Support means to bear all or part of the weight of, hold up someone or something. We all need it from time to time, and it can come in various forms: physical, financial, emotional or psychological. For some of us it is easier than others to find as we may have grown up in healthy, stable families and may still have them around and at hand. But for others it can be a difficult issue as for one reason or another, they find themselves alone and without family or friends.
Having a support network is beneficial for an individual on many levels. Studies have shown that people with good support systems live longer and experience less pain and anxiety (prior to surgical procedures). It is well known that we are the company we keep. In Islam we have the hadith whereby the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:
“The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. So as for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Being part of supportive network of people enables us to feel good and have self-confidence. If our upbringing was supportive and encouraging, we are much more likely to be able to venture forth into the world and extend ourselves to those we meet. So how do we go about building ourselves a system if we are without one?
“Man is on the religion of his friend, so let every one of you examine whom he befriends.” (Abu Dawud & Tirimidhi)
The above hadith seems to suggest that we choose carefully those we ‘hang out’ with. Although preferably we would want a Muslim support network, this may not always be a possibility, so we may need to be prepared to create support networks based on other things such as being mothers or students or mothers who are students. We can have more than one network, and each one can provide us with what we need for that area in our lives.
However, it is important for us to note that in the Qur’an we are told that:
“Friends on that Day will be enemies one to another, except al-Muttaqoon (i.e. those who have Taqwah).” (Az-Zukhruf:67)
The earlier ahadith and this ayah clearly demonstrate that the people who surround us are those who will determine whether we fail or succeed as after all, they will be the ones to regularly feed our minds with their views and opinions. The best friends to have, according to the ayah above, are those who fear Allah (SWT) and are conscious of Him; they are unlikely to turn against us, even on the Day of Reckoning when everyone else will become adversaries. So obviously the first choice of support would be a Muslim as they are the most likely to be God-conscious. Other than God-consciousness, what else do we need to ensure in those we encircle ourselves with? Below is a list of characteristics that are useful in a support person:
• The ability to listen without changing the focus to themselves
• The ability to share their perspective on the subject at hand
• The ability to say ‘no’ to us and others if they are unwilling and/or unable to be of assistance or fulfil a request
• The ability to cease a conversation if it is detrimental to them
• The ability to take responsibility for what they say or do
• The ability to accept our rights and our choices
• The ability to understand and empathise
• The ability to respect our privacy
• The ability to take care of themselves physically and emotionally
• The ability to accept that they do not have to be our only friend and/or support
• The ability to encourage us
• The ability to have fun or be serious dependent on what circumstances dictate
This list can be used to discern and build our support network. By using a scaling system of 0 to 10, with 0 being no ability and 10 being excellent, we can decipher the abilities of those around us to support us. Support is not always about being able to listen and be there for the ‘bad stuff’; it can also be about helping us do the day to day and enjoyable things.
Support does not always have to come from people. The following are other sources of support:
• Salah and du’a
• Reciting Qur’an with or without meaning
• Exercise/playing a sport
• Helping others
• Doing courses
So where can we gather together a support network if we find ourselves without anyone because we have moved to a new area or country or for whatever reason?
• School gates/playground: If we have children, this is one of the best places to source support and friends.
• Masajid: Not all masajid cater for women and families but many do. Some provide coffee mornings, sisters’ circles, playgroups etc.
• Coffee mornings, playgroups etc: These may be held at local community centres or schools.
• University/place of study: Islamic societies and prayer rooms can be found almost all institutions now, particularly in the UK.
• At work: Sometimes it is possible to mix business and pleasure.
• Join and attend a gym or leisure centre: We have to go in order to meet people!
• Organising our own coffee mornings, playgroups etc: If there isn’t anything, we can form our own groups and invite people from any of the above places
• Neighbours: Bake cakes and knock on neighbours’ doors
• Invite the families of husband’s colleagues/friends.
The above are just some ideas in relation to how we might create support and support networks. We know that ‘no man is an island’ and that we need society from time to time. Insha Allah we can all find some way of not feeling or being alone – life is always easier if we can share it with others.
Khalida Haque is a qualified and experienced counsellor/psychotherapist with an independent practice as well as being Counselling Service Co-ordinator for Nour. She is also a regular contributor to SISTERS.