Dealing with the pain of Seclusion, Isolation and Separation
As we enter 1,496 lunar years since the birth of our beloved Prophet (pbuh), the earth remains gripped in the throes of a dreadful pandemic. After 19 months since its advent, we are all still reeling under turbulent waves of the worldwide COVID-19 contagion that has (to date) infected over 236 million and cost the lives of over 4.8 million people worldwide. The pain of separation and seclusion due to the pandemic lockdown and related restrictions is pervasive. It is a pain that can be distressing for most, has been devastating for some and traumatic for many.
Degrees of Separation
As we endure differing degrees of isolation and separation, many experience an intense sense of helplessness, a fear of being infected, the pain of losing a dear one and the inability to visit the sick or console the bereaved. Being separated from loved ones in their most desperate hours of need increases anxiety which leads to a whole range of negative emotions such as fear, frustration, desperation, despair and hopelessness.
Aware of the fact that the Prophet encouraged us with the words, “There are no omens/warnings/trying situations, but the best response to it is optimism” [Sahih Muslim]; we realize that neither seclusion nor isolation are new phenomena. These were often experienced during significant phases in the lives of Prophets and their relatives. Prophet Yusuf was cast into the prison by the ruler of Egypt from which he eventually earned his freedom; Sayyidah Mariam in the mihrab (niche of the house of worship) as a child where she was spiritually nurtured and she later found solitary relief under the tree while being alone in her pregnancy of Prophet ‘Isa; Prophet Yunus was in the depths of the ocean before he found eventual relief; the Ashabul Kahf youth found safety from persecution in the isolation of a cave; and of course Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation while secluded in the Cave of Hira (peace be upon them all).
Each of them endured the trial of seclusion, the pain of separation and the daunting experience of isolation; but all with faith in their hearts, trust in the Divine and hope in their minds. They imbibed what the Quran exhorts, “Never lose hope in the spirit of relief from Allah. [Quran 12:87]
We note that the human potential for hope is an essential antidote to despair; it is the thoughts that you keep in your mind and attitude in your heart that anticipates a positive, pleasant, rewarding, relieving outcome that you desire. Positivity is exemplified in the hopeful efforts of an exhausted sayyidah Haajar as she ran alone between the hills of Safa and Marwa in search of water to quench the thirst of her darling son Isma’il; it is demonstrated in the dependence on the Almighty of little Yusuf as he was dropped into the lonesome darkness of a well; it is illustrated in the patience of a young Ibrahim as he was singularly flung into the fire; it is typified in the separation of baby Musa from his dear mother as she cast him in a basket onto a river in hope of his safety; it is epitomized in the persevering spirit of ’Isa as political and religious authorities of the day connived to crucify him.
The Prophet’s Trials of Separation
Our beloved Prophet endured numerous trials of loneliness in various stages of his illustrious life; the loss of his father before his birth, the loss of his mother in his childhood, periods of solitary contemplation in the Cave of Hira before revelation, the ostracization by his people when he introduced his mission, the three year boycott by the Makkans that led to isolation at Shi’b Abu Talib, the attempted assassination during his last days in Makkah and finding cover in the Cave of Thawr during his migration to Madinah.
The positive spirit of hope and tawakkul (optimistic reliance on relief from the Divine) accompanied each of these models of excellence during their trying periods of separation and isolation. May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them all. Being positive about life ahead is among life's greatest motivators; and hope is the best attitude towards the future; that realistic expectation that, in-sha-Allah, something good or better could or will happen, if we faithfully and positively continue doing the best we can. It is by the will of Allah and their positive spirit that sayyidah Haajar did eventually find water through Zamzam well, Prophet Joseph was saved from the well, Prophet Abraham was protected from the fire, Prophet Moses did find eventual safety on the banks of the Nile River, the Messiah Jesus was not crucified and Prophet Muhammad did find a safe passage way to Madinah; peace be upon them.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) recommended; “When anyone of you calls upon Allah, always hope for the best.” [Ibn Habban]. If there is faith in the heart, with the elements of optimism and a positive spirit through periods of isolation, then perchance the rays of hope could lighten the burden of separation and loneliness.