About ten years ago, I attended a depression mastery seminar by a prominent Muslim shaykh. Among the talk, suicide came up. In the back of my mind, I vaguely understood that suicide wasn’t allowed in Islam. But why did Muslims who practiced their faith regularly still try to kill themselves?
“If a Muslim commits suicide, what happens to them?”
At the end of the seminar, I went up to the teacher and asked, “If a Muslim commits suicide, what happens to them?” I also shared some stories of some people I knew who were facing severe thoughts of ending their lives. After hearing my spiel, he simply said, “If a person kills himself or herself, they’re going straight to hell.” I still remember those words and the way he said them and the way they made me feel. I shook right to the brain. Alhamdulillah, this one powerful statement has left a lasting mark on me for years and allows me to help Muslims going through severe depression. The problem isn’t that we are unaware of the ayah “Nor kill yourselves” in the Quran (4:29). The bigger issue is who has “real” suicide issues and who is merely having thoughts like, “Oh my God, my kids are driving me nuts! I just want to kill myself.”
There’s a second part to my depression seminar story. The shaykh also shared that he knew someone who committed suicide. The deceased’s family comforted themselves thinking that he wasn’t going to hell because he was sick. Interestingly, the shaykh disagreed. Yet, Allah is the ultimate judge.
And when you have suicidal thoughts or even attempt it, what do you make of it? Are you a bad Muslim? What if you actually killed yourself, what would be your fate?
I recently had the privilege of being in the company of an intelligent psychiatrist and an insightful imam. The best part was that they were in the same room. After talking to them, I learned (which makes total sense now) that when a Muslim commits suicide and they are insane and have lost touch with reality, different conditions apply to them. On the other hand, when a believer commits suicide while fully understanding their actions and the ensuing results, they are in a different category.
This nuance in what constitutes as suicide can be a breath of fresh air, especially for Muslims with mental illnesses. If you have clinical depression or bipolar or another diagnosed mental illness, it’s not easy. A friend of mine recently had a suicide attempt where she did lose touch with reality. She had hallucinations and heard voices that were cheering her on to kill herself. She later told me that it was the most frightening thing in her life because she was not in control. She also said her eyes could see. Her fingers could feel. Her ears could hear.
Yet she was blind, deaf and mute because her brain could not process all the incoming stimuli.
That is what constitutes as insanity. It is different from the other suicide committed by fully sane people. This suicidal attempt also came on very suddenly. Her therapist reassured her later that yes this can happen. Out of no fault of her own, she can kill herself because she has a severe mental illness. But this is still tricky to work with. So I asked a prominent cognitive behavioral therapist, Haleh Banani about this. She had a great answer.
She said that depression is treatable so giving up responsibility and not taking action towards recovery is like willingly heading towards suicide. When a person gets that far, then they indeed are “gone” and it’s very hard to free themselves from the grapples of suicidal screams.
Let’s not get to that point. Mental illness, with the right tools and support, is very manageable. If you liked this post and felt it resonated with you, please share it with your family and friends. Comment below and let me know what your experience with suicide is.
Read more in this series:
“What Every Muslim Ought to Know About Suicide – Part II (coming up).
“What Every Muslim Ought to Know About Suicide – Part III (coming up)
For more help with depression management, get my eBook “Divine Depression: How to Manage Depression With Islam” on Amazon Kindle. Click here!