Short Answer: It is understood that in the life hereafter, one would continue doing the action which led to one’s self-inflicted death, again and again, according to a hadith that speaks about this. However, some important scholars in the history of Islam have said that the punishment in hell will not be eternal. But, the deeper question is: what’s bad about suicide? If you think about this, God is the One who gives life and takes life. And God gives us tests and trials in this life, and some of the trials may be very difficult. And sometimes people succumb under this heavy dose of trials.
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Dr. Shabir Ally from Let the Quran Speak addresses this question in the video below.
Aisha Khaja: Dr. Shabir, the question today is from Aria Shula from India. And this person says: “I study medicine here in India and is a little confused about the destination of those who commit suicide.”
This person said they’ve heard conflicting views.
So, some scholars say they will be punished for eternal hell, while some say they will be punished by committing suicide the way they did to themselves from now until the end of the world.
So, the person is asking for clarification about the question.
Based on Quran and hadith, is it an eternal punishment of hell or punishment from the death until the end of this world?
Dr. Shabir Ally: OK, so, the confusion arises from a perceived contradiction between the two statements.
That one, that the person will be punished eternally in the life hereafter; and, then two, that the person will be punished in this world by having this act of suicide being repeated, ad infinitum.
But the confusion will be simply removed by noticing that the punishment of the repeated action ad infinitum is not going to be in this world, but also in the life hereafter.
That too is in the life hereafter.
So, it is not in contradiction with those who said that the person will be punished eternally in the life hereafter.
Aisha Khaja: So technically, it’s as soon as your life ends here that would be considered in the life hereafter.
However, I’d like to make two points about this very quickly. I don’t know how much time we have.
Aisha Khaja: We have time. Go ahead.
Dr. Shabir Ally: First, the idea that people will be punished eternally in the life hereafter has proved to be a difficult one for people in modern times to conceive of because we think of any action, no matter how bad, to be of limited duration; and to think that the punishment for this will be eternal seems to be a little bit excessive.
But some important scholars in the history of Islam have said that the punishment in hell will not be eternal.
And I’m inclined towards that view.
The second thing is that when we think in Islam about things being good and bad, often we associate the goodness of a thing with the rewards that God will give us, and the badness of a thing with the punishment that God will mete out to those who perform that action.
And sometimes this emphasis on the reward or punishment blurs the thinking, the moral sense that we should have, that you know something is really good, we ought to do it; something is really bad, we ought to stay away from it.
So, a lot of thinking needs to refocus on this because when we think about reward and punishment sometimes we forget that the thing itself is bad.
For example, in committing suicide—what’s bad about suicide? If you think about this, God is the One who gives life and takes life.
And God gives us tests and trials in this life, and some of the trials may be very difficult. And sometimes people succumb under this heavy dose of trials.
And they figure, okay, easy exit is to commit suicide.
But what’s bad about this is that one is doing what God is supposed to do, taking one’s own life now.
And two, one is escaping that reality that God is placing the person in.
And the idea of what is needed now is that for us as human beings, as creatures and servants of God is to bear our situations with patience and by returning to God.
So, this is the kind of mindset I feel we need to develop more.
And the mindset that says—okay, this thing is right, I ought to do it: this other thing is wrong, I ought to stay away from it.
And not because they don’t think there’s going to be a punishment if I do it. But simply because it’s wrong, and that’s not the person I am.
I’m a humble servant of God. I need to do what is right and avoid what is wrong.
Aisha Khaja: And when you talk about patience, it also entails seeking the right mental health supports and helping you cope through that.
Dr. Shabir Ally: Exactly.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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