Qillat-e-Ikhtilaat Ma’al Anaam (Reducing association with people) Unnecessary association with people should not be augmented. Remember that besides Allah, there are three kinds of association.
1. Praiseworthy association. The Shariah commands this type of association, for in itself it is an association with Allah Ta’ala. Ending such association is not permissible.
2. Detestable association. The Shariat prohibits such association. Ending such association is Waajib (compulsory).
3. Permissible association . This association is neither Ibaadat nor sin. It is not necessary to end such association. Although permissible, there is a need to reduce such association. The instruction to discontinue association refers to detestable and permissible association and not to praiseworthy association. However, in so far as detestable association is concerned, the discontinuance must be total, i.e. such association is to be compulsory ended, and in regard to permissible association the meaning is reduction or limiting such association.
As long as the relationship with the Creator is not well-established and grounded, association with the creation is extremely harmful. The ostensible reason advanced for association with people, viz., fulfilment of their obligations, can be truly fulfilled only if the relationship with the Creator has been firmly grounded. If the relationship with Allah has not been firmly established then neither is the duty to creation fulfilled nor the duty to the Creator. This fact has been proven by the experience of thousands of Auliyaa.
Solitude is permissible, in fact best and advisable (afdhal) for one who has no worldly or Deeni duty pertaining to himself or others to discharge. Such solitude is of greater merit during times of strife and mischief when it becomes difficult to have patience (sabr) in the face of anxiety, agitation, confusion and anarchy. The Ahadith have extolled solitude during such circumstances. Rasulullah (saws): said in this regard:
“. . . a man who takes to solitude on the peak of a mountain. He has goats, he fulfils their right and makes the ibaadat of Allah.”
In another Hadith it appears:
“Soon a time will dawn when the best wealth of a Muslim will be goats. He will go with them to a peak of a, mountain and to places where rain-water accumulates. He will flee from mischief taking along his Deen.”
Solitude (i.e. total dissociation from people) is not permissible for one who has some duties and obligations to discharge, whether such duties pertain to others or oneself, and whether it be obligations, e.g. providing maintenance to one’s family when one does not have the ability of Tawakkul (trust in Allah), or Deeni obligations, e.g. the acquisition of necessary Deeni knowledge. Certain Ahadith which prohibit solitude refer to these two states just mentioned. Such an example of prohibition is the case of Hadhrat Uthmaan Ibn Math’un (radhiyallahu anhu). He was forbidden from adopting solitude since he was yet in need of acquiring knowledge of the Deen. At the same time Muslims also were in need of him regarding matters of the Deen, especially in the fields of spreading the Word of Allah and developing Islam.
The above explanation pertains to solitude which is adopted permanently. However, temporary solitude (khalwat) of a few days is necessary for the mubtadi (beginner in Tasawwuf) in the majority of cases.
The Benefits of Solitude (Khalwat)
Among the numerous benefits ensuing from solitude is the abstention from sin provided that in solitude control is exercised over the eyes as well. The ears as well as the heart have to be guarded in solitude. Deliberately the thought of anyone besides Allah Ta’ala should not be introduced into the mind. In the event of any such stray thought entering the mind, the one sitting in solitude should immediately ward off the thought by engaging in Thikrullaah. In such a well-guarded solitude there is indeed great protection against sin.
It is quite manifest that prevention against evil has priority over the acquisition of gain, hence solitude has priority over association. Although association (i.e. with others) has its many benefits, nevertheless many sins follow in its wake. Secondly, qillat-e-kalaarn (less conversation) is difficult with association (ikhtilaat). Only the Siddiqeen and those perfected in spiritualism are able to exercise perfect control over their tongues (as well as other emotions) even ill association with others. In most cases futile and nonsensical discussions take place when one is in association with others. The hearts of those who have no solitude in their time become progressively denuded of anwar (spiritual effulgence).