‘17-year-old girl commits suicide in Ganderbal’; ‘16-year-old girl dies by suicide in Srinagar after jumping into Jhelum’; ‘Teenager commits suicide, jumps into Jhelum’; ‘Man commits suicide, jumps into Jhelum river’; ‘Kulgam youth commits suicide, his video narrating ordeal goes viral’: These are some of the headlines carried by local print and online media portals in Kashmir during May. The stories of youth dying of suicide. Youth who had whole lives ahead of them. Youth who ended their dreams and aspirations, and those of their families, leaving people wreaked, distraught, and in eternal pain. This amid a raging pandemic which has devoured thousands. A time when we have understood the importance of being alive, of being caring, of knowing the worth of each breath that we inhale and exhale. How come have we arrived at this point?
Correlation between Covid and suicide?
Depression, anxiety, hopelessness, marital discord, drug addiction, love-affair-gone-wrong, and poverty are among the existing factors that may lead to suicidal tendencies in a person. Now, a pervasive threat to one’s life triggered by this global pandemic has added to the toxic environment. There is an air of despondency. In Kashmir, which has seen tumultuous times especially since August 2019, Covid-19 dealt an even stronger blow to social, psychological, and material aspects of life. We had seen death and destruction in the past too but Covid took it a little further with people not being able to even bid a proper adieu to their loved ones.
So, has the Covid-19 pandemic led to an increase in the number of suicide cases? A research ‘Suicide trends in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic: an interrupted time-series analysis of preliminary data from 21 countries’ published in The Lancet (Psychiatry) in March 2021 sourced real-time suicide data from countries or areas within countries through a systematic internet search, and recourse to the researchers’ networks and the published literature. The conclusion was surprising.
The study sourced data from 21 countries (16 high-income and five upper-middle-income countries), including whole-country data in ten countries and data for various areas in 11 countries. There was no evidence of a significant increase in risk of suicide since the pandemic began in any country or area. In fact, the study noted that there was statistical evidence of a decrease in suicide compared with the expected number in 12 countries or areas. However, the point to note here was the study only covered high or upper-middle income countries.
Another recent study published in The Asian Journal of Psychiatry has reviewed the existing literature on suicide during outbreaks, including COVID-19. It analysed nine studies including one from India. It deduced that the association between outbreaks and suicide was “poorly supported” and that high-quality research would allow for a better understanding of this interrelation. The study, however, noted that the current COVID-19 outbreak might cause a significant and global surge of mental health problems.
“It is acknowledged that mental health deterioration during pandemics can stem from numerous factors. These include the constant fear of contracting the virus, contracting the virus, losing loved ones to the illness, as well as the impact of being quarantined. These factors can go on to precipitate mental illness in those without prior psychiatric history or can exacerbate the symptoms in those with a pre-existing mental illness,” the study added.
The Islamic ruling on suicide
The increasing incidence of suicides in Kashmir is particularly baffling since majority of the population here is Muslim. And all of us know how Islam views this extreme act of ending one’s own life. Allaah the Almighty says in the glorious Qur’an: And do not kill the soul which Allaah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason [Qur`an 6: 151], and, And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allaah is to you ever Merciful [Qur`an 4: 29].
Suicide is a major sin. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stated that the one who commits suicide will be punished with something similar in the hereafter. Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever throws himself down from a mountain and kills himself will be in the Fire of Hell, throwing himself down therein for ever and ever. Whoever takes poison and kills himself, his poison will be in his hand and he will be sipping it in the Fire of Hell for ever and ever. Whoever kills himself with a piece of iron, that piece of iron will be in his hand and he will be stabbing himself in the stomach with it in the Fire of Hell, for ever and ever.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5442; Muslim, 109.)
It was narrated from Thaabit ibn al-Dahhaak (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever kills himself with something in this world will be punished with it on the Day of Resurrection.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5700; Muslim, 110)
It was narrated that Jundub ibn ‘Abd-Allaah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Among those who came before you there was a man who was wounded and he panicked, so he took a knife and cut his hand with it, and the blood did not stop flowing until he died. Allaah said: ‘My slave hastened to bring about his demise; I have forbidden Paradise to him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3276; Muslim, 113)
Sitting on a powder keg
A politically volatile region sandwiched between two nuclear armed countries, Kashmir is not really the “paradise” it is usually called. It is a place controlled overtly and covertly by powers and forces that are usually beyond a common man’s limited understanding. It is a place where political experiments are carried out. A place where the powers that be move mountains to muzzle voices and suppress dissent. A place where criminals go scot free and innocents rot in jails. A place where mothers long to see the graves of their sons who are buried far away. A place where every second home has a tragic tale to tell. One can go on writing sentence after sentence however the point is: Kashmir is an ever-boiling cauldron, a land-locked region where weather, woes, and a constant watch are vanguard of everything else. The third one is, for sure, a precursor to everything we do and aim to do. Hence, it is not surprising at all that the people living in such a place are vulnerable to sudden life altering actions including ending their own lives. Apparently, the reasons for suicides happening these days may be different in each case, but deep down, they all stem from the worries that our land has bequeathed us. We may have our individual strife to deal with, our personal worries and woes, but it is no secret that our collective pain always occupies a certain portion of our minds. Even when we sleep, this pain manifests in our dreams.
This life is a challenge. It has always been. It will always be. One may never find true success or for that matter fail eternly in this world. This pandemic has shown how money, status, or being a man of connections, all turn useless. Our best option to find solace, and true peace amid this chaos is reconnecting with Allaah. There is no other way. No matter how much we try to find our heart’s content in worldly things, they afterall are worldly. Bound to perish. Like us.
Allaah says in the Glorious Qur’an: Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!
This verse from Surah Ar-Ra’d is a gift from Allaah. A refuge that the Lord has provided us. No matter what is going on in our lives, we always have a option to leave everything, perform ablution, and enter into the sanctuary Allaah has kept open for us. The chaos in our minds will ease as soon as head is placed on the floor, offering Sajdah to Him.
(Author is a Srinagar based journalist and Associate Editor at The Kashmir Monitor. Views expressed are personal. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)