by Abu Muhammad
Over the past couple of months, COVID-19, a new and highly infectious disease, has spread across the world at an alarming rate. At the time of writing this article, more than 270,000 people have been infected worldwide, resulting in over 11,000 deaths and a further 7,000+ in a serious or critical condition.
Countries are in lockdown. Fear and panic reign supreme – there is little talk of anything else.
However, we seem to be ignorant of the real dangers that the virus poses…
By now, most people are aware of the potential dangers to our physical health, yet the real and present danger to our spiritual wellbeing is simply not getting the attention it deserves. Indeed, you may have just read the preceding sentence and thought that this article no longer deserves your attention, but, before you click-off, humour me with a few minutes of your precious time – after all, they may be your last, right?
Though this calamity is only afflicting humanity through Allah’s Permission, we have brought this upon ourselves: “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by (reason of) what the hands of people have earned, so He may let them taste part of (the consequence of) what they have done that perhaps they will return (to righteousness).” [Surah al-Rum]
Perhaps now we can reflect on the fact that Allah’s commands are there for our own benefit, to safeguard us – for “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship” [Surah al-Baqarah] – if only we had listened.
But let’s remember who we are. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“The example of a believer is that of a fresh green plant, the leaves of which move in whatever direction the wind forces them to move and when the wind becomes still, it stands straight. (Such is the similitude of the believer: He is disturbed by calamities but, like the fresh plant he regains his normal state soon). And the example of a disbeliever is that of a cedar tree (which remains) hard and straight till Allah cuts it down when He wills.” [Sahih Bukhari]
For sure, the wind is blowing a gale right now, but are we firmly rooted in our faith such that it will be left standing when calm returns?
Or are we in a state of panic and fear, forgetful of Whose Hands we are in?
We are Believers and, lest we forget, we believe in Allah, al-Qaadir (The All Powerful) and “to Allah is your return, and He has power over all things” [Surah Hud]. Al-Qaadir can end this calamity just as suddenly as it started – everything is in His Hands.
Al-Qaadir has already decided our qadar (destiny), including our appointed time and place of death. If we are among the very small percentage destined to be taken by COVID-19, then it was always our fate and there is no avoiding it; and if we are among the vast majority not to be seriously affected, then that has already been written also:
“And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [Surah Yunus]
He is in complete control. So why are Muslims in a state of fear?
We are Believers and, lest we forget, we believe in Allah, al-Wali (The Protecting Friend), and our “…Protector is Allah, Who revealed the Book, and He will choose and befriend the righteous” [Surah al-A’raf] – isn’t that enough to set minds at ease?
Allah’s Beautiful Names are many; he is al-Qaadir and al-Wali, and He is Al-Muhyi – The One Who Gives Life. He Who gave us life has commanded us to protect our souls and our physical bodies from harm, for they are an amaanah (trust) from Him.
No sane Muslim would ever run into a busy road, claiming that his life and death are in Allah’s hands and so he bears no responsibility for his actions or death. Every Muslim knows that suicide is forbidden. And no sane person would excuse a murderer on the basis that the murdered person would have died anyway, as their death was the qadar of Allah and already pre-destined!
That is not the understanding of qadar that we have been taught, for though the outcome of all things are in Allah’s Hands alone, we have been commanded to take action and every precaution. Evaluate circumstances and decide based on the laws of nature which have been created and implemented by Allah and are therefore part of His qadar. Will we accept that part of qadar that makes sense to us and ignore the part that does not? Our believe in qadar is that all of it the good the bad the sweet and the sour are from Allah.
Perhaps we know better than ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, about whom the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Whoever hates Umar hates me. Whoever loves Umar loves me. Allah boasts about the people at the evening of Arafat generally and boasts of Umar specifically. Allah did not send a prophet except that his nation had a speaker, and if there was one of my nation it would be Umar.” They (the Companions) asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how does he speak?” He said, “Angels speak upon his tongue.” [Tabarani]
As narrated in Bukhari, several years after the passing of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) ‘Umar, as Amir al-Mu’mineen (Leader of the Believers), was visiting Syria. Upon entering the land, he was met by the great companion and commander of the army, Abu ‘Ubaydah, who informed ‘Umar that an epidemic had besieged a certain part of Syria. ‘Umar, after consulting the sahabah, informed those who had travelled with him that they would turn back, at which point Abu ‘Ubaydah asked: “Are you fleeing from the qadar (decree) of Allah?”.
‘Umar, the one upon whose tongue the angels speak, replied: “Yes, we are fleeing from the qadar of Allah, to the qadar of Allah.”
Thereupon ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf, may Allah be pleased with him, who was elsewhere during these discussions, came and said, ‘I have information on this from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:’
“I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, say: “If you hear that it (the plague) is in a land, do not go there, and if it breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave, fleeing from it.”” [Buhkari & Muslim]
That is the true understanding of qadar: that we are all commanded to take action (including taking all necessary precautions) to do good and avoid harm to ourselves and others; and the outcome of it all is known only to Allah and has already been decreed.
We must all take the necessary precautions to safeguard ourselves and each other – and that burden weighs most heavily on those who have a responsibility for others, including our imams, community leaders and others of influence, for their actions will impact many and they will be held responsible and judged accordingly.
Undoubtedly, this current pandemic is a stark reminder of the fragility of our existence and the inevitability of our physical demise.
We are Believers and, lest we forget, we believe in Allah, Al-Mumeet (The One Who Takes Life). There is a very small chance that this disease may take you or me, but it’s 100% certain that we will be taken one day soon, for “Every soul shall taste death” [Surah Aal ‘Imran].
Allah may protect some of His servants from COVID-19 and He might protect others from a far worse fate (in the next world) through COVID-19, expiating their sins and taking them back to Him in a state of complete purity. Both are expressions of His Divine Mercy – sometimes we’re just too spiritually blind to see it.
Allah’s taking of a soul that He loves, through this disease or by any other means, may be painful for those of us who are left behind, but the restful souls that have returned to Him know only joy and bliss. Our existence in this world was always temporary and they’ve returned home; nevermore to experience fear or grief. What is this world compared to paradise? What is our love compared to His?
If we reflect a little, we come to understand that COVID-19 is a Divine opportunity and test:
“Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the Dominion, and He has Power over all things. Who has created death and life, that He may test which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving” [Surah al-Mulk]
Reflect on the choice of words: He did not say that He created death and life to test which of us is best in faith – He created death and life to test which of us is best in deed. Our deeds are a product of our faith, i.e. the way we act is a true measure of what we believe. It was never going to be enough to simply profess our faith – it was always going to be put to the test:
“Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, “We believe”, and that they will not be tested?” [Surah al-Ankabut]
Anyone can act with piety in times of ease, but trials and tribulations will bring out the best or the worst in people and magnify the strengths and weaknesses of their eeman (faith). Be sure that this is a test – how we behave now is a matter more important than life and death.
So, when the Angel of Death inevitably comes to us, what will he find us doing?
Will he find us saying “nafsi, nasfi, nafsi” (“me, me, me”) whilst we run down the shopping aisles, hoarding food and goods, depriving the ones who need it most? Or hiking our prices to capitalise on the hysteria, selling our faith in return for a paltry few pounds – yet knowing full well that no amount of money can save us from the Divine Decree?
We are Believers, we shouldn’t be duped by our mortal enemy: “Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and all-Knowing.” [Surah al-Baqarah]
We are Believers and, lest we forget, we believe in Allah, al-Razzaq (The Continual Provider) – we don’t need to deprive and take from others to be provided for:
“And for those who fear Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out, And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him.” [Surah al-Talaq]
If we are worried about how our families will cope if we are taken, we would do well to remember that we are Believers, we believe that the One Who provides for them whilst we are alive will continue to provide for them once we are gone. He is the True Provider – we never were.
Will the Angel of Death find us in a state of fear, forwarding every message we receive without verifying the content, spreading panic and contributing to the fear-mongering that inevitably results in oppression?
We are Believers and, lest we forget, we believe in Allah, Al-Haqq (The Truth); we seek out the truth and sit in the centre-ground of caution, between heedlessness and hysteria, taking our precautions and putting our faith in our Master – content with whatever He decrees.
If we are wise, the Angel of Death will find us helping others, not oppressing them through our own greed.
Indeed, our very salvation may lie in our service to others, for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) has told us that: “Allah will be in be in the service of His slave, so long as His slave is in the service of his brother” [Muslim] and “The merciful ones will be shown mercy by the All-Merciful” [Tirmidhi].
We are Believers – since when have we feared death and not yearned to meet our Lord?
“Whoever looks forward (with hope and awe) to meeting God (on Resurrection Day, let him be ready for it): for, behold, the end set by God (for everyone’s life) is bound to come – and He alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing” [Surah al-Ankabut]
The only fear we should have is the fear and shame of meeting Allah in a wretched state, soiled by our sins. We are Believers, and, if we are wise, the Angel of Death will find us in a state of sincere repentance.
We are Believers and, lest we forget, we believe in Allah, Al-Mujeeb (The Responding One):
“When My servants ask you about Me, (tell them) I am indeed near: I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: So let them also respond to Me, and believe in Me: That they may be led aright” [Surah al-Baqarah]
If we are wise, the Angel of Death will find us with our hands raised to the sky or our heads bowed in submission and humility, calling on Allah by His Beautiful Names, begging His Forgiveness, Mercy and Protection – because we know that there is nobody else to run to but Him.
We must come together to help those who need it most.
And we should take all necessary precautions to prevent harm, without depriving others and falling into sin.
The true dangers of this outbreak go far beyond the physical and worldly, for this is a test of faith and deed.
If we aren’t moved by this tribulation to return to Allah in humility and sincerity, if we remain hard-hearted, arrogant, selfish, callous and uncaring, and if we refuse to do our part to help the needy among us – then we will have failed this test and death will be the least of our problems.
Time is ticking and, lest we forget, we are Believers:
“(I swear) by Time, indeed humankind is in a state of loss, except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and exhort each other to truth, and exhort each other to patience.” [Surah al-‘Asr]