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It is narrated that when Sayyidina Siiri Siqti RA once fell ill, some people visited him and sat there for a long time. After some time, they asked him to make dua for them. He reportedly prayed as follows:
“O Allah! Teach them how to visit the sick!”
Sickness is one of the motifs of the Divine plan of life on this earth, and responding to it appropriately is an opportunity ripe with potential of reward in the Shariah.
The Ahadeeth famously chronicle how those who visit the ill, morning or evening, are engulfed with the Duas of Mercy of the angels for the remainder of the day.
Nabi Muhammad SAW is also reported to have said that when a person goes to visit the sick he enters into the Mercy of Allah SWT. Thereafter, when he sits with the sick person, he is completely covered in the Mercy of Allah.
It is narrated that Allah SWT will say on the Day of Judgement: “Son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me”.
“My Lord, How could I visit You when You are the Lord of the Worlds,” the servant will reply.
“Did you not know that one of my servants was sick and you didn’t visit him? If you had visited him, you would have found Me there,” Allah SWT will say. [Sahih al Bukhari]
Whenever someone falls ill in the community, there is generally an outpouring of goodwill, sincere expressions of concern and a readiness to visit and commiserate with the afflicted.
However, no matter how sincere a gesture, it will always have its impact diminished when not accompanied by proper etiquette and due consideration.
Iyaadah(visiting) of the sick is widely practised upon in the community. However, what we do need to be more meticulous in adhering to are the etiquettes of its observance, for it to truly become Ibaadah(worship).
From first hand encounters, there are a number of pitfalls that can be highlighted in the customs of visiting the sick in our communities. Among them are:
‘Investigative journalism’: Whilst it is correct to enquire about the health of the patient, many visitors become overnight sleuths, seeking minute details on the medical condition and making countless queries on the circumstances that led to the present medical condition. Much of this talk is futile, serving no need for the patient, instead satiating one’s own thirst for gossip and potentially deepening the trauma the ailing one is experiencing
Prophets of Doom: As counterintuitive as this may seem, visitors to the sickly continue to share horror stories of hospital nightmares in their presence, comment on the frailty of the patient openly and impart news of the latest tragedies and deaths in the community. This is grossly insensitive, and flies in the faith of the spirit of the Prophetic dua for the ill, which begins with the words: “Do not despair”
‘Indian time’: It is Sunnah to sit at the side of the patient for a short while. Narrations mention this should be as brief as it takes to milk a camel. Other reports indicate that the best form of Iyaadah is to depart quickly after having enquired about the person’s health. The lengthier the stay is with the patient, the more likely it is to morph into futile talk and causing discomfort for the affected. The needs of close family and medical personnel relating to the patient should also be considered.
Socialites: Often the patient becomes just a footnote, as friends and family capitalise on their meeting to share the latest news and mingle amongst themselves. The patient sits writhed on his bed in agony as a flamboyant family reunion – totally disconnected from his reality - rages around him. There should be a time and place for everything.
Lawlessness: In our penchant to socialise, we often become unmindful of our surroundings, blocking walkways in hospitals; our incessant chatter irking off medical personnel and causing discomfort to other patients. The disrespect of visiting times is another major transgression. All of this can have a negative bearing on the image of Muslims.
Buffet style: This is an unintended consequence of our goodwill and generosity. It is totally noble to bring food for the patient and family of the afflicted, and many a time this proves to be most helpful and appreciated. However, one should exercise moderation in the quantities of food sent, as it often accumulates messily, leaving the patient or his/her loved ones with the unenviable task of managing the stockpile
Free-flow: The laws of Hijab still apply, even when visiting the sick. If one cannot be alone with a non Mahram when him/her is healthy, there is no proviso for one to make ‘ziyarah’ of the opposite gender and shake hands when there is illness. Visitors too should maintain a sense of Islamic decorum amongst themselves in their interactions at homes and in waiting areas. They should come dressed Islamically. Also, one should not extend one’s eyes to the parts of the satr of a patient that may be exposed due to a medical condition. Divine Mercies abound around a sick person, but our waywardness can cause this blessedness to dissipate
Forgetting Allah: This has to be the greatest pitfall in our visitation of the sick. The environs of the sick are replete with angels and mercies, and offer us golden opportunities for forgiveness if navigated wisely. The onset of sickness for ourselves or others is an impetus for reflection and introspection on the trajectory of our lives and the strength of our connection with Allah SWT. Our visits to the ill are rendered next to worthless if we do not remember Allah SWT therein, invoke His Mercy, pray for the patient and request his/her prayers. It is said that the sick person resembles the angels since he is being purified from sins and is often found to be engaged in abundant and heartfelts zikr and dua. We should cherish this noble sitting and aspire for communion with Allah SWT therein. gold cocktail dresses
Most of the shortfalls in etiquette outlined above, it should be emphasized, are not indulged in wilfully. In times of crises and suffering, the spirit of brotherhood, solidarity and generosity within our communities are exemplary. This post is simply meant to be a gentle nudge towards realising some of our lapses in etiquette that we may have inadvertently overlooked.
If considered and amended, our visits to the sick can truly become akin to a stroll through Jannah. As a narration states, the person who visits his sick brother will continue plucking the fruits of Jannah until he returns..