Dealing With Depression: Virtuous Character

The Islamic faith is not unfamiliar with tests and tribulations. This is the sixth in a series of articles on depression according to Islam. It is from the On Demand Course: Mental Health Workshop – An Islamic Guide to Dealing with Depression.

Allah says: 

وَٱصۡبِرۡ وَمَا صَبۡرُكَ إِلَّا بِٱللَّهِۚ 

“And be dauntlessly steadfast: Nor is your steadfastness but through Allah.” [Quran, 16:127; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

فَٱصۡبِرۡ كَمَا صَبَرَ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلۡعَزۡمِ مِنَ ٱلرُّسُلِ 

“So be  steadfastly firm as the most dauntless of the messengers were.” [Quran, 46:35; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

وَٱصۡبِرۡ نَفۡسَكَ مَعَ ٱلَّذِینَ یَدۡعُونَ رَبَّهُم بِٱلۡغَدَوٰةِ وَٱلۡعَشِیِّ یُرِیدُونَ وَجۡهَهُۥۖ 

“And make yourself bear patiently with those who call on their Lord at the morning’s rise and wane of day, seeking but His countenance.” [Quran, 18:28; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Attaining virtuous qualities has been approached by many scholars through three aspects. They look at it through knowledge, which is like the roots, of what we need to know about this quality. 

Second, through the states, which are like the branches, which is the reality of that quality and that trait within.

Third is through actions, which is like the fruit of both having the knowledge and the state. That is how one then acts on that quality and how that quality is, then, manifest. 

Patience in the Quran

Allah describes the people of paradise and how they are treated and how they are welcomed by the angels.

سَلَـٰمٌ عَلَیۡكُم بِمَا صَبَرۡتُمۡۚ فَنِعۡمَ عُقۡبَى ٱلدَّارِ

“‘All pure secure peace to you, that you had steadfast patience; And how splendid the outcome of the endless abode!’” [Quran, 13:24; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Allah also tells us in the Quran about the virtue of patience and steadfastness:

وَٰسِعَةٌ ۗ إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى ٱلصَّـٰبِرُونَ أَجْرَهُم بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍۢ

“The dauntless in patience with adversity shall but be requited their full wage without reckoning.” [Quran, 39:10; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Allah also says, 

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِینَ

“Verily Allah is with the dauntlessly patient.” [Quran. 2:153; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Furthermore, Allah says: 

وَٱللَّهُ یُحِبُّ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِینَ

“And Allah loves the truly steadfast” [Quran, 3:146; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “What an extraordinary thing the business of the believer is. All of it is good for him. And that only applies to the believer. If good fortune is his, then he is grateful and it is good for him. If something harmful happens to him, he is steadfast and that is good for him.” 

The way a believer views tests and trials is that they are part of that duality. The believer oscillates between being in a state of good fortune or being in a state of trial and tribulation. Both are good for him. It all depends on his response.

Patience is from Certitude

A combination of these three characteristics can be explored through Imam Abdullah bin Alawi al-Haddad’s poem on patience and steadfastness, “Ya Sabiran.”  

He starts, Rejoice, “O patient one, O steadfast one, and give good news to the steadfast, of victory, triumph, and relief close at hand.”

Patience in reality is based on strength of certitude and being mindful of Allah. That means being in a state of adherence to Allah’s commands and avoiding his prohibitions, having that strong state of certitude, and the strong state of mindfulness of Allah.

Where are the glad tidings coming from? From what Allah and His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) have taught us. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “Whoever tries to be patient, then Allah grants them that patience.” 

That is the beginning of the glad tidings. Every good thing is earned or granted through patience, whether it be knowledge or any of the gains in this world.

Victory of the Self

Consider someone who is looking to better their health through exercise, it happens through patience and perseverance. So what about the high stations with Allah? 

The Imam mentioned the good news of victory, triumph and relief which were close at hand. The great victory in reality is being victorious over our lower selves. Allah says:

قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ

“He has truly succeeded forever who strives to reach full purity in faith and deed.” [Quran, 87:14; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

That is the victory. By having a state of patience during trials and tribulations, the heart becomes cleansed and the self becomes purified.

One is elevated. This victory is to know and be realized in having certitude that everything is from Allah Most High and that there is wisdom in everything we go through from trials and tribulations. 

Every moment of it, one is being rewarded for it. One is being elevated and purified.

The Good and Affliction

There is wisdom. One of the companions reportedly said, “If we were to see the unseen of what Allah has decreed for us, then we would choose exactly what Allah has set for us.” 

 The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) says about trials and tribulations, “When Allah desires good for someone, He afflicts them.”

He tries them, He tests them. The scholars say “Desires good” for them means that Allah loves them. Those tests are to purify us because Allah loves us. 

Consider how gold gets purified. It has to go through flames for all of the impurities to be shed. Then that pure gold becomes manifest. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “And if Allah loves a people, then He tries them.”

The most beloved to Allah are the Prophets. They were the most tested. The most beloved of them our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), was the most tested in creation.

Perservere and Triumph

We must know and have certitude that every test has an end. That is something to look forward to. If we persevere, that is victory and triumph. 

The test, if one responds with patience, comes with gentle care of Allah, and with reward. Allah says:

فَإِنَّ مَعَ ٱلْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا

إِنَّ مَعَ ٱلْعُسْرِ يُسْرًۭا

“So verily with hardship comes utter ease; Verily with hardship comes utter ease.” [Quran, 94:5-6; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Allah repeats it twice. With one hardship there is a double ease that comes with it, which overpowers that hardship.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) says, “No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim including the prick of a thorn except Allah wipes out his mistakes by it or through it.” [Bukhari]

Imam al-Haddad says, “Through steadfastness, the truly steadfast one attains his goal and finds times of clarity after confusion.”