A time of reckoning is the time when something must be apologised for or avenged, so is the pandemic Divine revenge? As we come to the end of the spiritual exercise of fasting and the month of patience and sympathy, we reflect on the necessity to change.
Reports of the nature of society before the pandemic were disheartening: “inequality had reached historic records worldwide, Australia had been burning for months on end, autocrats were suffocating democracy in Hungary and Venezuela and waves of protests had slipped across the six continents from Beirut to Paris, from Hong Kong to Moscow” (Historian Rutger Bregman, Time magazine May 2020).
There are also reports of:
- Eight million Syrians refugees
- Severe famine in war-torn Yemen
- One million Rohingya refugees in squalid camps
- Millions of Kashmiri’s under brutal curfew in India
- The plight of the Palestinians in Gaza the list goes on.
David Attenborough (Naturalist and Broadcaster) presents a further horrific scenario about the climate crisis and gave a stark warning that threatens human existence on the planet. He said “this is an urgent problem that must be solved, what’s more, we know how to do it – that’s the paradoxical thing, we are refusing to take steps that we know must be taken – simply half the emissions of gases heating the planet.”
A crisis is usually a turning point for individuals and societies, a wake-up call, time to make the unthinkable thinkable. Will this pandemic make us think and make us change our ways?
“The misfortune you face is due to your own fault. However, Allah forgives much. You can’t disable Allah’s plan on Earth; you have no protector and helper beside Him. Among His signs are the ships sailing on open seas, appearing like mountains. He could stop the wind blowing if He wished, so they would standstill on the surface of the sea. In that are signs for the patient and thankful person. Or else He could wreck their ship, because of what they have done, but Allah forgives a lot. Those who argue about Our message, let them know there’s no escape for them” (Al-Shoora: 29-34).
In the midst of the pandemic
There are green shoots, we have all seen a shift from a selfish, individualistic and egotistical society, towards people being altruistic and cooperative. People are thankful to NHS workers, every Thursday as they stand outside their homes to show their appreciation, other groups are feeding the needy, the elderly and the vulnerable. Neighbours are talking to each other. Women sewing masks and gowns for the doctors, the nurses and the cleaners risking their lives on the frontline.
As a socio-religious commentator, I am optimistic because of my belief in Divine predestination (Al-Qadar). This powerful belief gives me relief from fear of the uncertain future and the worrisome losses of the past. This is optimism, the idea that good will prevail over evil. The Almighty says: “Any disaster on Earth or to yourselves is written down before it happens; this is feasible for Allah. Its purpose to ensure you don’t become hopeless because of your loss, nor boast about your gain. Allah doesn’t like the boasters or those who are miserly and encourage miserliness” (Al-Hadid: 22-23). The Quran teaches us to be hopeful, expect to come out unscathed from this dreadful plague and wish confidently to be a winner.
The complex and marvellous world
The world is not here by chance nor is it a random phenomenon, neither is it unpredictable nor cruel. That’s a dismal, pessimistic and unscientific view of the world. In contrast, the Quran presents an organised universe, working in unison and precision like the cogs of a Swiss watch, governed by Divine laws, unchangeable laws of the Creator. Furthermore, the Lord is Caring and Kind to his creatures despite human sin and disobedience. He has established a just system, an intricate self-maintaining and a robust balanced eco-system. Unfortunately, humans are polluting, contaminating and ruining it.
“If corruption has appeared on land and sea it’s because what people have done with their hands, it is to make them taste something of the fruits of what they have done, so they may turn back from their wicked ways. Say, “Travel about the land and observe what became of those before you.” Most of them associated partners with Allah” (Al-Rum: 41-42).
When I go out for my shopping, I still meet some Muslims who extend their hands to shake hands, maybe it’s just habit, but embarrassingly I have to remind them that we should respect social distancing and therefore no handshakes. Fear in such a difficult crisis is natural and definitely not a sign of an absence of faith or weak faith either.
On one occasion a person began to argue in a fatalistic manner and said ‘don’t you believe in God?’ He appeared to believe that he had some special spiritual force field around him, which will shield him from catching Covid-19. I truly believe in putting trust and reliance on Allah but this is not how you do it. Our beloved master Muhammed (peace be upon him) once saw a Bedouin about to leave his camel untied, he asked him “why are you doing this?” The bedouin replied, “I have put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) told him “first tie the camel and then put your trust in Allah.” Faith abhors reckless flouting of Allah’s laws, the believer respects authorities and the laws they impose. The believer shows confidence in his Lord by being kind and charitable.
To the future
The Coronavirus viewed under an electron microscope has spikes that look like a crown. The crown is a symbol of power and control. The immense power this tiny, invisible virus has over humans is overwhelming, its forced seven billion of us into a lockdown. It reminds us of our vulnerability and breakability, telling us ‘you’re just mortal!’ The coronavirus mutation might be an accident of nature but it reveals that humans have broken their relationship both with the creation and with their Creator. We must ask how will you use this time to change yourself? How will you help your family to change?