Is hunger strike permissible in the religion of Islam?

The Details of the Question

Is hunger strike permissible in the religion of Islam?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

First, it is necessary to see why something like this is attempted by people. Such an act is a kind of protesting. Some people who cannot obtain their rights through normal ways from a state or organization go on a hunger strike to obtain their rights when they lose their hope.

It is necessary to say that claiming rights like this is not logical and legitimate. If a person claims a legitimate right, it is groundless to resort to an illegitimate and abnormal way.  

That such a deed is illegitimate, that is, it is not approved by our religion, is understood as follows: A person who goes on a hunger strike does not eat or drink anything. A person who goes hungry and thirsty will get thin and weak, finally die. A person causing himself to die is regarded to have committed “suicide”.

Committing suicide is a deed that Islam definitely regards as haram. For, Allah, who created us out of nothing, who gave us our body and who granted us the boon of life, entrusted our life to us. Man has to protect his life entrusted to him by Allah and keep it away from dangers.

A person who risks his life will be held responsible in the eye of Allah.

“…And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction.” (al-Baqara, 2/195)

In the verse above, our Lord orders man to protect his material and spiritual life from all kinds of dangers.

Therefore, it is fard for a person to eat so as not to die. For, our body can survive only by eating and drinking. A person who fulfills this fard gets great rewards. The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

“Allah definitely gives rewards for everything that is halal. Even the morsel that a slave puts in his mouth will gain him rewards.”(Majmau’l-Anhur, 2/524)

The following decree is deduced from the verse and hadith above:

“If a person gives up eating and drinking and dies because of it, he is regarded to have rebelled against Allah; he becomes a rebel.” (ibid)

“A person who goes hungry until he dies though he can eat and drink becomes a sinner.” (al-Fatawa’l-Hindiyya, 5/338)

As it is known, our religion forbids eating pork and carrion and drinking alcohol. However, if a person faces the risk of death and cannot find anything else to eat and drink, he can eat and drink these haram things until he overcomes the risk of dying.If a person who is under such risk finds haram food and drink but does not eat them, he will be held responsible. The following fatwa exists inal-Fatawa’l-Hindiyya, one of reliable fiqh books:

“If a person is about to starve and finds something that is haram to eat like carrion and does not eat, or performs fasting by not eating anything, he becomes a sinner.” (ibid)

We also know that it is haram to eat other people's things without their permission but a person who faces the risk of death can take and eat the food or drink of somebody else. The following is stated in the same resource:

“If a person undergoes severe hunger or thirst and if his friend has some food and drink but does not give him, he can fight him and grab the food or drink to eliminate the risk of death.” (Majmau’l-Anhur, 2/528)

Likewise, our religion forbids begging. However, if a person who faces the risk of death due to hunger and who can beg does not beg for food and dies, he will become a sinner. For, he puts his life in danger. 

Due to the reasons we have listed, if a person goes on a hunger strike, he will risk his life; therefore, he will be held responsible. It will be regarded as a kind of committing suicide, hence he will commit a haram deed.

This deed, which we started to see in our country recently, is nothing but a wrong custom coming from Europe.

Mehmet Paksu

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