by Wael Abdelgawad
I have been answering questions a for over ten years now. I tend to see the same types of questions asked again and again. Some are from women trapped in abusive marriages, others from young people who are in love, or heartbroken, or confused. The questions that disturb me most of all are the ones from (usually young) people considering suicide. It makes me wonder, where does this come from? I find this very frustrating, and I’m angry, not at these young brothers and sisters, but that families and societies are putting our young Muslims today in such difficult positions that they begin to harbor these terrible thoughts of suicide.
Many of our youth today are put in positions where it is almost impossible for them to marry; or they are denied marriage to the one they choose because of superficial circumstances; or they are pressured into marriage against their will; or they are raised with no guidance or teaching, so that they get into sinful lifestyles and are then burdened with sin and guilt and don’t know how to purify themselves.
Insha’Allah I will try to impart some important messages and ideas to those of you who may have contemplated suicide, for any reason.
You are unique and you are loved
You, my brother or sister who is experiencing difficulty in your life, try to be strong and remind yourself of all the wonderful things in life. This world is so full of beauty, from the stars in the sky to the taste of a sweet apple in your mouth; from flowers blooming in spring time to the majesty of a lightning storm. There is so much to see, to experience. There is so much mystery. Open your eyes to it. There are miracles all around you.
As far as your own existence, know that your life has meaning and purpose. Allah put you here on this earth for a reason. You are a unique person, the only one of your kind in the universe, and as such you are a treasure. Just as Allah created the stars, the oceans, and the majestic trees, He created you. In fact you dwarf them, because you are a creature of complexity and free will.
If it seems that those around you do not value you, it may be only that they do not know how to show it. People who are raised in families that do not express love freely may be uncomfortable showing affection. But that does not mean that they do not love you and care about you deeply.
Know, in any case, that Allah values you and cares about you.
In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) we are told that, “Allah is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child.”
In another saying, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah has one hundred parts of mercy, of which He sent down one between the jinn, humankind, the animals and the insects, by means of which they are compassionate and merciful to one another, and by means of which wild animals are kind to their offspring. And Allah has kept back ninety-nine parts of mercy with which to be merciful to His slaves of the Day of Resurrection.” – Saheeh Muslim, al-Tawbah, 6908
Also, please believe that I care about you as well, even without knowing you, as do others who write about these subjects and speak about them, and that is why we do it, because we care.
I would like to talk about why suicide is not the Muslim way; and to suggest a way forward for those who are having these thoughts.
First, consult a professional
Untreated and undiagnosed clinical mental illness is one of the leading causes of suicide. If you are depressed, and are truly suicidal, you should consult a psychiatrist or a primary care physician as soon as possible.
The majority of people who are suicidal are clinically depressed and require medication to function normally, and stabilize themselves. They lack the ability to control these types of thoughts becuase their thinking is distorted. The filter through which they view the world is flawed because of a chemical imbalance.
Prayer and faith may not always be enough for people are clinically depressed. They may feel that they have failed as Muslims, or are unloved by Allah; such thoughts persist and reinforce their depression.
So the first thing you should do is see your doctor and talk about the feelings you are having. Your doctor can refer you to someone who can help you deal with these feelings in an appropriate way. If you are clinically depressed, meaning there is something wrong with your brain chemistry that is causing your depression, there may be a medication that can make a huge difference for you. There’s nothing wrong or shameful about this, any more than it would be if it were medication for a heart condition.
Suicide is not the Muslim way
Remember, we are Muslims, we do not kill ourselves! That is not our way. It is a sin and a crime, and it is NOT an answer to life’s problems.
Suicide is the way of some disbelievers who have nothing to turn to in this life, and nothing to look forward to in the aakhirah (the hereafter). They are people who have built their lives on foundations of empty consumerism, mounting debt, drugs and alchohol, and other things that have no substance and do not comfort the soul.
We Muslims have the mercy and forgiveness of Allah on the one hand – Allah is always ready to forgive His repenting servants – and we have the awareness of Jannah and Jahannam (Paradise and Hell) on the other hand.
Thoughts of suicide indicate a fundamental lack of understanding among some Muslims about how to solve life problems, and about the nature of their relationships with Allah.
Allah never burdens someone with more than he can bear
Whatever has befallen you, I guarantee that you are strong enough to bear it and come out stronger on the other side. How can I guarantee this? Because Allah says so in the Quran (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:286), in this beautiful verse which is also a wonderful dua’ for those who are suffering:
“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.” (Umm Muhammad translation)
Allah created you, and He knows your strengths and capabilities. No matter how tough your life circumstances seem, Allah knows that you can handle it, and that there is an important lesson in it for you, or an important test. We human beings are astonishingly resilient and we can tolerate much more than most of us realize.
At times like this, when life seems like a heavy weight driving us down, we do not ask questions like, “Why me?” Or “Why has Allah done this to me?” Or, “Is this a punishment for me?” Or, “Am I cursed?” Those are absolutely the wrong questions.
Why are they the wrong questions? Because they suppose that everyone else is having an easy time, skating through life, and we are the only ones burdened with pain and sadness. Every human being is tested. Every human being suffers. That is the nature of life. Life offers us happiness and pain; joy and suffering; peace and conflict. That is the common experience of every human being since Adam and Hawa, even the Prophets (peace be upon them all), in fact especially the Prophets and the righteous.
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,
Who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.’
Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.“
In one verse of the Quraan Allah informs humankind,
“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).“ (Surah Adh-Dhariyat Verse 56)
Hardship is a part of life. It can be seen as a test, to see which way we will turn. So the questions we should be asking are:
- How can I respond to this situation in the best way, to show Allah that I recognize all the blessings in my life, and I am patient with my trials?
- How can I turn to Allah at this time, to seek strength and comfort from Him?
- How can I use all the faculties and gifts that Allah has given me to find a solution to this problem, even one that does not seem obvious?
- What do I have in my life that is good, that I can find happiness in, and be grateful for?
- How can I learn from this test, so that I come out of it a wiser and stronger human being and believer?
Suicide is a great sin
Suicide is one of the great sins in Islam. Allah says explicitly in the Quran,
“And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you.“ (Surah An-Nisa Verse 29)
In another verse of the Quaan, Allah says:
“And do not throw yourselves in destruction.“ (Surah Al-Baqarah Verse 195)
In a hadith, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) described the people who commit suicide as being in Hell, forced to commit their method of suicide again and again.
Actually, something occurs to me about this. In life, when we make mistakes we have the opportunity to learn from them. In the process we grow spiritually, and we find a better way. Learning from mistakes is a vital part of our earthly experience.
When you commit suicide, you cut this process short. Suicide itself is the greatest mistake, but because it ends your earthly life, there is no opportunity to learn from it, no chance to grow spiritually, no way to do better next time.
I wonder if, by being forced to commit the act of suicide over and over in the hereafter, the soul is given the opportunity to confront what it is doing to itself, to understand it, and to learn from it the way one does in life. I realize that being compelled to repeat the suicidal act is a punishment and a deterrent to the living, but I wonder if it is also an intensified version of the worldly process of repeating mistakes until we learn and change.
That’s not an official or religious opinion. Just a thought I had, and Allah knows best.
The time of our life’s ending is determined by Allah, and is part of our Qadr. It’s not up to us to end it. Doing so would be like saying to Allah, “I refuse this gift of Yours, and I deny Your right of giving and taking life.” A person who commits suicide claims for himself one of the rights of Allah, which is the ending of life.
That’s why Allah says in a Hadith Qudsi, speaking of the one who commits suicide: “My servant has precipitated My will with regard to himself! Therefore, I am forbidding him entry into heaven.”
Please note however that this applies to someone who is sane and in control of his faculties. Allah may deny him Paradise if he commits suicide.
As for someone who is mentally unstable or insane, Adil Salahi says:
“A person who commits suicide as a result of a mental disorder like depression or some other severe form of anxiety is not in full control of his senses. We cannot say how God will judge such a person, but we trust to God’s justice, because He does not deal unfairly with anyone. We pray for the person concerned, and request God to forgive him. When a man committed suicide during the Prophet’s lifetime, the Prophet was distressed. He did not perform the janazah prayer for the deceased, but he ordered his companions to do it. When they did, they prayed for the man and requested God’s forgiveness for him. This shows that the Prophet did not exclude the possibility of his being forgiven by God.”
Life is short enough
Life is short enough already! The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said that he was in this world like a rider who stopped to rest in the shade of a tree, then went on and left it behind.
We are like the flowers that bloom when the spring rain falls, then die. Our lives are that short, that quickly over. How many thousands of generations have passed before us, and where are they now? Do you see any sign of them, except for some old buildings falling down? Thousands of generations, gone like dust.
With life so short, it is precious. It’s a chance to please Allah and do good deeds, and earn our spot in Jannah, Insha’Allah. No need to end our own lives and speed our way to the punishment of Hell. It’s better to do whatever we have to do in order to change our lives. Even if we have to make drastic changes, isn’t it better to live, and see another sunrise, and have hope?
Life is precious and is a trust
Every breath that you take is worth more than a precious gem. Every single moment of life, as your heart pumps and your blood flows, is worth more than all the world and everything in it, because if life is lost then what is the world? No treasury of any King, no vast estate of any Sultan, no great palace of stone and gold, is worth more than one single moment of your life.
Out of all the bounties Allah has bestowed upon human beings, the most precious is the gift of life. This precious gift is given to us in trust. It is not our personal possession or our personal property. We are trustees. Because we are trustees we should utilise each and every moment of our lives in the paths that please Allah.
Tools for changing our lives
In Islam we have many wonderful tools for changing our lives and renewing our commitment to faith. We have Tawbah (repentance) that can be performed anytime; the daily cleansing of Salat; the powerful purification of Ramadan; the good feeling and reward that comes from giving Zakat and Sadaqah (charity) to those who are less fortunate; and the life-changing spiritual renewal of the Hajj.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not restrict His interaction with humanity to making rules and punishing sinners. Allah is there at any time to hear our prayers, to offer us forgiveness and guidance, and to help us. When we have problems in life, we must turn to Allah and seek solace. Allah will help us and give us the strength and peace we need.
8-Point Plan for Change
Dear brothers and sisters, I hope you have understood that before anything else, you must put away the idea of suicide. That is not our way as Muslims. There are other ways to deal with your problems. As Muslims we have many resources and solutions to our problems.
I will lay out a specific plan for you to follow in order to refresh your heart and renew your faith:
Yes, you have committed sins, just like every single human being on the face of the earth, except for the Prophets and Messengers. But we Muslims have a great gift, which is that we can cleanse ourselves through Tawbah. You must stop committing the sin right away, ask Allah for forgiveness, and resolve firmly not to do it again.
2. Salat and Dua’
Start doing your prayers. If you can’t manage it five times a day, do as many as you can. If you don’t know how to do the salat, get a religious brother or sister to teach you. Don’t worry right now about learning every aspect of Islam. Just focus on salat. Imagine that Allah is in front of you, and ask Him for forgiveness. Remember that the salat is a river in which you bathe five times every day, and it washes away your sins.
Share your burdens with Allah. Ask Him to help you and make your life easier. The Quran says, “Whoever is conscious of Allah, Allah makes for him a way out, and provides for him from a direction he does not expect.” Allah can help you solve your problems and find your way to a better life.
See this page on our website: Dua’ for anxiety and stress
Start getting yourself ready mentally and spiritually for Ramadan. It’s never more than 11 months away, and never too early to begin preparing for it. Think of it as an opportunity to cleanse your soul and strengthen your spirit. Make a plan to spend your Ramadan as much as possible around people of strong faith who will support you.
4. Change your self-image
One young lady, who had committed some sins, wrote to me and said about herself, “I’m a wreck, a shame to society, I hate my life…” This kind of thinking is common in people who have suicidal thoughts. To change your life, indeed to save your life, you must change the way you think about yourself. When you tell yourself that you are a mess, a shame, etc, you are creating a destructive self-image that stops you from changing.
Try this: anytime you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, I want you to push the negative thoughts away and instead repeat these self-affirmations (write them down if necessary and carry them with you). I made up these affirmations based on Islamic principles. I have used them in the past for myself, and I have found them to be very effective. You can use these, or you can write similar affirmations of your own according to your needs:
- I am a Muslim. Islam is my faith and my cherished way of life. I choose Islam because it is beautiful and true. (You can also say the shahadah here).
- I am a believer in Allah (a mu’min). Allah is my guide and the One in whom I trust. (At this point you can praise Allah further and ask Him for strength and guidance).
- I am a good and worthwhile person. I have many good qualities, ma-sha-Allah. (At this point, name some of your good qualities).
- I have the power to change my life for the better, with Allah’s help.
- I thank Allah for all the blessings in my life. (At this point, name some of the blessings in your life and thank Allah for each one).
Say these affirmations out loud at least once every day, and if you can do them twice a day (once in the morning and once at night) that’s even better. Insert your name after you say “I”, so for example, if you name is Fatima, you would say, “I, Fatimah, am a Muslim.” Same for all the other points. Say them out loud, and mention your name.
Regarding point number three, some people might say, “But I have no good qualities.” That’s nonsense. Everyone has good qualities. Maybe you’re a loyal friend, maybe you’re kind to animals, maybe you’re a good cook or a good writer. The point is to always find something good to say about yourself.
Regarding point number five, the blessings that you name in your life could be big or small: good health, food to eat, the sunshine on your face, and of course Islam itself is the biggest blessing of all.
Perhaps this sounds like some kind of charm, but it’s not. It’s a way of changing your self-image by programming your subconscious with the beliefs that you want to have about yourself.
5. Change your friends
This is important. If you’ve been living a sinful lifestyle, then you have to stop hanging around the friends that you drink with, or do drugs with, or the boyfriend/girlfriend that you committed zina (fornication) with. You must cut off all contact with them. Even if you think that you can be around them but resist what they are doing, the problem is that one thing can lead to another. It will be difficult to change your life if you are still surrounded by people who live a sinful lifestyle.
If you know any brothers and sisters who are religious and supportive, get to know them and spend your time with them as much as possible. Get involved in a Muslim youth group, or volunteer with an Islamic organization, go to the masjid, get yourself a halal hobby to occupy your time and give yourself something to focus on (martial arts or other sports, chess club, computer club, learning a new language, volunteer with a non-profit organization, etc).
You need to see a counselor or therapist and talk out some of the feelings you are having. This will help you. If you are a student try your student health clinic, they always have a counselor on staff. If you are not a student you can try your public health clinic. If you can find a Muslim counselor, that would be great. A certified Muslim counselor would be ideal, but a non-Muslim would be fine also.
7. Find something that gives you joy
I touched on this earlier. You must find something that gives you joy and pleasure in life, and devote yourself to it. Get out of the house and become part of something. If you don’t have a job, then do volunteer work. The writer of one of our sister websites, TeenPerspectives.com, volunteered for years at a local hospital and she found it very rewarding.
Get involved in a sport, or start a blog, take some college classes, or write poetry. There must be something good and halal in life that gives you pleasure. Find that thing and amplify it.
8. Medication if ncessary
I’m hesitant to add this point, because I think people in the West rely far too often on medication as a way to address problems that are actually spiritual in nature. If your depression is something that you’ve experienced only recently as a result of your life choices, then the previous six points will be enough for you and you do not need any medication.
However, if your depression has been a long-term thing (months or years), and doesn’t seem related to your life circumstances, then it’s possible that you are clinically depressed and you may benefit from a depression medication. Your counselor or physician should be qualified to assess this and refer you to someone if necessary.
O Allah, we hope for Your mercy, so leave us not to ourselves even for as little as the blink of an eye, and set right all our affairs, there is no God but You!
– a dua of the Prophet (pbuh)
By the time!
Indeed humankind is in loss;
Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.
– Quran, Surat Al-Asr
Also see some of the other questions and answers that have dealt with the subject of suicide: