Many things about Islam didn’t come easily to me. There are details, mannerisms, and actions that I didn’t understand the deeper meaning of or didn’t see modeled well enough. The mandate to visit the sick is one of these Islamic things I just didn’t initially get. And it’s a big thing:
“The rights of one Muslim over another Muslim are six… When you meet, you greet with the salaam (i.e. to say: “As-Salamu alaykum”); when invited, you respond to the invitation; when asked to give consults in a matter, you give sincere advice, when one sneezes and praises God, in return you ask God to have mercy on them when sick, you visit; and when they pass away, you accompany the funeral procession.”
I’m sure my first reaction was very Becky of me, “What?! That doesn’t make any sense. People are connntaaaagious.” But then, when I was beginning to do some birth work, I had a different point of view. Casserole drop-offs for new moms are the best. A quick and super beneficial visit. Okay, I got that.
While our timeline is, life isn’t linear. At least not for me. I have to circle back again and again to topics. A few years ago I learned I am, insha Allah, spiraling, moving back around to topics but at a higher level if I have learned anything by the time I return.
Being among Muslims more, I began to see the Muslim way of visiting the sick. This, well, is often no good, unless I’m still missing something, of course. Someone would have a baby and people would stream in and out of the house, sitting for hours, eating elaborate food prepared for them by the women in the baby’s extended family, and usually forcing the new mom to sit with them, regardless of how she felt. I’ve known of women who were not only exhausted, but in physical pain worsened by sitting, yet felt obliged to sit with company for hours, days in a row, while caring for a newborn. And worse still, the newborn is passed around and exposed to a host of germs. I’ve known babies to get colds, herpes, and deadly meningitis.
These practices extend beyond celebrating babies, with visitors sitting with sick people for hours and doing the same kind of endless streams in and out of a home. Of course, guests need to be at least served tea, which standardly comes with a dozen plates of snacks and spreads, or else the sick person’s family will feel ashamed for neglecting guests. They are taking the rights of guests very seriously here. I’ve even seen people flooding through hospital rooms during visitor hours, which, no! Ewe, do we know nothing about how filthy hospitals are?
Now, I’ve come to learn that some people thrive on the energy others share with them. So they will really appreciate a visit to lift their spirits. Then again, too long of a visit will further exhaust them and even tire out those who are caring for the sick. So how does this work Islamically???
Right now I’m sick. Actually, I’m always sort of sick as I have depression, but it comes and goes. I manage it pretty well. These days, stuck on another continent away from my children without any control as to when I can return to them, I am putting in a real good fight to keep my depression at bay. I have some very difficult days, such as yesterday when I went to the airport, trying desperately to be repatriated to Morocco with the Moroccan citizens the government is allowing to return after being shut out for three months due to Corona quarantines. These are the only flights into Morocco until at least mid-July. To simplify a complicated and traumatic afternoon, I was refused to be able to return to my children as I am not Moroccan and only Moroccans are allowed to return.
Maybe you can imagine how painful that was. Made worse by government officials screaming in my face and Turkish police mocking me. I can’t recall the last time I cried for so many continuous hours. I started while getting into a cab, while a sweet young man begged me not to cry. I told him, “It’s okay Mohammed. We have to cry sometimes. This is worth crying over.” I hope he allows himself to cry sometimes too. Five minutes into my hour ride the driver offered me water. I wasn’t even able to respond. Halfway through the ride I think he said in Turkish, “Please woman, just hydrate yourself,” and I finally accepted the bottle from him. He was right; man, how can crying both poof your face up and dry you out?!
I came home to several messages checking in on me. People heard about the flights and were hopeful I would be on them. People have been consistently checking in on me for the three months I have been locked out. Very few people know I have depression. Those who do have been a little more forceful with me, “Are you talking to a therapist?!” Yes, I am!
Mostly I have appreciated all of the reaching out. I’ve taken some issues with the Lookie LueEllens, but will come back to that in a second. It has been terribly lonely here. I am a classic introvert and enjoy my quiet alone time. Still, I am a mom of seven and am used to having plenty of energy around to pick me up whether I know I need it or not. While I don’t always want to respond to the queries about my current situation, I can now see how helpful these e-visits, whether texts or calls, have been to keep my spirits from becoming critically ill. I now understand the importance of visiting the sick. Though I stick by the Islamic mandate to do all things in moderation.
The other Islamic maxim that comes to mind in this life lesson is that of not judging. You know, even if I suspect that someone is a Lookie LueEllen, thriving on my pain, well, I don’t know that.
“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin…” The Rooms 49:12
And you know what, if they are enjoying my misery, then they are sick in their own way. But the thing here is not to judge. We have to keep our hearts as clean as possible. So I ask you not to judge me as I haven’t responded to all the well wishes and inquiries. I also have to seek moderation and not exhaust myself.
I can’t thank my visitors enough. May Allah reward you with better.