1. I am sure many of us have watched the movie The Lion King. And I am sure you would remember the part when Mufasa told Simba that as future King, he was supposed to rule ALL the animals including the antelopes that they eat. Surprised, Simba asked, “…but don’t we eat the antelopes?” To which Mufasa replied; “When we die, our body becomes the grass. And the antelopes eat the grass. And so, we are all connected in this big circle of life”. Perhaps nothing emphasises this point in recent times more than the Covid-19 pandemic. We are all connected in more ways than we ever imagined before.
2. But how does Islam view plagues or pandemics such as the Covid-19? What should our attitude be in confronting this virus? An often forgotten fact is that everything that is created by Allah SWT has its purpose of existence, no matter how despised they are in the eyes of many. In Surah Ali Imran Verse 191, Allah says,
“Our Lord! You have not created this in vain. Glory to you. Save us then from the torment of hellfire.”
We now know the importance of the unseen bacteria, the lowly worms or the feared predators in this world’s ecosystem. Viruses are no different. They have their pre-destined roles. As such, we have to respect their place and purpose as we do the other creatures, even though they are associated with the pandemic ravaging us now.
3. In facing pandemics such as the Corona Virus Disease presently prevalent world-wide, there is a hadith that may be of guide to us. Aisha asked the Messenger about plagues, and he said, “It is a punishment that Allah sends upon whomever he wills, but Allah has made it a mercy to the believers. Any servant who resides in a land afflicted by plague, remaining patient and hoping for reward from Allah, knowing that nothing will befall him but what Allah has decreed, he will be given the reward of a martyr.”
4. This hadith is of multiple significance. Firstly, plagues are punishments from Allah. Second is about the importance of isolating those infected with plagues. Thirdly, those who make sacrifices to curb the plague, will be rewarded accordingly. And lastly, to trust what Allah has willed upon us after we have taken efforts to the best of our ability.
5. While we will never be sure of the real reasons or wisdom why Allah sends us any calamities or tribulations, the attitude that is best to be taken by a believer is that of self-introspection. When the prophet Yunus was eaten by the whale, his doa was:
“There is no god but You. Glorified be You! Truly I was indeed wrong”
6. We are also perpetually reminded in the Al Quran that:
“whatever misfortune that befalls you is because of the things your hands have wrought, and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness.”
Ash-Shura Verse 30
7. Or perhaps, it is our acts of omission, neglectful of our roles as khalifah of Allah on this earth, such that when Allah’s wrath befalls us, everyone will be collectively punished.
“And guard yourselves against a chastisement which does not fall exclusively on those of you who are wrong-doers, and know that Allah is strict in punishment.”
(Al Anfal Verse 25)
8. Allah sometimes sends a calamity to us so as to elevate our status, and to know who are patient among us.
9. Despite all the obvious misery and difficulties associated with the Covid-19, there are perhaps a lot hikmah behind it. It might well be what Allah has reminded us in Surah Al Baqarah Verse 216:
“but it may happen that you hate a thing that is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows, and you know not”
10. As we enter the month of Ramadhan, perhaps it’s good to also reflect of any wisdom or lessons we can extract from what is happening to us now, a phenomenon that historians say happens every 100 years or so, to this holy month.
11. Lesson one is that just like our bodies that receive a rest in Ramadhan, so does the earth! CNN reported unprecedented falls in air pollution in cities throughout the world. This year’s (50th) World Earth Day was a celebration with a difference. Even the ozone layer’s depletion started to reverse. People in India can now see the Himalayas for the first time in decades! Allah has reminded us (Ar Ruum Verse 41) of the destruction on land and in sea by the action of men’s hands. No species on earth has caused more destruction to it than us human beings. Remember that as khalifah, it is our responsibility to take care of this earth. After all, it is the only one we have!
12. This Ramadhan, as we fast, please remember not to punish our bodies by over-eating etc. Go easy during the breaking of fast. The lockdown and restricted movement has made it easy to not over-indulge. The rest is up to us. Just as a lockdown is a circuit breaker for Covid, let this Ramadhan be a circuit breaker for our unhealthy habits! After all Ramadhan is a month for behaviour modification. It’s when we wake up earlier than normal. Read quran and pray more than normal. Indulge in mundane obsessions lesser than normal. And if we follow this diligently for the whole month and beyond, we’ll be a brand new person soon.
13. Another lesson to be learnt comes from the fear brought about by the pandemic. We are conscious with everything we touch, whom we meet, where we go. It is as though the virus is peering at us all the time! Saydina Umar once asked a sahabah Ubai b Kaab about the definition of taqwa, he asked back, “Have you ever walked a path that has thorns on it? What did you do then?” To which Umar replied. “I rolled up my sleeves and tread carefully to avoid being pricked.” Trade the thorns with the corona virus today, and we will have a fairly good idea of what taqwa is.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if as muslims we are as aware of Allah omnipresence? As mentioned by He himself in Surah Al Hadiid Verse 4,
“And he is with you wherever you are.”
14. What stops us from eating or drinking when we are fasting? Whom are we trying to fool if we do? If only we can bring this attitude to our everyday lives, we would be more God conscious and have higher integrity. J C Watts once said, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing wrong is to get caught!” Any reasons for muslims who are conditioned and trained this whole Ramadhan not to be people of character then?
15. The lockdown has put into perspective of what is important versus what is not. Or between what is important and what is extremely important. With the lockdown, we are spending less time shopping. I hope one day we will be able to look back at the old days when many of us buy things we don’t really need, only to invoke envy to the people we don’t really like in the first place! We are now much wiser I hope, to differentiate between our needs and our wants. It’s time to go back to basics. To celebrate our unsung heroes in the medical frontline than say the movie or football stars. Nothing is more paradoxical than to pay peanuts for water that is so essential, and trade an arm and a leg for a piece of diamond which is primarily good only for our gazing!
16. We celebrate the advent of Ramadhan this year in a sombre mood. No iftars in jamaah. No tarawih at the mosques. But hang on; that was precisely how our beloved prophet s.a.w. celebrated his Ramadhan! In the early days of Islam, the Sahabahs would do their night prayers and read the Quran in their respective homes and break their fasts with their families.
17. Use the savings from our more frugal lifestyle to extend help to those in need, just like the practices of the Prophet S.A.W. and his Sahabahs. Live simply so that others can simply live. It is time to go back to the spirit and practices of these early days.
18. On a final note, let us reflect upon what has happened in the last few months. A humble virus has wreaked havoc to the world, making a mockery of many countries with so-called sophisticated medical systems. The lockdowns in many countries have restricted our movements, even for ibadah. But in these trying times, a true believer will find solace and space for self-introspection, and a multitude of lessons to be learnt. As Mufasa said, “we are all connected in this big circle of life”.
19. All our acts of commission and omission, in our personal and public spheres will have an impact to one another, and we will truly reap what we sow.
“If ye did well, ye did it for yourselves; if ye did evil, ye did it against yourselves”
Al Israa’ Verse 7
Let us instil in ourselves a clear intention of making this Ramadhan the most memorable and the best one we have ever had.
Mohd Adam Mohd Said (C’78)
GCEO – Profess Consulting Group
BOT – Hidayah Centre Foundation
Deputy President – Muslim Business Network