Why Self Care is a Form of Ibadah

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Self-care isn’t just about the physical, such as eating in moderation and exercising. It’s also about making sure you preserve positive and healthy relationships with people.

When I became a new parent, I completely forgot about the act of self-care. I was consumed with guilt if I wasn’t by my child’s side 24/7 or tending to her needs. I naively assumed that maternity leave would consist of ample time and opportunities to practise self-care. But in the midst of motherhood, I forgot about myself.

I slowly realised something excruciatingly obvious – that taking a little bit of time out to prioritise self-care would have a positive impact on my wellbeing. Taking care of myself, in the long run, means that I am a better Muslim, parent, employee, wife, daughter, and friend simply because I feel rested and happier. 

While Islam teaches us to care for others and be selfless, it also highlights that we need to demonstrate self-care too. Aishah r.a reported the Prophet s.a.w said:

Verily, your own self has rights over you, so fast and break your fast, pray and sleep.”

(Sunan Abi Dawud)

For me, taking care of myself can be as simple as making sure that I physically sit down and eat a hot meal with my family on time, read a book, listen to a podcast to educate myself on a topic I want to understand more about, have a relaxing bath, and enjoy a hot cup of tea. Or putting a non-essential house chore aside when it’s gloriously sunny to go for a walk with my child by beautiful lakes, and then sit down to really admire what Allah (swt) has created. 

While I appreciate these moments can be rare for many due to personal circumstances such as health issues, overwhelming routines, and responsibilities, I urge you to try to carve out small chunks of time often to override the complexities of life. This past year has been challenging and straining for many people. So regardless of whether you are a parent juggling work while homeschooling multiple children or a single person living on your own and feeling isolated – you need to demonstrate self-love through acts of self-care. I want to highlight that self-care is unique for each person.

It is impossible to look after others if you neglect to respect your own time and health that Allah (swt) has blessed you with. In the long run, being kind to yourself will ultimately make you a more productive person by giving you the energy to complete your tasks more efficiently. 

Self-care isn’t just about the physical, such as eating in moderation and exercising. It’s also about making sure you preserve positive and healthy relationships with people. I have evaluated friendships and I no longer make excuses for anyone’s consistent toxic behaviour. And while I pray that Allah (swt) gives them happy and successful lives, removing myself from toxic people and their environments keeps my positive attitude intact. As a result of doing this, I have time to nurture new and existing friendships which keep my soul happy. And for me, that’s an act of self-care.

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Abu Darda r.a, the Prophet’s companion said,

A righteous companion is better than being in solitary, and solitary is better than a bad companion.”

It’s important to pray salah and read the Qu’ran but dhikr, the remembrance of Allah in your heart and through your everyday speech, is important too. Dhikr is also often translated as “mindfulness.” Demonstrating self-care also shows gratitude to Allah (swt) for your health and well-being. 

Be grateful and I will give you more…And if you should (try to) count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them.”

(Quran, 14:7-34)

I feel that sometimes there is guilt or shame attached to taking care of oneself. And I want these cultural attitudes to change. Through my own actions, I am teaching my daughter that while I motivate myself to achieve my goals and enjoy a busy schedule Alhamdulillah – I recognise that self-care is a form of ibadah. And one day, she will do the same, insha’Allah.

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