Alone Time

The Benefits of Solitude

The Benefits of Solitude

“Remembering Allah verbally is good, but contemplating about the blessings of Allah is the best act of worship.”

Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz

In an always connected world, we are never truly alone. Through our phones and social media, we never give ourselves enough time to think, reflect, or even engage in quality worship. Making time to be alone and spending that time in a way that is pleasing to Allah is an integral part of purifying the soul. It is in solitude that we develop our best ideas, find solutions to our problems, unlock deeper understandings of our scriptures, and benefit from quality alone time with Allah. Solitude is therefore crucial for success in every aspect of our life.

The Prophet ﷺ received the first revelation in the cave of Hira. He had already been there for a few days, and it was his habit to isolate himself from society for a few days to contemplate and figure out solutions to the problems facing his community. Spending time alone to think deeply or to worship Allah is a cherish Sunnah that we need to revive in our times. It has a rich history and there are many great examples of this throughout Muslim history.

When Ibn Taymiyyah was thrown in prison, he cherished the idea that it would be a khalwa (solitude) with Allah. He used that time to worship Allah, reflect, and to write his books. When Ibn al-Haytham was placed under house arrest, he used that time to think and experiment and ended up figuring out the science of optics. When Imam al-Ghazali felt that he was getting too popular and was worried that it would affect his intentions, he disappeared from society to focus on purifying his soul. There are many other examples like this showing that many of the great all practised solitude in different ways at different points in their lives.

A Balanced Approach

Solitude is something built into our religion, but Islam also warns us against complete isolation. A believer must find balance between making time to sit alone and worship Allah, and time to serve the community and take care of the family. Complete isolation is unnatural and derives one of the benefits of being part of the ummah. Solitary confinement is a punishment for a reason, and one should not put oneself into voluntary confinement. The key is to make time for oneself, while still being part of society.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The believer who mixes with people and is patient with their harm has a greater reward than the believer who does not mix with people, nor is patient with their harm.”

Ibn Majah 4032

We must keep this hadith in mind when seeking solitude. Solitude should not interfere with our family and communal duties; it should supplement and enhance it. The purpose of making time for oneself in Islam is primarily to worship Allah. Every Muslim should make time to worship Allah in private, the ideal time is during the Last Third of the night but even at any other time it is beneficial and a great deed. There are other usages of solitude as well which includes deep thinking, contemplation, meditation, and problem solving. It is when we take time to sit alone and think deeply that we develop our best ideas and solutions to our problems.

The benefits of solitude are many, but for the sake of brevity I will just list the primary benefits here:

  1. Quality sincere worship of Allah
  2. Focused time to do deep work or think deeply
  3. Potential of solving complex problems
  4. Potential to overcome dark thoughts and work through them
  5. An opportunity to unlock deeper understandings of Islamic scripture
  6. A chance to reset the mind and take a break from pressures of society

These benefits alone should make solitude something we all should carve time out for regularly.

How to maximize your alone time

Alone time works best when it is structured, and you have a process. If you block out time to be alone but do not plan how you will use that time, then you may end up wasting it with entertainment, dark thoughts, or even sinful deeds. To avoid this, alone time must be planned and structured. Here are some ways to use this time productively.

Engage in extra acts of worship – Utilize a portion of your alone time to worship Allah. This gives you some quality worship that is free from any wrong intentions. Every Muslim should have secret good deeds that only Allah knows about. Use this time to recite Quran, pray Salah, make dua, and engage in zikr and istighfār. Maming time daily for private worship is a must for every believer.

Have a clear agenda of topics to focus on – When sitting down to think, have a clear agenda. Do not allow your mind to wonder freely from topic to topic. Go in with specific topics to reflect on or problems to solve. Focus on those topics and avoid any topics that distract you from your goals.

Create a beautiful environment for solitude – Build for yourself an ideal environment for deep thinking. How this environment looks will differ from person to person. The goal is to have a place you can go to that is free from distraction, and that inspires you to think deeply and positively. Many people benefit from being out in nature for their alone time. Others prefer a small room with some comfy features. Find what works for you and set up your thinking space.

Give yourself a time limit – Alone time should not override your duties. You still need to work, care for your family, and serve your community. To ensure that your thinking time does not violate the rights of others, give yourself a strict time limit. As soon as the time is over, move on to the next priority on your to-do list.

Obstacles to solitude

There are many reasons why people are unable to find time for themselves today. For some, life is too busy, and they do not view it as a priority. For others, they have surrounded themselves with so many distractions (media, social media, technology) that they are never truly alone with their thoughts. A big one today though is that many people are afraid of their own thoughts.

Everybody has dark thoughts lurking deep in their minds. For many people, they avoid these thoughts by distracting themselves constantly from thinking and being alone. Because of this, they never confront these thoughts or work through them. To unlock deeper parts of our brain, we need to work through whatever is clouding our minds. This means making time to face our dark thoughts, work through them, resolve them, and discover deeper parts of ourselves. Do not be afraid to face the darkness within. It is better to recognize it, face it, and overcome it internally, than to ignore it as it festers and grows uncontrollably.

Another common obstacle to solitude are our gadgets. We are constantly connected with the rest of the world through the internet. Because of this, we are never truly alone. To overcome this, when blocking out time to be alone, switch off your devices and detox from the online world. Let your family or co-workers know that you cannot be disturbed for the assigned time unless it is an emergency and close all unnecessary channels of communication. This will give you the focused alone time you need to get things done.

Getting Started

For some people, making time to be alone may be very new. It is, however, one of the best habits you can learn at any point in life. Making time daily to worship Allah in private and to think deeply is a great way to enhance the quality of your life. Get started today by setting a time, choosing your environment, and deciding on a topic to reflect on. Start small and build a consistent habit of deep reflection in solitude. Remember that small consistent good deeds are most valuable in the long run.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.”

Ibn Majah 4240

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, Life Hacks, Positive Thinking