Reframing the Challenges of COVID-19

Every news channel, every tweet, every text message right now is about COVID-19. The global conversation shifted from dismissiveness to concern to downright panic. Before the tsunami hit the United States, there were massive warning signs coming from countries abroad—yet, still the American federal government failed “bigly.” The administration didn’t heed the signs and neglected to accurately inform its people, all while still waving a banner and declaring itself the greatest country in the world.

It is an incredibly frustrating, confusing, and scary time. We haven’t seen our loved ones for weeks, and many of us know healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery store workers, post officers, delivery men and women, and many other people involved in “essential work.” Every day they put their lives at risk so the rest of us can be safe.

While engulfed by this uncertainty and unknown, Muslims have one very certain constant—God. As little as we understand at this unprecedented time, we do know one thing: this pandemic is from God, just as everything is from God. Ultimately, He knows what is best for us and for the world. Although it seems grim, and we cannot fathom much of a silver lining here, Muslims believe there definitely is one, and it will make itself visible in due time.

One narration of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) presents a comforting outcome. He said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that” (Sahih Bukhari). If I had to pick one saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as the ultimate pick-me-up, this has to be it. Whatever big or small suffering a Muslim may endure, this narration shows the calamity is worth it. In Islam, sickness is considered a spiritual purification. One of my teachers would worry if he had not fallen ill in a long time, saying he needed to be purified of his wrongdoings. For Muslims, if a disease in this life results in a purification of sins now instead of later in the grave or in the Afterlife, we will most certainly opt for it.

Another way to look at the coronavirus pandemic is as a wake-up call. Now is the time to finally do what really matters—in Islam, that is worship. Worship comes in many forms. It is not limited to prayer, supplication, recitation of Quran, and fasting. Worship is fulfilling any command of Allah—working to earn a living, taking care of your family, maintaining cleanliness of your home, eating to sustain your wellbeing, exercising to build your strength, keeping ties with your elders, playing with your children, and the list goes on. All of the routine activities of our day, when paired with an intention to please God and fulfill His command can earn a Muslim reward. If we are of the group who still find ourselves healthy, we should be sure not to squander our newfound time. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There are two blessings which many people lose: health and free time for doing good” (Sahih Bukhari).

Many people are complaining about being stuck inside the house, when really, we should be grateful to have a safe place to call home. For Muslims, this time ought to be spent preparing for the upcoming month of Ramadan, not binging on the newest Netflix series and re-watching the classic episodes of shows we already memorized. This time is truly a gift, and if healthy, Muslims must use it to ready for Ramadan. While community plays a huge role in the Ramadan experience; this year, the void will definitely be felt. Regardless of this, however, the month of Ramadan still brings countless blessings and mercy from Allah. He is giving people time now to prepare, before it is officially go-time.

This virus can be seen as an expiation of sins or gift of time, yes, but ultimately the numbers are staggering. People are dying. This is a truth that must be faced. In Islam, death is not seen as the end. It is simply a necessary step in the journey, the vehicle that takes people into the next phase. The Prophet (peace be upon him) speaks specifically of death resulting from a plague: “Plague was a punishment which Allah used to send on whom He wished, but Allah made it a blessing for the believers. None (among the believers) remains patient in a land in which plague has broken out and considers that nothing will befall him except what Allah has ordained for him, but that Allah will grant him a reward similar to that of a martyr” (Sahih Bukhari).

Muslims find much comfort in knowing the above narration. If God wills for them or their loved ones to fall ill from this virus, and if that indeed results in their death, there is a hope of a martyr’s reward. It is an extremely high rank and beloved to God. For Muslims, pleasing God is top priority, and if this life can be left in such a state, then that truly is success.

We pray all of our readers and their families are healthy and taking the precautions necessary to slow the spread of this virus. Stay informed, stay safe, and please, stay faithful.

Habeeba Husain

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