Written By Sumaiyah Al-Aidarous
The current health crisis has meant that more families than ever, around the world are grieving the loss of somebody they loved. With Ramadan now here, a chance every year to dedicate our days to worship, reflect and spiritually blossom, we can use this month to aid in our grieving process. Not only is Ramadan an emotional time for those who have faced recent deaths, but as Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr is a time for family and friends to come together, the memory of those we’ve lost in previous years can re-enter in the form of a sharp and jarring pain, where it feels like the grief is re-bleeding from within. However, the blessings of this month can be used as painkillers for the soul, and the emotional suffering we face can be used as a means to disentangle the complicated emotions we might be feeling with the goal of deepening our connection with our Creator.
إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون
To Allah we belong and to Allah we return.
Ramadan nights, especially in quarantine is time to be with yourself and your thoughts. This time spent journalling and organising any complex thoughts with your islamic values at heart is an obedient act in the eyes of Allah, and is truly invaluable. It is a really important part of our faith as whilst we submit to Allah’s plans, we will feel grief, sadness and separation. It is important not to ignore these emotions and put them into a closed box, but to embrace and grow from them. Even the Prophet (ﷺ) (p.b.u.h), the most perfect man that has lived felt grief several times in his life, from the loss of his Mother when he was a small child, to the loss of his first wife and close companion, Khadijah (RA), his 3 beloved sons, and countless other sahaba – who he saw die from illness, during battles, or after being tortured by people who refuted Islam. We can learn so much from how Rasulullah (ﷺ) (p.b.u.h) overcame these losses. Even he felt many emotions when these sad events happened and he was not afraid to express his sadness to those around him. However, even when tears were brought to his eyes, he always attributed the losses to Allah’s mercy.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
We went with Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) (p.b.u.h) to the blacksmith Abu Saif, and he was the husband of the wet-nurse of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet). Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) took Ibrahim and kissed him and smelled him and later we entered Abu Saif’s house and at that time Ibrahim was in his last breaths, and the eyes of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) (p.b.u.h) started shedding tears.
‘Abdur Rahman bin `Auf said, “O Allah’s Apostle, even you are weeping!”
He said, “O Ibn `Auf, this is mercy.”
Then he wept more and said, “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim ! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.”
[Sahih al-Bukhari 1303]
Complete submission and acceptance of Allah’s plan requires time and patience, and we need to train our soul to relate everything back to Allah and His mercy. Fighting your nafs (soul), particularly in a secular world can be one of the most challenging tasks, but it is truly through this jihad (struggle) that we strengthen the bonds we have with Allah. Yet we have to be gentle with ourselves, especially when we are bereft. Working through emotions from loss helps us develop mentally and spiritually, and allows us to handle all of life’s challenges in a more gracious way. We believe Allah is the knower of all hearts, and he has made a guarantee that there will be reward for any pain we feel in this world. Sometimes, we may feel like we are fighting an internal battle within ourselves, or we might feel very alone in our grief, particularly as no single person had the same relationship with the one who has passed as us, and so it can feel like no one understands our struggle. But no matter how far everyone else may seem, Allah is closer. He knows exactly how we are feeling, He is waiting for us to turn to Him, and He will never abandon us.
Narrated `Aisha (RA):
(the wife of the Prophet) Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn.”
One of the many ways in which we can begin to cope with bereavement is by doing actions which we will know will benefit the soul of our loved ones that have moved onto the next life. The Prophet (ﷺ) (p.b.u.h) said: “A man’s status will be raised in Paradise and he will ask, ‘How did I get here?’ He will be told, ‘By your son’s du’aa’s (prayers) for forgiveness for you.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no 3660). During this month, where we hope to increase the time we spend in worship, naturally we can spend some time in contemplation and prayer to ask Allah to forgive the sins of those before us and raise their rank in the Heavens. As evidenced by this Hadith, they will be informed of the duas being made for them and this is a sign of the continual love we have for them. Often, missing someone can be difficult because you feel as though you did not have time to repay them for all they did for you in their lifetime, but prayers are the best thing we can do for somebody, and can be reflected as the biggest act of love and kindness. As well as this, Ramadan is the month of sadaqah (charity) and we can dedicate anything we are able to give to our loved ones who are deceased, with the intention of rewards reaching them too.
Ramdan forces us to stop our worldly desires and think about the next life. In the next life, we will surely meet the souls we miss, and this can be a reminder that this time apart is not permanent, which makes it easier to handle. However, it is also a reminder that in the here and now, we must make the best use of the time that Allah has given us, particularly during this month where good deeds are amplified in reward. Grief can be used as a tool to re-evaluate our intentions and there is nothing like seeing the loss of someone close to us to remind us of the transient nature of this life. We can use this special time in reflection to create meaningful spiritual goals for the year ahead. Islam encourages us to think about death constantly to allow us to remain grounded and steadfast, particularly during the month of Ramadan.
Grief is a process and a journey, and you can never really go backwards. As your life changes and you evolve, your relationship with the one who has left this world will change and evolve too, and insha’allah only deepens and strengthens. Months, even years down the line you might come across something which brings back a memory you’ve never replayed in your mind before, or meet someone who knew your loved one so you can hear stories about them all over again. Any work that you put into yourself during this month will always carry you forward, and give you a strong foundation to build on in those moments where you feel weak and are missing them the most. The spiritual and mental renewal that comes from putting your trust in the Most High, accepting that this world is not the best place for the soul of your beloved is second to none and we can use these principles in any challenge that we face in this life.
Featured photography by Nadeem Ghafur @nadeemghafur
Thank you Sumaiyah, for this beautiful and very necessary piece, and your healing words. May our hearts find peace in the gift of Ramadan.