What does Islam say about living in Seclusion (Uzlah)?

The Details of the Question
Does living in seclusion enable someone to increase his/her faith/belief?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Uzlah (seclusion) is a Sufi term that means to avoid being with other people and to live on one’s own in hermitage. It is used in the same meaning with words “wahdah (oneness), khalwah (privacy) and inziwa (reclusion) though there are some slight differences among them. The words “ikhtilah (social intercourse)” and “khiltah (to live with a society) are the opposites of uzlah (Süleyman Uludağ, Kuşeyri Risalesi, 240)

The reason for a person to live in seclusion is to refrain from sins and things which can lead to sins. However, Sufis say “What a man in seclusion should mean by living in seclusion is not living away from people in order to be safe from their evil, but preventing them from his own evil”.

A person who is in seclusion in order to be safe from Satan’s misgiving should have the necessary knowledge of faith and should know what is necessary to perform fards so that his prayers can be accepted.

Islamic scholars have put forward different views on whether seclusion is superior to social intercourse or vice versa. Imam Shafii and Ahmad b. Hanbal are two of the ones who said social intercourse is preferred.

What is in the essence of Islam is not isolating oneself from people but mingling with them. In fact, the Prophet said the following in one of his hadiths:

A believer who suffers people’s torment and puts up with their torment and oppression is more virtuous than a believer who lives away from people and does not put up with their oppression.” (Suyuti, al-Jamiu’s Saghir, II, 282). In fact, the seclusion favored by Sufis is not living away from people permanently, but turning back to society after having disciplined one’s lower-self.

It is stated in Kuşeyri Risalesi (Booklet of Qushayri) that the real seclusion is not staying away from people but staying away from sins: “Seclusion means to leave bad habits indeed. The benefit of seclusion must be sought in leaving bad characteristics, not in leaving one’s land. For this reason, when they were asked ‘Who is a wise man?’, they replied ‘He is the one who is both together and alone’; which means he is the one who is physically together with society yet spiritually away from them. (Süleyman Uludağ, ibid, 240).


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