Living with Chronic Illness: I Wish to End My Life

23 February, 2021
Q Salam. I have an autoimmune disorder which will eventually require me to get a liver transplant. I almost died about ten years ago and spent a significant time in the hospital, and I have been dragging myself through the years on medication and regular doctor's visits. I'm just so tired. I haven't been able to finish college. I'm not married... I've never even held a girl's hand, and I think I may die without ever doing so. If I get the transplant, I will be chained to medication forever and it is not a guarantee that my disease will not reestablish itself. I want to give up. I won't actively hurt myself or commit suicide, but I know that all I have to do is stop getting treatment and I will pass away. May Allah forgive me, I am in such despair. I don't want anything or hope for anything. I have no ambition. I just want things to end. I have no idea why Allah has allowed me to persist. I've tried increasing my charity, I even got a job at a non-profit organization assisting the homeless... but I just cannot find a purpose. I don't know what He wants from me. May I ask, is it allowed for a Muslim to refuse treatment if it is available? What should I do?

Answer

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum brother,

Thank you for writing to us. In am so sorry to hear of your chronic illness. It even saddens me to hear of your state of depression and despair. Considering all you have gone through, it is understandable that you feel like giving up. I can empathize with that part.

However, dear brother, you do not know what Allah (swt) has in store for you. Only Allah (swt) knows. You do not know if your disease will progress to needing a liver transplant. Nor do you know that if you get the transplant that the disease will come back.

Often times when we are ill, we often tend to look at the worst case scenarios. It may be that you will need a liver transplant and that you may have to take medication for the rest of your life. But so do millions of others who have diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, cancer and a myriad of other illnesses and diseases for which people suffer from and take medication.

While you may have a serious condition, you still were able to get a job at a non-profit, and you did charity work. So even though you have this condition, you are able to do things, brother. While you did not finish college, there is no reason (that you have indicated) why you cannot go back and finish, even if it is online.  As I see you live in the USA, there are many good, accredited colleges online which adults attend and graduate from.

It sounds as if you have had this medical problem for many years now. And here you are, still alive, still not in need of a transplant and still able to function as you chose, granted with some limitations from time to time. While I can imagine it is not easy for you, I have confidence that in sha’ Allah you can make a wonderful life for yourself – if you try.

I think of one of my sisters in Islam. She has been on dialysis for 8 years since she was 31. That means she goes to the dialysis center three times a week, every single week for 8 years. She has been in and out of the hospital with numerous complications. She too almost died. She is trying to change her lifestyle (dietary) to be put on the list for a transplant.

But you know what? Out of all my sisters, she is the one who makes us all laugh, has a wild sense of humor, and is the one who loves going out to do things. She is in college part-time, works part-time, helps other people, cooks all the time for parties, and she recently got engaged. Why? Because she trusts in Allah (swt) and feels life is worth living despite her medical problems and the inconveniences. Yes, she gets tired and depressed from time to time, but she has a great circle of loving, supportive friends, her faith in Allah (swt). In addition, she said she’s not going out like that!Living with Chronic Illness: I Wish to End My Life - About Islam

Brother, I know this is not easy for you. I am not sure what your support system if you have family, friends or a social life or attend the masjid, but I know all these things would help immensely.

I feel you are depressed, but in sha’ Allah if you got counseling it would help tremendously.

I would also kindly suggest that you reach out to family and friends for support, social activities, as well as for times of joy and laughter if you have not already.

Allah (swt) states in the Quran that He (swt) will not change the condition of a people until they begin to change themselves. (13:11)  Change comes from within us, brother. The mind is a powerful thing and the way we think, the thoughts we form are a critical part of any healing process. If one says “I won’t heal or I won’t ever be happy”, then they probably won’t. They will probably just exist, without experiencing the joys and successes of life. But if you make up your mind that you will trust in Allah (swt), that you will heal to the best of your ability and you will partake and enjoy life, then in sha’ Allah you should begin to experience a change in perception and outcome.

There are others who are “dragging” along in life with missing limbs from wars and accidents, with scars and burns, cancers and debilitating diseases and illness much worse than yours. But they are active in life and they live every moment.

Brother, I am not trying to diminish nor neglect the seriousness of your autoimmune disorder. What I am trying to do is show you that you can be happy, you can accomplish the things you desire, you can get married, you can life a fulfilling life no matter how long it lasts. There are healthy, young people who get hit by a bus on their way to work and die. Athletes who are playing on the field, then drop dead the next minute.

The point is life, even our next breath is not guaranteed to any of us, sick or not sick. You just have to make up your mind that you will live a happy, productive life in sha’ Allah and trust in Allah (swt). Life is full of tests and trials. A review of the life of our beloved Prophet (saw) is proof of that.

So, brother, please make a list of all you seek to do in life – your goals, dreams, things you want to accomplish and review them every day. Outline steps of how to accomplish each one. Keep a daily journal on your thoughts and feelings. Congratulate yourself on your accomplishments and steps taken. Make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) to strengthen you, heal you, and grant ease. Read Qur’an, do dhkir, go to the mosque for prayer, and develop close friendships with the brothers there. The things we do to get closer to Allah (swt) and seek out His favor will bring us many blessings, in sha’ Allah.

Start to look at your disorder as something you need to accept, take care of, and then get on with your life. Define yourself by who you truly are, not by your disorder. Living with Chronic Illness: I Wish to End My Life - About Islam

If you are not in a support group for auto-immune disorders, or one specifically for your disorder, please ask your doctor about ones in your area. By joining a support group, you will learn from others who have the same disorder how they have coped, what they have been through, how they felt and feel now. You will also develop new skills and make new friends, in sha’ Allah. Please ask your doctor for a referral for counseling as discussed above to help resolve your depression.

In regards to your original question, “is it allowed for a Muslim to refuse treatment if it is available?” While I am not an Islamic scholar, I do know suicide is a grave sin which Allah (swt) detests.

By refusing lifesaving treatment for a condition that can be treated, you are, in fact, causing your own death, thus committing suicide. Just because you don’t want to take medication for a lifetime or you are tired of all the medical appointments, or you just don’t feel like dealing with the tests and trials of this disorder are not reasons to take your life.

Please call the suicide hotline should you feel you cannot control your urges to want to end it all. However, I do feel you are stronger than that. I am confident that once you are treated for depression, you will have a totally different outlook on your life. You have a purpose in life. You do matter. You will accomplish many of your dreams. You just have to take the steps needed towards healing your mind and actualizing your potential.

Lastly, Allah (swt) loves you, brother. Please trust in Him with your life. You are in our prayers.

Please let us know how you are doing.

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.