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Life Lessons – A Mother’s Letter | Shaykh Waleed Basyouni

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I traveled to Riyadh to meet Shaykh Ibn Baz, carrying with me a copy of an invitation to a concert in our city Dammam in Saudi Arabia. To tell you the truth, I was not sure if my visit would make any difference; these types of concerts were supported by some powerful people in that region. I had only met Shaykh Ibn Baz a few times up until that point and I didn’t even think he knew me as I was only a freshman in college.  So here I was, an unknown freshman, entering the office of the Mufti of Saudi Arabia.

His office was large; it could host up to seventy people in my estimation, but it was simple.  In the middle of the room was a large desk that was filled with files–letters that were coming from all over the world.  There was a phone next to him that did not stop ringing as questioners, ranging from judges and students of knowledge down to the average Muslim, called the shaykh’s line to ask him for fatwas.  I realized the uniqueness of my position, being in the presence of Shaykh Ibn Baz, was not so unique at all.

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It was he raḥimahullāh (may Allāh have mercy upon him) who gave his audience to everyone who requested it.  Past the desk there was a comfortable arm chair that he would sit on and there were two chairs across from it and one chair on each of its sides.  On each side an assistant would sit, one to read his letters and one to write his answers as the Shaykh was blind, and those requesting a meeting with the shaykh would sit in either of the seats across from him. The Shaykh was never seen sitting behind his desk; he never wanted to have a barrier between himself and the people.

He start asking me about the da’wah in our city, my studies, and the shaykhs that he knew in our region.  He then asked, “What can I help you with, son?”  I told him about the upcoming concert, and he said “La Hawla wala Quwata illa billah.  I will see what I can do.”

I thought my job was over and so I said, “Jazak Allah khaira” and was going to leave, but he asked me to wait.  He called Prince Naif raḥimahullāh (may Allāh have mercy upon him), the Interior minister at that time, and said among other things: “I have one of the mashayikh here. He came to me complaining about a concert that will happen in Dammam and I’ve talked to the governor of the Eastern Province many times before about similar issues and he did not listen to my advice so I want you to take care of it and talk to him. I will wait for your call.”  The shaykh made du’a for him and ended the call.  I was quite scared when I realized he was talking to the interior minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia;  I was too young and insignificant to deal with or witness that level of communication!

The shaykh again asked me to wait and he said: “May Allah let us hear a good response today.  May Allah guide him to stop this haram.” While I sat and waited I witnessed something that I have never seen in my life from any Shaykh other than Shaykh Ibn Baz.

His secretary read a letter from a woman from Mauritania requesting Shaykh Ibn Baz to continue his financial support to her son who was studying in college. She said that if his financial support stops, then her son might need to quit studying and start working to provide for the family. She wrote, “The only one I could think of after Allah is you, Ibn Baz, to help.” Her son had only 2 years left to finish his studies. The shaykh asked his secretary to give her the financial support for the next two years.  His secretary responded saying, “The donation fund is empty.”  Ibn Baz then ordered him to give from the zakah fund, but the answer was the same!  Shaykh Ibn Baz said, “Give her from my personal account” only to find the response was the same: “You have no money left for this month, O Shaykh. You have given it all in similar cases.”  I later learned that the Shaykh had a dedicated portion of his monthly salary that went to cases of charity, and by the middle of the month, that portion was completely depleted.  Then the Shaykh said, “Take a loan in my name, send the money to the woman and I hope I would be able to pay that loan back soon.”  The mufti of Saudi Arabia, a man with a million possible excuses to offer, taking a loan for a woman in Mauritania that he would never benefit from at all in this world – I simply could not believe what I was seeing!

In less than one hour the Shaykh received a phone call from the prince to let him know that he canceled the concert and he made sure that such practices would not happen in the future. The Shaykh was so happy that I could see it on his face and kept saying alhamdulillah so many times. Then he thanked me as if I was the one who canceled it and he encouraged me to always stand up for the truth and to take action upon seeing wrong.  He asked me to join him for lunch that day and I learned even more great lessons from him that I hope to share soon.

The respect I received that day in my youth and the confidence that was instilled in me by him made me who I am today. His caring for the weak, the poor, and those who were close and far from him made his excellency, Samahat Alshaykh Ibn Baz, the man he was raḥimahullāh (may Allāh have mercy upon him).

This is a weekly series of stories about my teachers and what I have learned from them through my years of studying with them. If you enjoy these stories and lessons and think they should continue, please show your support by commenting here and liking and sharing the post on my Facebook page!

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is Vice President of AlMaghrib Institute and Director of Clear Lake Islamic Center (CLIC). He is a frequent guest speaker at Universities, Conventions, Radio Talk Shows, Television, Interfaith meetings, and community centers nationally and internationally. He is also a member of the North American Imam Federation (NAIF), Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA)-Fatwa and Research Committee, Director of Texas Dawah Convention, and Advisor to numerous Islamic Societies/Organizations around the US.Shaykh Waleed Basyouni graduated with a Bachelors in Islamic Sciences from Al-Imam Muhammad University, KSA; did his Masters in Islamic Theology, World Religions and Modern Religious Sects from Al-Imam Muhammad University; and acquired a Doctorate in Theology. He is also an instructor at the American Open University in Alexandria, VA, USA, and serves as, the Imam of Clear Lake Islamic Center, Houston, TX, USA. Shaykh Waleed has Ijaazahs in reciting the Holy Quran and in several books of Hadeeth, awarded by various scholars. He studied with great scholars time such as Shaykh Ibn Baz, Abdul-Razzaq Afify and others.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    hijaabiintherain

    May 15, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    Jazakallahu Khairun for sharing these stories it is much appreciated

  2. Avatar

    Fritz

    May 15, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Wow what an experience!

  3. Avatar

    Saeed

    May 16, 2013 at 4:11 AM

    JazakAllah khair. Subhan Allah!

  4. Pingback: Human Beings Being Humane | Choke on Sunshine

  5. Avatar

    Sabah

    May 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    That was beautiful Shaykh. JazakAllahu khairan for sharing. I hope you will continue to write about your experiences, and insha’Allah we will continue to read them and benefit from them.

  6. Avatar

    Toyeeb Ibn Muslihdeen Al-Adejumo

    May 16, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    JazakAllaah khaeran for the share.And may Allaah have mercy on our Shaykh, Abdullah Bin Abdul Azeez Bin Baz.

  7. Avatar

    tk20

    May 16, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    asalamualaikum,

    i usually never ever make comments but I had to say this: this is the best series i’ve seen on muslimmatters. please don’t stop with such amazing stories. i love reading about our ulama and real life events. it’s so uplifting and motivating to read about them and how they really were. keep posting such wonderful stories and may Allaah assist you and grant you immense reward!

  8. Avatar

    Khalid

    May 17, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    jazakallah khairan,

  9. Avatar

    siraaj

    May 17, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Good lesson, alhamdulillah

  10. Avatar

    Umm Hadi

    May 17, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Shows the level of Imaan and Yakeen in Allah.
    May Allah increase our Imaan.

  11. Avatar

    Ivory Tower

    May 22, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    this is very inspiring, however I have one question. All the stories so far talk about music and concerts etc. Is this the only “vice” that exists in KSA?

    I would like to hear about how the shaykh helped to push legislation protecting the rights of labourers, maids, and minorities in KSA. Aren’t torture, virtual slavery, false imprisonment, and rape more urgent issued that need to be addressed? Did no one ever inform the shaykh that thousands of workers in the kingdom aren’t paid for months or even years and their passports are confiscated?

    I would like to hear about the shaykh’s efforts in these areas and what he was able to accomplish.

    • Avatar

      Sona

      June 2, 2013 at 11:19 PM

      it’s definitely important to address these issues, but you take things one step at a time.. besides, you don’t know if the shaykh did bring up these concerns but his suggestions may have been ignored..

  12. Avatar

    Abu Ahmad

    May 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Humanizing these great figures goes a long way in creating unity between the different ideologies. regardless of our opinions of these shuyookh’s opinions, their taqwa and love of Allah really shows from these stories.

    I remember once in a family gathering, all the older men began to bash Saudi Arabia and their scholarship. I was 19 or so at the time. One of the men said something about Sheikh Bin Baz and my father stopped him and said, “Say what you want about anyone except Bin Baz.” I was really shocked at my dad’s response as he was not a religious man and really despised the version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. Intrigued, I asked him, “That’s strange – why are you defending him?!”

    He responded, “When I moved to Saudi Arabia in 1991, I happened to share a wall with this man (whom I didn’t know). Being a foreign man with no family in the country, he would personally check up on me, bring food and take me to the masjid with him. I found out later that he was the Grand Mufti of the country.”

    May Allah have mercy on him and those that serve Allah’s deen sincerely. I recall Ibn Qayyims statement, “If you wish to take a role model, take one in those who have passed.”

  13. Avatar

    Sharif

    May 24, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Jazak Allahu Kherian for sharing this story.

  14. Avatar

    Waleed.

    June 3, 2013 at 6:02 AM

    Assalam-wa-Alaikum,
    I wish that my country had had people like Shaykh Ibn Baz and ruler like that of Prince Naif.
    Brings tears to my eyes.

    • Avatar

      mrf

      September 29, 2013 at 2:05 AM

      Having grown up in Saudi Arabia I am not too keen on your country having a ruler like Prince Naif or any of the big rulers of the country for that matter! May Allaah grant myself and the Ummah goodness & also good, righteous leaders to govern the Muslims. Ameen

  15. Avatar

    mrf

    September 29, 2013 at 1:55 AM

    Couldn’t prevent tears. These great scholars went to such great lengths to perform righteous actions & Allaah enabled them to leave the dunya with great dignity & legacy.

    May Allaah Subhana wa ta’ala enable us to emulate the righteous scholars of the deen. Ameen

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Torment And Tears: The Emotional Experience of Tawbah

Have you ever had that moment where, all of a sudden, you remember something that you said or did in the past, the severity of which you only realized later on?

That sharp inhalation, shortness of breath, the flush of humiliation, the sick lurching in the pit of your stomach as you recall hurtful words, or an action that was so clearly displeasing to Allah… it is a very physical reaction, a recoiling from your own past deeds.

It may not even be the first time you think about those actions, it may not even be the first time to make istighfaar because of them… but sometimes, it may be the first time that you really and truly feel absolutely sickened at the realization of the gravity of it all. It might not even have been a ‘big deal’ – perhaps it was a cruel joke to a sensitive friend, or not having fulfilled a promise that was important to someone, or betraying a secret that you didn’t think was all that serious.

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And yet… and yet, at this moment, your memory of that action is stark and gut-wrenching.

It is a deeply unpleasant feeling.

It is also a very necessary one.

The Act of Tawbah

Tawbah – seeking forgiveness from Allah – is something that we speak about, especially in Ramadan, the month of forgiveness. However, it is also something that we tend to speak about in general terms, or write off as something simple – “Just say astaghfirAllah and don’t do it again.”

In truth, tawbah is about much more than muttering istighfaar under your breath. It is a process, an emotional experience, one that engages your memory, your soul, and your entire body.

The first step of tawbah is to recognize the sin – whether seemingly small or severe – and to understand just how wrong it was. Each and every one of our deeds is written in our book of deeds; each and every deed will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment for us to be held accountable for. There are times when we say things so casually that it doesn’t even register to us how we could be affecting the person we’ve spoken to.

As RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once told A’ishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her),

“You have said a word which would change the sea (i.e. poison or contaminate it) if it were mixed in it.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The second step is to feel true remorse. It’s not enough to rationally acknowledge that action as being sinful; one must feel guilt, remorse, and grief over having committed it.

Tawbah is to feel that sucker-punch of humiliation and guilt as we recall our sins: not just the mildly awkward ones, like a petty fib or mild infraction, but the genuinely terrible parts of ourselves… ugly lies, vicious jealousy, violations against others’ rights, abuse.

Some of us may be actual criminals – others of us may seem presentable on the outside, even religious, maybe even spiritual… and yet have violated others in terrible ways. Abuse comes in so many forms, and some of us are perpetrators, not just victims.

Facing that reality can be a gruesome process. 

It is a necessary process. Token words, glib recitation of spiritual formulae, those do not constitute tawbah in its entirety. Rather, it is a matter of owning up to our violations, experiencing genuine emotion over them – true humiliation, true regret – and striving not to be that person ever again. 

Much as we hate to admit it, we have our own fair share of red flags that we create and wave, even before we get into the nasty business of committing the worst of our sins. Tawbah isn’t just feeling bad for those Big Sins – it’s to recognize what led us to them to begin with.

It requires us to acknowledge our own flaws of character, of the ease with which we fall into certain behaviours, the way we justify the pursuit of our desires, the blindness we have to the worst parts of ourselves. Tawbah is to sit down and face all of it – and then to beg Allah, over and over, not just to forgive us and erase those specific actions, but to change us for the better. 

This experience is so much more powerful than a mere “I’m sorry,” or “omg, that was awful”; it is an act that embodies our submission to Allah because it requires us to make ourselves incredibly emotionally vulnerable, and in that moment, to experience a deep pain and acknowledge our wrongdoing. It is to hold your heart out to Allah and to beg Him, with every fiber of your being, with tears in your eyes, with a lump in your throat, wracked with regret, to please, please, please forgive you – because without it, without His Mercy and His Forgiveness and His Gentleness and His Love towards us, we have no hope and we will be utterly destroyed.

Surah Araf Verse 23

{Rabbanaa thalamnaa anfusanaa, wa illam taghfir lanaa wa tar’hamnaa, lanakunanna mina’l Khaasireen!}

{Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers!} (Qur’an 7:23)

This experience of tawbah is powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking. It is meant to be. It is a reminder to us of how truly dependent we are upon our Lord and our Creator, how nothing else in our lives can give us joy or a sense of peace if He is displeased with us. It is a reminder to us of how deeply we crave His Love, of how desperately we need it, of how His Pleasure is the ultimate goal of our existence.

Finally, there is the step of resolving never to commit that sin again, to redress the wrongs if possible, and to follow up the bad deed with a good one.

The vow is one we make to ourselves, asking Allah’s help to uphold it – because we are incapable of doing anything at all without His Permission; the righting of wrongs is what we do to correct our transgression against others’ rights over us, although there are times when we may well be unable to seek another individual’s forgiveness, whether because of distance, death, or otherwise; and the good deeds to undertake as penance are numerous, whether they be sadaqah or increased ‘ebaadah.

But it doesn’t end there. And it never will.

Tawbah is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is not even a once-a-year event, or once a month, or once a week. It is meant to be a daily experience, a repeated occurrence, in the earliest hours of the morning, in the depths of the last third of the night, during your lunch break or your daily commute or in the middle of a social gathering.

Tawbah is a lifelong journey, for who amongst us doesn’t commit mistakes and errors every day?

All we can do is beg of Allah not only for His Forgiveness, but also: {Allahumma ij’alnaa min at-tawwaabeen.} – O Allah, make us amongst those who are constantly engaging in repentance!

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Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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#Current Affairs

COVID19: Calling The Conscientious

Violating borders, scaling every wall and traveling faster than a rumor, COVID19 is now around nearly everywhere. It has reduced nations and societies, low and mighty, to their knees, demoted all preoccupations to insignificance and is threatening to torch everyone in its path.

The imperial hubris of nations, with and without nuclear weapons has crumbled. Mighty militaries have been reduced to mere spectators. Borders are closed. Markets have tumbled. Even the gods amongst humans – rulers, monarchs, dictators, religious heads, generals, billionaires, movie stars, icons of sports and music –have been forced to recede from the limelight. Neither they are in control nor can they perform. All of them are forced to surrender by an unseen microscopic speck with an insatiable appetite to devour humankind, bit-by-bit, part by part.

A pre-COVID19 world is now a blurred memory. It was not long ago that we were a different planet and a different people. Neither hand-sanitizers nor masks were precious enough to purchase let alone hoard, or even think about. YouTube was popular but not so much for videos on how to wash hands or what to do when self-quarantined. And, shaking hands were a norm and we used to respond with a “bless you” to our neighbor’s cough or sneeze.

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That was pre-COVID19.

Places of worship are already shut down and airports, train stations and shipping ports are shutting down. Boulevards and avenues are eerily silent. Shopping malls and theaters stand abandoned.

This is post-COVID19.

Yet, there are flashes of hope and inspiration. Medical professionals and health care workers are fighting to save mankind, a patient a time. Our ill equipped and fatigued hospitals are abodes of our new heroes and true patriots. And no less are trash collectors, grocery workers, truck drivers, postal workers, fruit pickers among others whom we took for granted all along.

Covid-19 is not just the biggest story of our time, it is the only story.

Amidst a piercing cacophony of politicians’ press conferences and public interest advisories, we cannot afford to miss out the soft whispers of COVID19.

It is telling us to pay more attention to the under-estimated meaningful over the hyper-marketed mundane. Its whispers remind us to remember that we are but a mere mortal. We are reminded in the Quran that God made us from a mere speck (40:67).

Not, too long ago, we seldom had to remind ourselves that we are human. Not too long ago we could afford to be enemies of ourselves. Humans were enemies of humans, fighting and taking life of those considered ‘others’. We fostered division … “them” and “us,” “citizens” and “illegals.” COVID19 has spoken: no more. We stoked exclusion … “black, brown and white,” “conservative and liberal,” and “urban and rural.” COVID19 has spoken: no more.

In its sweeping trail of destruction, COVID19, is imploring us — harness my power to cause dread in each one of you, across borders, across genders, across races — and unite. COVID19 is challenging us: find a common cause against me. When any of you find an antidote against me, may that be a reason for your coming together, even if right now I have forced you to stay away from each other – six feet part.

COVID19 is an equal opportunity and a non-discriminating enemy, which will kill no matter how we worship, what we eat, where we live. One touch strikes all with equal precision.

Today, as we face an existential threat from a mortal molecular foe, we must remind ourselves about what matters most, our humanity and not our race and nationality.

The truth is that long before COVID19 struck us, we were sick. We spread viruses; hate and bigotry, we held thoughts of xenophobia for those who did not deserve it. We wallowed in bias and built echo chambers. COVID19 exposed all of our pre-COVID19 shortcomings.

Coronavirus will kill us for a while, but then in the end, we will overpower it. But before that happens, all the human deaths would be in vain if we don’t realize that in a world of such threats, we never needed to have been at each other’s throats.

In fear and panic, people resort to extreme behavior, it amazes us with their capacity for wisdom and kindness, or stupidity and cruelty. COVID19 is beseeching us to reclaim and regain our humanity of compassion and kindness. It is telling us to come together to fight our common battles. It is forcing us to wash our hands of all sins of our past and then lock our hearts and hands and build a world where meaning must matter more than the mundane.

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