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When is Killing Transgressive?
When is an act of killing considered oppressive or transgressive? Certainly when that the killing is intentional and malicious. Under Islamic law, there are three categories of killing that are crimes that may be sentenced in court:
1. Intentional malicious killing of another person (al-qatl al-ʿamd al-ʿudwān)
2. pseudo-intentional killing (shibh al-ʿamd)
3. Accidental killing (qatl al-khaṭaʾ)
I mention these here not because they are directly related to the topic of suicide, but because the idea of intentionality is core to approximating the status of the person who dies by suicide. More on this later. What’s important here is that all three of these types are related to one discerning, sane adult killing another person. They do not relate to instances of a discerning, sane adult taking their own life or instances of a person of diminished mental capacity taking their own life. The core differentiating factor here is intent. What did the person who died by suicide intend?
For intent to be demonstrated, certain conditions must be present. When a person exhibits any diminished capacity (they are clinically insane, chronically depressed, or any similar condition that impairs their judgment and sense of self) then their culpability for the act of killing must be abated. What’s that mean? If a person kills another or even themselves when they are not in their right mind, they may not be morally blameworthy for the act, although they would be legally responsible.
In the case of killing another person, they would pay compensation (see details of pseudo-intentional and accidental killing here). In the case when a person kills herself, there would be no compensation or legal effect per se, but understanding their mental state helps us to understand how post-death legalities are carried out (funerals, etc.)
Competing Notions of Suicide in the Hadith Literature
This tweet thread is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive to all of the text related to this topic. But let’s look at two more Hadith on this topic.
In Bukhari, the Prophet said about a man before battle “he is from the people of the fire.” That man then fought valiantly in battle, but was badly injured, then died. Someone said “that person you said was in hell fought valiantly, then died.” He replied “To the fire.”
While people were doubting what was said and wondering about his fate, someone approached and informed that he did not die in battle, but instead had been fatally wounded. Instead of succumbing to his injuries or seeking help, he fell on his sword and killed himself. In another narration he tried to kill himself with an arrow, then used his sword.
This Hadith and those like it, such as the one in Abu Dawud where a man cut his wrists in frustration with his sickness, indicate those who killed themselves did not do so out of desperation or despair, but merely out of frustration, shame, false pride, and righteous indignation that they did not deserve to live with such an injury or sickness, that such was beneath them and they knew better what they deserved.
Contrast this with the Hadith in Muslim of al-Tufayl b. Amr al-Dawsi.
A man from his tribe migrated to Medina, but then fell ill due to the weather. He fell into depression and grief and so one night he took a blade and cut open his knuckles, and bled out until he died. TufayI saw him later in a dream yet he was covering his hands. He said “What did God do with you after you’d gone?” He replied, “He forgave me due to my migrating to the Prophet.” He said “Why are you hiding your hands?” He said “I asked and was told we won’t fix what you damaged.” Tufayl informed the Prophet of this dream and he raised his hands in supplication and said “Lord God, even forgive even his hands.”
This Hadith is cited universally as proof that one that died by suicide is not unequivocally in the hellfire and is additionally deserving of prayer and forgiveness. So even by doing the sin of killing oneself, it doesn’t follow that one is a sinner or committed the sin of killing oneself.
Substantive Differences between the Two
Let’s take a look at some of the substantive differences between this Hadith and the one of the man who threw himself on his sword. In those that mention the phrase “nahar bihi nafsahu” or “qatala bihi nafsahu” there is an indication of false pride and righteous indignation at being afflicted with sickness or injury.
In the Hadith of Al-Tufayl, the phrasing is different: “He fell ill, into depression, then took a blade he had and cut open his knuckles then bled until he died.” The key term here being “hatta maat,” meaning his own death was not directly attributed to him but simply a result of his action. i.e. death was not by active intent, but due to desperation and depression. He did not take his life due to pride or displeasure with God’s will, but instead did something he thought may make his pain subside. Understanding the mindset of the person who is suffering from a particular illness, medical condition, or mental state is key in rehabilitating their condition and helping them improve beyond suicidal thoughts.
This is a key differentiation that many do not take into consideration and because of this they cause considerable pain to both those who have suicidal thoughts as well as those who are left behind after they die by suicide.
Article Three: What Effect Does Sin have on Faith?
Article Four: Is Every Suicide a Transgression? (This Article)
Article Five: Summary and Resources (TBD)
Last December I decided to go on a social media hiatus, allowing myself time to reevaluate my priorities and focus on self-care. Looking back, what I found was that 2018 was a year of both growth & loss, a year of challenge & improvement. By taking time away and allowing myself the ability to look inward, I was able to re-calibrate my mental and emotional state, my physical well-being, and my spiritual health.
As the year closed, I decided to look back and see what I had accomplished over the year and where I could best situate myself vis-à-vis my current activities. Was everything I was doing meaningful? Was it effective? Was it serving myself and others? What did you all think of it? Was my focus on financial engagement in the Muslim community having an effect? Did my promotion of mental health awareness meet the needs of those in need? Were my outreach activities meaningful and transformative?
Essentially this all boils down to one question: How can I improve in 2019?
The answer: create a baseline to measure 2019 with.
So I decided to reach out to you all, to close friends and mentors, and answer these questions. These answers were all compiled into a word document, which I then shared with close friends and advisors for more input, and then gave that to the Studio of Kung Pik Liu to turn all this data and input into a community activity report to distribute to all of you.
Below is the “2018 Community Activities Report”. You’ll need to join my newsletter to read it. It tells you a little about who I am, what I’ve been up to during 2018, what some of my 2019 plans are, and how you can support the work I do. I’ve also included details of the activities I was part of and your testimonials.
Here’s an alternative link as well: 2018 Year in Review – Community Activities Report
Thank you all for your continued support, encouragement, and engagement. I look forward to an active, faith-filled, and engaging 2019.
This article was originally published at ProductiveMuslim.com
One of the most pressing concerns for all parents is their child’s future.
Many of us live in single-family homes, have only one breadwinner in the house, relatively small savings, and limited social network to rely upon.
How do we secure our families future in the face of adversity?
How is that even possible when future adversity is an unknown?
Our financial safety nets are non-existent and our social safety nets can wear thin. Some of us are living paycheck to paycheck, barely keeping up with all our expenses. Continue reading…
In this short video Joe Bradford discusses the differences between Zina and Rape with regards to consent, the nature of each act, and the process for proving each, and how equating one to the other is an injustice that is antithetical to the faith of Islam of the whole.
Update: Here’s a Facebook link to my video. Apparently someone reported the video on YouTube for explicit content and now you can only watch it if you’re logged in!
So with all this appalling #KavanaghHearing news, I figured I’d comment on the inherent virtue jurisprudence of Islamic law in it’s appointment and regulation of judicial appointees.
So first, what does a judge do? A judge’s (Arabic: Qāḍī’) basic function is to resolve disputes and allocate rights to litigants. The Qāḍī retains not only the power to interpret and express what the law is, but the authority to order it be applied by the executive.
In order to be appointed, the candidate for a judicial position had to possess be a free Muslim of legal capacity, be of sound mind, and possess high moral probity (ʿAdāla). Remember these are rules written in a not too distant past when things were different, so they stipulated he be free – i.e. not a slave – else he be bound to someone who has control over him.
If a person were in debt or in the long term employ of another, the same applied.
Gender was an issue debated as well, with most early jurists making it a condition that a judge be a male, while the likes of Abu Hanifa, al-Tabari, and Ibn Hazm disagreed. These debates rely heavily on medieval concepts of women’s access to education as well as the population’s overall literacy at that time. In my opinion, the arguments of those in favor of female judges are perhaps stronger and more universal.
One qualification that all jurists spent the most time discussing was a judge’s moral probity. Known in Arabic as ʿAdāla, it is a condition of general ethical conduct and virtue both before and after appointment. In fact I know of no time restriction for this. The person nominated for appointment should have a stellar record. There is no “boys will be boys” excuse for being a crappy person in the past.
The basis of stipulating moral probity is the verse “Oh you who believe, when a sinner comes to you with news, then clarify it.”
﴿ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا ﴾ [الحجرات: 6].
This verse indicates an a priori necessity to investigate claims surrounding morality and upright character.
Moral probity was generally defined as: a character intrinsic to one’s self that obliges one to maintain mindfulness of God, abstain from major sin and minor sin, and avoid morally suspect behavior even if permissible. (Tabsira 1/259) In fact, the condition that a judge not be appointed unless he is known for this level of high moral probity is one there is consensus of all Muslim scholars.
What this means is that when you have more than one possible candidate of equal qualification, the ones whose probity is suspect are disqualified. The only nuance to this is when an immoral person is appointed and there is no way to remove them, do their rulings maintain legal weight and the power of law? The majority of scholars said no, because they weren’t issued with the proper pre-requisites
A minority allowed the immoral man to be a judge, but only the LEAST immoral one of the bunch, so that there is at least someone with higher probity than the others ending disputes
So back to moral probity as “a character intrinsic to one’s self that obliges one to maintain mindfulness of God, abstain from major sin and minor sin, and avoid morally suspect behavior even if permissible.” What are these three things: major sins, minor sins, & morally suspect actions? Let’s talk about it a bit.
Obviously the most major sin of all in Islam is to associate others alongside God in worship (shirk). The assumption however is that the judge is already a Muslim, but were he known to commit such an act after Islam he would be disqualified.
Additionally, the major sins of Islam have a rule: Any act for which there is a prescribed punishment for in this life, or a divine retribution for in the hereafter. So for example, adultery and fornication are sins that fulfill both. They are punished by stoning or flogging in this life, and in Hell there are specific punishments such as roasting in a pit at the lowest part of hell.
Another major sin in Islam is consumption of intoxicants. Those that are caught for public drunkenness are flogged publicly, and in the next life they’ll drink from a river of pus. Any form of sexual assault that results in penetration would be a major sin that results in stoning, lashing, or both. Sexual assault that does not include penetration is one of those sins that is left to the Court’s discretion to punish as it sees fit. If public enough of a crime, the judge can order the same punishment as fornication or adultery to be implemented as a deterrent for other people that may engage in the same thing.
It should be mentioned that one definition of major sins is that it is every act that is followed by mention of being cursed by God, earning his anger, or deserving hell. (Majmu al-Fatawa 11/650) That said, it’s important to recall this verse here:
(إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ الْغَافِلَاتِ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ لُعِنُوا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ) [Surat An-Nur 23] “Indeed those that accuse chaste, heedless, believing women are cursed in this life and the next, and they will have a painful punishment.”
A priori are those that accost women sexually, as acts against them are worse than statements against them, and usually result from the lack of value men place on women.
Minor sins are those things that don’t have a specific punishment for in this life or the hereafter, but are nevertheless prohibited.
For example the Hadith “The eye fornicates, and it’s fornication is looking…” (Bukhari/Muslim)
Lastly are those things that are morally suspect, even though they may be permitted. For example, one may dine out with colleagues from work, and unbeknownst to her a co-worker orders an alcoholic beverage. While it is permissible to dine in a restaurant, it may become morally suspect to remain there when alcoholic beverages are being served in proximity, even if it’s not at the same table. This is a very elastic category and one that is based on custom more than text, but nonetheless draws questions about one’s own actions simply due to the environment.
We can see from this quick review of judicial appointment qualifications, that many up for appointment would simply not pass muster, and this should encourage all of us to question how and why things that fly in the face of morality have become so normalized so as to be swept under the rug when appointing someone to a position as sensitive as that of a judge.
For more reading on this see:
If you are unfamiliar with the “Religion for Breakfast” YouTube channel, please give it a look and subscribe. It’s one of my favorite channels. Andrew Mark Henry does a wonderful job of making complex topics on religion accessible. In the video below, he touches on the general difference between religious studies & theology.
You can watch the video here:
He touches on a few points I’d like to expand on a little. What stand outs to me in this video is what types of questions various types of scholars try to answer. What types of sources do they rely on? What assumptions do they make about those sources?
Religious Studies & Theology as Unique Disciplines
As separate areas of study, religious studies and theology are often conflated. Henry gives an example of questions surrounding Buddhism. A Buddhist monk may explore why life is suffering according to the Buddha, while a religious studies scholar will explore what was it about the life of the Buddha that made suffering such a prominent part of his religious thought?
Expanding on this, let’s look at a few examples from Islamic studies versus Islamic Theology. A Muslim theologian would ask “Why do we reject idolatry?” then substantiate this from primary texts. A religious studies scholar specialized in Islam would say “What in 7th century Arabia gave rise to Muhammad rejecting idolatry?”
Note that the Muslim theologian is not primarily concerned with historical questions, but textual ones; the religious studies scholar the opposite. For the former, history is not a primary cause for theology/belief, revelation is. Each field is based on unique assumptions. The Muslim theologian assumes the veracity of Islamic texts as a foregone conclusion. The truth values inherent in Islamic sacred texts are considered revered if not inviolable. The religious studies scholar does not care. True or not, the truth value of Islamic texts has no bearing on the questions he’s asking.
Does the Same Apply to Law and Jurists?
Similar can be said for Muslim jurists and Islamic studies scholars. The jurist says “What is the ruling on drinking coffee? What texts apply here?” He will then actively attempt to apply the substantive principles and philosophical underpinnings of Islamic primary texts to the issue. He is engaged in legal analysis of a current problem, not documenting the historicity of a previous issue. Essentially, the jurist is trying to answer a theological question: What does God want the believer to do in this situation?
For the Islamic studies scholar, he is answering a particular set of questions with their own assumptions. For example, “Why did Kadizadeli jurists in the Ottoman period hold coffee to be prohibited? Why did other jurists dissent? What influenced these decisions other than just religious texts?” It’s a historical question. A historical question about a legal or theological issue, but a historical issue nonetheless.
The theologian/jurist asks, “What did God and His Messenger say and why?”
The religious studies scholar says, “What did Muslims say and why?”
Similar Questions, Different Answers
These questions seem to be the same, but they are not. Understanding the difference between the two is to understand not just the subjects studied, but their sources, hermeneutic principles, and the critical apparatuses used to draw conclusions in each field.
I highlight this because the religious studies approach has, for many lay Muslims, become so prominent in popular media (including social media and blogs) that this approach is not only used to answer questions of the past, but to infer questions of the present and future. While this approach may be useful in determining a chain of precedent in Islamic theology / law, it is not in and of itself theology or law. It does not confer on its reader what they should or should not do in their context, it simply records for them someone else’s context.
For Muslim theologians and jurists, to engage in solving problems of law and theology through historical accounts is a very problematic approach. It assumes sources equal to or competing with God’s speech. It places the standard of what is good, true, correct, and appropriate outside of God’s speech, and in the actions of his creation; finite creatures who themselves were trying to approximate “what God wants from” them in any instance. This is an expansive topic, but one we won’t go into at this time.
So when a religious studies / Islamic studies scholar states “Scholars in 16th century Mughal India allowed X” they are not making a statement on the appropriateness of X for 21 century America, nor should they be. Just as these fields are often confused, so is the applicability of the conclusions drawn from them.
Overextending conclusions in either field does an injustice to both.
Is desire bad? Much like expressing one’s anger, desire is not praiseworthy at all times, nor is it blameworthy. Excessive anger is blameworthy, as is excessive desire. How do we define excess in these situations? Excess is when their expression goes beyond what benefits or what fails to prevent harm. Despite there being acceptable expressions of desire, we find almost universal condemnation of it in religious texts. Why?
Because most people that obey their desires or emotions do not confine them to a level that benefits them. Instead, they exceed the bounds of acceptable expression in ways that harm both themselves and others. When mentioned in the Quran, desire is universally condemned and when mentioned in the Sunnah it is restricted, curbed by the controls of Prophetic guidance on proper action and character. “None of you truly believes until his desire is in accordance with what I have brought” has been narrated as a hadith on this topic.
Unrestricted desire allows one to indulge in contemporaneous pleasures without consideration for their consequences, even when such indulgences lead to both present and future pain. This life has consequences that come before those of the next, and desire blinds one from this realization.
Gentility, faith, and intellect prevent one from indulging in a pleasure that is followed by pain, or in lusts that bequeath regret. Someone that lacks gentility, i.e. a higher sense of character and refinement, will give his desires precedence even if doing so will devoid or diminish such character. This is the stage in which mindfulness comes into play, where you avoid things, even permissible things, if you know that partaking in them will play a negative role in your emotional and spiritual state. Al-Shafi’ said “If I knew that drinking cold water would diminish my gentility, I’d never drink it.” But this takes a level of self-awareness that can only come from constant evaluation of your own actions, feelings, and how those affect your subconscious thoughts.
Those addicted to their desires come to a point when they are never gratified by them. Despite this, they can’t abandon them, as indulging in desire becomes life itself. A person with a sex or alcohol addiction will not experience even one tenth of the gratification that a person who rarely seeks pleasures from sex or drinking experiences. Despite the sparsity of such pleasure for the addict, he or she will throw themselves into ruin just to gain even a little of what they assume will bring them happiness. Desire then ceases to be a temporal state, and instead is an ingrained habit that can’t be shaken. Inseparable in your mind, it then consumes you. Were such a person to step out of the shadow of their desires, they’ll find that what was presumed to be happiness was only grief, joy only depression, and pleasure only pain. Like a bird attracted to seed, under which lies a trap; neither did it gain the seed, nor escape the cage it found itself in eventually.
So, what are some ways that a person can save themselves from the pain of addiction and the traps of desire?
To start, you have to come to the realization that there is no way around the pain, only through it. Pain is inevitable, but one type of pain is less than the other. By acknowledging that the pain of patience and perseverance pales in comparison to the pain of addiction and giving into desire, a more fruitful choice can be made.
Also, by remaining mindful of one’s place with God being better and more beneficial that indulging one’s desires, the satisfaction that comes from dignity and self-worth becomes sweeter and more satisfying in the end. Much like a sick person who finds no pleasure in eating regardless of the amount, tasting only the bitterness of medicine, the palate is eventually cleansed, and the body purified, so that natural desires become enjoyable again.
Finally, by realizing that succumbing to your desires makes you bestial in nature. Succumbing to your indulgences makes you enslaved to them, which prevents you from your higher calling. You are no beast or animal. You were created in the best of forms and with the highest potential in creation. You should use those desires to fulfill those temporal needs that – if left unchecked – would prevent you from that higher purpose. Just as you don’t eat all day, and eating is not life, nor should any other desire or indulgence be. Just like you abstain from some foods due to the harm they cause, so too should you not chase after desires – even legitimate ones – at all times. And just as you do not consume certain things because of the negative effects they have on your body, you must also abstain from some desires totally because of the harm they cause both spiritually and emotionally.
أَفَمَن كَانَ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِ كَمَن زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءَهُم ﴿١٤﴾
“So, is he who is upon a clear sign from his Lord like one whom his evil deeds have been decked out fair, having followed their whims?”
Many of you have requested a podcast from me for sometime, and after looking at all the technology options Soundcloud seem the best way to integrate this into the myriad things I do.
I’ll be posting twice a week.
- Words & Wisdom Wednesdays: This will be short 10-15 reflections on hadith about character.
- #QuranSundays: 10-15 minute reflections on select verses of the Quran.
Be sure to subscribe, and you can always access the links to these podcasts as well as my youtube and vimeo lectures.
Introduction and Recap
In previous entries, we covered the primacy of God’s oneness as a core tenant of Islamic belief inculcates in a believer self-accountability. Our acts, therefore, are not without repercussions. We will be judged for our actions, especially those that we perpetrate against others and ourselves, but also those we perpetrate against God. The fear of God’s punishment is precisely to persuade us to repent and admit responsibility for our actions.
Removed from this is the idea of coercion and mental incapacity. When someone is coerced into an act, or his mental capacity is diminished to a level that he is not cognizant of his actions, in this case the person may not be ethically culpable for the action, even though legally there are consequences for that act.
Killing of any type is a sin, and an offense against God’s right to give and take life. This applies even to taking one’s own life, as we mentioned earlier. However, does the commission of an act of sin necessitate one be sinful in all cases? And when one sins, is that sin unforgivable? In other words, if a person were to die by suicide, does that mean they’ve committed a major sin in all cases? Or that if they did they are not worthy of prayers, forgiveness, and compassion?
What Effect does Sin Have On Faith?
As mentioned previously, the act of suicide is sinful. There is however an important nuance to the idea of sin that must be mentioned. While suicide as an act is considered sinful, the one who dies by suicide may not be considered a sinner. A main precept of Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a is that anyone who commits a sin is relegated to God’s will; their culpability and judgement is in God’s hands alone. Tahawi mentions in his famous creed “And we do not excommunicate someone from the People of the Qibla due to a sin – as long as they do not claim it is permitted. And we do not say that sin does not harm those that do them.”
So if a person commits a sin, then we as Muslims do not label them an unbeliever simply for the commission of that sin. A person can be sinful and a believer in the same instance. As long as the person committing the sin does not make it permissible, in the sense of declaring what is “Haram” as “Halal.” And although a person can be sinful as a believer, this does not mean that committing a sin does not harm their faith. Sins decrease faith, and can have a cumulative effect on the person, drawing them ever nearer to greater sins.
What does this all mean with regards to suicide?
Suicide is a sin. Believers die by suicide. There is no contradiction then in someone dying by suicide and being a believer worthy of paradise. Every sinner is still a believer, bar the greatest sin “Indeed God forgives not that partners are associated with him; He forgives anything less than that for whomever He wills.”
The only groups to differ with this were the Mu’tazila and the Khawārij, the latter holding that sins excommunicated those that committed them; the former consider them in a “station between two stations” in this life (not believers or disbelievers) but ultimately disbelievers in the Afterlife.
Thus the outrage, indignation, and lack of compassion that some show to those who die by suicide and their families is antithetical to orthodox Muslim belief.
“Residing therein eternally”?
One verse that is quoted about killing is from 4:93:
وَمَن يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُّتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا ﴿٩٣﴾
“And whoso slays a believer wilfully, his recompense is Gehenna, therein dwelling forever…”
The phrase khālidan, as been rendered in different ways. Arberry has it as “therein dwelling forever,” Asad has it as “therein to abide,” Hilali & Khan “to abide therein,” Pickthall renders it “his reward is hell for ever.” Explaining this verse, al-Jalalayn says “This is interpreted to mean the one who permits (makes Halal) for himself killing.” Others have said that the linguistic meaning of خالدا Khālidan is ماكثا remaining therein under God’s will, not eternalized, as all in Hell are under God’s will. We can see from this that Asad and Hilali & Khan are more approximate to the meaning of the verse’s Arabic phrasing.
This is clarified in similar verses, such as verse 107 of Surat Hud:
خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ فَعَّالٌ لِّمَا يُرِيدُ ﴿١٠٧﴾
Abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure save for that which thy Lord willeth. Lo! thy Lord is Doer of what He will. (107)
Therefore all who enter hell are under divine will. and since there is a qualifier for their exit from Hell this would take precedence. What are those qualifiers? Repentance, belief, and good deeds after bad:
وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ وَلَا يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا يَزْنُونَ ۚ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ يَلْقَ أَثَامًا ﴿٦٨﴾ يُضَاعَفْ لَهُ الْعَذَابُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَيَخْلُدْ فِيهِ مُهَانًا ﴿٦٩﴾ إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ اللَّـهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ حَسَنَاتٍ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا ﴿٧٠﴾
“…who call not upon another god with God, nor slay the soul God has forbidden except by right, neither fornicate, for whosoever does that shall meet the price (68) of sin-doubled shall be the chastisement for him on the Resurrection Day, and he shall dwell therein humbled, (69) save him who repents, and believes, and does righteous work — those, God will change their evil deeds into good deeds, for God is ever All-forgiving, All-compassionate; (70)”
Suicide is a Sin, but is it unforgivable?
So while taking any life, even your own, is a sin, a person that takes their own life is:
1- under God’s will
2- judged as by his/her circumstance
3- not excluded from the community of believers in this life or the next
I think points 1 and 3 have been discussed enough, let’s tackle point 2.
Being judged by one’s circumstances in the Afterlife, as we said, is ultimately up to God. What is the status of suicide in this life? There are a number of texts to cite as proof of unequivocal indication that suicide is not only impermissible, but that the one who commits it is indelibly a major sinner. One such Hadith is that of Abu Hurayra in Bukhari “Whoever kills himself with a knife then it will remain in his hand killing himself in the fire of Hell. Whoever sips poison, he will sip it…” with several other acts mentioned as well.” This and others that are general in their indications are tempered by 1) the even more general precepts we discussed in point one, 2) the context of these acts in the Hadith literature. We’ll delve into these deeper soon.
First let us look at one last verse about killing that indicates an nuance to the motive for such killing. Then in our next installment we’ll discuss this verse and others in light of the Hadith alluded to above.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ إِلَّا أَن تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنكُمْ ۚ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا ﴿٢٩﴾ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ عُدْوَانًا وَظُلْمًا فَسَوْفَ نُصْلِيهِ نَارًا ۚ وَكَانَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ يَسِيرًا ﴿٣٠﴾
O believers, consume not your goods between you in vanity, except there be trading, by your agreeing together. And kill not one another. Surely God is compassionate to you. (29) But whosoever does that in transgression and wrongfully, him We shall certainly roast at a Fire; and that for God is an easy matter. (30)
Verse 29 is an oft-cited evidence of the unconditional sin of suicide. When read with verse 30 however, we can see that the act of killing is conditionalized: whoever does so “in transgression and wrongfully” which indicates motive and premeditation, as this verse wouldn’t be applied to one who was killed accidentally. Ibn Kathīr explains this saying, “One who transgresses what God has forbidden, oppressively, knowing it’s prohibition and audacious in contravening it.” This points to the precept of all sinners being under God’s will that I mentioned before. It also takes into consideration intention in performing an act, even an act as heinous as killing, including one’s self.
When is an act of killing “Oppressive, Transgressive” and when is it not? How then do we differentiate between killing/suicide done oppressively and transgressing?
We’ll cover this in our next installment.
Article Three: What Effect Does Sin have on Faith? (This Article)
Article Four: Is Every Suicide a Transgression?
Article Five: Summary and Resources (TBD)