When Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “there really is such a thing as society”, it made me reflect on the importance of national unity and the sense of togetherness. What did Mevlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi recommend for us at this time of crisis, I’ll share the story about a man who wanted a tattoo of a Lion and his ordeal.
On our island, a national response to the Coronavirus pandemic is underway. This is a time for self-sacrifice and to show solidarity, unity and love for our country. The Prime Minister and the Government have played their part by producing a huge economic stimulus package, including all kinds of incentives to individuals and businesses to ensure they continue to function. The NHS workers who are working tirelessly to save lives and protect the public have been rightly declared ‘National Heroes’. However, the most important response is that of the individual and the community. We are facing a great test of our unity as a country. We know a community can falter but it can also come together and in these unprecedented times, we must come together.
I want to give my friends a simple message; we are living in a world gripped by the Coronavirus pandemic. The Majestic Quran teaches us: “Beware, Allah’s friends have no fear, nor do they grieve” (Yunus: 62). We should not live in fear, but with confidence and complete reliance on Allah and his promise that He is with us. Many of us have responded to the crisis by praying, seeking Allah’s forgiveness and begging his protection.
We must ask ourselves, “am I not my brother’s keeper?” It is not simply our own health we should take care of but our family, friends, neighbours and even strangers. We must do everything we can to keep one another safe. Even if that requires sacrificing our own routines, livelihood and maybe even our position. This can only come about if we submit our own individualism to the collective will of our country.
So, I call on all Muslims to continue to play their part as we are facing a great test of our collective will. It is our individual goodness and collective goodness that will pull us through this crisis. I presume this is what the Prime Minister meant when he said, “there really is such a thing as society.” Let’s show that we are part of this society. Let’s pray for our country and its people. This is a time of self-discipline and self-mastery. Here is a funny story from Rumi’s Masnavi; that troubadour of love and storytelling. Let it put a smile on your face!
The man who wanted a tattoo – The necessity of self-discipline
It was the custom of the men of Qazwin to have various devices tattooed upon their bodies. One day a man went to a barber/tattooist and said to him “do me a favour sir, kindly tattoo me the figure of a raging Lion, put your back into it, pricking plenty of blue colour.” “Where shall I prick the figure?” Asked the Barber. “Prick the pretty picture on my shoulder blade”, said the man.
As soon as the barber started to stick the tattoo needle into the man, feeling the sharp pain in his shoulder blade, he squealed loudly “I declare you have slain me. What sort of figuring was that?” “Why? A Lion just as you ordered me.” With which part of it did you begin? Asked the man. “I started at the tail” the Barber answered. “Leave out the tail my dear fellow”, said the man. “The Lion’s tail and rump took my breath away and completely choked my windpipe. Let the Lion be without a tail”. The Barber began to prick in another place, without fear, without favour, without compassion. “Which part of his body is this now?” The man yelled. “This is the ear, let the Lion be without ears and hurry up!”
The Barber stuck the needle in yet another spot and once again the man started to howl. “Which part is it now?” The barber replied “the belly of the Lion your honour?” “Let the Lion be without the belly” shouted the man. “The tattoo is full enough already what need is there for a belly?” The barber was reduced to complete bewilderment and stood for a long-time with his hand on his head. Finally, the maestro flung the needle to the ground and said “has anything like this happened to anyone? Who’s seen a Lion without a tail, without a head and without a belly? Allah Himself never created such a Lion”.
Bear with resilience and patience, my brothers and sisters the pain of the dagger that you may escape from, the poison of your ungrateful-self. People who have escaped out of self-existence the Sun, Moon and Stars bow down before them.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the four Muslim Doctors who were first to die on the front line of the UK pandemic, may Allah bless their souls and raise their ranks in Jannah.