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750 Kindly explain the meaning of the term "Khulwa" and its application to our modern lives. What is the perceived wisdom behind it?
Thank you for your interesting question.

Just prior to the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) first revelation when he reached the age of forty, he began to seclude himself in the Cave of Hira, a few miles away from Makkah. In the Hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari, we are told that he himself liked this seclusion and used the opportunity to contemplate about Allah and His creations.

This is where the origins of Khulwa (to be alone) and Azala (separation) are to be found. The Sufis in particular highlight the importance of these acts in order to truly reach the proximity of Allah.

Imam Qushairi (R.A) (d. 465) talks in great detail about the superiority of Khulwa and Azala. A person secludes himself to save himself from harming others, others from harming him and to be able to contemplate the reason for his existence.

A man passed by a pious Sheikh once, Imam Qushairi (R.A) reports. As he passed, the Sheikh gathered his clothes close to him. The man asked, ‘why are you gathering your clothes? Am I impure (that you distance yourself from me)? The Sheikh replied, ‘I myself am impure. I am trying to save you from my impurity.

Abu Uthman al-Maghribi (R.A) once remarked about the etiquettes of Khulwa and Azala; ‘Whosoever adopts Khulwa and Azala, then he should make himself immune from all remembrance except the remembrance of Allah (S.W.T); He should make himself free from all intentions except the intention of seeking His pleasure; He should free himself from all of his soul’s desires. If he does not do as such, then his seclusion will become a means of Fitna (discord).

The great Tabi Ibn al-Mubarak (R.A) was asked, ‘what is the medicine of the heart?’ He replied, ‘lack of mixing with people.’

As for its application to our modern lives, it means to seclude oneself from bad company and the friendship of the corrupt. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once remarked that a person is judged according to the religion of his friend. In other words, people are judged according to the company they keep. Therefore, we must try our outmost to accompany the pious. If this is not possible, then perhaps seclusion is better.

(Answered by: Alims at Islamic Centre, Leicester, UK.)
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