By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
“Given the very high rates of suicide, which continue to rise despite all the intelligence and expertise of mental-health professionals, we can interpret God’s words as teaching us that this particular door needs to be shut as a possible solution.”
One of the reasons I’ve refrained from mentioning the suicides of famous people is that, by talking about them, we are in danger of normalizing suicide. When famous people—especially those known to be good people—commit suicide, this sends a message to those among us dealing with depression and distress: Suicide is an acceptable way to solve our problems.
Most faiths speak of painful punishments for people who take their own lives. At times, people misunderstand or misinterpret when God closes a door. Some are understandably confused by how a compassionate God could punish people who are in pain.
Yet suicide does not just impact the person who takes their life, but also everyone around them. A recent suicide in our family caused my own daughter to have sleep problems and nightmares. In fact, this was not the first teen suicide in our extended family, which heightened my concern. Teenagers often go through mood swings and depressions as they transition to adulthood. Yet it becomes worrisome if suicide seems like a possible resolution to these temporary pains.
Statistics show that suicide rates are on the rise across the US. Many people who commit suicide do not necessarily have severe mental health issues, but may be depressed and anxious. When we normalize suicide, we send a message that resorting to such means is a normal response to pain and distress.
Thus the message we send is: Facing distress or problems? Consider suicide, and you will find instant relief.
Given the very high rates of suicide, which continue to rise despite all the intelligence and expertise of mental-health professionals, we can interpret God’s words as teaching us that this particular door needs to be shut as a possible solution.
These words let people know that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that this is a solution, because it is not, and we must look and consider other solutions. Why people commit suicide and how God might deal with them is for God to decide. For us, we need to make this solution socially unacceptable, not via shame and blame, but by helping people realize that we do not know that exiting the world by suicide brings peace. Consider the possibility that it could bring further perpetual pain and punishment, not because God lacks compassion or mercy, but simply because He is All-Knowing and Wise.
There are two prayers by Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings that I like to share with you.
Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum, bi-Rahmatika astagheeth
‘O Living, O Sustaining, in Your Mercy I seek relief!’
This prayer connects us to two Beautiful Names of God.
When we feel emotionally, mentally, and spiritually dead—for whatever reason—we should reach out and connect to The Living or al-Hayy. He will pump life into us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, for He is the One who alone has absolute, independent life.
We should also connect to The Eternal Sustainer or al-Qayyum who is the One who alone needs none to sustain Him, and who sustains all things at all times, in every way.
We want relief. So we must reject suicide, and seek relief and assistance from Him when we are in danger or distress.
Another prayer is:
Allahumma rahmataka arju fala takilni ila nafsi tarfata `aynin wa aslih li sha’ni kullihi la ilaha illa anta
O Allah, Your mercy I am hopeful for, so do not leave me to myself for the blink of an eye, and put all my affairs in order, there is no god but You.
It is said that the ego is a treacherous companion, and whenever God leaves a person to their ego even for the blink of an eye, the ego is bound to hurt them in various ways. When we are feeling down, we should reach out to God and ask for His Mercy with this prayer. We must reject the ego as a companion even for the blink of an eye, as it will lead us places such as to suicide as a solution. Instead, we must seek His companionship and ask for His Assistance to rectify your affairs.
In life, we all will face danger and distress, and we all will stumble and face our weakness. It is difficult to face our neediness and our human condition. We can hate that reality, or we can connect to God and seek His relief to help us through whatever distress we are facing.
We shouldn’t shame or blame people who commit suicide. But neither should we normalize suicide. That door needs to be shut.
We must be brutally honest with ourselves and others and consider the possibility that, by stepping through that door, we will face yet more pain.
Now consider other solutions for relief.
What about Anthony Bourdain’s death? He never reduced people to objects, images, single stories, or stereotypes so I will treat him the way he treated others. He saw human beings, and I see a human being. He was an empath and a compassionate man, a friend of Palestine, and one of the very best anti-imperialist white Americans I know. Beyond that, are parts unknown and not my business to pry into. My condolences to his loved ones.
Likewise, train yourself to respect people’s privacy. Consider the following for reflection:
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. She is a public speaker and writer and lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
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