Hijab and Depression: Is There a Relation?
Question: I used to wear the hijab three years ago. I stopped wearing it due to depression. I felt a sense of freedom when I took it off, however, I also felt as though my ability to study – I am medicine student at the university – was vastly decreased. Initially, I did not know what the reason was, but I sort of “knew” at the back of my mind that Allah was punishing me for taking the hijab off. When I try to study now, the only thing I can think of is that I am not wearing the hijab, therefore I will not do well in my studies. This depresses me. Then, I tell myself that I will put the hijab back on! However, I feel like a hypocrite if I put it on now, because I do not feel the same as I did when I first put it on. I feel really low about this situation, I feel nearly powerless which is rather silly, because I know deep in my heart that it is up to me, but I am afraid to take responsibility again. I have been feeling like this for over four years. I feel powerless. I feel as though I am incapable of studying and achieving my dreams. I have lost two academic years because of this “depression”. I do not know what has happened to me. I used to be such a good student. I used to be known within my family as one of the most “obedient children”. But, unfortunately, this is not the case anymore. I feel as though I need people to make my decisions for me – a feeling I never felt before I went to medical school. I used to be a control freak; I used to know what I wanted and how to get it. I do not feel like that anymore. I feel powerless and as if I do not have any control over my life anymore. I feel like a failure. Please help me for Allah’s sake.
Answer (provided by OnIslam):
We appreciate your candor in discussing this particular issue. We do not know much more than what you have written in your message, so it is difficult for us to have a full picture of what went on in your life before you took off the hijab. You say that you took it off because you were depressed. What caused you to be depressed? What was causing you to feel so suppressed or oppressed that you felt a sense of freedom when you took off the hijab? You need not write back to us with the answers, but it will be quite helpful if you reflect on those questions for yourself.
Allah Most High constantly watches over you and is aware of all what you do. We understand that something in your life caused you to be depressed. Again, since we do not have much information, we are offering one possible explanation. Because the hijab is mandatory, there is no possible explanation we can think of that would have made it acceptable to link the hijab itself with your depression.
What we mean is that you might have actually been depressed because you were having difficulty adjusting to your university environment. Since the hijab is the external manifestation of your Islamic identity, we believe your depression might have been a result of experiences you had with discrimination or prejudice. If that is the case, then we could see how you might have concluded that removing the external manifestation, i.e. the hijab, would help to make you less noticeable and therefore reduce your experiences with discrimination and prejudice.
However, if you look back now, and our analysis is on the mark, then you will see that taking off the hijab only gave you a temporary sense of freedom while having severe consequences on your ability to perform well in medical school. When you wore your hijab, that was more natural for you and therefore you could focus all of your attention on your studies. Taking off the hijab severely distracted your attention from your studies, making you feel like a failure and powerless.
Regardless of why you took off the hijab, we strongly suggest that you begin the process of recovery and healing by first putting the hijab back on. You will find it challenging to put the hijab back on, but the benefits of doing so will soon outweigh the setbacks. Satan will tempt you into thinking that you are being a hypocrite by putting the hijab back on. In reality, if you only put the hijab back on for worldly reasons, like you think you will do better in school, then you are mistaken.
Taking off the hijab is going against the teachings of Islam and putting the hijab back on should only be for the pleasure of Allah Most High. Because you took off the hijab, you will have to turn to Allah immediately and repent. Your relationship with Allah needs to be strengthened and you can do that through increasing your voluntary acts of worship such as additional prayers, fasting, and giving of charity. Allah Most High has reminded us in the Qur’an,
“Do they not know that it is Allah Who accepts the repentance of His servants and receives (approves) their charity, and that Allah is the Relenting, the Compassionate?”(At-Tawbah: 104)
In addition, Allah Most High has said: “Say: ‘O My servants who wronged against their souls, do not despair of Allah’s mercy! For Allah forgives all sins; for He is indeed Forgiving, Compassionate.”(Az-Zumar: 53)
You are sincerely concerned about your future and that is why you have written to us. Now the decision is yours. What are you going to do? Put the hijab back on, strengthen your relationship with Allah, and excel in medical school! Remember, Allah knows best.