I hear endless excuses for why women (especially Muslims) can’t/won’t get any alone time. Nearly all don’t even make sense. As someone who gets regular emails from women pining to get away but they say they just can’t, I think about this issue a lot. I wonder why they even email me if they know they just can’t get away, but I guess this is because they either want me to tell them what they know in their heart of hearts – that this is not true, they CAN take time away from their families – or maybe they want me to show them the secret tunnel to get out, how myself and the other retreaters escape. One thing I have continually returned back to is: where does women’s alone time reveal itself in Islamic traditions?
Currently we have masses of people falsely believing that women are designed differently from men. They believe that a woman never wants to be physically away from her family (children, parents, husband, in-laws, whomever) unless there is something biologically wrong with her. Men don’t generally whine for their alone time, but they certainly get it by various means – travelling for work or play, commuting, walking/driving to the masjid (alone), relaxing after work (don’t bother dad/your man after he’s had a hard day) or whatever. People just accept that it’s natural that men take their down time and that women get none. While the sunnah has examples of men (especially prophets) going off to caves and mountains for their retreat times, and another common occupation for the thoughtful man was to be a shepherd, was there anything similar for women? Yes!
Right within the Prophet’s (SAW) household, at least half of the Mothers of the Believers were not actually mothers. Every night they returned to the privacy and solitude of their own homes. These women, who are known to be among the best of humankind, who did exemplary charitable works and otherwise worked very hard, had nearly daily (I’m sure they had visitors and of course visits from the Prophet, too) time to retreat from the world and recharge themselves. They weren’t forced to live with anyone else, and it wasn’t abnormal for these women to have solitude. I’m sure it fortified them, just as it is medically known to fortify and be healthy for people to have quiet, reflection time. I wish more women would stop accepting paltry excuses and embrace this basic bodily right.
*Maybe “field notes” will be a series of reflections from my recent solo trip to the embrace of dozens of loving sisters in the UK.