Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
Is it permissible to use anti-depressant medication?
I expressed my concerns of taking such medication; but it has come to a point that my depression has prevented me from partaking in my obligations at school, and even from things that I really enjoy. My father said that the medication would help me.
Answer: In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate
Thank you for sending in your question. May Allah grant you ease and guide you to what is pleasing to Him.
Depression is most often a result of stress and can affect anyone, at any age. Depression may result from suppressed anger, grief, loss, loneliness, mental strain, disappointment, or as an inherited susceptibility. People sink into a sad place inside of themselves which, at its worst, is a black hole, empty and hopeless, from where the future looks bleak. They can become self-absorbed, losing interest in things that formerly gave them pleasure and finding it difficult to engage with others without feeling worse. Often, the person cannot put a finger on the cause of their depression.
The symptoms of depression can be many. Among them are exhaustion, lack of motivation, helplessness, low self-confidence, guilt and anxiety, a feeling of flatness, and sometimes suicidal. Professional medical help should always be sought for any long term or severe depression.
GENERAL RULING ON TAKING MEDICATION
In the Shafi’i school, the general ruling on taking medication is that it is recommended (mustahab), but not obligatory. In the Hanafi school the general ruling is that of permissibility (mubaah). [Tuhfa al Muhtaj, Nihayat al Muhtaj, Radd al Muhtar]
In regards anti-depressants, it would come under the general ruling of permissibility, if a reliable doctor has diagnosed a mental health condition and prescribed them.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN TAKING ANTI-DEPRESSANTS
Away from the legal permissibility of taking anti-depressants, there are some considerations one should take into account before starting a course of anti-depressant treatment (indeed, any type of treatment).
I have included below a few of these considerations. They are by no means offered here as a recommendation of any particular form of treatment or therapy, or to influence your decision in any way. Nor are they put forward to undermine your respected father’s suggestions and advice to you.
However, as an individual, it is important that you research and weigh up all the information available in order to make an informed decision. This is even more imperative when it comes to psychotic drugs.
You mentioned that you are considering taking the anti-depressants for the sake of your father and to ease his concern, and this is very commendable and such an intention will be rewarded greatly by Allah, insha’Allah. Ultimately, however, it will be you and your body who will bear the consequences of the medication so you must make sure that you are fully comfortable with it, and that you have made your decision for the right reasons.
You are young and vital. It is important not to compromise your mental-emotional and physical health in any way.
SIDE EFFECTS OF ANTI-DEPRESSANTS
Anti-depressants can often produce an array of side effects which range from mild to severe. These include:
Nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, fatigue and drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, dizziness, agitation, irritability, anxiety, loss of sexual desire and other sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm.
It is important to know these side-effects so that one can weigh up the pros and cons of taking anti-depressants, as well as identify them if they occur. Therefore, I encourage you to read and look up as much as you can on these side effects and especially other people’s experience of being on anti-depressants before starting any treatment.
ALTERNATIVES AND RESOURCES
Anti-depressants are by no means the only options for treating depression and other mental health issues. There are a host of natural treatments that can be used effectively in such conditions. You may want to look into the following:
Homeopathy (Classic Constitutional treatment)
Orthomolecular medicine (Vitamins and supplements at (safe) high dosage)
Therapy / Counselling (without anti-depressant prescriptions)
If you do decide to try one of these therapies, then you should carefully choose a qualified and experienced practitioner, by asking around and looking online. There are some excellent resources available on natural treatments. I can recommend the following books which may be of interest to you:
Natural Alternatives For Depression by Dr. Stephen Gascoigne
Homeopathy for Today’s World: Discovering Your Animal, Mineral, or Plant Nature by Dr. Rajan Sankaran
Doctor Yourself: Natural Healing That Works by Andrew W Saul
I reiterate, all the above suggestions are merely that, suggestions. I encourage you to read widely and look at both allopathic (conventional) treatments for depression as well as natural solutions. Only after that will you feel confident in making an informed decision.
- Remember that Allah, Most High does not burden anyone more than they can bear, and that when a believer suffers in any way, it is an expiation for him and raises him in rank, if he remains patient. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Trials will continue for the believing man and the believing woman, in person, property and children, until they meet Allah free from sin.’ [al Tirmidhi]
- Get a Wird: A wird is a certain amount of dhikr (remembrance of God) one does daily. It doesn’t have to be long. Pick certain formulas that you like saying and an amount that you can maintain. Say it morning and night without missing it as much as you can. You also mentioned that you can’t motivate yourself to read Qur’an at the moment as much as you would like to. Set a short time aside for a wird of Quran each day, even if only for 5 minutes. Allah Most High tells us: ‘So remember Me; I will remember you.’ [2:152]
- Remind yourself that this will pass. Put your depression into perspective, or get someone to help you do this, and remind yourself that it won’t last forever, even if it feels like it will. Allah Most High consoles us when He says, ‘Verily, with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.’ [94:35-36].
- Breathe spirit into your daily life by reciting and memorising daily supplications for everyday events, such as waking up, going to the bathroom, eating, sleeping etc. This will help you remember God throughout the day, and increase your faith and gratitude, insha’Allah. I highly recommend Reflections of Pearlsby Inam Uddin and Abdur Rahman Ibn Yusuf as an easy and clear book to use and memorise from.
- Ensure you are fulfilling rights due to God and others. Get these in order and maintain them. Make sure you are not sinning in anyway.
- Pray in congregation when able. It has secrets in it for the soul and keeps the devil away.
- Repeat the following supplications before going to bed and/or after each prayer:
للّهُـمَّ إِنِّي عَبْـدُكَ ابْنُ عَبْـدِكَ ابْنُ أَمَتِـكَ نَاصِيَتِي بِيَـدِكَ، مَاضٍ فِيَّ حُكْمُكَ، عَدْلٌ فِيَّ قَضَاؤكَ أَسْأَلُـكَ بِكُلِّ اسْمٍ هُوَ لَكَ سَمَّـيْتَ بِهِ نَفْسَكَ أِوْ أَنْزَلْتَـهُ فِي كِتَابِكَ، أَوْ عَلَّمْـتَهُ أَحَداً مِنْ خَلْقِـكَ أَوِ اسْتَـأْثَرْتَ بِهِ فِي عِلْمِ الغَيْـبِ عِنْـدَكَ أَنْ تَجْـعَلَ القُرْآنَ رَبِيـعَ قَلْبِـي، وَنورَ صَـدْرِي وجَلَاءَ حُـزْنِي وذَهَابَ هَمِّـي
‘O Allah, I am Your slave and the son of your male slave and the son of your female slave. My forehead is in Your Hand (i.e. you have control over me). Your Judgment upon me is assured and Your Decree concerning me is just. I ask You by every Name that You have named Yourself with, revealed in Your Book, taught any one of Your creation or kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You, to make the Qur’an the spring of my heart, and the light of my chest, the Banisher of my sadness and the Reliever of my distress.’ [Musnad Ahmad]
- You said that you want to study religious sciences more. Start off slowly and don’t take on too much at first. Learning about the religion, even if slowly, brings focus and direction in one’s life. Have a look at the SeekersHub course page which offers free courses. I recommend taking a basic Aqidah course to start with, which may be coupled with a spirituality course later.
OTHER THINGS TO TRY
- Try to work out the cause of your depression. It may be emotional stress but if it is physical stress, this will need dealing with too.
- Check that any other medication you may be taking is not causing or contributing to your depression. Antibiotics, steroids, as well as many other ordinary everyday medications, are capable of causing depression as a side effect. Ask your doctor or check them up online.
- Timetable your daily life. Write a weekly timetable for you daily life. Make sure every moment is counted for. Include time for breaks and social time, but fill your time up with a healthy balance of study/work, worship, leisure, and rest. Stay busy as much as possible and do not leave too much time free in your day. You may find the following books helpful in helping you make the most our of studies and organising your time:
Learning How to Learn by Joseph Novak
Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge by Joseph D. Novak
The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan
- Make an effort to do something enjoyable and pleasant every day; a walk, playing with a pet, going on an outing.
- Find something that makes you laugh or smile and do it on a daily basis.
- Find a way to express what you are feeling in your own way, to yourself or/and to a friend or professional.
- Write down the most depressive thought, the one that repeats itself over and over again, the one that represents the core of your depression. Think about where it came from. Be honest with yourself about the reality of your feeling. How true is it?
- Make practical changes if you find certain things in your life are the causing your depression, or making it worse.
- Be around nature whenever possible. The benefits that being around green areas and water has on the human mind and soul is well documented. Urban cities and modern life deprive us of connecting to nature and the simple yet awesome world around us. Take time out every so often, especially when feeling low, to go somewhere you can see green areas, trees, the horizon, stars, or the sea.
- Exercise, eat, and sleep well. Be sure to include in your timetable time for exercise, food, and sufficient rest. Pick an exercise or sport you like, that way you will most likely stick to it. Exercise has positive effects on how we feel and our thought patterns.
- Take up a hobby.Life doesn’t have to be all work and worship. Take up a hobby and fit it into your timetable. It doesn’t have to be religious based, just pick something that interests you and allows you to use your creativity. The ability to be creative is a sign of health. Having a creative outlet can be very therapeutic.
- Make sure you make time to be with family and friends. Humans are social animals and we need each other.
- Unplug from social media and too much technology (smart phones, laptops, games etc). They’re not there to connect people, they’re there to disconnect and isolate people from real life and real human interaction.
May Allah grant you the very best of iman and health.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007 I travelled to Tarim, Yemen, where I spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with my main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, I moved to Amman, Jordan, where I continue advanced study in a range of sciences, as well as teaching. Away from the Islamic sciences, I am a qualified Homeopath, and run a private clinic in Amman.