This is never a comfortable topic, because visiting and taking care of the ill is not something that is pleasant.
Yet, visiting the ill is incumbent on us. As a starting point, Abu Hurairah RA reported Allah's Messenger SAW as saying: "Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim. It was said to him: ‘Allah's Messenger, what are these?’ Thereupon he said:
‘When you meet him, offer him greetings; when he invites you to a feast accept it, when he seeks your counsel, give him, and when he sneezes and says: "All praise is due to Allah," you say yarhamuk Allah (may Allah show mercy to you); and when he falls ill visit him; and when he dies follow his bier.’"
It is convenient to find excuses not to fulfil this duty: the smell of hospitals, busy work schedules, traffic jams, inconvenient visiting hours. Yet, if we understood the rewards in store for us when we visit the ill, we would be rushing to get there!
Apart from basic humanitarian reasons, there are several compelling reasons to visit the ill. `Ali bin Abu Talib (RA) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying:
"When a Muslim visits a sick Muslim at dawn, seventy thousand angels keep on praying for him till dusk. If he visits him in the evening, seventy thousand angels keep on praying for him till the morning; and he will have (his share of) reaped fruits in Jannah. '' [At-Tirmidhi].
We would be lucky to have seventy thousand human beings praying for us, but here Allah allows that number of angels to pray for us! Can you imagine what an honour it is?
In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
"Whosoever visits an ailing person or a brother of his to seek the Pleasure of Allah, an announcer (angel) calls out: `May you be happy, may your walking be blessed, and may you be awarded a dignified position in Jannah". [At-Tirmidhi].
The following hadith is also extremely inspiring:
Abu Hurairah (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
"Verily, Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious will say on the Day of Resurrection: `O son of Adam, I was ill but you did not visit Me.' He would say: `O my Rubb, how could I visit you and You are the Rubb of the worlds?'
Thereupon He would say: `Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine was ill but you did not visit him? Did you not realize that if you had visited him (you would have known that I was aware of your visit to him, for which I would reward you) you would have found Me with him?'' [Muslim]. The hadith also describes various other examples, including for people who ask for food and drink, where the one fulfilling their needs would have found Allah with them.
Imagine that when you are visiting an ill person, that you will be in close proximity with Allah. This is an honour that we should be running after, even if it means making accommodations in our busy routines and schedules.
Protocol of Visiting the Ill
With all the rewards attached to visiting the ill, one would imagine that this would be a difficult and time consuming task. On the contrary, Islamic protocol requires us to keep the visit simple and brief.
Set forth with the intention to remind the person of the rahmah and bounty of Allah, make du'a for the sick person and ask him to also make du'a for you. Once done, it is time to leave.
Rasulullah SAW has advised us to keep the visit short, so unless you are invited to stay longer, don't linger around. The patient requires rest and recuperation, and sometimes visits can put a strain on the patient's recovery. Noisy family reunions or crowding around the hospital bed can be counterproductive to the patient's recuperation and deprive him of much needed rest and peace. Be sensitive and considerate to the person's needs, and do not engage the patient in long and unnecessary conversation. Most importantly, don’t fill their time with empty talk which leads them away from the remembrance of Allah.
If the patient is in hospital, make sure that you observe the visiting hours. Work around what is convenient for the patient, instead of simply pitching up at your convenience. Also check the status of the illness – don't go when they are being changed, taking medicine, undergoing a therapy session or exercise or are being medicated or sedated.
If the patient is not alone, you can also seize that opportunity to give da'wah to the relatives and other visitors, and to elevate their spirits.