Self-Care Lesson #01: Eat, Drink, & Be Content

Recently, I have been listening to Abdel Rahman Murphy’s Heartwork halaqah based on Surah Maryam on Qalam Podcast. I love how he makes the weekly discussions light-hearted and so relevant to our context today.

I was struck by the reflection of ayat 23-26 in the Qur’an. In ayah 23 in Surah Maryam, she (as) in an utterly human moment, spoke words of defeat.

And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” (19:23)

Maryam (as) was a pure and chaste woman who was destined by Allah to carry a child (later to be known as Prophet Isa). Due to this miraculous incident, she knew people were going to assume and judge the worst of her. She had felt this extreme, not because of the fear of staining her own reputation, but because she could not bear to have her faith being tarnished. That’s how dignified and pious of a servant she is.

It is a curious thing, and a beautiful point to ponder, that in responding to her calls of desperation Allah SWT tells her to simply ‘eat, drink, and be content’. She had found herself in the most hellish situation a pristine, noble woman like her could find herself in. Just the thought of having people judge her and condemn her faith was enough to drive her to have suicidal thoughts. But how did our merciful Lord respond?

But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream.” And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.'” (19:24-26)

Allah SWT is essentially telling Maryam (as) to not worry about what people say, to have food, have a drink, and take care of herself. Our Lord is emphasising the importance of self-care. In the throes of despair, when the world overwhelms, He tells us to go back to our basic necessities, because without it, everything else will not work. If we are not in control and taking care of ourselves, how are we going to give and take care of our work, of others? Allah SWT, in the last verse, also highlights the merits of keeping quiet, as opposed to wasting time and energy to explain yourself to others.

How often do we worry about every single thing, obsess over what we cannot control, and pay too much attention on what others think about us, that we forget to focus on our inner selves? Our body and our soul needs to be fundamentally fuelled before it is emotionally, mentally and physically ready to face the world.

Whether it’s a 15-minute stroll in the park, some me-time at your happy place, reading and drinking hot tea as you rest your feet at home, a good chat over lunch with a dear friend, a quiet time to journal… it is important to carve a little time from our day to focus on ourselves. Especially in the midst of a difficult and stressful point in our lives. It is not being selfish, it is not being insouciant, it is something taught by our Lord – that if the going gets tough, the tough gets going by focusing on the core of our own being before radiating positivity and strength to crawl out of the muck we find ourselves in.

halaqah – a religious gathering/ a study circle
ayah – a verse of the Qur’an

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