May 20, 2011

Suicide and Martyrdom by Christine Huda Dodge

In Islam, it is a grave sin to kill someone unjustly. “Nor take life, which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause” (Qur'an 17:33). The phrase “just cause” refers to criminal justice, particularly the death penalty for certain crimes, such as murder. These punishments may be assigned only by a court of law.

The Qur'an reiterates the ancient law that killing one person is like killing the whole community, while saving a life is like saving the whole community (Qur'an 5:32). Any life taken must be in accordance with the law, and it must be carried out by the proper authorities. There is no vigilantism in Islam.

Suicide Is a Sin

It is particularly sinful to deliberately kill one's self. Suicide is usually an act of desperation by a person who has no sense of the value of his or her own life. Allah advises Muslims to be patient, hopeful, and confident of the mercy of Allah, and not to despair or lose hope. The message of the Qur'an is clear: “Do not kill yourselves, for surely Allah is Most Merciful to you” (Qur'an 4:29).


Islam teaches that sacrifice, bravery, and sincere effort will be rewarded by Allah in the Hereafter. The Arabic word for martyr is shaheed, which means “witness.” A true martyr witnesses the truth and gives up his or her life for it, dying under brave or heroic circumstances. Martyrs may be killed while legitimately defending the Muslim community or fighting against tyranny.

According to one tradition, the Prophet Muhammad also describes the following people as martyrs:

One who dies of a plague.

One who drowns.

One who dies from a stomach ailment.

One who dies from internal disease.

One who is crushed to death when a building collapses.

A woman who dies in childbirth.

Muhammad once said that there are people who kill in the name of Islam but still go to Hellfire. When asked why, he answered, “Because they were not truly fighting for the sake of God.” To be considered a martyr, one must be acting within the bounds of Islamic law and have pure intentions.

According to Islamic tradition, people who commit suicide will spend their time in Hell torturing themselves with their chosen method or weapon. A person who jumps off a cliff, for example, will spend eternity jumping off cliffs and feeling the agony of death over and over again.

About Christine Huda Dodge
Author Christine Huda Dodge, a Muslim convert since 1989, possesses a unique, foot-in-each-world perspective on Islam. With her complete comprehension of Islam from a scholarly point of view and her understanding of the kind of questions and issues that perplex Westerners, she is the perfect guide. This book—ideal for casual readers, students, and scholars alike—is authoritative, accessible, detailed, and celebratory.

Christine Huda Dodge writes articles about Islam for such publications as the Oregonian newspaper Al-Madrasah Al-Ula (a Muslim educational newsletter), and the Islamic Sisters Internationale newsletter. She moderates the Islam Forum, an online community, and has been involved in the publication of several Islamic books, including The Authentic Step-by-Step Illustrated Janazah Guide (an Islamic funeral guide), The English Concordance of the Qur’an, and Signs of the Hour (Islamic teachings about the Day of Judgment). She has served as the Women’s Committee Chair and the Education Coordinator of her local mosque in Corvallis, Oregon.

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