The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the Issue of Loneliness Amongst Young People
Loneliness has been one of the primary and most significant challenges encountered by young people from the past to the present. The primary issues that lead young people to experience varying degrees of isolation, especially during the sensitive phase of adolescence, are as follows: The transition from childhood to adolescence, diminishing family involvement as one grows older, lack of love, affection, compliments and appreciation, family discord and lack of healthy communication, humiliation, constantly encountering responses with anger, the pessimistic atmosphere prevailing in society, neighborhood pressure, locked-in questions and problems, offered by the place of staying in terms of future opportunities, disconnection between generations and not having a common language, the dilemma of culture and civilization that one finds himself in if it happens in foreign countries, differences with peers and inability to gain a respectable place among them, loss of environment due to migration and similar reasons and inability to get used to the new environment, emotionality, inability to have deep and strong spiritual bonds related to life, spiritual, mental, emotional, and heart dissatisfaction, bad friends, reasons such as propaganda from popular culture.
When unable to find a genuine, understanding, compassionate, and embracing environment or interlocutor providing answers and solutions, the issue of loneliness intensifies over time and draws them into additional problems. In this context, the young individuals whom the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, addressed also grew up during the period of Ignorance, and attention was drawn to the conditions that prevailed in society before. Racism, slavery, blood feuds, diseases, civil wars, poverty, hostility and hostility, harmful habits, polytheism, violence, and lust awaited the young individuals who overcame the challenges and illnesses and held onto life. They would either become victims themselves or sacrifice someone else for their sake. Young individuals who can’t find an escape route thrust themselves into loneliness, seeking solace in the deserts, traveling from place to place in search of a rational belief and thought system, or conforming to order and system, just as in other issues. Some turned to alcohol, games, and revelry, falling into the snare of desire, lust, and violence. The Messenger of God, bestowed with the responsibility of prophethood in Hira and sent as a mercy to all the worlds, particularly to humanity, responded with great sensitivity to challenges that could drive young people into loneliness. He presented himself with a life philosophy, a sense of action, an understanding of rights and truths, moral conduct, logical reasoning, and sincere and balanced emotions that could fill all the gaps within them. He compassionately approached them, understanding, listening, facilitating, and endearing them. He closely cared for them and consistently acted in an embracing, tolerant, and solution-oriented manner.
In doing so, he not only rescued them from the abyss of loneliness into which they had fallen but also averted new feelings of loneliness by proclaiming his proximity during challenging situations and times, such as spiritual, emotional, and mental quests, migration, orphanhood, unemployment, marriage, illness, and death. To the extent that, over time, the greatest form of loneliness for them became the separation and distance from him.
Loneliness Caused by Violence and Exclusion
Young individuals, raised in a culture rife with challenges, found solace in his call, only to abruptly lose everything they had up until that moment when they embraced Islam. They were ostracized by their families, relatives, and society; They were declared enemies by their old friends. They were also subjected to violence and treated with contempt. Irrespective of being free, enslaved, poor, rich, woman, man… Almost all of them were undergoing the same process. To the extent that the respected Abdurrahman ibn Awf, burdened by the oppression of the Meccans, exclaimed, “O Messenger of God! In our polytheistic days, we were people of dignity and honor; but upon embracing faith, we became despised!” He even proposed retaliation for the wrongs done to them.1
The Messenger of God understood his young Companions, took care of them closely, and never allowed them to feel lonely in the face of the violence and loneliness they were exposed to. He encountered them and counseled them to turn to God with patience and prayer, urging them to hold steadfast to the ties of faith and servitude.
He forged robust bonds of brotherhood among them, enabling them to address each other’s financial and moral challenges and provide mutual support. Additionally, he assigned some of the young individuals to one another.2 He nourished them with emotions and thoughts, morale, and motivation.3
He visited the places where they faced torment, advised them to be patient, prayed for them, and delivered the good news of either future blessings or rewards in the Hereafter. He left no one on his own; he was trying to find solutions to their problems.4 He sternly cautioned them to act with care and balance to prevent the problems from worsening; if they felt overwhelmed, he directed them toward the option of migration to lands where they could find peace and security.5
Isolation Arising from Migration
The majority of those who migrated from Mecca to Medina were young people. To enjoy their most basic rights and freedoms in peace and security, they left behind the homeland and homeland where they were born and raised and migrated to a land with very different identities. Most of the individuals were in the early stages of adolescence. The combination of being separated from the familiar cultural and climatic conditions, struggling to find adequate financial resources, and facing fears and similar challenges could lead to feelings of loneliness. At least those who were married had the opportunity to console themselves with their families. The Messenger of God was highly sensitive; he considered every possibility and closely monitored his Companions. He never allowed anyone to experience loneliness; instead, he embraced them with projects of compassion and mercy. As soon as he reached Quba, he started the construction of a masjid that would enable him to meet his Companions under the same roof and unite them together, and he opened “Baytu’l-Uzzab” to take care of young people. In the location known as the “Singles’ House,” he gathered with them, engaged in conversations, addressed their questions, and spent time with them, preventing them from feeling the emotional void brought about by migration. After some time of arriving in Medina from Quba, he settled the immigrants with families in the houses of Ansar through the practice of muahat/brotherhood. He allocated a section of the Masjid al-Nabawi as a dormitory and an educational center/suffa, placing the single young individuals closest to him.
He was here day and night, taking care of them closely, forming lesson circles, sitting and chatting, personally following up on all their material and spiritual needs,6 and gradually educating them and assigning them a mission. He didn’t let anyone face their troubles alone; he showed care and made his presence known. Thanks to his close and sincere care, young people navigated through processes that could have caused significant harm without any damage. As knowledgeable and virtuous individuals, they actively contributed to the development of both the newly established Islamic society and its civilization.
Loneliness Stemming from Identity
Tribalism, racism, and slavery were prevalent among the Arabs during the era of ignorance. An unnamed caste system existed in society. The powerful were oppressing the weak and infringing upon their rights. Women were treated with contempt, unable to find an authority to address their issues. Different identities were experiencing loneliness and suffering in the face of the aristocrats’ unethical, legal, and inhumane treatment. Putting an end to these injustices with an understanding of humanity, life, action, morality, rights, and law guided by revelation; the Messenger of God, who grounded his dealings and relationships on justice, equality, and brotherhood, reached out to all identities and endeavored to connect with everyone.7 He kept those he cherished from the marginalized groups close to him and bestowed upon them all the values and responsibilities they deserved as human beings.
Zyad ibn Harith, Habbab ibn Arat, Usama ibn Zayd, Bilal al-Habashi (the Abyssinian), Salman al-Farasi (the Persian), Suhayb ar-Rumi (the Roman), Ummu Ayman, and many others became the pride of believers due to his stance and perspective. Despite most people not realizing it, he was closely monitoring everyone in his community: There was a black woman named Ummu Mihjan who was sweeping the mosque. She passed away and the Companions buried her without informing her. When the Messenger of God could not see her in the mosque, he asked about her; It was said that she died and was buried.
In response, he initially remarked, “Shouldn’t you have informed me?” Expressing his displeasure, he then requested them to show him her grave. He proceeded to perform the funeral prayer and offered supplications.8
Loneliness Stemming from the Loss of Loved Ones
Viewing everything as permissible on the path to the goal; hence, the Meccan polytheists, akin to numerous others who didn’t hesitate to infringe upon the most fundamental rights and freedoms of others and confronted diverse feelings and thoughts with coercion, turned to violence against the invitation of the Messenger of God. They employed various forms of oppression, even resorting to martyrdom through torture, in an attempt to force those who willingly embraced Islam to renounce their beliefs, similar to the respected Yasir and his wife, the respected Sumayya. Following the migration, they launched military campaigns against Muslims; believers, compelled to defend themselves, started experiencing martyrs on the front lines.
The Messenger of God never abandoned the orphaned children, young people, and widows left behind by his Companions who were martyred or passed away due to illnesses. He was also deeply concerned about their troubles and problems. To Bashir, who lost his father Aqraba in Uhud and came to him in tears, he said, “Don’t cry. Wouldn’t you want it if I were your father and Aisha was your mother?” He spoke these words, tenderly caressed his head,9 and embraced many others with compassion. He informed the young individuals about the heavenly beauties their martyred fathers had attained and sought to ease their pain.10 He distributed the resources at his disposal to women in need to help them solve their problems.11
He endeavored to instill the same sensitivity in society; he called upon people to provide financial and moral support to orphans and widows and spoke of the heavenly blessings awaiting those who do so.12 He even expressed his condolences to the children who lost their pets, shared their pain, and prevented them from feeling alone…
Loneliness Stemming from Worldly Troubles
Another factor that ensnared young people in the web of loneliness was the absence of financial and spiritual support, leaving them without anyone to share their troubles with the face of worldly challenges such as illness, hunger, poverty, funerals, substantial debt, disability, and the inability to find the necessary means for marriage. The Messenger of God was well aware of what this feeling was like: One day, when he went to the Masjid an-Nabawi and saw the immigrants who were forced to migrate because they supported his cause and became poor because they left their property behind, reading and listening to the Qur’an, he formed a circle with them and sat among them and said: ‘‘ Praise be to God for blessing me with individuals from my Ummah with whom I can share the challenges I encounter.’’13
The Messenger of God, who stated, “When a calamity befalls any of you, let me know…”14, displayed great sensitivity towards people’s difficulties; he promptly made anyone in need of support feel near to him. After the morning prayer, he addressed the people, saying, “If anyone is unwell, let’s visit them! If there’s someone who has passed away, let’s pray!” He visited patients at their homes without making distinctions between believers, hypocrites, polytheists, People of the Book, and Bedouins.
To ensure that no one felt isolated in Islamic society, he conveyed that visiting the sick and participating in funerals are the rights of a believer; he encouraged these practices and occasionally inquired, “Who among you visited a patient today?” or “Who among you attended a funeral?”15 He urged Muslims to aid those who were dealing with a funeral in hosting the guests.16
“He said, ‘Feed the hungry!’”17, thereby preventing poverty from pushing people into loneliness. He spent some of his share of fey income to help single young people get married. He kept a close eye on the young people in his vicinity, urging and supporting them to take the plunge into marriage. If they lacked the resources to cover dowry expenses, wedding feasts, or establish a household, he rallied his Companions and helped them become homeowners. He intervened on behalf of young individuals who faced social exclusion due to their past behaviors and actions, individuals whom nobody was willing to marry. He took it upon himself to personally officiate their weddings.18
He leverages all his resources to alleviate the heavy debts burdening his Companions. At times, he collaborates with them, engaging in work together, and negotiates with creditors to seek assistance for the debtors. An instance of this is when peering through his room window, he witnessed Ka’b ibn Malik in a dispute with his destitute Companion Abdullah ibn Abi Hadrad over money. He gestured and requested Ka’b to generously contribute half of the owed amount. 19 In this case, no matter what trouble anyone was going through, he knew that he was not alone, that the Messenger of God would support him, and he did not get caught up in feelings and thoughts that would push him into the void.20
Isolation Caused by Questions and Problems
A key factor leading young people into loneliness is the struggle to find empathetic and understanding conversational partners when confronting their questions and problems. Factors like anger, violence, insults, belittlement, and exclusion that young people encounter when expressing their questions and problems confine them within their inner worlds. With time, this trajectory leads them towards detrimental friendships, unhealthy habits, a life of loneliness from society, involvement in distorted movements, and, in extreme cases, even suicide. The Messenger of God, who represents love, mercy, and compassion at the highest level in his behavior and relationships, instills comfort, confidence, and peace in his interlocutors; “You can easily express your questions and problems to me!” he said.
They also drew strength from this; they would approach him and articulate their wishes, questions, and troubles that weighed on them with a sense of calm and without any apprehension. Regardless of how unsettling the content might be, he listened to the young people patiently. There was no anger, scolding, or condemnation; instead, he sought to persuade and reassure them by appealing to their minds, logic, and emotions compassionately. While there are numerous examples of this in hadith sources, it suffices to recall the incident of the young man who contemplated committing adultery.21
Loneliness Stemming from a Sense of Being Unloved
Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that draws people into loneliness is thinking that they are not loved sincerely by anyone. The Messenger of God, who acted very sensitively on this issue, would inform people when necessary that he loved them very much for the sake of God. For example, He said to the respected Muadh, “O Muadh! “I love you for the sake of God.”22
One day, someone seated beside him remarked to another passerby, “O Messenger of God! I have affection for this person,” he stated. He then inquired, “Have you conveyed this to him?” Upon receiving a “No” in response, he instructed, “Go and share this with him!” The Companion promptly rose, approached the individual, and declared, “I have a deep affection for you for the sake of God!” In response, the other person said, “May the One for whom you love me also hold love for you!” 23 Thus, he was trying to popularize love and expression of affection, which is the elixir of loneliness, in society. He even commanded and recommended this to all believers: “If one of you loves his brother (for the sake of God), let inform him of this love.”24
Loneliness, a prevalent ailment in today’s world, exerts a profound impact on people’s emotions, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Due to adolescence, getting to know life new, not knowing how to deal with questions and problems, and the reasons stated in the introduction, young people may feel loneliness, and this feeling may lead them to the wrong places. Parents, communities, friends and social circles, educators, society, and administrators should acknowledge good the issue of loneliness and its detrimental impacts. They ought to approach young people with greater sensitivity, understanding, caution, inclusivity, and kindness.
As evident, the Messenger of God paid meticulous attention to young people. He consistently avoided attitudes and behaviors that could drive them toward loneliness. As a result of his exemplary morality, sensitivity, and time for them, young people found the love, compassion, peace, support, answer, and solution they were looking for in him and were relieved. Hence, during his time, experiences of loneliness and the troubles arising from this emotion or ailment were exceptionally rare. The principle “He who sleeps with a full stomach while his neighbor is hungry is not one of us!” essentially encapsulates his perspective on life, because He did not lie down or live happily when people were troubled, at peace when they were restless, and happy when people were sad, and He tried to support everyone financially and spiritually.
Author: Yücel Men
- Nasa’i, Jihad 1 (4279); Hakim, Mustadrak 2/382 (2424); Bayhaqi, Kubra 9/19 (17741).
- See Bayhaqi, Dalail 2/216; Ibn Athir, Usdu’l-Ghaba 4/140; Haythami, Kashfu’l-Astar 3/169 (2493); Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Fadailu’s-Sahaba 1/285 (376); Ismail ibn Muhammad al-Isbahani, Siyaru’s-Salafi’s-Salihin 1/94
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Mawaqit 41
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Janaiz 5, 55, 66; Sahih Muslim, Janaiz 71
- Sahih al-Bukhari, At-Tarikh’ul-Kabir, 2/78; Ibn Hajar, Isabat 150
- Abu Dawud, Buyu 9
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Nafakat 1, Adab 24; Sahih Muslim, Zuhd 41, 42
- Abu Dawud, Ilm 13
- Abdurrazzak, Musannaf 3/564
- See Abdurrazzak, Musannaf 3/593
- Abu Dawud, Janaiz 25; Tirmidhi, Janaiz 21
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Jihad 121; Marda 4
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Salat 71, 83
- Abu Dawud, Witr 26; Ibn Hibban, Sahih 2021
- Abu Dawud, Adab 112, 113
- Abu Dawud, Adab 112, 113; Tirmidhi, Zuhd 54, (2393)