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!


ibn ayyub said...

As-salamu `alaykum,

Thanks for sharing this. May Allah reward you for it and keep up the good work!

ibn ayyub

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truth seeker said...

assalam alaikum.mashaAllah.I'm so proud of this shaykh, eventhough I do not know him and this is the first time I have heard of him.

I'm proud of him because he dare to be sincere and stick to the facts in Islam when it comes to mental issues.

As we know, today, mental illness is a big and strong industry and they have a label and a name for every problems. Being sad or too sad, being happy or too happy; everything is a "disease", given impressive "scientific" labels. These has encouraged modern people to not take action for anything in their lives. If they are never happy, they say it's because they are depressed. They are always complaining and in misery.

You will tell them to be grateful and God will increase your happiness; but focus on things you dont have in life and God will increase your misery. They push that aside and say they cannot help it- their depression is caused by their genes. It's called depression/manic depression/bi-polar. If you try harder, they will say its not that simple. Only psychotic drugs can "cure" them and they must use it forever otherwise their thoughts will always be gloomy. They believe the drugs can "alter" the gloomy brain cells. Hello? Might as well smoke pot and take hashish, really. For all I know, those potheads are always happy. But without it, they cut their hands. So there you go.

This fatwa is so refreshing. It cleverly deals with the people who hide comfortably behind psychotic label "diseases" from not wanting to be responsible of their actions.

To me, whatever depression/lying/etc i.e. "mental illness" is what is known by people before modernity comes- as "immature". That is all what it's all about. Immature and childish. When a person starts to take responsibility for his own happiness, he is matured and wise.

Simple as that.

Jazakallah khayran again for this shaykh for taking this bold step of not fully submitting to this widespread mental "disease" myth. This fatwa should be spread to as many people, especially muslims.

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sTiLL sMaLL said...


I ran across this blog accidently. Although I admire your blog and the work you have done and written, I have to say i disagree when you wrote about self-harm being 'one of the paths to suicide'. Or maybe not you but rather the Shaykh.

I used to self-harm (may AllahSWT forgive me for that period of my life). I take full responsibility of that and I am not hiding behind a 'label'. And I am of the belief that it prevents suicide, as I've read some articles on self-harm and most point out this fact. Most people who SH do it so they don't have to commit suicide. It's a coping mechanism.

I'm a Muslim. I pray 5 times a day. I wear the hijab. I read the Quran on a regular basis. I love Allah SWT and my parents. And I used to self-harm. When i started I didn't know it was haram or what it was even called. Does that mean I had commited a big sin? In my opinion, no. I'm 9 months SH-free and I used to self-harm. And not for suicide or for attention. Please inform yourself about self-harm before passing judgment on it as Allah forgives the ignorant.

Self-harm is an addiction, just like drugs and smoking. And it's just as hard to quit. And yet no one says druggies and smokers have a mental illness.

Ilm said...

Assalam alaykum,

Can you please explain the bit where the Shaykh mentions, "When you marry you have to divorce a part of yourself".

JazakALLAH khair

fi Amanillah

Anonymous said...

May the peace blessings and mercy of Allah be on the Prophet Muhammad, His Family, His Companions And The Mursaleen.

Jazakallah Khair to the shaikh for his opinions on this matter.

Some commenters have misunderstood Islam's opinion on mental illness and have gone so far as o ridicule and negate that mental illness exists. This has saddened me. I take responsibility for my actions and I have stayed away from harming myself but my own mental illness is very real.There is real physical pain and constant inability to make life's choices. May the administrators try and advise commenters about the debilitating nature of certain mental illnesses in a future article..
Remember the hadith: if you mock some people, Allah will cause you to suffer the same problem as the mocked...
If you are unaware of the problems faced by the mentally-ill please visit your nearby hospital and find out. See if you can volunteer there and maybe help out. You might get hasana for it.
May Allah Forgive all of us muslimeen.
Wal Humdulillahi Rabbil Alamin.