Dr. Rania Awaad was attending a digital faith program this Ramadan when dialogue turned to an sudden query: Is it religiously acceptable to say a prayer for somebody who died by suicide?
Suicide is a posh and delicate subject that Awaad, as director of the Muslim Psychological Well being & Islamic Psychology Lab at Stanford College, is aware of a lot about — however one she says isn’t mentioned almost sufficient in U.S. Muslim communities. When it’s, she stated, it’s usually poorly understood and shrouded in misconceptions.
Awaad and different psychological well being professionals are attempting to vary that, working alongside some religion leaders and activists to carry nuance and compassion to such conversations, increase consciousness in Muslim communities about suicide prevention and psychological well being and supply religiously and culturally delicate steering.
The trouble took on new urgency within the aftermath of an obvious murder-suicide that left six members of the family lifeless in Allen, Texas, in April, sending shock waves by Muslim communities within the space and past. Investigators imagine two brothers made a pact to kill their dad and mom, sister and grandmother earlier than taking their very own lives.
The incident sparked a flurry of exercise in Muslim areas, from public discussions on psychological well being and trainings on suicide response to therapeutic circles and personal conversations.
“The preliminary response of the group was complete shock,” stated Imam Abdul Rahman Bashir of the Islamic Affiliation of Allen, the place the household’s funeral was held. “Their response went from shock, grief to then concern about different households round them: Are they saying one thing that they’ll’t hear? Is one thing on the market that they’ll’t see?”
“It positively opened up the dialog for understanding what psychological well being is and the significance of psychological well-being,” he added.
Suicide is theologically proscribed below Islam, and Awaad whereas acknowledging that, takes a nuanced view on the problem, arguing that it’s lower than folks to evaluate. Opposite to what she’s heard some say about individuals who took their very own lives, she believes the deceased could obtain prayers no matter how they died.
“We don’t know the state of an individual once they attain this level of their life, and we don’t know their psychological state in that second,” she stated. ”… Solely God can decide on this.”
The significance of looking for skilled assist for psychological well being struggles, with out worrying about what folks could say, is a message the Texas Muslim Girls’s Basis sought to drive residence in a current video. Aimed on the South Asian American group, it featured actors, younger activists and others sharing their experiences to assist break the stigma.
Some group leaders in Texas addressed suicide and psychological well being points after a Muslim American lady took her personal life in 2018, in accordance with Saadia Ahmed, director of the muse’s youth management program. Following the Allen tragedy, she’s heard from heaps of people that have reached out to share their private battles or ask methods to get assist for family members.
One younger man opened up about having beforehand had suicidal ideas and about how getting assist made issues higher. There was a highschool scholar who wanted remedy however her dad and mom weren’t getting her any; with assistance from a faculty counselor, she ended up getting assist. Ahmed additionally heard from dad and mom anxious about their children.
“I really feel like no less than I see progress,” Ahmed stated.
Sameera Ahmed — no relation — a psychologist and government director of The Household & Youth Institute, a not-for-profit analysis and training institute, stated that when her group was creating suicide prevention sources for Muslim communities a couple of years in the past, some questioned the necessity.
“Folks wouldn’t share what was taking place as a result of they have been afraid of the stigma,” Ahmed stated. “They have been afraid folks wouldn’t come to their cherished one’s janazah,” or funeral.
However right this moment she sees extra openness to dialog and says some well-known imams have begun addressing the problem from extra compassionate views. Nonetheless, a lot work stays, she added.
Following the Allen tragedy, Awaad gave digital trainings on suicide response from her base in California to assist folks navigate the aftermath, together with to spiritual and group leaders. Her lab at Stanford offered pointers for Islamic sermons.
“The disaster response is the toughest half,” she stated. Many imams and spiritual leaders grapple with “placing a steadiness between therapeutic the group and Islam’s stance on the impressibility of suicide.”
She additionally co-authored a chunk detailing do’s and don’ts after a suicide, like offering sources and assist to those that could also be struggling, whereas refraining from hypothesis on non secular implications corresponding to whether or not somebody who took their life will go to paradise.
By the tip of 2022, Awaad hopes 500 Muslim spiritual leaders may have obtained coaching on suicide utilizing materials developed by a nonprofit, Maristan, in collaboration along with her lab at Stanford that’s grounded in each science and the teachings of Islam.
A number of spiritual leaders have thrown their weight behind the trouble.
Certainly one of them, Imam Bashir, of the Islamic Affiliation of Allen, stated that whereas Islam doesn’t enable suicide as a strategy to remedy issues, the religion “encourages the group to be one physique with ears, eyes and arms to assist one another not get to a degree the place that will be a consideration.”
Wrestling with tough questions round suicide isn’t distinctive to Muslims. Mathew Schmalz, a professor of non secular research on the Faculty of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, stated a perception frequent to theistic traditions is that one’s life belongs to God, so taking it “essentially violates” God’s most treasured present.
But attitudes have been evolving with a better appreciation of the complexities of psychological sickness, he added, and it’s essential to problem beliefs that suicide alerts ethical weak spot or a failure to be grateful of God.
“Whereas an understanding of God as merciful is essential,” Schmalz stated, “equally essential is being a part of a religion group by which psychological well being points are taken severely and never stigmatized.”
Sources from the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be found at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org and the 24-hour hotline quantity is 1-800-273-8255.
Related Press faith protection receives assist from the Lilly Endowment by The Dialog U.S. The AP is solely accountable for this content material.