By way of Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, who said that Allah’s Messenger (S) said, “One of you should not wish for death because of a difficulty that has affected him. If he must [say something], then let him say, ‘Allahumma, aheenee maa kaanatil hayaatu khairan lee, wa tawaffanee idhaa kaanatil wafaatu khairan lee.’ (Allah, give me life as long as life is good for me, and cause me to die when death is good for me.)” Agreed upon.
In this hadith, the Prophet (S) forbids a person from wishing for death due to a difficulty that has affected him. An individual may be afflicted by a difficulty which proves to be heavy for him and so he becomes tired of it and starts to wish for death, saying: “Lord, cause me to die.” It is the same whether he physically utters it or says it in his heart. The Prophet (S) forbade this by saying, “One of you should not wish for death because of a difficulty that has affected him,” because there may be good in it for him. Whenever you are afflicted by harm, then you should say: “Allah, cause me to be steadfast during it,” so that Allah will help you be patient, and this will be good for you.
However, when you desire death, you are not aware that this would be bad for you as it would not cause you to rest, because not every death will bring with it rest, as a poet once said: One who died is not at rest; because death is only for the life. It may be that a person dies only to face punishment and torment in the grave, we seek Allah’s refuge from this; if he had remained alive, he would have become remorseful, repented, and returned to Allah, and this would be a cause of good for him. So when an affliction affects you, do not wish for death.
If the Prophet (S) forbade a person from desiring death, because of an affliction that affected him, then what can be said about the one who commits suicide because of a calamity; this is found among some foolish people, who, when suffering from a prolonged calamity, hang, stab, poison, etc, themselves. These people only move from one affliction to another that is even more severe, because the one commits suicide will be punished in the same manner that he committed suicide in the fire of Hell, where he will remain for eternity, as related by the Prophet (S). So if he commits suicide by the use of iron—such as a dagger, a knife, a nail, or anything else—then he will be in the Hell [continuously] stabbing himself with that piece of iron that he used to commit suicide with. If he commits suicide with poison, he will continue consuming it in Hell. If he committed suicide by throwing himself off of high place, then that place will be erected for him in the Hell, and he will throw himself repeatedly from it eternally.
Since the Prophet (S) forbade a person from wishing for death, because of an affliction that he is suffering from, then [the forbiddance] is even move severe for committing suicide, being hasty with Allah’s [decree] concerning his soul. We ask Allah for security [from this]. It was the practice of the Messenger (S) that whenever he forbade a thing which had a legal substitute, he would mention [that substitute], which is also the style of the Qur’an. Allah, the Glorious, says, “Believers, do not say [to the Prophet] raa‘inaa (be careful and listen to us), but say unzurnaa (make us understand).” (2:104) So when Allah prohibited the use of the word raa‘inaa, He directed [the believers] to a legal word by saying, “but say unzurnaa.” (2:104) Also, when some good dates were brought to the Messenger (S) he was astonished and asked, “Are all the dates of Khaibar similar to these?” They replied, “Messenger of Allah, no, by Allah. We purchase a sa‘ of these with two sa‘s (of another type) and two sa‘s with three.” He said, “Do not do that, instead sell the inferior dates for dirhams and then use the dirhams to buy the superior dates,” meaning the good dates. Having forbidden him from one practice, he related to them its legal substitute. Here [in the hadith being discussed] he said, “One of you should not wish for death because of a difficulty that has affected him. If he must [say something], then let him say, ‘Allah, give me life as long as life is good for me, and cause me to die when death is good for me,” through which he opened a door for you which is secure. Since wishing for death is an indication of a person’s displeasure and impatience with Allah’s decree; however with the supplication, “Allah, give me life as long as life is good for me, and cause me to die when death is good for me,” a person entrusts his affair to Allah; since he is unaware of the unseen, so he entrusts his affair to its Knower, the Mighty and Sublime [Allah].
A person wishing for death is hastiness in desiring that Allah ends his life, as that may prevent him from many good things; it may prevent him from seeking repentance and an increase in righteous deeds. That is why it was reported in a hadith, “There is no one who dies but he shall regret. If he was a doer of good, he shall regret that he did not do more, and if he is doer of evil, he shall regret that he did not stop.” Meaning that he will seek a reprimand for his sins and ask to be reprimanded, i.e., to be excused.
If someone were to ask: How is that one can say, “Allah, give me life as long as life is good for me, and cause me to die when death is good for me?” We answer: This is because [only] Allah, the Glorious, knows what will occur [in the future] of which a person is unaware, as Allah says, “Say, ‘No one in the heavens and the earth knows the unseen except Allah,’” (27:65) and “No person knows what he will earn tomorrow, and no person knows in what land he will die.” (31:34) So you are unaware of whether life or death is better for you. This is why whenever someone supplicates for a person to have a long life he should restrict it by saying, “May Allah grant you a long life in obedience to Him,” so that the duration of his life is lived in goodness.
If someone was to say: Maryam, the daughter of ‘Imraan, was reported to have wished for death when she said, “Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight.” (19:23). How is it that she fell into doing that which is prohibited? Then answering that we give [is the following]:
First: We must know that when it comes to the Law of the previous nations, if our Law mentions something that is contrary to theirs, then their law cannot be used as proof because our Law abrogated all that of the former religions.
Second: Maryam did not desire death, but she wished that she had died before this fitnah (trial) [that she was afflicted with] even if she had lived a thousand years. What is important is that she wished to die without any fitnah. An example of this is the statement of Yoosuf, “You are my protector in the world and the Hereafter, cause me to die as a Muslim, and join me with the righteous.” (12:101) What is meant here is not that he asked Allah to cause him to die, rather asked Him to cause him die as one who has submitted (Muslim), and there is nothing wrong with this. It is similar to you saying, “Allah, make me die on Islam, faith, tawheed (monotheism), and ikhlaas (sincerity), or cause me to do what You are pleased with me,” and so forth.
It is necessary to understand the difference between a person who wishes for death because of difficult circumstances that afflicted him, and a person who wishes to die in a specific state that Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, is pleased with. The first type is prohibited by the Messenger (S), while the second type is permissible.
The Prophet (S) only prohibited a wish for death borne from an afflicted calamity, because the one who does so is not patient, and it is required that the person be patient with an affliction and to anticipate the reward from Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. The afflicted calamity—whether it is anxiety, grief, illness, or any other calamity—is expiation for your sins; so if you anticipate the reward, then it will be a cause of raising you in rank.
Whatever affliction, illness, or anything similar affects a person it is never infinite, rather it will end and there is no doubt in this. When it does end, and you have earned a good merit by anticipating the reward from Allah and an expiation of your sins, then it turns into goodness for you. This is affirmed from the Prophet (S) when he said, “The case of the believer is amazing. All his affairs are good, and that is not for anyone but the believer. If something happens to him that makes him happy, he is grateful, so that is good for him. If something happens to him that harms him, then he is patient, so that is good for him.” So in all circumstance there is goodness for the believer, whether in times of calamity or in times of prosperity.