No one is free from illness, it’s something that is in our genes passed through generations; or it’s because of something as simple as what we ate for lunch. Just when you think it could never happen to you, there it is and now you’re left to cope with it — the good, the bad and the ugly.... and sometimes it can get really ugly; and sometimes you are even left to cope with it all alone. Our illnesses can range from the common cold to the more serious and sometimes terminal diseases, such as cancer.
There is a broad range of hardships that our bodies must endure through an illness, but one thing that minor afflictions and severe diseases have in common is that they debilitate us in some form. They prevent us from living our lives as we choose by inhibiting our families and ourselves from carrying on with our normal day-to-day routines. It is hard enough to struggle with the physical aspects of an illness, but add to that the toll that it takes on us emotionally. While we cope with our sickness, many times our families also cope with our care. When we’re sick or caring for someone that is, it can drain what little energy we have left — leaving us feeling hopeless and empty. We have become so reliant on searching for the cure in the form of a pill - and while it is a sound practice for us all to put our physical bodies in the care of doctors and medicine to help cure our sickness - we often fail to treat our souls. As many of us know all too well, there are not always medicinal cures for the physical body. However, in sharp contrast, there is always a remedy ready and waiting for our soul. Relying upon our Creator and our deen (religion) can help us all through those tough times, giving us a renewed energy and an optimistic outlook for our future at the time when things seem to be going all wrong. Allah is there for us in our time of need, but we must compel ourselves to rely on Him and then on our community.
Putting our priorities in order
Who among us in this life has not been touched with this trial through a beloved family member or friend? What action did we take? Did we sit by and do nothing while there was suffering, or did we fulfill the rights of the ailing person? Some of us have realized their duty and fulfilled it.
Still, there are others who do not care and leave their sick alone — making them prisoners of their agony and sadness, leaving them to the worry and concern of their own healthcare and ailment. How many of us who fell sick and ended up being disappointed by our friends, whom we had trusted and with whom we wasted our time? Disappointed because upon becoming ill, those very friends were absent, nowhere to be found nor heard from again. Illness is a true test of love and friendship. Illness invokes fear in us all, but it’s even scarier to endure it alone. It is a critical time in our life when we all need someone by our side to help us get through it, to reassure us and also to remind us of our deen. Ailments may linger and some may become very painful; some may even stay with the sick until the end of their life’s journey. Yet if the friends do not fulfill their duty toward their fellow Muslim, then they have neglected his rights upon them. It does no good for them to shed vain tears over their shortcomings out of sorrow and sadness after the person has passed away.
However, we are all procrastinators when time comes to carry out good deeds, especially those that can be difficult to deal with. Visiting and caring for those that are ill makes us all take a harsh look at our own lives and makes us realize just how easily we can fall into such circumstances; so, we avoid looking at it or being around it. Allah tells us that, we may hate something that is good for us, and visiting the sick is one of those things we dislike. It is good for us to reacquaint ourselves with the temporary state of our life on this earth. At the same time it is hard and it can be very depressing, but it is an important act that we should not be put off for “some other time”. There is no other time - only right now. We may never get another opportunity for tomorrow . . . and not just to give our care and support to those who are ailing, but also to say those things that are in our hearts. We should make every effort to tell someone how much they mean to us and also to be the one that gets the reward of reminding them about Islam at their most trying and painful time. We will always be busy and have something else to do - there will never be that perfect time so we must put our priorities in order. What is most important to us — a few minutes of relaxation on the couch or our brother or sister in Islam at their greatest time of need? It only takes a few minutes to visit someone, yet our visit could leave a long-lasting impression on them and on their family. We must look outside of our own self-circle and place ourselves in the position of those that are ill. Would we want to be left alone to suffer, or would we rather see the smiling faces of our loved ones by our side, reassuring us of our recovery and of the Hereafter? Our priorities determine our actions.
The obligation of visiting the sick
Obligation and responsibility as Muslims toward one another should play a big role in the decisions we make and the actions we take.
As Muslims it is our duty to strive our best to help others and extend a hand toward them, It is your brother’s right upon us that we hate to see him harmed and step forward to block that harm. If he is touched by any harm, then we must share with him the pain and feel the sadness with him. Yet, if our heart is dead and we are careless because the affliction is not immediately upon us, then such behavior is cruel and contrary to the brotherly feelings that Muslims should have in their hearts. A believer suffers the pain that touches his brother, as Allah’s Messenger said: “The example of believers is in their affection, mercy among themselves is like one body; when a part of this body complains, the whole body responds with sleeplessness and fever.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
That true kinship and empathy for another’s pain is what should push us to find out what bothers our fellow Muslims and will not allow us to rest until that affliction has been resolved. If we succeed in helping, then our face will shine with joy and our conscience will become full of peacefulness.
In this life, man does not live a solitary existence. He lives within a community that contains different types of people - both negative and positive influences. As Muslims, we try our best to strive to be positive and effective in our dealings with one another. This is true even when we deal with people of different faiths. It is because Islam calls for kindness and good conduct with others. Among these kind dealings are the visitation and consolation of the sick.
Throughout the Sunnah, we read about visitation of the sick repeatedly in the pages of ahadeeth. Al-Bukhari narrated on the authority of Abu Moosaa Al-Ash’ari, may Allah be pleased with him, that Allah’s Messenger said: “Feed the hungry, visit the sick and free the captives." Also “The Prophet used to visit his companions while they were sick.” Again Al-Bukhari narrated that Jaabir Ibn 'Abdullaah, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “I became sick and both the Prophet and Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, came walking to visit me.” So, there is no doubt that visiting the sick is from the Sunnah of the Prophet and has many virtues, such as creating closer relationships. It is imperative that the sick receive kind companionship, because often times they become isolated and lonely due to their illness. A short visit from a friend or relative makes them feel valued, loved and gets their mind off of their pain. The family of the patient will also experience some of those same feelings of isolation and loneliness if they are left with the difficult job of caring for those that are ill. Just an acknowledgement from the Muslim community asking about their sick family members shows compassion for our fellow Muslims, and softens our hearts towards one another. Finally we are able to attain an excellent reward from our Creator for visiting the sick.