Hakimul Ummah Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi (May Allah be pleased with him) said regarding, “The Aim of Isolation and the Possibilty of Being Isolated In A Large Gathering”:
It was said that the meaning of isolation (khalwa) is to attach ones heart with Allah Most High. Therefore, when ones heart remains attached to Allah during a period of isolation he should remain isolated. However, when the heart suffers confusion and disorder one sits in a gathering of the pious. This will rid the dangers one experienced. At that time [sitting in] this gathering will come under the same hukm as being isolated for the goal is the same, attaching ones heart with Allah. This could not be achieved through isolation at that particular moment and thus was done through sitting in a [righteous] gathering.
(Malfuzat Hakimul Ummah: Vol 23, #321)
The concept of isolation is proven from the actions and words of the Prophet (Allah Bless him and Grant him peace).
It comes under his actions due to the fact that he remained isolated in Cave Hira a number of times. This is an established historical fact that cannot be denied. Virtually all the Biographies of the Prophet – early and late – mention this.
As for the Prophetic words to the effect, then there are many which have come through sound chains. It is related from Abu Sa’id Al Khudri (Allah be pleased with him):
حدثنا أبو اليمان: أخبرنا شعيب، عن الزُهري قال: حدثني عطاء بن يزيد: أن أبا سعيد حدثه قال: قيل يا رسول الله.
وقال محمد بن يوسف: حدثنا الأوزاعي: حدثنا الزُهري، عن عطاء بن يزيد الليثي، عن أبي سعيد الخدري قال:
جاء أعرابي إلى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال: يا رسول الله أي الناس خير؟ قال: (رجل جاهد بنفسه وماله، ورجل في شعب من الشعاب: يعبد ربه، ويدع الناس من شره).
A bedouin came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and gran thim peace) and said, “Oh Allah’s Apostle! Who is the best of mankind!” The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “A man who strives for Allah’s Cause with his life and property, and also a man who lives (all alone) in a mountain path among the mountain paths to worship his Lord and save the people from his evil.”
(Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Al Riqaq #6129)
Similarly, in the Sahih of Imam Muslim (Kitab Al Dhikr) Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates:
حدثنا أمية بن بسطام العيشي. حدثنا يزيد (يعني ابن زريع). حدثنا روح بن القاسم عن العلاء، عن أبيه، عن أبي هريرة، قال:
كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يسير في طريق مكة. فمر على جبل يقال له جمدان. فقال “سيروا. هذا جمدان. سبق المفردون” قالوا: وما المفردون؟ يا رسول الله! قال “الذاكرون الله كثيرا، والذاكرات
“While on the road to Makka the Prophet (Allah bless him and gran thim peace) passed on top of a mountain called Jumdan at which time he said: Move on ! Here is Jumdaan Mountain: And the single-minded (al mufarridun) are foremost. They said: What are the single-minded? He said: The men and women who remember Allah much.”
Commenting on this hadith Imam Nawawi states in his Sharh:
وقال ابن الأعرابي : يقال : فرد الرجل إذا تفقه واعتزل وخلا بمراعاة الأمر والنهي
Ibn al A`rabi said: “It is said that “a man becomes single” when he becomes learned, isolates himself, and concerns himself exclusively with the observance of Allah’s orders and prohibitions.”
Maulana Thanvi explains that when isolation does not work then one should seek out the gatherings of the righteous as Allah Himself comamnded in the Qur’an when He said, “Be with the righteous…”. This is indispensable advice because many of us in this day and age find it difficult to keep to ourselves. Thus, especially in Universities and High Schools e.t.c. we should seek the best of company for the betterment of our worldly and next-worldly life.
Blessings on the Prophet, his family and his companions.