Recently, my dear friend and sister in Islam suffered a terrible loss.
When I contacted her to see how she was doing, she confided that her pain was even greater because she felt forgotten by the local Muslim community.
Even though her sad news had been traveling around by word of mouth and via social media, very few sisters had taken the time to contact her to offer their condolences or support.
“It makes me wonder how loved I really am,” she admitted. “It is a reminder that true comfort is from Allah SWT alone, and we should rely on Him alone,” she added. “Still, I would have appreciated the support of my friends.”
I was shocked when she told me her story, because she seemed to be universally loved and admired in the community.
She is known for her kindness and warmth, and I literally have never heard a negative word about her.
She seemed to be a friend to everyone, so I was appalled to hear that in her time of need, no one reached out to her.
How could her friends of many years — all of them her sisters in Islam — ignore her sadness?
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim).
Clearly, we Muslims need a reminder to be more compassionate towards each other.
Parts of our “body” are aching and suffering, and we do not seem to notice.
In modern times, many people are putting work, technology, and frivolous pursuits ahead of their relationships.
Sadly, Muslims are not immune to this problem.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own hectic, over-scheduled, and desensitized lives that we do not realize our brothers and sisters are in pain.
Other times, we hear sad news of death, illness, or other problems and assume that others will step up to offer comfort and help.
Or we tell ourselves, “That is so sad! I need to do something to help!” But our good intentions are quickly forgotten in the avalanche of day-to-day tasks that consume our minds.
What should we do when we hear that hardship has befallen our brother or sister in Islam?
What are some concrete steps we can take so that no Muslim feels alone or isolated in their pain?
1- Respond Quickly
The most important thing is to do something immediately, before you can procrastinate or forget.
Even the smallest gesture is better than nothing.
A text message saying, “I’m sorry for your sadness. I’m here for you, and you’re in my duaa” is a positive first step.
Writing a card and dropping it in the mail is an even kinder, more personal gesture.
2- Be Proactive
Concrete actions are even better than words. It might not be helpful enough to ask a grieving person, “What can I do for you?” She might be too shy to name specific needs or be too overwhelmed to think of them.
So be proactive and offer some suggestions. If you know she loves a certain dish, text her and tell her that a hot meal will be delivered to her doorstep at a certain time.
If she has children, you could offer to come to her home and play with the kids while your friend takes a soothing bath, makes necessary phone calls, or simply has some quiet personal time.
When parents are suffering, they often have to put their own needs and emotions on hold while they care for their children.
An opportunity for an hour or two of self-care would probably be greatly appreciated by any mom or dad.
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Kind actions do not need to be elaborate. Sometimes, the simplest heartfelt gestures are the most meaningful.