Sacred Somatics:
An Islamic Perspective on the Role of the Body in the Care of the Dying

Hina Khalid

The COVID-19 pandemic embedded one mantra in our quotidian existence: ‘social distancing’. Our habitual interactions had to conform to a new normal, as spontaneous somatic gestures like handshakes and hugs were off-limits. Within healthcare, and especially palliative care, this mitigated physical contact put an end to many types of human touch. I draw on the spiritual significance of the body in the Islamic tradition to set forth an account of what it means to be present with the dying, as an embodied mode of love and attentive care. Such presence, enacted through our bodies, is not about ‘controlling’ or ‘curing’ suffering but about meditatively bearing witness to it. I argue that Islamic perspectives on embodiment as a locus of sacral significance offer us resources to conceive human fragility and vulnerability not as encumbrances to be stoically surpassed but as experiential realities that lie at the core of our human condition of relational selfhood.

About the Presenter

Hina Khalid is a PhD student at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, where she also received her undergraduate and MPhil degrees. She is working on a comparative study of the theology and poetry of Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). She is particularity interested in the possibilities of comparative theology across Islamic and Indic traditions, and in the ways that shared devotional idioms have formed in and across the Indian subcontinent. Her previous publications have centred on a range of topics, including issues of embodiment, gender, and spirituality across the Christian, Islamic, and Indic worldviews.