants.” (Surah al-Mu‘min, Ch.40: V.45)
In another verse of the Holy Quran, Allah the Almighty has mentioned:
وَ لِلّٰہِ مَا فِی السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ مَا فِی الۡاَرۡضِ ؕ وَ اِلَی اللّٰہِ تُرۡجَعُ الۡاُمُوۡرُ
“And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth, and to Allah shall all affairs be returned for decision.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.110)
A very good example to understand this reality is in our childhood. Whenever something wrong happened to us, someone scared us or we lost something, we used to run to our parents anxiously to tell them the matter and became calm because we had faith in them that they could solve the issue and save us from any consequences.
The Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, once said that Allah loves His servants 70 times more than a mother does. So, this is how remembering Him and entrusting Him with all our matters help us in getting rid of any anxiety and depression.
Now, the question arises: How can we always remember Him? As a matter of fact, Islam teaches that anyone, anytime and anywhere can remember their Creator in anyway and in whatever words they deem fit. Islam has also made it compulsory for its followers to remember Him at least five times a day in a specific way called Salat. Salat itself, when performed with all its essentials, aids towards curbing anxiety and depression.
When we start our day with the remembrance of the Creator and seek help from Him and entrust our matters to Him, the day appears lighter to us. But after six to seven hours, worldly matters start accumulating. Here we need a break and recollect ourselves and offer the afternoon prayer and again seek help from God Almighty and tell ourselves that everything is not in our hands; consequences are not in our hands.
Explaining our worries to Him, we again become lighter and until we fall asleep, we repeat this practice at specific intervals. Psychologists recommend people to share their worries with others to help alleviate stress anxiety. Although one feels relieved through sharing worries with others, sharing all types of matters with others is not suitable, nor can people help us in most of our problems. We need someone who listens to us, guides us, solves all our issues, does not tell our problems to others. Such a being must be all-knowing, sustainer of everything and there is none but Allah the Almighty.
Through prayers, we can get rid of all our thoughts that disturb us until we share them with someone. Through prayers, we can seek help for the things that are beyond our limits and powers. Through prayers, we can save ourselves from the unseen results of our deeds or deeds of our fellow beings. The idea of entrusting one’s matters to someone and sharing worries to get rid of depression and anxiety is not just theoretical and practical.
Lives of thousands of prophets and saints and millions of their followers are a proof of this phenomenon. Prophet Jesusas cried when he was in great pain ایلی ایلی لما سبقتنی (O Lord, why have you forsaken me?); in turn, he was saved. The Holy Prophetsa prayed اللھم اھد قومی فانھم لا یعلمون when he was rejected by his people and his prayers were answered too.
May Allah enable us all to follow the path of His beloved ones to seek Divine help in our matters that could otherwise lead us to physical, mental our spiritual ailments. Amin.