It’s a matter of perspective.
One can be alone but not lonely.
You come home, make a cup of tea, sit in your chair and all around there is silence, is that loneliness or freedom? An introvert may find this to be absolute bliss as they can be drained by the energies of big crowds and busy days, yet they are also simultaneously energised by deep and engaging conversation and so even they cannot go for long without human interaction. However, there are those who crave company and connection, yet cannot find it. Sometimes we all need a conversation, a kind touch, energy in the room, someone’s gaze on us as we speak about the things we love, someone to notice a change in our appearance, someone to ask how we are. For what is life without people to share it with?
How many of us get lost in the world with just our phones and social media relationships? How many people go for days without seeing anyone? Without sharing a meal with anyone, or an offline conversation that wasn’t anything to do with being online.
Studies show that the key to a happy and healthy life is having strong emotional bonds. Not just many relationships, but it is the quality of the relationships that matter. Having strong and good quality relationships increases our life expectancy and gives us greater immunity to disease, we are more likely to be doing well in other areas of our life, due to being supported and validated and we are generally happier.
Let’s look at the situation for a refugee, who has already faced possibly the most lonely journey, having to leave their home, all that is familiar to them, not to mention the horrific ordeals they have already gone through which led them to the decision to leave in the first place. After a journey that feels never-ending, they are likely to wait in centres and then they are then ‘homed’ in a strange city where they may know people but there is no history, or support network. It can feel like they are aliens in a strange land.
There are those who are surrounded by friends and family and yet seemingly alone, because of something that makes them different, faith, religion, beliefs, it could be many things, imagine the revert to Islam who’s family either don’t want to accept their choice, or even the ones who do accept it but can’t quite understand what the revert is going through, either euphoria, or confusion. We need people to share our highs and not just our lows.
You’ve seen it often, people sitting around a table, friends, or family, and everyone’s looking down, tapping away, at their phones. Talking about ‘being out’ on their social media, but not even being present. Those who can’t find anyone who’s not busy enough to spend time with them. The culture of busy is creating a situation where isolation is normal. It can become unquestionable to complain against this normality.
Sometimes the path we are on is meant to be walked alone, because in walking alone, we will gain the strength, knowledge and growth that we would not otherwise gain if we had someone to lean on and rely on. In the feeling of abandonment there is perhaps a lesson, that we can rely on none other than Allah SWT and that though we have been given halal relationships in which to find mercy and comfort, we are reminded that we have entered the world alone and will leave the world alone also. We will be alone then the time comes to answer for our actions, and so really, we should learn early on to not fear being alone for it will come to us at points in our life and if we can gain strength from this and see the blessing then loneliness can be a time of growth too.
As Muslims we have the greatest comfort when we feel lonely. We have the assurance that Allah SWT is always with us. He is closer to us than our jugular vein (Qur’an 50:16). There is no greater time to be closer to Allah SWT than when we are truly alone and in need of comfort, company and recognition. We know that we don’t even have to speak of our loneliness, we don’t even need to shed tears or become hopeless, because HE knows.
Of course, we should still strive to build bonds and improve our relationships because it is with these strong connections that we grow and with love and mercy that we live in peace, but if we ever find ourselves crying out for company, let us not forget to look past the creation and look instead toward the creator himself for the peace and love that we truly seek.
For if we place Allah SWT firmly at the centre of our hearts, we will never be alone, no matter how it looks from the outside.