Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide, abuse, and miscarriage. It may be difficult for some to read.
It feels like yesterday. Staring at the ceiling in the dark, trying to sleep after excitedly texting my best friend twice to tell her about how I finally finished a project she encouraged me to start, only to be faced with no response. Just as my eyes began to get heavy, I got a call from her cousin. “She’s gone—she’s really gone,” she sobbed.
Aaliyah* had been struggling her whole life with mental health after going through the trauma of being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, and dealing with a miscarriage at a very young age. I did my best to encourage her to fight each day, and to stay strong. I was honored she trusted me with so much, but on a hot summer’s day, while she was in Italy, she decided it was too much for her to cope with. She ended her life.
The grieving journey was difficult, but what got me through it was knowing she was at peace now. She no longer had to deal with her everyday hardships. Although Aaliyah was not Muslim, she had a great interest in the religion of Islam as it was very similar to her own Catholic beliefs. She told me many times throughout our friendship that she has thought about converting quite a lot because of how the Islamic pages she followed on Tumblr out of curiosity, almost brought her to tears with verses from the Quran.
I remember sharing her story with an older Muslim woman and getting cut off mid-sentence. “She would’ve never been a Muslim—don’t you know that suicide is a major sin! No one truly wants to die, so why did she do that!”
We are taught throughout our childhood that Allah (SWT) is the most merciful and forgiving, yet everyone was telling me that Aaliyah’s actions were beyond forgiveness and mercy.
Although I knew that suicide is prohibited in Islam, this woman’s comments deeply upset me. Was that the only thing my best friend was seen as? A sinner? Someone who couldn’t ever get into heaven due to her feeling that she has borne all that she could?
We are taught throughout our childhood that Allah (SWT) is the most merciful and forgiving, yet everyone was telling me that Aaliyah’s actions were beyond forgiveness and mercy. The way she was spoken about, it was as if people believed she deserved what she went through— as if she predicted how it was going to end. This was incredibly difficult because I knew Aaliyah’s story. I knew the torment she lived through every day—she wasn’t a bad person, she was just tired—and although I wish with everything in me that she was still here, I also knew that suicide was wrong in Islam.
“If she was a sinner, is it wrong for me to miss her?” was a thought that constantly lingered in my mind. It took a long time for me to realize that it wasn’t wrong to feel things—even if the feelings weren’t ones I expected. The anger I felt that she chose to leave knowing I cared so much about her. The denial I felt as I tried to push her out of my mind, and hid all the birthday gifts she got me so I wouldn’t have to remember. And the guilt I felt—she was my best friend and I failed her.
Life is a test and how we react to situations now, impacts our future in the afterlife. So does this mean that Aaliyah failed her test, or is this part of mine?
Although I was so reluctant to, talking about it with a friend in the same boat as I was helped my healing journey tremendously. It made me realize how precious life was, and gave me a lot of hope. I was brought closer to Allah and also learnt a lot about myself which slowly helped me build my confidence, and become stronger after losing someone so close.
The Quran states that Allah is constantly testing us with trials and hardships. Life is a test and how we react to situations now, impacts our future in the afterlife. So does this mean that Aaliyah failed her test, or is this part of mine? The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”
I strongly believe that Allah blessed Aaliyah into my life, not only for the happy moments and beautiful friendship and memories we shared, but also as a removal of sins due to my grieving for her. I miss her each and every day, but I’m focused on making her proud and feeling all the happiness she couldn’t, for her.
*Name changed for privacy.
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