As humans, we tend to put things into boxes; things we open, hesitate to open or leave un-open. These boxes often contain old photos, old school books, memories, nightmares and very often, serious unspoken matters. Isn’t it time we broached those ‘taboo’ topics? Suicide is left locked behind the doors for many Muslims, but this won’t help in breaking down the barriers with those suffering or unlocking an understanding that suicide is a problem, for both Muslims and non-Muslims.
In the media, Islam and suicide has been quite glamorised, we are led to believe that whilst Islam strongly condemns suicide, somehow, Muslims have become promoters of it. Yet, their mental health is hardly considered or emphasised. Rather, their ‘maniac’ actions are stamped, and we instantly start defending Islam and how their actions go against our religion etc, but we don’t start defending their mental health, why?
There are many cases wherein ‘Muslim murderers’ have ended up committing suicide themselves after taking the life of another (usually their loved ones, typically being their spouse, children and parents). These murder-suicide cases highlight that those who usually get left behind after a suicide, are also taken by the individual, is this done so their loved ones don’t suffer? Is it because they can’t bear to be alone any longer? Is it because they believe they will be better off dead?
Just because suicide is haraam (forbidden), it doesn’t mean we should pretend that it does not happen. This gets us nowhere. Therefore, we should be aware of the thought processes and behaviour leading towards the action, just like with any other haraam committed. This is so that we can get a better understanding with this issue and pre-emptive steps could possibly be taken.
Research by the NHS has found that nearly all completed suicides are among individuals with a mental illness. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds, and rates are high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination.
Risk factors for suicide include mental disorders (such as depression, personality disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia) as well as physical illnesses, e.g. individuals with chronic pain or terminal diagnoses. Furthermore, WHO has found that six out of the top 20 countries in the world with the highest suicide rates, are in Europe.
It is likely that someone who is thinking about suicide will usually give signs to those around them that they are troubled. This can be shown through:
- Physical changes e.g. major changes to: personal hygiene or appearance, weight, eating habits, sleeping pattern and energy.
- Behavioural indicators, such as self-harming or prior suicidal attempts, withdrawal from family and friends, quitting activities previously important, uncharacteristic recklessness and writing goodbye notes or letters.
- Feelings can also be conveyed in conversational signs highlighting the sufferer’s distress, feeling alone and helplessness with no sense of the future. “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better… “It’s all my fault”… “I’m on my own … no-one cares about me”…. “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference, it’s beyond my control”
Remember Allah is Most-Forgiving and it has been mentioned in the Qur’an that,
Say: “O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
He is Al-Ghafoor (forgives and covers sins regardless of how large the sins are) and Al-Ghaffar (the One who continues to forgive regardless of how many times you sin). The root of Al-Ghafoor and Al-Ghaffar, is the verb ghaffara (غفر) which does not mean ‘to forgive’; rather, it means to shield, protect and cover, like a helmet, which in Arabic, is called a “mighfaar”. So call upon Him, don’t despair of His Mercy or Forgiveness whilst suffering and make duaa for those who committed the act or with suicidal tendencies and attempts.
For those of you feeling suicidal, remember this gem, and remember that we are here for you.
Allahumma ahyinee maa kaanat-il-hayaatu khayran lee wa tawaffanee maa kaanat-il-wafaatu khayran lee
O Allah keep me alive as long as life is good for me and take me away when death is better for me
We should keep an open mind in educating ourselves with mental health illnesses, such as suicide. Every suicide is a heartbreak, affecting families and communities with long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Have you ever stopped to wonder how this individual has reached this point? Why would death feel like the best and only option? How could this be changed?