There are several causes of depression, which could be environmental, situational, psychological or due to our genetic pre-disposition. People who are pessimistic, hopeless or are suffering an ongoing physical illness are more likely to get depressed.
Depression may be broadly categorized as situational and clinical. Situational depression is relatively temporary and is dependent on immediate factors such as the loss of a loved one, financial or job stress, or other distressing issues which when resolved affect the depressive condition. Clinical depression is not a passing phase. It is a mental health condition which affects almost everything about a person, including their appetite, sleep, mood, relationships, study, work, and activities which they found pleasurable before getting depressed. This is not a passing or temporary condition and neither is it within the individual’s control to talk themselves out of it or get better without help. Clinical depression needs a formal evaluation, a professional diagnosis and medical treatment.
Islam does not treat depression as a stigma or a sign of weak faith. Rather, it is regarded as any medical illness which needs to be treated by an expert. Allah tells us to seek proper attention for our ailments and to not neglect our physical or worldly life:
But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters. (The Quran, Chapter 28 Verse 77).
Self-denial and self-harm are both not permitted in Islam, as the body we have been granted is an ‘amanah’ or trust from Allah, which we need to care for:
And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. (The Quran Chapter 4 Verse 29) and
And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good. (The Quran Chapter 2 Verse 195).
Existential questions, such as Why are we here? What is our purpose? What is the meaning of life when we are all going to die anyway? – have long been a source of hopelessness and confusion. For a Muslim, such questions have been answered by Allah, the One who created all of us for the specific purpose of worshipping Him and earning our place in the afterlife (the Quran Chapter 51 Verse 56). Hopelessness and helplessness is countered by the presence of an ever-present, merciful and forgiving being, Allah.
Further, our beloved Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) taught the following dua for people suffering from anxiety and depression:
Allaahumma inni ‘abduka ibn ‘abdika ibn amatija naasyati bi yadika, maada fiyya hukmuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadaa’uka. As’aluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltahu fi kitaabika aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista’tharta bihi fi ‘ilm il-ghayb ‘indaka an taj’al al-Qur’aana rabee’ qalbi wa noor sadri wa jalaa’ huzni wa dhihaab hammi
O Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your maidservant; 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 have 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 Quran the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.