This new series is entitled “Letters During COVID-19”. While we are all facing the same pandemic together, we are affected differently depending on where we are, our employment, our socio-economic situations, our family status (married/with kids/alone), and other factors. These letters are to various groups of people who may be contending with different things, but we pray that all can find some benefit in each letter. You can leave a comment if you want a letter for a general situation.
To Those with Time,
You may be not used to this. Always being so busy with work and responsibilities, suddenly you find yourself with a lot of time, as a result of working from home or even not having work during this period.
This might be a stressful time. A confusing time. And it is easy to distract yourself completely with the abundance of social media apps.
Or perhaps, in some way, it is an opportunity. While the pandemic is affecting people differently, you find yourself suddenly having to contend with solitude. You are healthy, thank God, relatively youthful, and with more free time. The Prophet ﷺ reminds us to:
“Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.” (Sahih)
It is important to take care our mental and emotional health, of course, and part of it can be through different activities, keeping in contact with loved ones, or learning something new. Another even more important priority is strengthening our relationship with God. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Those in seclusion have raced ahead.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, who are those in seclusion?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “They are men and women who remember Allah often.”
In another narration, the Prophet ﷺ said, “They are those absorbed in the remembrance of Allah.” (Muslim)
While this time carries different meanings for different people, perhaps for you in particular, Allah subhanahu wa ta`la (exalted is He) wanted to give you the time you needed to come back to Him. Perhaps you got so distracted with life that you rushed your prayers, were not able to read the Qur’an, and found it hard to wake up for the night prayer or even fajr (the dawn prayer). There was no time for solitude or reflection.
This period might be difficult, but nothing lasts forever. The Qur’an tells us that in numerous places, and we see its proof all around us. We are put in different situations and adapt our faith to what is best at the time. And now is the time to build or re-build that relationship with Allah (swt). Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī said: “Choose solitude over people, for they distract you from worshipping Allah.” Many of us do not choose solitude, at least not for the purpose of connecting to God, and this is a time when we have been given solitude. Ibn Ataillah said, “Nothing serves the heart better than a reclusion (ʿuzla) through which it enters the fray of thought.”
Thus, this is a time to reflect on life, priority and purpose. Allah (swt) tells us,
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an, 51:56)
We know that the Prophet ﷺ would go to the Cave of Hira to reflect before he received the first revelation. Many righteous people would apportion time for seclusion and reflection. Ahmad Al-Shuqairi wrote a book of forty lessons and reflections on life during a forty-day seclusion exercise, but he recommends that people take out some time every day or every week to be alone with Allah. It may be for a set period during their day, or a few days every so often. These are some things that those of us with extra time can do:
1- Recite Qur’an every morning: “O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers.” (Qur’an, 10:57) Particularly with Ramadan coming up, this is an especially good time to reconnect with the Qur’an.
2- Pray and/or reflect in the evening, talking to Allah (swt): God describes the people of understanding as those, “who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Qur’an, 3:191) This is an amazing time to establish this practice of reflecting and talking to Allah (swt).
3- Work on your daily prayers: Many of us are guilty of rushing prayers and being unable to truly connect with Allah (swt). This is the time to focus and take each prayer slowly. The Salah series was written for this purpose, and can be found here.
4- Learn: The Prophet ﷺ said, “If anyone pursues a path in search of knowledge, Allah will thenby make easy for him a path to paradise.” (Abu Dawud) Many Islamic institutes have online courses and classes, and there are plenty of beneficial lectures online (this recent one is my favorite). You can also catch up with reading.
5- Limit distractions, but let yourself rest: We all need to take care of our emotional and mental well-being, so we should do what is best for us. We do not need to necessarily cut off social media apps, but ensure that our time is not dominated by them. We can have time for Instagram without going overboard. The Prophet ﷺ said, “time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time should be devoted (to the hereafter)” (Muslim)
6- Set a time for the daily morning/afternoon remembrances, and understand their meanings: Ibn al-Qayyim stated, “In the heart there is hardness which can only be softened by remembrance of Allah. So the slave must treat the hardness of his heart with the remembrance of Allah.”
7- Set a time for seeking forgiveness: The Prophet ﷺ told us: “The one who (regularly) seeks forgiveness, Allah will relieve him of every burden, and make from every discomfort an outlet, and He will provide for him from (sources) he never could imagine.” (Abu Dawud)
These are some of the things that we can do if we find that we have time. Of course, we may also be dealing with other things, and we will discuss them in another letter insha’Allah (God willing). But if we find ourselves with an abundance of time, we can start by returning to Allah (swt).
Someone with (a little more) time