Thursday, March 26, 2009

Self-Harm and Mental Health

Assalamu alaikum, below are the final part of my notes for Lesson 180 of the Commentary of Book 24 (Book of Funerals) from al Tajrid al Sarih (The Abridged Saheeh al-Bukhari) by Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq. In this lesson, Hadeeth 683-685 were covered. The respected Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq gave this lesson on Friday 18th January 2008.

At the end of Lesson 180, the Shaykh addressed two questioned he had received relvant to the hadeeth on suicide we studied in the lesson. The first lesson was with regard to self-mutilation and self-harm as it is becoming quite common especially amongst teenage girls. The second question was with regard to the ruling for a person that commits suicide due to a mental illness.
The Shaykh said it is often very difficult to define personality disorders and mental health problems because a person who is mentally ill displays some of the same behaviour as a normal person. Thus, the Shaykh feels that a person who suffers from a personality disorder is in most cases responsible for his or her actions. The divorce of an insane person is not valid according to the Hanafi fiqh – this refers to clinical insanity. But, Shaykh said that it is not correct to say that a person’s talaq is not valid if he did not realise what he was saying as this cannot be defined as insanity. Even if someone has mental health issues, it still doesn’t mean that they are not responsible for their behaviour. The only time that someone is not responsible for their behaviour if they were dissociating with such intensity that they took on a completely different character. This used to be referred to as multiple personality disorder but is now called dissociative disorder. In this instance, the person would be completely unaware of what was going on.

Thus, if someone commits suicide, what should we assume? The Shaykh made it clear that we cannot judge anyone. Only Allah can judge and we can only go by what is apparent. For example, if someone utters the words of disbelief we can only go by what we have heard apparently and assume they are non-believers. However, we do not judge a person’s destiny in the hereafter. The Shaykh mentioned how we use the term mentally ill loosely and widely but in terms of the laws of shariah unless someone is suffering in such a manner that they are incapable of making the correct choice and completely lack conscious (as outlined above), then they are considered responsible for their actions. If a person is considered responsible for their actions in the dunya, then they are held accountable in terms of the law of Allah. Thus, if someone is mentally ill and commits adultery, theft or murder and is considered responsible for their actions then they will also be considered responsible if they committed suicide.

Self-harm is completely haram and one of the paths to suicide. The Shaykh said that lying is related as although some people lie because they are manipulative and deceitful a common view in psychiatry is that lying is an indicator of underlying mental health issues. Compulsive lying is related to personality disorders. However, no one excuses this as the person is still responsible for their actions. Similarly, self-harm is also related to personality disorders and is still haram and impermissible.

Some people self-harm with the view to actually kill themselves, however, others have no intention of committing suicide but they do it because of low self-esteem etc. Some people display parasuicidal behaviour where they threaten suicide but they do it to get attention and manipulate others. Self-harm in any form is haram.

The Shaykh ended the lesson by mentioning that we all go through problems in life. Life is about trials and tribulations. Everyone has to suffer bereavements, loss of wealth etc. The Shaykh also spoke very briefly about marriage and marital problems and said remember that you cannot marry without divorcing part of yourself!