Escapism is usually regarded in a negative connotation because of its dangers when overindulged. However, Science has proved its benefits when consumed in a healthy dosage. When the concept is used right, escapism keeps us from burning out more quickly than we would without it. It allows us to come back to an initially overwhelming problem with a better attitude about it.
What is escapism?
Escapism is defined in many and varied ways.
Some define it broadly as longing for entertainment or distraction while others give the term more weight and describe it as an “escape to a fantasy world or imaginary reality.” In essence, then, “escapism” means that we put our everyday problems to one side for a while in favour of a different, potentially more inviting “reality.”
The everyday life is taxing. It can build up and weigh us down causing a series of mental health issues including anxiety, stress, and depression. Enduring through our busy routines, however, has no other alternative. Nevertheless, it can be made manageable by giving our mind a breather now and then to improve our mood, boost our performance and increase our ability to concentrate and focus.
The right and the wrong ways
While there are undoubtedly pros to the the idea of taking a breather every now and then, there is a line to draw between normal switching off or distraction and full-blown escapism. If you find yourself ignoring or avoiding issues in your life, then you are tottering on the edge of escapism becoming unhealthy. You are using your hobbies, interests, and creative outlets as a way to avoid dealing with the reality.
Islam teaches us to balance our deen with the dunya and thus forbids leaning to either side at the expense of the other.
Escapism can mean different things to different people. Theories on types of escapism have been proposed; the most notable of which is that of Stenseng who presented a dualistic model of escapism with different affective outcomes dependent on the reason of immersion.
Self-supressing activities are indulged in to avoid current (likely difficult) circumstances and turn away from the reality. This type of escapism can be harmful and is mostly forbidden in Islam. It involves listening to music, watching movies, or engaging in different forms of intoxicants (smoking, drinking, drugs etc).
b. Self expansion
“Self expansion is related to better self-regulation strategies, such as using approach coping instead of avoidance coping, compared with self-suppression.” Self expanding activities are those that are new and exciting that give a sense of accomplishment.
Though going to a museum, doing a puzzle, reading a book, or catching up with a friend can all be excellent ways to divert and escape our current situation for a short but much-needed time, we Muslims are blessed with just the right thing that the body, mind and soul yearns for.
Islam, being a lifestyle religion, caters to every need and requirement that we could ever possibly have. Allah, the creator, fashioner, and originator of human beings, legislated for us breaks throughout the day where we can escape from stress, anxiety, and negativity, and put aside our everyday lives for a short while. These breaks not only help renew and refresh us but also replenish us elevating our mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Whether it be the 5 daily prayers, the morning and evening adhkaar, or the recitation of the Word of Allah, when included in our routines, they give us time to stop, reflect, think, and unwind. They let us escape from our current worries and lift us into the presence of Allah. Additonally, they remind us of the broader picture and the insignificance of the problems we are facing when compared with our life goals, the mercy and majesty of Allah, and the aakhirah.
Therefore, what is required of us is to shift our perspective just a little and regard our daily rituals not just like another chore but rather like a break from our chores. Think of them as acts of self-care and indulge in them. Add more of personal connection with your Lord through du’aa in the sujood and before the tasleem. Mark and recite passages of the Qur’an (with meaning and tafseer) that relate to your situation, mood, or the type of encouragement you would like to hear to uplift yourself.
Revisit the life of the Prophet and his companions to imagine their struggles, difficulties and their steadfastness. Find comfort in such acts for, by Allah, they are there to comfort you.
Aisha reported: When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ finished his prayer, he would not sit long enough but to say, “O Allah, You are peace and from You is peace. Blessed are You, the Majestic and Noble.”
Revising the gems and supplicating
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever increases his prayers for forgiveness, Allah will grant him relief from every worry, a way out from every hardship, and provide for him in ways he does not expect.” (Musnad Ahmad)
Our Prophet ﷺ has taught us a few supplications to relieve us from the worries of this world.
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ غَلَبَةِ الدَّيْنِ وَقَهْرِ الرِّجَالِ
“O Allah, I seek refuge in you from worry and sadness. I seek refuge in you from weakness and laziness. I seek refuge in you from cowardice and miserliness. And I seek refuge in you from being overwhelmed by debt and the tyranny of men.” (Abu Dawud)
If you wish to escape from your stressful lives to find some tranquility, escape to Allah and seek refuge with Him, for, “Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.” (Qur’an 13:28)