Understood from the retreat and seclusion of the Blessed Prophetﷺ at the Cave of Hira and many an itikaf he regularly performed during the later years of his life, is the fact that no matter how great a deed one may perform, spiritual perfection will forever remain out of reach short of retreating to seclusion to call the self into account and contemplate the flow of Divine Power vibrant throughout the universe. This is a minimum requirement for all Muslims. As for those set to become guides for the rest, they need to spare even more time for contemplation and reflecting on the self.
From the first verse to the very last, the Sacred Quran trains one in the art of contemplation, instilling servanthood to the Lord at the center of all thought. Only then does faith become an intrinsic identity, prompting one to seek the pleasure of the Almighty at all times and places. And with the manifestations, through wisdom, of the flow of Divine Splendor and Power in the heart, the servant gradually gains greater proximity to the Lord, attaining the ultimate aim.
Among the most vital aspects for a Believer is muhabbetullah, the love of Allahﷻ. After faith, the most important catalyst for gaining Divine Love is through constant contemplation of His blessings and grace, deliberating over His Majesty and Power and then incessantly remembering and invoking Him with the heart and tongue; (“Believers…Remember Allah plentifully” (al-Ahzâb, 41)). To realize these states in the truest sense of the word can be achieved only through protecting the heart from the pomp and concern of the world by retreating to seclusion.
Muhabbetullah: Pleading the Almighty for His Love in his prayers, the Blessed Prophetﷺ would pray:
“Allah! I ask you for Your Love, the love of those whom You love and the deeds that will lead to Your Love! Allah! Make Your Love dearer to me than myself, my family, my possessions and even cold water!” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 72)
One thing needs to be brought to attention here, that is to say, what is intended by KHALWAT or retreating to seclusion here is not fleeing all together from the community and taking up permanent residence in caves, mountains or remote dwellings. Such a move would run counter to the practice of the Blessed Prophetﷺ and his Companions.
One only needs to be reminded of the words of the Prophetﷺ himself:
“A Muslim who lives in the community and endures the torment that comes with it is of greater virtue that he who stays remote from them and their distress.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamat, 55)
Many activities of the Noble Prophet ﷺ, from shepherding to taking active part in the Fijar Battles and the Hilf’ul-Fudul guild, his business endeavors, and his assistance in the rebuilding of the Kaabah, testify to his lively presence in society even before his advent as prophet. A part of all the virtuous activities of his society, the Blessed Prophet ﷺ equally made sure to stay away from their vices, never crossing paths with them.
The essence of retreating into seclusion is to improve one’s condition. To become cured, medicine must be taken on time at the right amount. Taken excessively, it is sure to procure harm instead of remedy. (Bûtî, p. 79-82.)
-An Excerpt from chapter one of “THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD MUSTAFA THE ELECT ﷺ”