Yesterday, September 10th was International World Prevention of Suicide Day. I wrote the below 3 years ago, submitted it somewhere, and meant to share it here. So finally.
I know of at least 2 boys in Youngest’s form year, who have attempted suicide. My best friend growing up was cutting herself during our teenaged years and there was nothing I could do to stop that. Alhamdulillah she is still with us. I know of one young lady who looks well-adjusted but who has also been cutting herself. I know of a young university student who took her life a couple of years back, and several persons have chosen that route in this island on which I live. More and more I hear personal stories of depression, undisclosed molestation, sexual abuse. One teenager has expressed his motivation to no longer be a burden for his unemployed mother. A few years ago, post major surgery, I was on certain medication. I missed a day for some forgotten reason, and I found myself switching (I can’t use the word swinging because that suggests a slow long motion, this was much too instantaneous a change to be considered that) from a high to a very very very low. And thoughts of suicide crossed my mind. In swirling dreary miasmic mind fog. My medical practitioner almost nonchalantly and certainly very bluntly said to me “You felt like killing yourself?” and nodded. It was a normal sequela of the absence of a single dose of that medication.
I am not a mental health professional so this is not in any way meant to be professional advice on how to prevent suicide. So of you dare, read on.
“And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the steadfast, who say, when a misfortune strikes them: Lo! To Allah we belong and unto Him we are returning.” (Holy Qur’an, Sura 2 Verses 155-56)
We face trials and tribulations daily. Regardless of our ‘place’ in society, our status, our lineage, our wealth. And we have a choice as to how to react to those trials and tribulations. Because Allah swt has granted each of us free will.
Some of us may face the same trials and tribulations – there is no formula which dictates that all of us will respond to, or deal with, those issues in the same way. Unlike performing wudhu (ritual ablutions) or salaat (compulsory prayer) there is no set or ritualistic way to respond or deal with issues which cause us discomfort of varying degrees.
The causes of suicide are unknown, but common risk factors have been identified as including (but are not limited to): –
• major psychiatric illness – in particular, mood disorders (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia, bulimia)
• substance abuse
• family history of suicide
• long term difficulties with relationships with friends and family
• losing hope or the will to live
• significant losses in a person’s life, such as the death of a loved one, loss of an important relationship, loss of employment or self-esteem
• unbearable emotional or physical pain
• post traumatic stress disorder
• domestic or psychological violence or molestation
• bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, low self-esteem issues.
September 10th has been identified as International World Prevention of Suicide Day. Suicides are not limited to any particular ethnicity, culture, nationality, gender, social status, or even age, and statistics vary depending on demographics and geography.
In Islam, the consequence of suicide as it relates to the spiritual consequence varies depending on whether the suicide was a product of mental illness where the suicide victim was unaware of the nature of his/her act, and whether the suicide was in fact aware of what he/she was doing. Indeed, Sura 4 Ayah 29 of the Holy Qur’an has been interpreted as prohibiting suicide:
“O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.”
Further, it has been narrated that Prophet Muhammad, (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever kills himself with something will be punished with it on the Day of Resurrection.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5700) and Muslim (110).
Suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:
• Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
• Procuring the means to take one’s own life, such as buying pesticides or stockpiling pills
• Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
• Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
• Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
• Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
• Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
• Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
• Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
• Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
• Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
• Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated.
The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “No pain, hardship, sickness or grief befalls a believer, not even worry that befalls him, but some of his bad deeds will be expiated.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5642) and Muslim (2573).
Being Muslim does not preclude feeling sad, or being depressed, or feeling incapable of facing or dealing with issues of conflict or triggers. Indeed, even being a prophet of Allah swt did not preclude several of the Prophets (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon them) from feeling sadness or despair.
However, Islam does offer some tools for combating hopelessness, depression and suicidal thoughts and inclinations.
Reading the Holy Qur’an and understanding its meanings – references to the Mercy of Allah swt and His recognition of man’s limited capacity for burdens is prolific throughout the Holy Qur’an.
“On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.” (Holy Qur’an Sura 2 Verse 286).
The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Quran is the best remedy for the illness of the soul” (Bukhari).
Reciting Sura Ad Duha
Reciting Sura 93 of the Holy Qur’an, which was revealed to the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) when he felt great despair. This chapter of the Quran can be considered a direct recipe from Lord for depression.
Reciting Surah Nas
Consistently reciting Surah Nas safeguards one from depression and improves his/her mood.
Reciting this Hadith Du’a
The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) is known to have said:
“Whoever was afflicted with grief and distress and says (see the following Dua), Allah, the Exalted and Ever-Majestic, will remove his grief and will change his sorrow into happiness.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah! (Do) we have to learn these words?” He said, “Yes, whoever hears them should learn them:
“O Allah, I am your slave, the son of your slave. My forelock is in Your Hand. Your judgment of me is inescapable. Your trial of me is just. I am invoking You by all the names that You call Yourself, that You have taught to anyone in Your creation, that You have mentioned in Your Book, or that You have kept unknown. Let the Qur’an be delight of my heart, the light of my chest, the remover of my sadness and the pacifier of my worries” (Musnad Ahmad, 3704).
The Prophet also recommended the following Dua for a believer feeling grief and hopeless:
“O Allah, I hope for Your mercy. Do not leave me to myself even for the blinking of an eye (i.e. a moment). Correct all of my affairs for me. There is none worthy of worship but You.” (Abu Dawud 4/324, Ahmad 5/42)
Remembering Allah swt:
Remembering Allah comforts the heart and removes your depression and anxiety.
“Those who believe, and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.” (Holy Qur’an, Sura 13 Verse28)
“O you who believe! Resort to patience and prayer; surely, Allah is with the patient.” (Holy Qur’an, Sura 2 Verse 153)
Seeking Help Through Patience:
“Seek help through patience & prayer” (Holy Qur’an Sura 2 Verse 45).
Relying on Allah Almighty (Tawakkul):
Rely on Allah by constantly remembering Him throughout your day. Establish a plan to deal with a specific issue or problem, put it in motion, and put your trust in the most Wise and the All-Knowing that is Allah Almighty and the One in control.
“When you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah” (Holy Qur’an Sura 3 Verse 159).
Seeking Forgiveness for one’s Sins: When one seeks forgiveness of Allah, he/she will be relieved of the anxiety and depression that caused by his sins. Forgiveness brings happiness, so ask forgiveness and also try to forgive others.
Don’t Procrastinate (avoid tawaakul): Laziness is one of the most common causes of stress because a person sees that he is not finishing his job. The Prophet (SAW) used to seek refuge in Allah from laziness.
Be grateful to Allah swt for his bounties and blessings.
And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me (by obedience) and believe in Me that they may be (rightly) guided. [Holy Qur’an Sura 2, Verse186]
Allah (SWT) promises His believer:
“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease” (Holy Qur’an Sura 94 Verse 5).
And finally, how can we help that Muslim who may be having suicidal thoughts? Befriend her, keep the lines of communication open, call or drop by to check in , lend an ear and keep his/her confidence, recommend that he/she go for counselling, try to find something that means a lot to him/herer, be positive and encourage him/ her in halal activities which could elevate his/her mood and outlook. Encourage him/her to increase intake of vitamins B and C, to sit or walk in the sun, to engage in a physical activity, to journal, to reflect on and identify the triggers for the thoughts, to believe that Allah swt is benevolent and Merciful and the answerer of prayers, agree to wake each other to pray tahajjud.
Encourage him/her to do something good for someone else – there is sadaqah in even a smile. Pray for, and with him/her.