How the Quran Comforts People Feeling Isolated
10th October 2022
For #WorldMentalHealthDay we look at how the Quran has comforted those who have felt loneliness and isolation.
We hear the term ‘mental health’ a lot nowadays, but what it actually means might be different for each individual. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.
Many things challenge our state of wellbeing in everyday life. Sometimes we may feel that our situation is unique, and different from others around us, and no one would be able to truly understand what we are going through. For a lot of us, this may make us feel isolated and alone. As Muslims, we may feel we are treading a very lone path in this world.
As we look for guidance and support from our Creator, I share five Quranic examples where Allah provides support to the isolated.
Fewness of Number
Living in a world surrounded by secularism or people following their desires, it may seem sometimes we are few in number when practising Islam. We may be the only person praying or fasting at work or college.
During the early days of Islam, many new Muslims endured harsh treatments and severe persecutions at the hands of Quraysh in Mecca. The Muslims lived in fear of being abducted, God reminds them of that state:
And remember when you were few and oppressed in the land, fearing that people might abduct you, but He sheltered you, supported you with His victory, and provided you with good things – that you might be grateful.
Before the Prophet (PBUH) found shelter in Medina, he faced difficulties in establishing a Muslim identity in Mecca. It may be that we are few in our number in our own lands and fear persecution due to being Muslim. The Quran hints at the fewness of the number in the Last Days: “A few of the later peoples” (56:14) would be forerunners in drawing nearness to Allah (SWT).
The few who follow the path of Islam around us shouldn’t deter us from the truth, and we remain thankful to Allah (SWT) for the good He has given us and remain steadfast that His support will come to the pious:
Moses reassured his people, “Seek Allah’s help and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah ˹alone˺. He grants it to whoever He chooses of His servants. The ultimate outcome belongs ˹only˺ to the righteous.”
For some of us, it may sometimes feel as if things have come to a halt or there is no real change in our lives. Life may sometimes start to feel mundane or repetitive, we may feel that we aren’t achieving our goals or that things sit still without any progress. Allah (SWT) compares this with the stillness of night-time (93:2). At one time, 15 days had passed since the Prophet (PBUH) received any revelation from Allah (SWT). During this time, the polytheists taunted the Prophet that he was being neglected by Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) thereafter revealed the verse:
your Lord has not abandoned you, nor has He despised(you).”
It may seem at times that things may not be moving, or we may lose hope or feel isolated, but we continue to remember that whatever Allah (SWT) has planned for us is better for us, even if that means that things don’t change to how they are at present. Allah (SWT) is present with us in times of stillness and in times of change.
A lot of us have experienced abandonment by those we love or trust, or in times we needed our support the most. In the Battle of Uhud, the Muslims thinking that they had won, abandoned the Prophet (PBUH) prematurely. In total, 85 Muslims were martyred, including the chief of martyrs, the beloved uncle of the Prophet (PBUH), Hamzah (as). The Prophet (PBUH) himself was severely injured and falsely declared deceased. However, in his exemplary mercy, he showed leniency towards the Muslims and forgave them for abandoning him.
And if you are killed in the cause of Allāh or die – then forgiveness from Allāh and mercy are better than whatever they accumulate [in this world].”
If such an injustice fell on us, we would be harsh in our speech and would move away from those that abandoned us. However, at his peak of moral character, Allah (SWT) commends the Prophet’s (PBUH) gentleness:
So by mercy from Allāh, [O Muḥammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allāh. Indeed, Allāh loves those who rely [upon Him].
We learn to forgive and still consult with people but to rely on Allah (SWT) alone, as Allah (SWT) will not abandon the believer, and He is fully cognizant and aware of the injustice. Sometimes we rightly feel emotions of anger and resentment toward those that abandoned us in our time of need or spread false news about us. However, in any circumstance, we learn that hard-heartedness and harsh words only lead to further isolation.
There may be times that we were subjected to temptation or abuse while we had no witness except Allah (SWT) to support or defend us. Prophet Yusuf (as) was unmarried when Zulaykha, the wife of Aziz tried to seduce him. He was completely alone with her. However, Allah (SWT) had provided him with wisdom and knowledge (12:22), which protected him in maintaining his sincerity to Allah (SWT).
And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof [i.e., sign] of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our sincere servants.
Zulaykha accused Prophet Yusuf (as) of seducing him. It would be easier to believe that the unmarried male slave in the prime of his youth would be guilty while the noble, royal, older married woman would be innocent. However, in such an impossible situation, Allah sent a witness who wasn’t even present to testify:
[Joseph] said, “It was she who sought to seduce me.” And a witness from her family testified, “If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has told the truth, and he is of the liars.”
This reminds us that even in times when we may feel we were alone, Allah (SWT) is with us and can help us out of any situation.
Sometimes we are in situations where we have to isolate ourselves as we fear that there may be false rumours that spread about us. We are reminded of Sayyeda Maryam (sa), who isolates herself in a remote place (19:22) when she is given the news of pregnancy. The pain of childbirth while being alone with no helper in the middle of the desert made Sayyeda Maryam (sa) think of death:
Then the birth pangs compelled her to come to the trunk of the palm tree. She said, “If only I had died before this and been a thing forgotten, completely forgotten!”
She was comforted by Prophet Isa (as) who asked her not to grieve and made her aware of the dates (sunnah to be eaten after childbirth) and the stream of water around her. Her thoughts of death only bothered her for a short time, but she feared her chastity would be in question when she would return to her uncle and her community. However, what is interesting here is that she is recommended the fast of silence:
So eat and drink and let your eye be comforted, but if you see any human being, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to the All-Merciful, so I will not speak to any human today.’”
The people thought that as Maryam (sa) had done a terrible, unprecedented act, she was silent. This gives us the understanding that not everyone needs to know the truth immediately, and there is much wisdom in maintaining silence rather than responding to every accusation.
As we fast from food and drink, we also need to preserve our tongues from lying, disputing or hurting others, as well as lowering the gaze and being free from envy.
Ali Jaffery is the founder of Strong Support, a UK Muslim not-for-profit organisation .