What should be our response to COVID-19?

Here I reflect on what the experts are telling us about the pandemic, what the Governments are imposing in the light of Islamic teachings. How do these teachings prepare us to cope with such a life-threatening crisis? Muslim leadership is urged to support all measures to prevent the spread of this disastrous pandemic.

We are avidly watching the developments of COVID-19 on mainstream and social media as it spreads from the East to the West. Sowing fear, uncertainty and anxiety. We couldn’t imagine facing a global pandemic on this scale. The ever-rising COVID-19 cases have forced Governments globally to take drastic actions such as:

  • mass quarantines
  • school closures
  • sweeping travel bans
  • sports season suspensions

Yet many may find these measures puzzling. Are they not disproportionate to the actual threat? Is this not fear-mongering? After all, it’s just influenza?

We live in a society where the NHS can do miracles! So, we feel safe, there are vaccines, effective drugs and antibiotics that can cure us. But because of this experience we are, psychologically not quipped for the current coronavirus pandemic. This is where the Islamic teachings of patience and reliance on the Divine come handy. They give us the moral resources to tackle the fear that stalks our communities.

Be thankful to the doctors

Doctors are the frontline fighters against it, they have three main concerns about this pandemic that explains the drastic measures Boris Johnson is enforcing, the uncertainty, the severity and the rapidity of the virus. The uncertainty that we do not yet fully know our enemy.

So, coronaviruses as a group are well known since the 1960’s, but this COVID-19 is not. We’re not sure how it will cause sickness. Its severity of infections is high, its predicted 20% infected will require hospitalisation with a severe or critical disease, involving respiratory failure, with a fatality rate of 8% in 70 to 79 year olds and 15% in those aged 80 years and above. Similarly, it spreads alarmingly fast, like the “tsunami” effect, the exponential rapidity of its spread is frightening. This is the main reason for the current drastic public health interventions. The advice of social distancing, isolation and lockdown of entire cities and provinces, and imposing curfew-like restrictions.

Let’s not forget our wonderful doctors and nurses, yes, they took an oath “The health of our patients shall be our first consideration.” It’s easy to fulfil in a normal situation but in a crisis like the COVID-19, it’s challenging yet we see them living up to the challenge. So, pray for the medical professionals and appreciate them.

Turn to Allah in Repentance

In times of crisis and social disruption, we turn to Allah for spiritual guidance and assurance. We believe Allah is certainly with us. Allah is the Most Kind and Caring Lord, even amid the evil of a lethal pandemic. When we hear about the death toll it puts dread of falling ill and dying in our minds. This ought to turn us towards Him. So, we pray and become mindful, remembering that this is a fleeting world, a probationary period of preparation for a lasting home. We should view this pandemic as a Divine test, a trial of our faith, a test of our wits, an evil that plagues us, and we must take that seriously. It’s easy to see its effects, so we dread but the greater evil is within us, our bloated ego, oversized lust and selfishness. Yes, our materialism. Therefore, the response to COVID-19 is tawbah or repentance. Acknowledging our sins, a sense of shame and promise never to sin again. Simply to turn away from sins.

COVID-19 is a temptation (Fitnah) that tests our faith, do you trust Allah and obey His orders? Simply, are you devout, do you continue to sincerely worship Allah? Are you patient and thankful? What are you doing for others? Are you supporting the needy and vulnerable? Care for relatives, neighbours and friends? A faithful Muslim must help the needy, the sick and the dying.

Be united and make sacrifice

The social distancing being imposed on us offers new opportunities. We ought to practice generosity and kindness, this generates an attitude of measured concern not panicking. Makes us patient, less worried, coping with anxiety. Otherwise, we will panic, be fearful and this explains the battles of toilet paper in supermarkets and the empty shelves as we stockpile. As citizens, we all have a role to play, to keep our society going. Continue to work hard so the economy keeps ticking over, support our family, take care of children and the elderly, respond positively to the government’s advice.

Be prayerful

Islam’s teachings encourage us to take every step to protect ourselves and others from infectious diseases. They provide spiritual guidelines that boost morale and give hope. Prayer is the shield of a believer, so let’s pray to the cause of all causes, Al-Samad, our Eternal, Almighty Lord. The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “when you see an ill person, pray ‘all praise is for Allah who has protected me from this illness, which afflicts you and you’ve favoured me above many people’, you would then be protected from it” (Tirmazi: 3431).

The prophet (peace be upon him) prayed; “Lord, I seek your protection in the world and in the hereafter, I seek forgiveness, protect my religion, my wealth and my family; I ask you to hide my faults, give me chastity and protect me against fear; Lord, you are my protector from all sides. Lord, shield me” (Abu Dawud: 5074).

On another occasion, he (peace be upon him) taught us to pray, “I seek your protection from leprosy, from dementia, infectious illnesses and all deadly diseases” (Abu Dawud: 1554).

The recitation of the Majestic Quran with deep reflections is a form of prayer that is very effective, so read the Majestic Quran with translation meditatively. A simple spiritual exercise is also to give charity, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “even a piece of date can relieve you from misfortune.” So, give generously in these difficult times. I pray that Allah saves us all from the ravages of this pandemic. Ameen.