I did a google search for “depression and iman”, and I came across a little article by Understand Quran Academy, addressing this topic.
I felt the urge to comment on this article because he was bringing things from THE SURAH dealing with psychological issues, the Best Story EVER; especially for you and me, oh my fellow صاحبو السجن (“psychological prisoners.”)
In the article, he cites the event of Prophet Yaqub (عليه السلام). The emotional release of deeply rooted sadnesses and grief. Sadness that was stuck in his system for I don’t know how many years.
وَتَوَلَّىٰ عَنْهُمْ وَقَالَ يَا أَسَفَىٰ عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ وَابْيَضَّتْ عَيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْحُزْنِ فَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ
And he turned away from them and said, ‘Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,’ and his eyes filled with so many tears they became white from sadness, for he was [of that] a suppressor. [12:84]
قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ تَفْتَأُ تَذْكُرُ يُوسُفَ حَتَّىٰ تَكُونَ حَرَضًا أَوْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْهَالِكِينَ
They said, ‘By Allah , you will not cease remembering Yusuf until you become fatally ill or become of those who perish.’ [12:85]
قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّهِ وَأَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
He said, ‘I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah , and I know from Allah that which you do not know. [12:86-87]
Understand Quran comments on these ayat as a type of “proof” that depression is not a sign of weak iman. I quote from his article:
Can anyone dare to accuse a prophet of Allah of having weak iman? Then how come he became so miserable that he lost his eyesight?
This question is valid. But I have to clarify further this event.
What Yaqoob is doing is so crucial to keeping your heart alive and free from depression. In my experience with the most severe depression, there is a complete hopelessness in who I am. But every now and then, when my heart softens, and I am able to see the source of my emotional pain, there are in fact tears that explode because of how much has been suppressed. And the strong release of pain through tears is actually so healthy for my heart, and it does bring me relief from the terrible despairing, painful thoughts, because the root pain has been pinpointed and directed to the root pain.
This is why if you look at the story, you see that Yaqoob released his tears in response to a much later event; when the brothers came with the same excuse about Binyamin getting lost in the care of the brothers. The news came that Binyamin was lost, yet, Yaqoob’s tears started flowing for Yusuf….. Strange? absolutely not. This is exactly what we need to know for our own emotional dealings. The root pain of where the pain started is what really provides the relief; When you explore and find out where it really started. The event of today is a reflection of the buried pain and further sadness underneath that if released from your heart provides it with so much relief. But when you have lost touch with yourself, it becomes that much more difficult to do, and it’s easy to fall into despair and lose who you are. And when you have fallen into despair of who you truly are, for a long enough time, This is how depression could develop.
This is precisely why Yaqoob in the very next ayah tells his sons, about not falling into despair of who you are.
و لا تيئسوا من روح الله
And don’t despair from the “Roh” of Allah.
If you look at the meaning of Roh, it means soothing mercy and compassion, or relief is another meaning. But I find and have reflected that because this is this same exact word as the word for “spirit” or “soul” روح. The ultimate and biggest form of compassion is who you are, your own Ruh or soul, which is what makes you recognise your own creator and gives you your own life and individual purpose. When you have forgotten that and that spirit inside you is tainted, all sorts of bad things happen, but most pertinently setting the foundation for the development of psychological disorder, especially depression.
So from my understanding of this surah’s teachings, Ya’qoob is in fact demonstrating the healthy way to deal with these long time pent up emotions that if not dealt with leads to despair of the soul. And that’s why he tells his sons, who have developed self esteem problems, to not go down that route and fall into despair of the soul, because tears and sadness keeps the soul alive and remembering itself, and is a beautiful thing, (at least when I experience it.) With depression, I find that to be one of the best ways of dealing with it, feeling the root cause of the pain, and then it coming out in tears.
So I say, that Ya’qoob isn’t miserable. He’s feeling tons of sadness and tears, but releasing them out feels so amazing and good, and keeps your heart and soul alive, and safeguards from depression. He most certainly didn’t have depression, because depression is a loss of life, a loss of who you are and your soul, which leads to a lack of recognition of your own creator. This is why I know for certain that Yaqoob never suffered with depression. He demonstrated the healthy way to deal with old emotions from the past, in a way that keeps you alive, and helps remember who you are. Or in some cases helps you know who you are again.
And Rahman knows best.