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Can we observe the funeral prayer of someone who committed suicide?

It is narrated in ahadith that:

[The dead body] of a person who had killed himself with a broad-headed arrow was brought before the Messenger of Allah sas, but he did not offer prayers for him.

(Sahih Muslim, Book 11, Hadith 138)

The Prophet sas did not offer the funeral prayer for him, and that was as an admonition for others.

(Sunan Ibn Majah, vol. 1, Book 6, Hadith 1,526)

The Holy Prophet sas said, “As for me, I will not pray for him.”

(Sunan an-Nasa’i, vol. 3, Book 21, Hadith 1,966)

In answer to the question, “How would God treat a pious person that commits suicide?” Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IV rta asked that if a pious human being kills another human being, what would happen to him? Should he be punished? Why? If he is a very pious human being, what has he done? He has only taken life and killed somebody. Why should he be punished?

Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IV rta explained that life does not belong to any human being. Even our own life is a precious trust by God. We have not created our own life. Rather, we hold it as a trust to the Creator. So whether we take anybody else’s life or our own life, it is a crime. All of humanity supports this view, whatever religion they belong to. Even secular states agree with the principle that nobody has a right to take life, be it somebody else’s or his own. Now, to take one’s own life is far more dangerous than to take anybody else’s life for the murderer. A murderer can repent because he outlives the murdered one. But if he takes his own life, he does not outlive the murdered one and he cannot repent. That is why Islam very strongly discourages this type of murder. That is why we do not even observe the janazah [funeral] prayer of such people, because they died in the act of crime and were given no chance to repent or to seek forgiveness of Allah. So, we do not say that they will be dispatched straight to hell. What we would say is to leave him to God. God Almighty knows if he was mad, if he was crooked, if life became beyond his tolerance and then he committed this wrong act. It is for God to judge, and because he is already gone over to the One who is capable of judging, so why should we begin to conjecture on what will happen to him? (Question Answer Session, July 1, 1991)

Since suicide can be caused by mental illness, whether to observe the funeral prayer or not is decided on a case by case basis.

Here, the question may arise as to why some people believe that the Holy Prophet sas contemplated committing suicide (God forbid) early in his prophethood? The basis of this belief is a hadith that is not authentic in its narration and in its content. It is related at the end of a long narration in Bukhari:

But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet sas became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, “O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah’s Messenger sas in truth” whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. And whenever the period of the coming of the inspiration used to become long, he would do as before, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Gabriel would appear before him and say to him what he had said before.

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 91, Hadith 1)

In commentary of this hadith, Hadrat Zain-ul-Abidin ra pointed out that just before the narration of alleged contemplation of suicide, the words بلغنا ِفيما (as we have heard) have been used. This shows that this part is not part of Hadrat ‘Aishah’s ra narration. The narrator Zuhri acknowledges that this last part of the narration is separate and without any specified narrator (Bukhari Commentary, vol. 1, p. 13).

Committing suicide is forbidden in Islam, and to attribute contemplating suicide to the Holy Prophet sas is contrary to his character. An unauthentic narration that goes contrary to the established character of the Holy Prophet sas cannot be accepted by the standards of the science of hadith. The Holy Prophet sas taught that every moment of life is precious, saying:

None of you should wish for death. If he is righteous, perhaps he may add to his good works, and if he is a sinner, possibly he may repent.

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 75, Hadith 32)

The Holy Prophet sas said:

Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever.

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 76, Hadith 90)
Updated on March 2, 2019

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