MCO as Muslim Contemplative Observance: A boon rather than a bane

By: Dr Abdulwahed Jalal Nori

During this time of crisis, even though most of us are staying at home, we are still facing noises, fake news, negative views, distraction, and misinformation overload to the point that a simple moment of calmness seems impossible. This constant anxiety obstructs us from getting the most out of our faith, subtracting from the quality of our prayers and our ability to remember Allah. As Muslims we are supposed to have faith in the supervision of Allah on our outward and inward states. No matter where we are or how our situation is we continuously must have full knowledge that Allah is aware of us and knows what we are going through. It is our complete state of self-awareness in our relationship with Allah in heart, mind, and body. Allah is always watching us at all times and, as a consequence, therefore, we have to develop greater attention and care for our own actions, thoughts, feelings, and inner states of affairs. Allah says, “Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.” Such state of affair is considered as a spiritual excellence (al-ihsan). As the Prophet SAW defined in the famous hadith of Gabriel, spiritual excellence “is to worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He certainly sees you.” (1)

Then, how can we have more control over our thoughts and behaviours in this time of MCO and perhaps any other future crisis? In this article I argue that exercising khulwah/seclusion with Allah as we stay at home can help discipline our minds in order to handle the current situation, and we must seize this opportunity to be a better person. I start my article with this Hadith of the prophet SAW in which Uqbah Bin Amir asked the prophet what to do at the time of crisis. Uqbah bin ‘Amir said: I asked the Messenger of Allah (SAW), “How can salvation be achieved?” He replied, “Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins.” (2) Hence, as a Muslim at this time of MCO it is our responsibility to do the followings: 

  1. Controlling our tongue 

 The pious or true Muslim understands that controlling the tongue is considered in Islam as the best state of affairs, according to the saying of the Prophet SAW “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak goodness or remain silent.”  Whatever words come out of our mouth or by making a statement in any social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc), should be true, positive and beneficial; otherwise we should remain quiet. If we have nothing good to say or write we should refrain our selves from saying or writing anything at all. Silence has an important effect on our hearts and character, because a habit of bad speech, spreading negativity, creating and spreading fear are the results of an impure heart. The Prophet SAW said, “The faith of a servant is not upright until his heart is upright, and his heart is not upright until his tongue is upright.” The heart and tongue are inextricably linked, so to guard our speech (including our social media activities) is to also guard our hearts. Towards this end, enjoying silence is an aspect of positive character development. Silence is related to Khulwah in that observing silence in seclusion for a regular period of time cultivates presence, which is an opportunity to feel presence before Allah, the same type of presence that we are required to have in our Solat. However, such a state does not mean not thinking about past or the future, to learn from our mistakes, to plan action, to live daily life, or to reflect on our fate. In fact such feeling will strengthen our faith, make us more resilient, robust and prepare us more for where we will go next. Eventually such crisis or any other possible future crisis will never be able to destroy us since we already have a clear picture about our final destination (going back to Allah). Imagine for a moment how much better our life situation would be if we could just sit silently alone in our room, content with simply being in front of Allah. No need for smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, or games, or television, or electronics, or addictions, or any forms of distractions. I am certain that we will be calmer, happier, positive and more satisfied. 

  1. Keep to our house 

Before this crisis we were all preoccupied with our works and personal achievement, often going home late from work and too tired to attend to our children’s needs or family as a whole. MCO is the best opportunity and more important than ever to make our families the centre of our lives and at the top of our priorities.  The family is the nucleus of civilization and the basic social unit of society. Aristotle wrote that the family is nature’s established association for the supply of mankind’s everyday wants. We must insist, once again, that bringing children into the world requires a moral responsibility to provide, not only material necessities, but also moral education and character formation. Moral education is not a task that can be delegated to babysitters, schools, colleges, and universities. It requires close bonding of the kind that typically is formed only with parents, if it is formed at all (5). Therefore, at this time of MCO what we need is a change in orientation, readjusting our life and rethinking and rebalancing about our family. 

  1. Weeping over our sins  

As humans we all have the urges to commit sins. Crying over our sins and repenting to Allah is proof of a person’s piousness and faith. When we make a regular habit of quietly contemplating, thinking about our misbehaviours and remembering Allah, regretting what we have done, shedding tears alone are among the most rewarded in the Hereafter. The Prophet SAW said, “Those in seclusion have raced ahead.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, who are those in seclusion?” The Prophet said, “They are men and women who remember Allah often.” (6) If weeping over our sins in seclusion is properly practiced, it is definitely a cure for anxious feelings in the heart. 

Conclusion 

With Allah’s help certainly we will defeat COVID19 and definitely will survive, most of us still will be alive and for sure we will go back to our normal life. Certainly there is wisdom behind this crisis even if it appears bad.  Allah says in the Quran (perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you and Allah Knows, while you know not). We must ask ourselves not only how to overcome the COVID19 but also how we should inhabit our lives once the storm passes. 

Dr. Abdulwahed Jalal Nori is an Assistant Professor in the Fundamental and Inter-Disciplinary Studies, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, IIUM.

References

1 https://sunnah.com/search/?q=ihsan

2 https://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/18

3 https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2013/06/03/faith-in-allah-last-day/

4 https://abuaminaelias.com/forty-hadith-on-good-character/

5 Abdulwahed Jalal Nori, Restoring moral values, New Straits Times, 3-2-2017

6 https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2016/05/20/dhikr-solitude-remember-allah/

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