>> Monday, September 13, 2010
I’ve started reading your blog after my sister introduced it to me… and somehow I think it’s great that I can finally rely on someone on this matter (I’m so sorry for the long letter, but I really need a few advice on how to deal with such things). I have a friend I’ve just met about 3 months ago after entering college. I don’t know how, but we somehow clicked with each other. But I never noticed (maybe a few signs, but never the huge one) that she was beginning to think that death is better for her. I did noticed that she was somehow upset and depressed with something, but I just couldn’t grasp what it was all about… not until she broke down and told me everything just 2 weeks ago.
She had a problem with her dad and she was always frustrated with her mother because her mother never complained, even though her dad treated her mother really badly. Always calling her mother fat and stuff until she cried and starts to think that liposuction could help her to look more beautiful. In the midst it, my friend ran away from home at the age of 18 after she couldn’t stand anymore of it. She got married to someone she know at London and they were blessed with a healthy son. She said that it was the happiest year in her entire life.
But when she heard a news about her mother getting sick (thyroid cancer), she returned home just for the sake of her beloved mother. Her mother died soon after that. She was so upset but there was nothing she could do. She wanted to return back to her husband (at London), but to her surprise, her passport has gone missing (she suspected her dad had took it away). Ever since then, her dad had been stressing her greatly by forcing her to divorce her husband! But she declines it with much force.
One thing leads to another; her dad managed to force her to enter college even though all she wanted was to be a housewife. But seeing the odds were great against her (with her dad freezing her bank accounts and all), she couldn’t do anything. She left her son in the care of her closest aunt and start studying in the same college I’m attending. She stayed in the hostel and made good friends. She could still get in touched with her husband through skype, so she wasn’t that upset yet. Not until…
Eid Mubarak arriving and she had to go home. What had upset her most was:
1) Her son didn’t recognize her after not seeing her for almost 1 month
2) Her dad had remarried even though her mother had just passed away 3 months ago
3) Her dad cutting off the internet connection at home and she couldn’t get in touch with her husband!
I knew all of this through hand phone, so I couldn’t pat her back like I always do, or hug her when she cries. Her hometown is very far from my own and I couldn’t be there for her in this dire situation. What had shocked me the most was that she started to say things like how much she wanted to die and all? I have tried my best in giving her advice and reminding her that it is HARAM to commit suicide! I’m scared for her since I know that she once had a history of overdose! I’m trying my best to reach out for her, but I think I’m already at my limit since what else could a 17 year old girl like me do than giving a pat at the back?
Please… I need some help! How can I persuade her? I’ve been praying to Allah SWT to give her His guidance day and night, but I’m still scared with all of this. It’s affecting my mind too... somehow!
A concerned and scared 17 year old girl.
Dear A concerned and scared 17 year old girl,
My poor sis, what a load you have had to bear these past 2 weeks! Thinking that your friend might do something desperate and kill herself must have been driving you 'crazy' from worry. I can imagine that after clicking 'send' this email, you might have felt a little like you 'broke your friend's trust', but I want to reassure you that you did the RIGHT thing. You did this because you CARE about your friend. The truth is, the fact that you sent this question to me shows me that you’re a very good friend, mashaAllah!! I’d want someone like you on my side.
Now, I was thinking- if you want, you can tell her the truth- that you reached out for help for because she matters that much…because she is important…and because she is our sister in Islam. I mean you can tell her you sent in an anonymous question, but if you feel that would upset her, then don’t do it. You can just give her our advice yourself which basically is...
Begin by reminding her that this life is a test and she was created for eternal bliss.
Acknowledge that she is in pain and suffering but remind her that Allah loves her. You can tell her something like this:
“Right now, I know you’re hurting really bad and things seem completely out of your hands. But I want you to remember something: suicide is never the answer to your problems. Allah (SWT) loves you. That’s right. He loves you. The closest people to Allah are the ones He tests the most.
And He has wisdom in every single thing He does even if you can’t see it right now. I want you to stop a moment and to think about that….really think about it.”
Try to boost her emaan a bit by reminding her of other people’s trials- really try to get her to visualize it. You could say something like this:
*Friend’s name*, sweetie, do you realize how similar your story is to one of the Mother of the Believers? Yes!! What you are going through right now is so much like what our mother UmmSalamah went through.
(Here’s a reminder of her story for you, hehe.) When the Qurayshis ‘upped’ the level of their torture and it became sooooo unbearable, the Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam gave permission for the Companions to do hijrah to the Abyissinia, right.
Umm Salamah and her husband and son got ready to emigrate…as Umm Salamah literally got on the camel to go, her tribe came running to stop her. They told her husband that he could go as he wanted, but that she ‘was theirs’, and she couldn’t go! Just like how your friend’s father isn’t letting her go back to her husband.
But you know what else happened? Well, her husband’s tribe got angry that her tribe was also taking the son with them. They claimed the son ‘was theirs’. They grabbed him. (In fact, the two tribes fought over the poor boy, hurting his little hand!)
In her own words, she says:
They took him by the hand and pulled him away from me. Suddenly, in the space of a few moments, I found myself alone and lonely. My husband headed for Madinah by himself and his clan had snatched my son away from me. My own clan, Banu Makhzum, overpowered me and forced me to stay with them.
Can you imagine? She was separated away from them for an entire YEAR! At a time when there was no telephone/computer/etc. Nothing. And don’t forget- the majority of the Arabs were illiterate so there wasn’t any snail mail either!
For months, all she could do was cry and cry. Finally, a man pleaded on her behalf and she was free to take her son and join her husband.
She quickly grabbed her camel and headed in the direction of Madinah. Remember, she was ‘a woman’ and she was completely alone in the desert- at that time, it really wasn’t safe for women to do that!
But Allah subhanoo Wa’ tala, He had plans for her. After traveling 3 miles she met up with Uthman ibn Talhah who at the time was still not Muslim- but being a great and noble gentleman, he chivalrously insisted that he escort her all the way to Madinah (despite not having anything to do there!). As soon as she arrived, he left her and the family was happily reunited…
And yet, her story doesn’t end there. During the the Battle of Uhud, Umm Salamah’s husband, Abu Salamah was greatly wounded. At the end of the battle, he was terribly sick. While his wife nursed him, he said to her,
"I heard the Messenger of Allah saying whenever a calamity afflicts anyone he should say, 'We belong to Allah and to Him shall we return; O Allah, with You I leave my plight for consideration, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in exchange for it.'"
Soon after, her dear husband passed away. She remembered the prayer her husband had quoted from the Prophet and began repeating it, "O Lord, with you I leave this my plight for consideration…." But she could not bring herself to continue with "O Lord, give me something better than it in exchange for it." She kept asking herself, "Who could be better than Abu Salamah?" But after a while she completed the supplication….
And you know who she ended up marrying, right?
The Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam, himself!!
My point with all this? Although in the midst of everything happening, the world may seem very black- an unfriendly, cold place, in the end it becomes obvious that everything happens for a reason. Allah subhanoo Wa’ Tala says, “Verily with hardship is ease”!
In fact, the Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam said:
“Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him forgiveness by Allah of some of his sins.
Sa'd (Radiya Allah anhoo) reported that the Prophet (sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam) said: " The most in their suffering among the people are the prophets, then the best, then the (next) best. One is afflicted in accordance with his deen (faith). If his deen is firm his affliction is hard, and if his deen is weak, his affliction is light. Indeed, one would be so much subjected to adversity until he walks among the people without any sins. " [Ahmad, Tirmithee ]
Once you’ve tried to boost her emaan (which btw you can also try from here:), try thinking together of a solution…a real one instead of suicide. Tell her: I know that right now things seem really really bad, but if we work together, I really think we can come up with a plan of action. I believe things can turn around, but we’ve got to zoom out a little from the problem and zoom IN on what can be done. What do you think about that? Does that sound okay? We take a look at what we can do instead of what we can’t :)
Like what? Well….
I’m sure you’ve already told her this but just in case you haven’t, suggest that she needs to sit down with her dad and have an honest discussion with him. She needs to tell him that as much as she knows he has rights over her as a father and as important as he is to her, she is a mother and a wife. She needs to recognize that she hurt him when she ran away and she needs to tell him that she want him to be a part of her life but that she has her own son and husband to think about now and she is deeply unhappy without them. She should also try to find a compromise about university- why doesn’t she tell him she’s stilling willing to go to college but that she wants to go to one in London so that she can be with her family. Or that she want to continue studying but she wants to wait a few years until her son is a little older? Or that she’d rather get an online degree? As much as her father has hurt her in the past, he might seriously be worried about her future and a college degree, today, is practically essential.
There’s another very important reason why she needs to talk to her dad and that has to do with the Islamic validity of her marriage. Islamically, a girl needs her wali’s consent to get married which is generally considered the ‘father’. Now, you didn’t mention what happened in this case, but if there was no wali, your friend should as soon as possible discuss this issue together with an Imam/scholar and her father and try and see how things can be sorted out. Let me make it clear, again, that the majority of scholars believe that a woman who weds a man without a wali isn’t considered married- so this needs to be resolved ASAP.
Now, as for her father remarrying- as much as we love our parents, they are human too and they have human needs. Try to gently talk to your friend about the fact her father’s step wife won’t replace her mother but she is a part of the family now. I’m not denying the fact that 3 months is a short time- but we have to also respect the fact that he did wait until after she died before having another relationship. Unfortunately, there are thousands of men who commit adultery. He didn’t do that. He might not have been the perfect husband- he might have been a lousy one, but at the end of the day, he stayed with her when she was sick with cancer. He didn’t walk away. More importantly, maybe your friend’s step-wife can help her. Encourage your friend to try to develop a relationship with her and then to try to appeal to her motherly side. If she isn’t that nice to her, maybe she can appeal to her selfish side- as in your friend might want to consider convincing her stepmother to pressure her dad to let her go back. Most newlyweds don’t want ‘an extra’ person around….
But what if her dad is completely unreasonable and she has discussed the issue with a scholar and has been told that she has the right to leave her father and go to her husband: (Again- she’s talked to a Muslim scholar and he’s studied her case properly)
- Your friend may try to get a grandparent/ uncle/ aunt/ someone her father respects to plead her case for her one last time...
- If that doesn’t work, she might want to think about working on getting a new passport. She can call her local consulate and tell them she’s misplaced her passport and would like to travel as soon as possible. They should be able to tell you what to do. Remember, passports are replaceable…lives are not! Once you have your own passport, again, she won’t be a prisoner
- She needs a lawyer’s help/ she needs to do some research- find out how/ why her dad was able to freeze her bank accounts. If there is no way for her to access the money that was already in her account, then she needs to start looking for some part time work. I know she’s studying, but she could try babysitting a few hours in the weekend or tutoring some kids in the community. With her own pocketbook, she won’t have to rely on her dad as much. Another solution: she could get her hubby to send money every month to a very close friend’s account who would then give it to you and you’d give to her…
- What about your friend trying to use the Internet in her university to talk to her hubby? If your campus doesn’t have Internet, she can try visiting a friend’s house and using theirs. Or how about going to an Internet café? If none of those options are possible, why doesn’t she try SMSing her hubby? You didn’t mention his financial situation but maybe he could try calling every once in a while?
Other than that, you should try to remind your friend of the fact that her son needs her. Remind her that she said that her best year was the year with her husband and son—that can happen again…she just needs patience. Ask her what she misses most about her son? Get her to talk about him and open up. Ask her how she felt when she was pregnant, how they picked the name, etc. Then, gently ask her, “Don’t you want to be there for him on his first day of school? Don’t you want to make his lunch for him? Tell him goodnight stories? Kiss his boo boos away”? Let het realize what she will be purposefully missing out if she decides to kill herself.
And, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to say this but, anyways, it’s important though that you are very gentle in your approach and that you do not make it sound like she’s some kinda wacko for considering suicide- just remind her that she still has her son and that he's not actually gone!
I do realize she must have been terribly hurt when he didn’t recognize her when she was on skype, but the same thing happened to me (almost). When I moved away, my 2 year old niece didn’t recognize me when I tried to webcamera chat with her- even though I had practically been her second mother. Well, at first it really hurt, but I kept making contact with her. Your friend’s husband should keep showing pictures of his wife to the child, reminding him of his mom. Your friend can even do what I did which was take pictures of myself and then add some of my niece’s favorite characters on to the picture…I kept going on and singing to her her favorite songs, making funny faces. She didn’t fully respond as before, but when she finally came to visit me (in the new country we’d move to), after a few minutes of initial shyness, she soon was playing and coloring with me…hanging out just like before.
The truth is her son will always be her son and he needs her…!
InshaAllah that will get to her, but if it doesn’t seem to get to her, the important thing for you to do is to stay strong. Tell your friend to call you whenever she begins to ‘despair’. If several days pass, you should also try calling her. Don’t be afraid to ask her how she’s feeling--- ask her, do you still feel like death would be better? Did anything happen lately that you want to talk about? Let her know that she can be honest with you. More importantly, always end your conversations with her reminding her how much she means to you. Tell her she has an incredible spirit/she’s beautiful inside and out/etc. Words like that can have an amazing effect. Tell her that you wish you could hug her and be there for her, etc.
However, if she still shows signs that she is majorly considering suicide, don’t be afraid to talk to a professor/counselor/someone and have someone intervene. In fact, you should do that! Your friend has a history of overdose- so, this is really serious.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, remind your friend to try to deepen her relationship with Allah. There is nothing He cannot do. There is nothing to difficult for Him. When all we see are closed doors, He opens a window in ways we never would have thought were possible. Tell your friend to keep making dua- to keep making istifgaar- to keep making extra prayers and acts of worship to please Him and to always have a positive image of Him. Perhaps Allah put her through this test for her to focus on Him… maybe she hasn’t really been paying Him too much attention and He wanted to turn her back to Him. This is her chance…she just has to seize it.
We know she can do it! It's time she stops running away....and starts facing her problems. It's the only way that they'll really go away =)
May Allah keep your friend from any harm,
P.s. Readers please share your words of encouragement (in the event that her friend does read this/for any sister that may be considering suicide. You don’t know whose life you may save!)
P.s.s. bits of Umm Salamah's story taken from here: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1209357788368&pagename=Zone-English-Living_Shariah/LSELayout