What Islam Teaches About Making Daily Space for Silence
Anyone can adopt these strategies into their everyday life and experience more inner peace
I grew up steeped in the idea that silence was sacred. As observant Muslims, my family and I would make time to pray five times a day — five distinct, quiet, contemplative moments. This time would interrupt what was going on in our daily lives, no matter what.
These days, as an adult and a busy working mom, I often forget about the importance of silence. It’s a realization that hit me recently when I had a break during my baby’s nap — instead of allowing myself to sit still, I immediately filled my head with other people’s voices. I caught up on emails. I texted an old friend. I checked Twitter.
Today’s plugged-in, chatty world seems built to make us uncomfortable with silence. The pressures of our always-on culture make me feel like I should be forever filling downtime with conversation, music, or a podcast or lecture. Relishing silence for long periods of time feels lazy and time-wasting.
But really, nothing could be further from the truth. Now, when I find myself losing sight of the importance of silence, I return to the teachings of my childhood. Islamic traditions offer wisdom about silence that help anyone, no matter what your background:
You don’t always have to speak
In Islam, silence is considered to be one of the first stages of worship. One of the great leaders in Islam, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, noted that someone who speaks less often actually embodies more wisdom. According to Talib’s teachings, when you’re quiet, you avoid unnecessary talk that might lead to lying.
We’ve all been there — you start speaking without a plan and end up saying things you don’t mean to say. Sarcastic volleys get a little too pointed. You shoot down an idea in a meeting just for the sake of contributing something to the discussion. What if we trusted that our input mattered—even when we weren’t constantly talking?
Take time to reflect
The Prophet Muhammad encouraged the more expansive kind of silence that leads to reflection. You can’t really think clearly…