Posted on Jul 27, 2020
By Batool Kweider
COVID-19 has presented many challenges and opportunities; the most significant for many of us, with so many things cancelled, is the time to invest in the relationship we have with Allah (S) as well as ourselves. Facing ourselves isn’t always easy because it requires us to face our pain, mistakes, past, bad habits, religiosity and all the areas where growth is required.
In simpler terms, we have to get real, which is notably discouraged in a society that increasingly promotes showing our best, refined and (often) superficial selves on social media. Our society also often emphasizes the value of tangible, monetary and status-based successes rather than the milestones achieved through emotional maturity or self actualization. We can be pressured to prove we are worthy through academic achievements or marital status.
But, this dunya (life) is about actualizing our purpose and pleasing Allah (S). Unfortunately the fear of maintaining a perfect image has become overwhelmingly more powerful than the fear of losing ourselves and displeasing Allah (S), leading us to be in denial about whatever issues are occurring in our lives.
SubhanAllah, Allah (S)has blessed us during these holy days of Dhul Hijjah with the opportunity of khalwa (isolation) now more than ever – even though Hajj, umrah and visits to the mosque have been limited. This quarantine has provided the unique opportunity for more moments of khalwa, which is when one isolates themselves to devote themselves to Allah (S).
Being in isolation, or alone with ourselves, can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. The usual routine of our fast-paced lifestyles often does not allow for such a privilege. Taking time for this self-reflection allows us to face all we have been avoiding, heal from it, become renewed and, Insha’Allah, move forward with an intention to do something different.
The Prophet (saw) would retreat to the cave of Hira to reflect. Unfortunately for us, the spiritual aspect of our deen (faith) has taken a back seat to predominately practice-based actions, such as praying, fasting, reading Quran and essentially following the rules. All this is important to do and maintain, but how can we connect with Allah (S) if we are not engaging with our ruh (soul) and being mindful while we are performing these religious acts? Prayer is not just going through the motions; khushu (our focus during salah), is equally (if not more) important.
When we engage with our spirituality, we are engaging in a growth mindset,and simultaneously improving our ikhlaq (character). A hadith commenting on the value of good character says, “Verily, among the best of you are those with the best character.” We cannot move forward without understanding ourselves, taking accountability and approaching life with flexibility. Engaging in khalwa can help with that. The more real we are, the deeper our connection with Allah (S) and, Insha’Allah, the stronger our faith.
Faith is needed to combat our anxieties, and to do this we need to trust Allah (S). This time of living through a global pandemic has caused those in abusive households to face more trauma. Issues plaguing unhealthy marriages have to come to light; addictions are more difficult to overcome; child abuse or neglect that may have otherwise been caught in school systems are continuing while we are mostly stuck at home; so many racial and economic inequities that have always been there are glaring apparent now; and anxiety about the future continue to increase.
These are present struggles in the Muslim community that we must stop ignoring. Whether we are facing these issues or we know those who are, being judgmental is not the way of our deen. Shame ultimately deters us from Allah (S) and from our own personal growth. Seeking help is far more important than maintaining an image. We need to all be in support of each other and not silence or ignore the present problems that are occurring. If we are unable to, let us pray for those who are facing tribulations.
Prophet Yunus (as) gave up on his people even though Allah commanded him to be patient, and he ended up in the belly of a whale where this time of isolation allowed him to be aware of his sins as well as acknowledge his shortcomings. For that he was rewarded by Allah (S). There is so much value in having an awareness and accountability for our actions as well as spending time in self-reflection on these things.. Our religion encourages standing up to oppression, supporting one another and is against any form of judgement or pride.
Allah (S) may put us in situations to make us stronger, more aware and take something detrimental away and replace it with what is khair for us. Allah (S) is the most merciful, most gracious and can give us the strength to combat any issue as well as heal from it. The more we reach out to Him, the more we can see all there is to be grateful for and our blessings. During the first holy ten days of Dhul Hijjah in this time of increased isolation, it is a great time to reflect on all this.
Our mind, body and soul is an amanah, something Allah has entrusted us with to take care of. Let us take this time to pray more, reflect more, do dhikr, read the Quran with the translation, reach out for support, write down our thoughts, do some serious self-reflection and make an effort to change for the better. May Allah (S) give us the strength to be better and take advantage of this time. May Allah (S) also help all those facing any type of trauma, hardship or sin to find healing. May Allah (S) help us conquer our nafs (ego) and purify our qalb (heart).
Batool Kweider has a Bachelor’s in Psychology and is starting graduate school to obtain her Master’s in Clinical Psychology. She has done research in the field, worked with children in a service learning setting and is passionate about working towards supporting the mental health of Syrian refugees.