Suicide: What Islam says

Suicide: What Islam says

Taking one’s life out of despair of Allah’s mercy or worldly problems is strictly forbidden and is considered a sin. In fact, the holy Qur’an is full of verses meant to assure us trials of life are just a passing cloud that should strengthen our iman (faith). 

In the recent past, local media has reported heartbreaking stories of people taking away their lives or loved ones.

The latest is a case of an 18 year old girl from Isiolo County who committed suicide after dropping out of school due to pregnancy.

If anything, this is an indicator and wake up call that the trend is raising to alarming levels given children are picking it up.

To say the least, it is evident that many are ill equipped or lack the necessary ‘shock absorbers’ to handle, manage or weather the storm of the  eventualities of life.

Similarly, as Muslim Times 3600 found out, preventive measure such as seeking psychological help or counselling are considered a luxury.

“I would not consider going for counseling when under stress. I would rather talk to a friend”, says Ibbe Ali. He is among the many other people that think counselling is just a luxury and that it only becomes necessary in serious cases like severe depression.

Others do not seek therapy due to little or no information on what it is all about. “I cannot recommend someone to go for therapy because I do not know much about it”, says Swaleh Mwenge. 

He further adds that according to him, the magnitude of stress is what determines whether therapy is necessary or not. “I would rather handle hard times on my own instead of talking to someone”, he adds.

Even then, most suicides are preventable, through the acknowledgement of the role of counsellors and psychologists, who aid in the healing of the mind and help people explore ways of handling stress and depression.

However, is society to blame?

Quite literally, we are caught up in a rat race! Right from childhood to adulthood; everyone is under pressure to perform. Sadly, anything short of success sends many into some sort of depression in the event of defeat.

In other instances, the inability to comprehend or manage everyday eventualities such the loss of a loved one(s), bankruptcy, terminal diseases, relationships gone sour among others; is silently taking its toll.

Thus, many people are suffering in depression as others end up taking away their own lives as they feel like death is the only way out of their misery.

At the family level/unit, relations have also been eroded such that many do not feel free to have relatives and the likes; intervene or confide in bid to address any crisis.

According to Kenya’s Ministry of Health official estimated in 2014, that many as 7% of young Kenyan males and 10% of females have reported suicide attempts. In addition, at least 10% of young males and 7% of young females have reported being depressed, with depression being the highest risk factor for suicides.

Estimates show that about 3,000 Kenyans in every 100,000 commit suicide or attempt to do so, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) rankings putting Kenya at position 65 out of 192 counties in terms of suicide prevalence.

That said, what is the position of Islam as far as taking ones’ life?

Firstly, committing suicide out of despair of Allah’s mercy or worldly problems is strictly forbidden and is considered a sin.

Secondly, the Holy Qur’an makes it clear that human life is sacred. Life cannot be taken without justification and the right to life is inherent in the tenants of Islam. 

Additionally, life itself is a gift from the Creator that we are obliged to care for.  Surah Al-Baqarah 2:195 and Surah An-Nisa 4:29,respectively say, “And do not throw yourselves in destruction.”

“And do not kill yourselves.  Surely, God is Most Merciful to you.”

In a unpublished article that Muslim Times 3600 did in 2014 following the death of US film actor and comedian Robin Williams through suicide and the debate thereafter; Muslim religious leaders in the country decided to take a step forward to share the solutions that Islam offers to address the worrying trend in our society.

“It is not by accident that in Kenya, it is difficult or almost impossible to find a practicing Muslim who has taken his life because of depression or to escape the pressures of life,” Sheikh Abdullatif Abdulkarim, Chairman of Family Resource Centre (FRC), which provides counselling services to Muslim families in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi, told Muslim Times 3600.

“It is all about faith in God which they fall back on to maintain their hope in life,” he added.

He added that individuals who resort to suicide often lack the strong “shock absorbers” that true faith in God provides.

Sheikh Abdullatif noted that suicide cases have shot up among non-Muslim Kenyans due to breakdown in family and community links which has left individuals vulnerable to being exposed to the pressures of fast-paced modern life.

“If somebody is troubled and has no one to share their fears and experiences, they are more likely to feel overwhelmed. But if large networks of family and friends are around, they will assist him/her thereby the burden lighter,” he said.

“That is why Islam places great emphasis on maintaining family and community links because of its many social, economic and spiritual benefits. Maybe it is time this precept is revived among Kenyans as part of the strategy to reduce cases of suicide,” he said.

On his part, Sheikh Abu Qatada, a religious scholar and preacher in the coastal city of Mombasa, says that regular prayers, and remembrance of God helps Muslims find abiding peace in their hearts and makes them resilient to the stresses of life.

“Every true Muslim knows that prayer and remembrance of God are what makes them retain their sanity in this stressful modern life while other people rush to consume drugs and alcohol in a vain attempt to drown their problems,” he shared with an Islamic website.

To back his statement, he cites the Qur’anic verse saying: “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” 2:153. He also cites 13:28 which goes: “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!”

“So the solution here is to cultivate a close relationship with the Almighty through regular prayers, which strengthen and calm the heart and mind. Drugs and alcohol are only temporary and futile tools of escaping from the reality,” he recommends.

The scholar also points out that true Muslims approach the challenges of life from a positive angle by seeing them as divine tests that are meant to make him/her a better person, as compared to non-religious persons who may view challenges differently.

“It is possible that in Kenya or around the world, there are some Muslims who have committed suicide for one reason or another. But if you investigate, you realize that such people often didn’t have a good knowledge or understanding of Islam,” he asserted.

Sheikh Abdulmalik Kipsang, a former Head of Tawhid Mosque in the Western Kenya town of Bungoma, noted that the fact that suicide is seen by true Muslims as a terrible sin in the sight of the Almighty has served to banish the act from the Muslim community.

“Suicide is just unthinkable to Muslims since it is severely condemned by the religion and those who take their lives are considered fit for divine wrath,” he said.

Author Abou-Allaban in the Handbook of Spirituality and Worldview in Clinical Practice (2004) writes that many Muslims are fearful that hell will be the consequence for suicidal behavior and this belief therefore acts as a good deterrent.

Sheikh Abdulmalik further recommends to Kenyans to nurture their spirituality and faith in Allah as a strategy to increase their emotional resilience and reduce the vulnerability to suicide or suicidal thoughts. He termed that strategy as the sustainable way of addressing the rising cases of suicides.

“It is time Muslims actively share the values of their religion with others because it has a lot of solutions to offer to many challenges facing humanity,” he said.

“Let us not be selfish with the good things that our religion offers humanity.”

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