By Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan
All praises are for Allah, The Almighty, and may His peace and blessing be upon His true servant and final Messenger Muhammad, on his Companions and his household.
The world is currently facing one of the worse epidemics in modern times: The Coronavirus. When it was first announced late 2019 that somewhere in the Wuhan State in China there is a virus that has a very high mortality rate, for most people, they remained silent thinking it’s a China thing. In fact, many people shrugged off any possibility of this virus going beyond the Wuhan State let alone the borders of China.
But then comes the rude awakening! Over 6,000 miles no Masjid or Islamic Center in the USA ever dreamed that they would be caught into a Fiqhi quagmire a lot more intense than the sighting of the new moon at the end of the month of Ramadhan to determine Eid-ul Fitr. It would be the first time the Muslim community is now faced with problem of deciding whether to pray Salaatul Jumu’ah in the Masjid or to cancel it altogether. This is not a simple decision.
Muslims would remember that one of their most fearful periods in USA was the months and years that follow 911. Despite the tremendous fears, Muslims never thought of cancelling Jumu’ah. They always found a way out and continued one of the greatest symbols of the week: Salaatul Jumu’ah. They did whatever it took from the security of the local brothers to the hiring police officers to keep guard but the Salaah and particularly Salaatul Jumu’ah went on.
Those were the days when the Imaam would be delivering the Khutbah and all of a sudden one hears a loud sound; bang! Almost everyone turned around instantaneously with their hearts racing thinking of the inevitable. Yet Salaatul Jumu’ah went on!
Also, there were other viruses such as Ebola, SERS, MERS which are sisters to the COVID-19 but not much took place at the Masjid other than a casual warning. But now the COVID-19 poses a problem never faced before and it has to do with the fear of being in close proximity of each other in the Masjid and the potential risks involve, may Allah SWT forbid, if someone was to spread the virus. In addition, biochemists seem not know how the virus is transmitted from person to person.
But while this discourse goes in the Muslim community, there is an aspect of epidemic that is beyond a Fiqhi perspective and it is about how we process such calamity and seek the deeper meaning and searching for answers. After all nothing happens except by the will of Allah SWT.
﴾مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَا إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ يَسِيرٌ ٢٢﴿
No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allah, is easy – (22) (51:22)
So, beyond the Fiqhi discourse let us contemplate on the nature of epidemic. Here are a few thoughts:
First: Epidemic if from the Qadr of Allah SWT:
We believe that everything was written down 50,000 years before the heavens and earth were created. So, when a Muslim hears of a calamity such as the Coronavirus he just does not go into a panic mode or depression. Instead, he understands first and foremost that is from the Qadr of Allah SWT. Allah SWT says:
﴾مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۗ وَمَن يُؤْمِن بِاللَّـهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ ﴿١١
No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (64:11)
This is further explained in the Hadith of Jabir (RA) who reported that Rasoolullah SAS said: ‘No slave of Allāh will truly believe until he believes in al-Qadr; its good and bad from Allāh, and until he knows that what has befallen him was not going to miss him and that what missed him was not going to befallen him.’ (At-Tirmidhi)
Muslims must not believe that all will be good in this world and when calamity befalls he questions the motives of The Creator.
Another famous Hadith that we hear often is Hadith ibn Abbas (RA) who said:
كُنْتُ خَلْفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَوْمًا فَقَالَيَا غُلَامُ إِنِّي أُعَلِّمُكَ كَلِمَاتٍ احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْكَ احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَكَ إِذَا سَأَلْتَ فَاسْأَلْ اللَّهَ وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْتَ فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاللَّهِ وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْأُمَّةَ لَوْ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوكَ إِلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَكَ وَلَوْ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوكَ إِلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ رُفِعَتْ الْأَقْلَامُ وَجَفَّتْ الصُّحُفُ
I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah, SAS, when he said to me, “Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of Allah and he will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find him before you. If you ask, ask from Allah. If you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if the nations gathered together to benefit you, they will not benefit you unless Allah has decreed it for you. And if the nations gathered together to harm you, they will not harm you unless Allah has decreed it for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Second: Allah SWT is The Ultimate Power
Every form of epidemics and viruses are from the Qudrah (Power) of Allah SWT. With such microscopic creation He SWT uses them as to remind us of our weakness by nature while showing His power. He says:
وَخُلِقَ الْإِنْسَانُ ضَعِيفًا
“Mankind was created weak”
His entire creation is His army and He uses whichever He wishes to bring about tremendous destruction to the entire world including the most powerful of nations.
﴾وَمَا يَعْلَمُ جُنُودَ رَبِّكَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَمَا هِيَ إِلَّا ذِكْرَىٰ لِلْبَشَرِ﴿٣١
And none knows the soldiers of your Lord except Him. And it is not but a reminder to humanity. (74: 31)
He SWT also tells us:
﴾وَلِلَّـهِ جُنُودُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا ﴿٧
And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. (48:7)
Time and time again when mankind deviates and forgets who has the real power He sends some calamity such as the Coronavirus for them to reflect.
Third: Balancing between Tawakkul and taking the Asbaab (means)
Islam requires from us to do two things:
- A Believer must have Tawakkul or trust in Allah SWT that He is sufficient as our help. He SWT says:
﴾وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّـهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا ﴿٣
And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent. (65:3)
- A Believer must seek the means or Asbaab whether it is by seeking protection, seeking treatment or by medical intervention.
Abdullah ibn Abbas reported: Umar ibn al-Khattab, (RA), went out to Syria until he arrived at Sargh. The commanders of the army, Abu ‘Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah and his companions, met him and told him that an epidemic had befallen the land of Syria. Umar announced to the people, “I will turn back in the morning, so you must as well.” Abu ‘Ubaydah said,
أبو عبيدة بن الجراح رضي الله عنه : أَفِرَارًا مِنْ قَدَرِ اللَّهِ؟ فقال: “نَعَمْ نَفِرُّ مِنْ قَدَرِ اللَّهِ إِلَى قَدَرِ اللَّهِ”.
“Are you fleeing from the decree of Allah?” Umar said, “Would that another had said so, O Abu ‘Ubaydah! Yes, we are fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah.
Do you not see that if you had camels descending in a valley with two fields, one of them fertile and the other barren, you would graze in the fertile field by the decree of Allah or you would graze in the barren field by the decree of Allah?” (Al-Bukhari)
What are some of the Asbaab for the Coronavirus?
- Cleanliness- This cannot be overemphasized. This should be the norm for Muslims at all times. Even before the appearance of the Coronavirus there have been unhygienic practices at the Masaajid especially during the flu months and in the Month of Ramadhan. Cleanliness is not only a Hadith that it is half of faith but it MUST be put into practice especially at our Masaajid. Allah SWT says:
﴾إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ ﴾٢٢٢﴿
Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.” (2:222)
- Frequent handwashing is necessary and if someone’s hand is not clean he should make it clear to the next person: I’m sorry I cannot shake your hand I need to wash my hands. This should be our norm!
- Covering one’s nose when sneezing and use proper means of discarding dirty napkins.
- Limiting movement, visitations, congregation and socialization
- Those who are sick should avoid going to places where others can be infected especially the Masaajid.
- Shaking hands and hugging should be reduced or eliminated to take precautions.
- All of these means should be the norm of Believers whether there is Coronavirus or not. We hope that this should be the real norm of Believers.
Fourth: Epidemic can be a punishment from Allah SWT or trial in life:
Those who deny Allah SWT and His Messengers He has prepared for them punishment both in this world and The Hereafter.
﴾وَالَّذِينَ سَعَوْا فِي آيَاتِنَا مُعَاجِزِينَ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مِّن رِّجْزٍ أَلِيمٌ ﴿٥
But those who strive against Our verses [seeking] to cause failure – for them will be a painful punishment of foul nature. (34:5)
How often Pharaoh would call himself god and subdue his people to worship him! Today how many Pharaohs or “Pharaoh-like” leaders think they are unstoppable. But here comes something so minute among the minutest of Allah SWT creation and the entire world remains helpless. Like Pharaoh when the Ayaat or signs from Allah SWT come to him such as lice, locusts and frogs, he remained helpless to the point that when death approaches while he drowning he calls upon Allah SWT for help.
Muslims do understand that when the punishment comes it may affect both Believers and deniers of Allah SWT. Allah SWT says:
وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ ﴿﴾٢٥
And fear a trial which will not strike those who have wronged among you exclusively, and know that Allah is severe in penalty. (9:25)
For Believers it can be a test of faith. Trials and tribulations are part of life. Allah SWT informs us of and warns us that when we are afflicted, we remember that it is ultimately He who controls of our affairs. It is He who will provide help as He says in the Qur’ān:
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُمْ مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ مَسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّى يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَى نَصْرُ اللَّهِ أَلا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
“Do you think you that you will enter Paradise without such [trials] as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, ‘When [will] the Help of Allāh [come]?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allāh is near!”
Fifth: How should we react spiritually when such calamities appear?
- Be patient for patience in such time is very necessary. Allah SWT says:
الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّـهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ ﴾١٥٦﴿ أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ ﴿ ١٥٧ “We will certainly test you with some fear and hunger, and some loss of possessions and lives and crops. But give good news to the steadfast. Those who, when a calamity afflicts them, say, “To God we belong, and to Him we will return.” (2:156-157)
Aisha (RA) (the wife of the Prophet) that she asked Allah’s Apostle about plague, and Allah’s Apostle informed her saying,
أنَّه كانَ عَذابًا يَبْعَثُهُ اللَّهُ على مَن يَشاءُ، فَجَعَلَهُ اللَّهُ رَحْمَةً لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ، فليسَ مِن عَبْدٍ يَقَعُ الطّاعُونُ فَيَمْكُثُ في بَلَدِهِ صابِرًا، يَعْلَمُ أنَّه لَنْ يُصِيبَهُ إلّا ما كَتَبَ اللَّهُ له، إلّا كانَ له مِثْلُ أجْرِ الشَّهِيدِ
“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.” (Al-Bukhari)
- Don’t give up on the Mercy of Allah SWT!
﴾قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّـهِ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿٥٣
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (53)
We learn from the example of Prophet Ayyub (AS). He was tested with a great illness. He lost everything; his family, wealth, and health. Yet he persevered and did not give up on the mercy of Allah SWT. Allah SWT says:
وَأَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
“And Ayyūb, when he called to his Lord, saying ‘Harm has inflicted me and You are the Most Merciful” (21:83)
What was the end? Allah SWT says:
فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِ مِن ضُرٍّ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُم مَّعَهُمْ رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا وَذِكْرَىٰ لِلْعَابِدِينَ
“So, We answered him and removed his affliction and We gave him his family and the like of them with them, as a mercy from Us and a reminder to Worshippers.” (21:84)
- Make lots of Duas
Duas is the power and source of strength of the Believers. Allah SWT commands by way of invitation and warning:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible. (40:60)
We are reminded that Du’a is NOT answered on our terms but by the Mercy and Wisdom of Allah SWT. Rasoolullah SAS said: One of you may be answered so long as he is not hasty and says, ‘I made Du’a but I got no response.’” (Al-Bukhaari, Muslim)
Finally, only Allah SWT removes calamities
Allah SWT says:
وَإِن يَمْسَسْكَ اللَّـهُ بِضُرٍّ فَلَا كَاشِفَ لَهُ إِلَّا هُوَ وَإِن يُرِدْكَ بِخَيْرٍ فَلَا رَادَّ لِفَضْلِهِ يُصِيبُ بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (١٠٧)
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 (10:107)
We pray that Allah SWT protect us all and save us from such calamity.