IN a family's life, 'insya-Allah' (God Willing) our grown-up children would finally left home; one after another. Some went to boarding schools normally at the age of 13, then to colleges at 18, to universities at 20, lived in a rented room once they started working, and after getting married they settled down in their own homes; some migrated to another states or even foreign countries.
Finally only mum and dad were left at home - our abode even if it was as large and magnificent as a palace - would be in the state of silence and some veteran couples would felt the loneliness and emptiness of life. If a partner, say the husband died, his widow feelings would be more melancholy.
Among the Malays, I had witnessed several widows and widowers spending much time looking out of the windows of their homes especially a few days before 'Hari Raya'; perhaps they were thinking about their own children or grandchildren - would they be back for the 'big day'?
During a 'tazkirah' (Islamic lesson) which I attended not long time ago, the 'ustaz' (religious teacher) involved tickled his audience, saying: "perhaps the old folks that had that longing feeling are here among us..." He kept on teasing his audience by singing a verse from a P Ramlee's song..."di Hari Raya terkenang daku akan si dia" (during Hari Raya I remembered my love, my special one...)
But the 'ustaz' was quick to end 'this sad story' by saying: "Dear 'bapak-bapak' ('daddy) and 'ibu-ibu' (mummy), please don't waste our precious time entertaining to that melancholic feeling; it is okay to to mediate but the correct way is to do 'tafakkur' (doing reflection) especially when one is at old age. This is because 'tafakkur' is an act of 'ibadah' (act of good deeds to Allah SWT) which would be rewarded richly by Him.
'Tafakkur' is in line with the purpose of man’s life that is to ‘service to Allah’ and nothing else. This life is a preparation of what Allah has in store for us. The life of the Hereafter is eternal, and it is that which the believer should strive for. He said every Muslim should make use of his/her time to the maximum...thus why not do the 'tafakkur' than to be involved in day-dreaming.
The 'ustaz' reminded his audience saying that the 'materials' to 'tafakkur' are already available; we are only required to pick it up and do our reflection. "For example, we have the Qur'an. Read a sentence or sentences from the Qur'an, search for the meaning and then do the 'tafakkur'.
"For example in Surah LV (Rahman, The Beneficent), Allah had many, many times asked us; "Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny?" Next, do the thinking...it was a guided one; thus it is unnecessary for us to think about improper things or things of our fancies."
The 'ustaz' said we too could 'tafakkur' over our sins, creation, ourselves and to take lessons from the things Allah SWT has created. When the good people are praised in the Qur'an, it is declared that "they always remember Allah while they are standing, sitting, lying on their sides, and they meditate over the creation of the heavens and earth. They say, “O our Lord! You did not create them in vain. You are far from it [from creating useless, meaningless things. Protect us from the torment of Hell." (Surah Ali ‘Imrân, 191)
The 'ustaz' said there are many hadiths that mentioned about the importance of 'tafakkur'. Among others, "A momentary meditation on Allahu Taala's Grandeur, Paradise, and Hell is better than spending a night in worship" and "meditating for a while is more valuable than one year’s (supererogatory) worship."
Regarding 'tafakkur', Imam Shafie said it sharpens one' intelligence while Wahb bin Munabbih said it makes a person knowledgeable and a knowledgeable person, in turn, does good deeds. Bishr-i-Hafi noted that a human being who contemplates Allahu Taala's grandeur cannot be disobedient to Him.
Scholars said 'tafakkur' can be done in four ways that are pondering about the beautiful arts and benefits which manifest on Allahu Taala's creatures causes one to believe in Him and love Him; pondering about the rewards promised by Him for the worships causes one to perform those worships; pondering about the punishments informed by Him causes one to fear Him and thereby inhibits one from committing sins and wronging others; and pondering about one’s having enslaved oneself to one’s nafs and committing sins and living in a state of heedlessness regardless of all the blessings bestowed by Him causes one to have shame towards Allah Taala.
The 'ustaz' said Islam as a complete way of life provides us with guidance in everything we do (so that we would be in His straight path) including what we should think or reflect about (tafakkur).
If Islam suggests many good things to do including 'tafakkur' to beat our emptiness and loneliness feelings especially among 'veteran couples' when their children had 'gone for their own new lives', Western scholars too had suggestions to what they termed as empty nest syndrome...
Wikipedia noted that empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents or guardians may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university but it is not a clinical condition.
Since young adults' moving out from their families house is generally a normal and healthy event, the symptoms of empty nest syndrome often go unrecognized. This can result in depression and a loss of purpose for parents, since the departure of their children from 'the nest' leads to adjustments in parents' lives. Empty nest syndrome is especially common in full-time mothers.
Mayo Clinic explained that empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home. Although you might actively encourage your children to become independent, the experience of letting go can be painful. You might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need your care. You might miss being a part of your children's daily lives — as well as the constant companionship.
You might also worry intensely about your children's safety and whether they'll be able to take care of themselves on their own. You might struggle with the transition if your last child leaves the nest a little earlier or later than you expected. If you have only one child or strongly identify with your role as parent, you might have a particularly difficult time adjusting to an empty nest.
In the past, research suggested that parents dealing with empty nest syndrome experienced a profound sense of loss that might make them vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts.
However, recent studies suggest that an empty nest might reduce work and family conflicts, and can provide parents with many other benefits. When the last child leaves home, parents have a new opportunity to reconnect with each other, improve the quality of their marriage and rekindle interests for which they previously might not have had time. And for the 'veteran Muslims couple' why not spend our 'little time left' to the 'masjid' including to seek knowledge!
Talking about our needs and wishes that keep on changing over the years (for example as a boy we wish to grow up fast so that we could have some worldly needs such as cars, houses and so on but as we grew older those worldly treasures were not our priority but it was love among family members and then it shifted to our health situation and when we laid on our death bed the most important thing that crossed our mind is to ask Allah SWT not to take our lives at that moment), another 'ustaz' warned that when we in our graves and the Hereafter, we would begged to Allah SWT so that we would be sent back to earth even for a moment to even say 'La ilaha illallah' but it would be a fruitless effort!
So to everyone of us including those who are experiencing the empty nest syndrome (feeling sad and emptiness) please do not 'kowtow' to our 'nafs' but do our best to please Allah SWT (please do (summit to) everything He commands us and refrain from what He prohibits us) because once we were 'pushed inside our graves' (die), we would not have 'any more chance at all' to go back to earth - only to two places we would go; either to His al-Jannah' (heaven) or His 'an-Naar' (hell)! - ES