Religion

Suicide – A different story

New York Times’ short videos are my favorite. Last week, I watched “the mother who jumped” video. I watched it more than three times since then and I cried every time I watched it. I have read about Postpartum Depression (PPD) before but it is impossible to watch this video without feeling sorrow for the mother.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000002892074&playerType=embed
“A few months after Cindy Wachenheim gave birth to the child she had long dreamed of, she became convinced that she had caused her son irrevocable brain damage. It was a certainty she couldn’t shake.”

Unfortunately, not many people know about the danger of depression. And many people, even the well educated, don’t consider depression a serious illness. Rather, most people think of it as a state of mind that can be altered by the person affected by it.

Only with the advanced technologies, medical doctors were able to confirm that depression is an illness that needs medical attention. Luckily, with the advent of these new technologies developed countries are trying to understand this illness better.

In some severe cases of mental illness, a patient, unwillingly, may commit suicide.

The two most followed religions—Christianity and Islam—consider suicide a sin. According to these two religions, and maybe many others, the person who kills himself on purpose is a sinner and therefore will end up in hell for eternity. In my opinion, this is not right because it is not always that the person who kills himself or herself is 100% in control. That is, a person may do things in response to a biological disorder in the brain. Not all people who commit suicide do it because they knew they will not live with their Joliet or Romeo forever. There is more in real life than in a play.

I don’t know much about Christianity so I will elaborate about the matter from an Islamic perspective:

  1. Muslims are forbidden from drinking alcohol because it makes one loses control of himself. For this reason, a Muslim’s prayer while under the influence is nullified. The rule is so strict even the least amount of alcohol, that for sure will not make one drunk, is haram (forbidden). So, Muslims are required to be sober and in control all the time, except when they are sleep of course.
  2.  Necessity knows no laws or necessities permit the prohibited is a practice that exists in the Islamic law to tackle issues that become impossible for Muslims to follow. For example, what Muslims to do in case of scarcity of water if they wish to perform wudu (ablution)? Or what if the only food that is available is pork? etc.

My point is suicide is not a black and white matter. Muslims should have a new approach toward suicide and sin. I am speaking of how Muslim scholars should rethink the suicide issue as a result of the new research done on mental health. My aforementioned two points might not be the best or might easily be rebuttal by someone more knowledgeable than myself. But I am urging scholars to study the issue more and accompany their study with reading of the subject from medical point of view. In the Muslim countries, people still listen to what Mullahs and Sheikhs say so it is very important for these scholars to have better knowledge of the subject to educate others better. No one knows what led a person to commit suicide. No one knows the process or what was going on the person’s head for committing suicide. Unless the person was 100% in control of his action people should not judge and come to conclusion. I am saying this because it is time to educate people about why some people kill themselves and for the Muslim scholars, who sin suicide, to use Qiyas (deductive analogy).

Do people know that if not all at least most of the antidepressants’ medication side effect is suicidal thoughts? If someone dies due to an illness, we don’t say she killed herself? I am not saying all people who killed themselves did it because they had mental illness. I am trying to make people think about the issue and not consider it a black and white issue. That is, you kill yourself you go to hell is not something I believe in. The matter goes beyond believing that people kill themselves because they don’t have faith and so they are going to hell.

I have to say though that considering suicide a sin did deter many people from committing suicide. The fear of becoming a sinner at the end of one’s life is something not easy for religious people.

Unfortunately, in some societies (like Jordan for example) people don’t understand suicide. I saw a YouTube video were a young woman on top of a building wants to jump and in another video a female student with a knife on campus wants to kill herself. In both videos, you can hear some people laughing and some others asking the woman to jump or to kill herself. Jordanians are not horrible people but they just don’t understand the concept of suicide. They were taught one thing about it; SUICIDE IS A SIN. Therefore, to the Jordanians a person who commits suicide lost faith in Allah.  To lose faith in Allah is the worst sin of all sins. Muslims believe in Qadar (fate).  So, when one is in hardship he should be patient like Prophet Job. I once read a reply from a moderate Saudi Scholar (he is very famous and well educated) that opened my mind on how much change we need in the Muslim world. The question was about a teenage girl who wanted to ends her life because she was raped and got pregnant in Iraq during the war. As much bad rape is it is even worse in some societies than others. A raped woman in some Muslim societies will never marry. In Jordan, if the rapist marries his victim then he doesn’t go to jail. Usually, the parents will opt for marrying their daughter to the rapist rather than facing a society that will question the victim’s new born out of wedlock. Back to the raped girl’s suicidal thought. The scholar said really nice things. He mentioned stories, recited verses from the Quran and also mentioned how one should pray more and be more patient. He also warned from suicide because it is a sin. He did a good job and answered well as a Muslim Scholar but he didn’t say that this girl should see a doctor. Neither a Muslim scholar nor Prophet Job’s story will help a raped teenage girl. What she needs is a professional help.

With the chaos that is happening in the Middle East now I am sure there are more rape cases and more fathers and mothers suffering from one kind or another of mental illness. I hope these people get the help and assistant to cope with their dire situation.

Humans explored the space but we are yet to explore the human’s brain, the most complex system in universe.

Here is another video that shows the difficulties mothers with Postpartum Depression suffer from:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000002891956&playerType=embed

“When her second son was born, six weeks premature, Emily Guillermo recalled thinking, “You’re not supposed to be mine. You were not supposed to be made.””

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9 thoughts on “Suicide – A different story

  1. Two moving clips indeed Malik. When, in the 1st one, it reached to the part stating the little boy was OK I could not hold conflicting emotions, that was intense.

    PPD is a serious thing indeed. Too much of a challenge to be in such a situation and ignoring or even underestimating this is not helpful.

    It is as you said about suicide, neither black or white. What you wrote was really great, I thank you.

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  2. Very good post. We really need a better understand of depression in all its forms – not just in one country, but all over the world. I think too many people don’t understand (apart from the religious idea of it being a sin) why people who are depressed can’t just be happy. There’s not a lot of sympathy, generally, and especially not for women who suffer from PPD. Add in the trauma of the rape victims you were talking about and it’s tragedy on top of tragedy.

    About the sin aspect, I can’t speak for other denominations, but I know from when I was studying Catholicism that their attitude toward suicide has changed with a better understanding of mental illness. Their stance nowadays, is basically that a person who commits suicide may not have been in full control of their mind and that a person suffering from a mental illness cannot be held accountable for their actions in regards to sin (like children or adults with diminished mental capacity). And since we have no way of knowing who was in their ‘right’ mind and who was not, we can’t say that any suicide has gone to hell. The assumption should always be that they were suffering some form of mental illness and that God’s mercy will cover them.

    Which is a big change from the time when suicides were automatically assumed to be in hell and weren’t even allowed to be buried in consecrated ground.

    I would hope that other Christian denominations hold or are at least moving toward similar positions.

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    1. Thank you, Amber!
      As you mentioned there’s not a lot of sympathy for people suffering from depression. And it is not just among religious people. It exists in universities and in the workforce.
      I am glad to hear the attitude toward suicide is changing.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this. It is great to see society’s understanding changing on this topic, even if it’s gradual. I’ve been encouraged the last couple of years because people seem to be making more of an effort to understand or at least talk about mental illness and depression.

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    1. I am always willing to learn more about it, how it affects you, whatever you want/need to share, what you would like to see from me/us/society if you would be willing to share here or privately. Seriously. I enjoy learning from you, and want to help if I can.

      Like

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