It had been some six months since the last revelation and the Messengerﷺ was being taunted by the Makkans “Your satan has deserted you.” He ﷺ was feeling very dejected and deserted by Allah. He wondered if Allah was displeased with him and did not want him as a Prophet anymore. Thus, Surah Ad-Duha was revealed to console and help the Messengerﷺ to overcome his anxiety and depression. This is no different from when we become depressed because of a traumatic experience or the stress of our modern-day lives. We begin to feel that we are not worthy and Allah does not love us anymore because He is not answering our prayers.
In Surah Ad-Duha, Allah gives the Messengerﷺ (and us) strategies to overcome negativity and emotional stress:
Negative automatic thoughts (NATs),
First highlighted by Aaron Beck in 1964, (NATs) is a stream of negative thoughts that impact our mood and our feelings. Beck is the father of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). We all have NATs e.g. ‘I am such an idiot’ or ‘I can never get anything right’ or ‘nobody likes me, anyway’. The point is whether we ignore and challenge them or accept and believe them. If we can ignore them, we have a better, healthier state of mind. However, if we start to believe them, this will cause us to feel low/anxious, doubt ourselves, feel angry and irritable. Such negative feelings can be extremely debilitating. So the difference is one of ‘perception’ i.e how we perceive a situation will determine how we feel. Therefore, we have to change this distorted way of thinking and replace it with more positivity, and that is the basis of CBT, which aims to reshape our negative thinking and beliefs about ourselves and our problems so that our emotions are no longer adversely affected.
And so Allah says to the beloved Messengerﷺ
“By the brightness of mid-morning, by the night’s darkness. Your Lord hasn’t deserted you, nor is He displeased with you”
I have not deserted you, I still love you so stop being negative. The reference to the brightness of the morning is clearly a reference to light or sunshine which is also associated with better mental health. Studies have found sunshine can lift our mood and has more impact on us than any other environmental factor. The glorious morning sunshine on your face just fills your heart with gratitude and joy for life itself.
Have confidence that you will succeed
Next Allah says:
“Your future will be better than the past. And your Lord will give you so much that you will be well-pleased”
Allah is telling us to be confident that the future is going to be good and we are going to succeed. He is saying, be positive and believe in yourself. The fact is that people who are positive find they have confidence in themselves and vice versa. This could also be referring to the hereafter, reminding us that this life is temporary but if we prepare for the next we will be well pleased.
Recall your past successes and the favours of your Lord
The next verses reminded the Messengerﷺ, of Allah’s past favours. “Didn’t He find you an orphan and shelter you.. and guide you?” That is, we are prompted to recall the successes in our past and told that our future will also be bright. We are asked to be glad of all the good that has happened in our lives and how Allah has always provided for us and how He has touched our hearts and guided us to Him. Subhan’Allah.
And finally, “So don’t be harsh with the orphan nor chase away the beggar and speak positively about the gifts of your Lord”
Perhaps the best antidote to depression is to think of those less fortunate than ourselves, the orphan and the beggar and to be grateful for what we have. Gratitude therapy helps us to feel more positive because we take pleasure in past experiences and achievements. A daily dose of gratitude can improve our mental health enormously because we are expressing appreciation for what we already have – as opposed to a consumer-driven emphasis on – what we want. A gush of gratitude will trigger the release of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. This feeling of happiness also makes us feel close and connected to Allah. Insha’Allah.
May Allah guide us and give us peace and hope in our hearts and a renewed faith after this Ramadan.