As women, we are often oblivious to our own needs and states due to the constant demands of life; whether that may be our kids, husbands, jobs, school, or volunteering-even societal pressures. We are natural born givers and are constantly giving selflessly in so many areas of our lives that we forget the importance and power of self-care.
I remember a time in my life where I was working, volunteering for my community and running a business. I would get home late from a long, hard day and pass out immediately everyday. I was always on the go, ignoring my health and forgetting to check on the state of my heart. I was stressed out and my dhikr (remembrance) of Allah was at an all time low and let’s not even mention my Sunnah prayers, May Allah forgive me.
As women, we are created to be intuitive and empathetic creatures and the funny thing is... we forget this! We must engage these God given strengths and use them to look within ourselves. We go about life day in and day out with this untapped gift waiting to be used to its full potential. Once we conquer this, our lives will change insha-Allah. The way we can master our gifts is by intentionally setting time out for ourselves to reflect, express, de-stress, and build that relationship with Allah which is the foundation of it all.
Reflection in our faith is emphasized throughout the Quran and Sunnah. Reflecting both on His creation and our own selves. Check your heart, body and mind. Ask yourself questions; How is your heart with Allah? What are the illnesses in your heart that need purification? How is your health? What can you do to take better care of yourself? How are you doing mentally? Have you been swarmed with negative thoughts? Ask yourself what you are grateful for and reflect on the favours that Allah has bestowed upon you. SubhanAllah, the amount of times He has saved you and how apparent and encompassing his Rahma is if only you reflect. We should truly acknowledge our current state and always strive for improvement. As the greatest Jihad is of the nafs.
كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
"Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who reflect." [10:24]
Expression is a beautiful way to nurture our spirit and for some of us, this practice is completely foreign. Growing up, art was natural for me, whether that was drawing, writing, dancing etc. However, as I became an adult and the demands of work and family came into play it became an ancient practice in my life. Only recently, through building my relationship with Allah and understanding the importance of it, I began expressing myself again. As women, our brains are slightly more complicated. Everything is connected and intertwined. Expression is a way to loosen the wires and release the piled up emotions. Whether that's through poetry, painting, drawing, or journaling. We need an avenue where we can express ourselves and a space where our inner voice is released.
As women living in this demanding world it is important for us to treat ourselves. Make the time to have your hot cup of chai, slap on a face mask, or jump in a hot bath and devour some dark chocolate.
I like to call this “just do you”. This includes not feeling guilty for treating yourself either. The guilt that we may have comes from a place where our intention is not pure. If you are doing this for the sake of revenging against society, family, the pressure and demands of work, then you will feel guilty. But if you are doing it for the sake of Allah because you are His creation and you must take care of your mental health, then you will feel content. This comes from a place of healthy self love where you acknowledge your unique individual self and understand that you can serve people best when you are at your best.
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "O `Abdullah! Have I not been formed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?" I said, "Yes, O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)!" He said, "Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you." [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
4. Building your relationship with Allah
Lastly, and most most importantly is to take that time to be in remembrance of Allah and build your relationship with Him. This is the foundation of self-care. Without this everything else is irrelevant.
A practice of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and many other Prophets including Prophet Ibrahim and Sayyidatuna Maryam a.s – as mentioned in the Quran – is seclusion. The Prophet ﷺ would leave his family and affairs and go in a state of a seclusion and dhikr of Allah which is the ultimate self-care even though He ﷺ was always in constant remembrance of Allah. As well as Sayiddatuna Maryam who was a devoted member of the temple and was known for being in secluded worship.
إِنَّ الله لا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
“Allah does not change a condition of a people unless they change what is in their hearts” [13:11]
If we are in a sincere state of seclusion in dhikr of Allah, then we are striving for Allah to change the state of our hearts and purify it from its illnesses. At the same time you are nurturing your relationship with Allah which is the foundation of what self care is built on. In order to serve your family, friends, community, and our world in a healthy and sustainable way we must understand that we can serve it best when our souls are nurtured and our relationship with Allah is strong.
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ تَزَكَّىٰ، وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى
"He has succeeded who purifies himself, remembers the name of his Lord and prays." [87:14]