By Aliya Vaughan
Many of us have been struggling with loneliness during the Coronavirus lockdown. Trying to reach out to other sisters across social media and Zoom has become increasingly problematic. Even sisters with established friendship networks are finding it difficult to maintain rapport and ignite those ‘happy hormones’ that are only truly possible through close physical contact and real social life experiences.
In one of my earlier blogs called ‘Finding Allah down under’ I recalled the time when a spiritual seed was sown during my travels to Australia. Although it started out well, the recession had made it difficult for me to find the jobs I needed to work and travel around the country. The backpacker’s partying lifestyle also became boring, empty and meaningless and despite being surrounded by many likeminded people, I had never felt so alone and unhappy. I was also going through a few tests and I was far away from my family and friends. I couldn’t even express how I felt, as I didn’t think anyone would understand or relate to me. How was it possible to feel so miserable when I was fulfilling a ‘once in a lifetime dream?’
Little did I realise that this time of isolation and loneliness was the beginning of my spiritual journey to find God. I remember thinking there must be someone who understood what I was going through; a higher power; a super, intellectual source that knew me better than I knew myself…
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Indeed, ˹it is˺ We ˹Who˺ created humankind and ˹fully˺ know what their souls whisper to them, and We are closer to them than ˹their˺ jugular vein.”
Surah Qaf 50:16
The reason why I begin my blog with a seemingly unrelatable story is because whether we are surrounded by many people, or whether we are in a room all on our own, loneliness can strike anyone. However, we are never truly alone as Allah is with us throughout, not physically, but by His Knowledge: He Knows our innermost thoughts, even those of sadness. Allah Knows, He cares and He will guide us through our lonely times. Instinctively, I must have known this while I was in Australia, although I wasn’t a religious person back then.
It’s not for me to assume the wisdom behind Allah’s plans for this coronavirus lockdown, but I would like to think that just as with any beautiful relationship, it is so we can give our exclusive and undivided attention to Allah, alone. This lockdown has been imposed upon us, but who better to spend time with than our Beneficent Creator? We can best use this time to get to know who Allah really is; to familiarise ourselves with His Names and Attributes and to understand what He likes and what He doesn’t like.
We can also spend this time getting re-acquainted with who we are, as we are not the same person that we used to be. We are constantly changing and evolving as we learn more about our new found faith. Not only can we learn how to best please Allah and get closer to Him, but we can also find out what we really want from life, and the best way to live it as a Muslim: Isolation is not always a welcome situation, but it does free us from certain peer pressures and unnecessary distractions and temptations that could hinder us in this important developmental process.
Although clichéd as it may sound, I’d like to think that this lockdown period is like the transformative phase that a caterpillar has to go through when cocooned inside its chrysalis. By creating a deeper and more meaningful connection with God ,we too might emerge from our COVID cocoon like a beautiful butterfly; ready to experience the world from a completely new, enlightened perspective.
Perhaps many of us feel we’ve been spiritually reflecting long enough. Perhaps we’re desperate to break free from our chrysalis and get out into the world again. But let us be patient a little while longer, my dear sister. This penultimate time period is when the butterfly is not quite ready to fly but first needs to pump blood into her wings to help them expand. Without this final phase, we might not be able to fly or in some cases we might not be able to survive.
As well as improving our relationship with Allah, we should take this time to reflect upon the areas of our faith we are not so familiar with. Perhaps we can be more productive by reading Islamic books and scholarly articles; searching for online sister support groups; watching videos and gaining more knowledge from reputable scholars and teachers who can explain certain topics in more depth. Perhaps we can write down our strengths and weaknesses and the areas we need to improve on. Then read, learn and practise, practise, practise.
Which topics need revising – is it tawheed, the prayers, wudhu, Qadr? Do we want to learn Arabic, tajweed or read, recite and memorise more Qu’ran? Maybe we want to remind ourselves of the stories of the prophets or the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ). Many of them were isolated and alone with only Allah to turn to, but they all had their duas answered and their situation improved beyond their wildest imagination: Hajar was isolated and alone in the desert, only to be blessed with the purest water, Zam Zam, and to establish what was to become the holiest city on earth; Prophet Yusuf was alone inside a well and later incarcerated for years for a crime he did not commit, but was exonerated and raised to a position of honour and prestige; Prophet Yunus was alone in the belly of the whale but was forgiven, and went on to spread the message of Allah that transformed the people of Ninevah.
“Indeed, We have created everything, bi-Qadar (perfectly preordained).”
Surah Al-Qamar 54:49
Let us not curse this time or abuse it with meaningless activities. Even if we spend our time learning new talents, skills or improving our creative capabilities, it will be time well spent. Even taking up a new hobby is rewarding and productive. Allah is the controller of time and He never sends a delay or a restriction without good reason. Likewise, Allah always allows good to follow any disaster, tragedy or unfavourable situation. We just need to trust in His plan. There may be much wisdom in all of us being contained and confined to one place, and our busy lives slowed and curtailed. We may look back and realise that this time was in fact, a blessing and a golden opportunity to reap the long-term benefits of spiritual and self-betterment. These benefits may be seen once we come out of lockdown, or in a few years’ time, but almost certainly we will see them in the Hereafter. So, let us cherish this moment, and use our time wisely and spend it in the best of pursuits. Let us also keep making dua for Allah to remove our feelings of loneliness and isolation and bless us with the best of company. During lockdown, Allah is our Best Company, but He can also bless us with good company with other sisters, even if it is through social media and Zoom. If you find these platforms a bit inhibiting, search out a sister who you naturally gravitate to and perhaps communicate with her on a one to one. Maybe together you can support each other and grow together, bi’idnillah. This time is not in vain and will soon come to an end, but at least we would have used our time wisely and productively improving our relationship with Allah, with ourselves, others and our faith.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:
“Allah said, ‘The son of Adam hurts me for he abuses Time though I am Time: in My Hands are all things, and I cause the revolution of day and night.’
Aliya Vaughan has been a Muslim for 25 years and lives in the UK with her husband and children. She is a qualified life coach and author. Her award-winning children’s story ‘A Race to Prayer’ is available from Kube Publishing.
You can follow her at aliya_vaughan on Instagram.