Notes on Suicide



Suicide can be direct, deliberate, and violent relating to major depression, or can be slow and indirect relating to risky lifestyles. Islam prescribes severe legal and moral sanctions for suicide. Direct suicide related to psychogenic factors can be prevented by cognitive understanding of basic Islamic principles relating to life and belief in pre-destination. Life belongs to Allah and cannot be taken by a human. Belief in pre-destination enables a believer to understand and positively cope with adverse life experiences thus preventing resort to suicide.


Two forms of suicide

There are two ways of taking one’s life: direct and indirect. The direct is usually called suicide and involves deliberate violent measures of life termination. The underlying motivating factors may be pain, depression, or loss of hope. Some cases of suicide may be due to mental disease or temporary loss of sanity due to use of psychoactive substances. The indirect form of taking life results from pursuit of unhealthy life-styles that endanger life like cigarette smoking, use of alcohol, careless driving, refusal of immunization, neglect of medical care, and poor nutrition. Death is not as violent and does not occur immediately. The number of people who die from such slow suicide is far more than those who take violent measures to terminate their lives. Our discussion will be confined to violent suicide as a result of adverse life experiences.


Legal rulings on suicide

Suicide is condemned. Humans who attempt suicide commit a major crime of trying to arrogate to themselves power and privileges that are in the preserve of Allah alone. The Qur’an forbids self-destruction[i]. Anybody who kills himself with a metal weapon will be punished with the same weapon in the hereafter[ii] and will be denied entry into paradise[iii]. The funeral prayer is not offered for a deceased who killed himself[iv]. The authorities may impose a disciplinary punishment for a person who attempts suicide and fails.


Prevention of suicide by cognitive understanding

Ownership of life: Understanding that life belongs to Allah will dissuade a person from attempting suicide. Life belongs to Allah and not the human. Allah gives and takes away life[v]. Humans are only temporary custodians of life enjoined to take good care of it. Humans have no control over death. Death is in Allah’s hands[vi]. Humans therefore have no right to destroy their life or that of any other human. Doing so is one of the greatest transgressions.


Sanctity of life: Respecting the sanctity of life will dissuade a person from suicide. The sanctity of life is guaranteed by the Qur’an[vii]. The life of each single individual whatever be his or her age, social status or state of health is important and is as equally important as the life of any other human[viii]. Protection of life is the second most important purpose of the shari’at coming second only to the protection of the diin. It has priority over any other mundane consideration.


Prevention of suicide by belief in pre-destination

Belief in pre-determination: Belief in pre-determination can enable people to cope with adverse life events without resorting to suicide. They understand that all events are part of a divine plan. They believe that everything is fixed in advance[ix] [x] and all events are under Allah's pre-determination[xi]. They believe that pre-determination covers both the good and the bad[xii]. They know that all human affairs are in the hands of Allah[xiii] and that the human should therefore seek support from Allah and surrender all affairs to Him[xiv].


Benefits of belief in pre-determination: Belief in pre-determination has many benefits that make human life happier and easier. It prevents a person from thinking of suicide in case of adverse life experiences.  The first benefit is that the human who believes in pre-determination will be rich in his heart because he will know that what he has is what Allah gave him and will not hanker over what he does not have[xv]. The second benefit is to avoid excessive joy and sadness[xvi]. This is because the believer knows that all is from Allah and will praise Allah for either the good or the bad. He also knows that Allah gives and takes away, and that life is cyclical. Adversity may be followed by prosperity and vice versa.


Meaning of qadar and qadha: Qadar is pre-event and refers to pre-determination or pre-fixing of events. Qadha is post event and refers to the empirical or practical occurrence of what was pre-determined by qadar. There are 2 stages in the occurrence of any event. In the stage of qadar Allah pre-determines and knows what will happen but the human does not. The human is therefore enjoined to struggle as best as he can to achieve a desired objective which may be wealth, health, or progeny. In his ignorance of pre-determination, a human cannot stop his struggles arguing that qadar is fixed. However after the event  has occurred, the believer is now in the stage of qadha and has to accept what happened and knows that it is with Allah’s permission[xvii] and exercises patience[xviii].


Limited human knowledge: In practice the limited knowledge of humans does not enable them to tell the end of events. What may appear an adverse life event may turn out to be good eventually. Humans cannot know for sure what is good and what is bad for them. They have to believe that all is from Allah[xix] and that good and bad events are both a test for humans[xx]. A believer will praise Allah (al hamd li al llaah) equally for both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ events or experiences because he knows they are all part of pre-destination. The terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in human experience and knowledge are relative. What may appear to be good may turn out to be bad[xxi]. What may appear to be bad may turn out to be good[xxii]. Humans can not see the whole picture. They may see some aspects of the whole picture and judge them to be good or bad. If they had knowledge of the whole picture and the correct context they would have interpreted the observed events or phenomena differently.



Islamic religious teachings can enable a person to understand and cope with adverse life events thus preventing resort to suicide.


[i] Qur’an 2:195

[ii]  Bukhari Kitaab al janaiz  Baab 84

[iii] Muslim Kitaab al iman Hadith 178

[iv] (Muslim Kitaab al Janaiz  Hadith 107

[v] Qur’an 15:23

[vi] Qur’an 25:3

[vii] Qur’an 17:33

[viii] Qur’an 5:32

[ix] Qur’an 25:2

[x] Qur’an 33:38

[xi] Qur’an 65:3

[xii] Muslim Kitaab al Iman Hadith 1

[xiii]  Muslim Kitaab al qadar Baab 17

[xiv]  Muslim Kitaab al qadar  Hadith 34

[xv] Ahmad and Tirmidhi

[xvi] Qur’an 57:22-23

[xvii] Qur’an 64:11

[xviii] Qur’an 3:120, 3:186

[xix] Qur’an 4:78

[xx] Qur’an 21:35

[xxi] Qur;an 2:216

[xxii] Qur’an 2:216

ŠProfessor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. June, 2008