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WWI Centenary: What should Muslims learn?

100 years ago, the world witnessed a catastrophic event that was to spark global repercussions. In many parts of the world its legacies fuel violence and conflict to this day. World War I (or the Great War)[1] was the greatest event of its time; it marked a distinct shift in warfare, ideology and international relations and became the prototype of subsequent wars. At the time, it was the bloodiest war in human history and claimed the lives of nearly 10 million combatants and just over 20 million combatants were seriously wounded, not to mention the civilian death toll.[2]  As well as being a tragedy in its own right it became a pre-condition for further calamities such as WWII, which claimed even more lives. No previous century witnessed the same amount of bloodshed as the 20th century.

This week, Britain along with many other countries will begin to commemorate the First World War Centenary. What led to WWI? Why did it last for four years? What was the result? And what should we as Muslims learn from this event? This article will aim to briefly answer these questions.

Background to WWI:

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In the 19th century, the Great Powers – Britain, France, Hungary-Austrian Empire, Prussia and Russia – lived in relative peace due to the “Concert of Europe”, which was a system of regulation of international affairs. It emphasised their shared goals and created stability largely due to the fact that each power had more to gain by upholding it.[3] This stability allowed Europe to focus their energies abroad and they began to dominate and colonise other areas for their own gains (see map 1). Towards the end of the 19th century, the rapid pace of modernisation was striking. Modernisation flowed as a consequence of scientific, French and industrial revolutions characterised by rationalisation, urbanisation and industrialisation. They exported their steam engines, machine guns and administration to sustain their supremacy abroad. With new technologies and industrial capabilities they also began to develop their own armies and weapons in what became an arms race between the Great Powers.

Map 1: Colonial empires in 1900. From the map one can see Britain was the largest and strongest empire (their colonial territory was over 100 times its home territory) and this gave rise to the famous phrase “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” Africa was 90% under European control mainly by Britain and France.

Map 1: Colonial empires in 1900. From the map one can see Britain was the largest and strongest empire (their colonial territory was over 100 times its home territory) and this gave rise to the famous phrase “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” Africa was 90% under European control mainly by Britain and France. [4]

Furthermore, powers began to shift at the start of the 20th century.  Europe was increasingly divided into two factions: Germany and Austria-Hungary collaborated to form the Central Powers; and France, Russia and Britain joined to form the Triple Entente. Other powers were allies of this main division, for example Italy allied with the Triple Entente and the Ottoman Empire allied with the Central Powers (see map 2). Germany feared isolation and attempted to break the Triple Entente, which ironically had the opposite effect of strengthening it further. Secondly, due to the weakness of the Ottoman Empire (labelled as the “sick man of Europe”), the European powers were all waiting for the right time to conquer the region. As a preemptive measure, Russia used this opportunity to assert their authority over the Balkan region. This sparked fears within the Austria-Hungarian Empire as the decline of the Ottomans meant the rise of Serbia (who were allied with Russia), which would be a potential threat to their empire.

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Map 2: Europe in 1914 before WWI.

Map 2: Europe in 1914 before WWI. [5]

The final trigger to this volatile situation was the murder of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sarajevo on the 28th of June 1914 by the Serbs. Austria-Hungary hastily declared war with Serbia, having full backing of Germany (due to their alliance) despite knowing that war with Serbia was war with Russia. On the 1st of August 1914, Germany used this as an opportunity to gain European supremacy and launched an offensive attack against Russia and France. As late as the 1st of August Britain remained neutral, as they were preoccupied with internal Irish dissent. However, after considering their own strategic interests decided to join their allies for fear of either German supremacy or the anger of Russia and France for abandoning the alliance. By the 4th of August 1914, Britain – along with its vast empire – had joined the war. This time 100 years ago, all of the Great European Powers were at war with each other and it was the beginning of a full-scale, four-year struggle between armies, economies and societies.

Who was to blame? 

Broadly speaking historians differ on the extent to which Germany is to blame for the war. Some say Germany was fully responsible since even pre-1914 they had prepared offensive war plans to dominate Europe– known as the Schlieffen Plan. Also, after Austria-Hungary declared war with Serbia, Germany put this offensive war plan in action and declared war with Russia and France just three days later without exhausting other non-military options.[6]

However, other historians locate the aggressive German policy within a much broader picture of the changes in international relations and the race to develop high tech arms bolstered by industrialisation and modernisation (mentioned above). Therefore, this group states that each Great Power contributed to the increasingly tense atmosphere, but Germany is to shoulder more of the blame.

The War

The war lasted four years despite constant attempts for peace talks. As casualties mounted diplomatic solutions were rejected as it became difficult to end the conflict without significant gains to justify the war. Nevertheless, national solidarity for the war effort remained firm. 1917 was the turning point. Parts of the French armies mutinied and Russia underwent an internal communist revolution, which knocked them out of the war. America also intervened however only as an “associated” power, initially declaring war only on Germany and not their allies. America only entered the war as President of the U.S., Woodrow Wilson, had his own progressive ideas for the new world order and saw that Germany’s defeat was essential to his plan. Britain and France were also an obstacle to Wilson’s ideology, however Germany was a greater threat. Only by entering the war could America have influence in the final treaty. From July 1918 onwards, counter-attacks and the growing American army reversed the military situation. Germany’s armies retreated and the war ended on the 11th November 1918.

How should we commemorate WW1?

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that £50m will be allocated for historic commemoration of the event and to “ensure the lessons learnt live with us forever.”[7] But what is this legacy? What are these lessons to be learnt? As the centenary approaches, new books, TV shows, school trips and websites about the war are developed. But what story will be told? What narrative? More importantly, for us as Muslims, what should we learn from this event?

There are two distinct narratives for WWI. The first is that it was a just war that the British can look back with nationalistic pride. The second highlights the tragic loss of life, the sorrow and futility of war; it showcases the war poets and the anti-war campaigners. Immediately after the war the former narrative dominated, however in 1964 with productions such as “O What a lovely war” the sentiment began to switch to the latter. 1964 was the beginning of a debate on how the British should remember the war and since then each anniversary resurrects this tussle.

However, this centenary some academics are calling for rising above this shallow good vs. evil binary view of war and replacing it with a nuanced forward-looking approach that sheds light on our contemporary modern world. Sir Hew Strachan – Oxford Professor of the History of War – calls us to use this centenary for a deeper analysis on war as a whole such as discussing difficult questions such as when is it right to go to war or intervene in a civil war by using WWI as a case study. [8]

In my humble opinion, in this four-year period, we as Muslims should also rise above this simple analysis of war and start to examine in more depth the effects of WWI. Today, it seems that the Muslim world is on fire, from Iraq to Palestine – to name only two. A lot of these issues have their roots in WWI.[9] Therefore, we need to analyse WWI in two interconnected ways. Firstly, by gaining a deeper understanding of how WWI shaped the modern world we live in today on a macro level, especially in terms of international politics and ideology. Political institutions such as the League of Nations (predecessor to the current United Nations) and ideologies such as nationalism, self-determination and modernity were either developed or underwent significant changes in this period. Ideological innovations guiding the course of politics is one of the key characteristics of the 20th century. These institutions and ideologies are the foundations of our contemporary world. Moreover, WWI was directly linked to the rise of Nazism, Fascism, the 1929 depression and WWII. Thereafter WWII terminated European world primacy, which ushered in the battle of the next two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the U.S. known as the “Cold War.” It culminated in the final supremacy of the U.S., which is where we are today.

Secondly, on a micro level understanding how these changes has affected us as Muslims. Post WW1 the most significant outcome for Muslims was the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its division of land by the European powers. The Muslim world was quite literally carved up into new segments. To take a few examples, modern Iraq was originally three distinct Ottoman provinces. Yet the British arbitrarily combined the Kurds in the north and the Sunnis and Shias in the centre and south resulting in an unstable Iraq wracked with inter-communal tensions. Moreover, Palestine was promised to the Zionists despite warnings from the Americans – known as the King-Cramer report – that it will cause ethnic conflict. Lebanon’s borders were expanded by the French, which drastically shifted its demographics turning it into an area of religiously and ethnically diverse people. Originally dominated by Christians, the expansion of Lebanon and the influx of Palestinian refugees shifted the balance towards Muslims who – now more populous – began to voice their dissent against the dominant Maronite Christian government. [Note Christians were also divided into smaller sub-groups such as Greek Orthodox, Catholics etc. and Muslims were also divided into Sunnis, Shias and other groups such as the Druze.] The sheer diversity was one of the factors that contributed to the long Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990.

Map 4: Middle East before and after WW1

Map 4: Middle East before and after WW1 [10]

Map 5: Europe before and after WW1

Map 5: Europe before and after WW1 [11]

To conclude, WWI is a vast and complex study. In this four year period, as the world looks back at this ground-shaking event, we too should take an intellectual approach and examine in detail what changes were set in motion and how it is impacting us today.

 

 

 

 

[1]WWI was originally called “The Great War.” Only after the Second World War the name changed to WWI to create a distinction.

[2] http://ww1facts.net/quick-reference/ww1-casualties/

[3] Smaller wars did break the general peace from time to time, such as the Crimean Wars, but they were small in scope and fought for limited objectives.

[4] http://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/World_1914_empires_colonies.PNG

[5]http://www.anselm.edu/academic/history/hdubrulle/WWIIb/text/gradingandassignments/food/fdwk02b.htm

[6] It is important to note that all European powers also had war plans by 1910, yet the key difference is that they prepared for their own defence rather than an offensive attack.

[7] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-19913000

[8] http://www.battleofideas.org.uk/2013/session_detail/7915 See Sir Hew Strachan’s speech

[9] It is important to highlight that this is not the same as saying the Western powers are fully responsible for the current turmoil. Rather the political decisions that resulted from WW1 were a precondition for the problems that were to come. Events did not have to unfold in the way they did because of WWI. The same applies to the macro level changes, WWII was not a direct consequence of WWI – other outcomes were possible – but it was a necessary precondition.

[10] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/bild-946052-651551.html

[11] http://ifthenisnow.nl/nl/artikelen/vallen-en-opstaan-van-onze-democratie

 

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Hira Amin is a British muslimah of Pakistani descent. Despite originally being a mathematics graduate, after a few years inside the corporate world, she decided to change paths drastically to studying history. She completed her Masters in the History of International Relations and is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her focus areas are South Asian Muslims and their migration to the UK, Islam’s interaction with Western imperialism and modernity, feminism and 20th century international history.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sara

    August 5, 2014 at 3:32 AM

    thanks for sharing

  2. Avatar

    Ahmed

    August 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    There is an excellent lecture by Yasir Qadhi on Youtube about 1914 and how it continues to impact the Muslim world today. For those interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh9awD5KwNY

  3. Avatar

    Hyde

    August 5, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Excellent analysis. The pre-modern Muslim history begins with this era especially concerning the events that are happening in the M.E.

  4. Avatar

    gopithomas

    August 6, 2014 at 4:29 AM

    why do you have to view it from a Muslim perspective — it was not a war based on religion…

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      August 7, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      But certainly the consequence reverberated officiously throughout the Muslim world.

    • Avatar

      Lyn Crossley

      August 10, 2014 at 6:02 AM

      WW1 had a huge impact on the Middle East as it was divided up as part of post-WW1 negotiations between the “victors” mainly UK and France. Jordan and Iraq were established by the British, the French attempted to control Lebanon and Syria.
      How does one separate politics, culture, racism and religion? They are interconnected – for example Palestine and Iraq – and Muslims are automatically stereotyped in the US and Europe resulting from a negative mix of politics, culture, racism and religion.

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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Prosperity Islam And The Coronavirus Problem

Hadith: “Hasten to perform good deeds before seven events: Are you waiting for poverty that makes you forgetful? Or wealth that burdens you? Or a debilitating disease or senility? Or an unexpected death or the False Messiah? Or is it evil in the unseen you are waiting for? Or the Hour itself? The Hour will be bitter and terrible.

Islam encompasses all of human experience. We believe in the good and bad from divine decree. The ‘problem of evil’ is not a Muslim dilemma because the abode of this world is a test, and the next life is the abode of recompense. Those who do evil in this world may enjoy comfortable and pleasurable lives. Pious Muslims on the other hand may live in immense suffering and oppression.

One’s state with Allah is not known through worldly position.

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The Quran has lots of mention of suffering in this world and the reward for the pious is constantly in the hereafter. Distance from the Quran distances us from what our Creator told us about living in His world.

Habituation to feel-good religious programs and motivational talks has left us unable to know how to be serious. The Coronavirus pandemic should be all the motivation we need for serious learning and hasten to good deeds.

New-age religion and the prosperity gospel

Modern Islamic discourse intertwines notions of sulook (spiritual wayfaring) with new-age spiritual ideas which make spiritual progression a self-centering endeavor of ‘personal development.’ Missing from this discourse is submission to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), which entails doing what one is obliged to do- even if there is no apparent personal win. A self-centering religious perspective is antithetical to true religion, and ironically a spiritual pursuit becomes a selfish pursuit.

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Within this approach, we see our practice of Islam not in terms of fulfilling obligations or understanding we must develop virtues we lack; rather we approach Islam as consumers and form identities around how we choose to be Muslim. This is visible on marriage apps where Muslims will brand themselves around how often they pray, whether or not they eat halal, and how practicing they are. Once this identity is formed, such Muslims are less likely to experience contrition and ultimately improve. The self is then a commodity on the marriage market.

When it comes to worship, for example, giving charity becomes an ‘act of kindness’ to fill the quota of selfless acts to becoming a better person. In other instances, acts of worship are articulated in worldly language, such as fasting in Ramadan being a weight-loss opportunity. One can make multiple intentions, but health benefits of fasting should not be used to articulate the primary benefit of fasting. In other instances, some opt to not pray, simply because they don’t feel spiritual enough to pray. This prioritizes feelings over servitude, but follows from a ‘self’ focused religious mentality.

Much like the prosperity Gospel, Muslims have fallen into the trap of teaching religion as a means of worldly success. While it is true that the discipline, commitment, and work ethic of religious progression can be used for material success, it is utterly false that religious status is on any parallel with material status.

Too many Sunday schools and conferences have taught generations that being a good Muslim means being the best student, having the best jobs, and then displaying the power of Islam to non-Muslims via worldly success and a character that is most compliant to rules. Not only does this type of religion cater to the prosperous and ignore those suffering, it leaves everyone ill prepared for the realities of life. It comes as a shock to many Muslims then that bad things can happen even when you work hard to live a good life. The prosperity gospel has tainted our religious teachings, and the pandemic of COVID19 is coming as a shock difficult for many to process in religious terms. There will be a crisis when bad things happen to good people if we are not in touch with our scripture and favor a teaching focused on worldly gains.

Why it leads to misunderstanding religion

Tribulations, persecution, and events that are outside of our control do not fit the popular self-help form of religion that is pervasive today. Islam means submission, and while we must avoid fatalism, we cannot delude ourselves into idolatry of the self. An Islam that focuses on our individual life journey and finding ourselves has no room for the ‘bad stuff.’ This type of religion favors well-to-do Muslims who are used to the illusion of control and the luxuries of self-improvement. Those who believe that if you are good then God will give you good things in this world will have a false belief shattered and understand the world is not the abode of recompense for the believer.

Islam means submission, and while we must avoid fatalism, we cannot delude ourselves into idolatry of the self.Click To Tweet

Tribulations may then effect faith because it questions the often subconscious teachings of prosperity gospel versions of Islam that we are in control of our own destiny, if we are good enough we will succeed. If this is the basis of a person’s faith, it can be proven “wrong” by any level of tribulation. Having one’s ‘faith’ disproven is terrifying but it should make us ask the question: “Does this mean that Islam is not true, or does this mean that my understanding and my way of living Islam are not true?”

My advice is do not avoid struggle or pain by ignoring it or practicing “patience” just thinking that you are a strong Muslim because you can conquer this pain without complaint. Running from pain and not feeling pain will catch up to us later. Learn from it. Sometimes when we are challenged, we falter. We ask why, we question, we complain, and we struggle. We don’t understand because it doesn’t fit our understanding of Islam. We need a new understanding and that understanding will only come by living through the pain and not being afraid of the questions or the emptiness.

Our faith needs to be able to encompass reality in its good and bad, not shelter us from reality because, ultimately, only God is Real.

Unlearn false teachings

Prosperity religion makes it much easier to blame the person who is suffering and for the one suffering to blame himself. As believers we take the means for a good life in this world and the next, but recognize that acceptance of good actions is only something Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows, and that life is unpredictable.

Favor from God is not reflected through prosperity. It is a form of idolatry to believe that you can control God or get what you want from God, and this belief cannot even stand up to a distanced tragedy.

Responding appropriately requires good habits.

Tribulations are supposed to push us towards God and remind us to take life very seriously. Even with widespread calamity and suffering, many of us still have a very self-centered way of understanding events and do not hasten to good actions.

For example, reaching old age is supposed to be an opportunity to repent, spend more time in prayer, and to expatiate for shortcomings. Old age itself is a reminder that one will soon return to his Lord.

However, we see many of today’s elders not knowing how to grow old and prepare for death. Most continue in habits such as watching television or even pick up new habits and stay glued to smart phones. This is unfortunate but natural progression to a life void of an Islamic education and edification.

Similarly we are seeing that Muslims do not know what to do in the midst of a global crisis. Even the elderly are spending hours reading and forwarding articles related to Covid-19 on different WhatsApp groups. This raises the question of what more is needed to wake us up. This problem is natural progression of a shallow Islamic culture that caters to affluence, prosperity, and feel-good messaging. Previous generations had practices such as doing readings of the Quran, As-Shifa of Qadi Iyad, Sahih al-Bukhari, or the Burda when afflicted with tribulations.

If we are playing video games, watching movies, or engaging in idle activities there is something very wrong with our state. We need to build good habits and be persistent regardless of how spiritual those habits feel, because as we are seeing, sudden tribulations will not just bestow upon us the ability to repent and worship. The point of being regimented in prayer and invocations is that these practices themselves draw one closer to God, and persisting when one does not feel spiritual as well as when one does is itself a milestone in religious progression.

While its scale is something we haven’t seen in our lifetime, it’s important to recognize the coronavirus pandemic as a tribulation.  The response to tribulation should be worship and repentance, and a reminder that ‘self-improvement’ should not be a path to becoming more likable or confident only, but to adorn our hearts with praiseworthy qualities and rid them of blameworthy qualities. Death can take any of us at any moment without notice, and we will be resurrected on a day where only a sound heart benefits.

Our religious education and practice should be a preparation for our afterlife first and foremost. Modeling our religious teachings in a worldly lens has left many of us unable to deal with tribulations to the point where we just feel anxiety from the possibility of suffering. This anxiety is causing people to seek therapy. It is praiseworthy for those who need to seek therapy, and noble of therapists to give the service, but my point is the need itself serves as a poignant gauge for how much our discourse has failed generations.

Benefit from Solitude

We should use solitude to our benefit, reflect more, and ponder the meanings of the Quran.  Completing courses on Seerah, Shamail, Arabic, or Fiqh would also be good uses of time. What should be left out however are motivational talks or short lectures that were given in communal events. In such gatherings, meeting in a wholesome environment is often the goal, and talks are compliments to the overall atmosphere. When that atmosphere is removed, it would be wise to use that normally allotted time for more beneficial actions. Instead of listening to webinars, which are not generally building an actual knowledge base that the previously mentioned courses would, nor is it a major act of worship like reading and reflecting upon the Quran. In other words, our inspirational talks should lead us to action, and studying is one of the highest devotional acts.

The pandemic should serve as sufficient inspiration and we need to learn how to be serious. I urge Muslims to ignore motivational and feel-good lectures that are now feel-good webinars, and focus on studying and worshipping. We should really ask if we just lack the capacity to move beyond motivational lectures if we still need motivation in the midst of a global pandemic.  The fact that after years of programming the destination is not the Quran for ‘processing events’ or studying texts for learning is symptomatic of a consciously personality oriented structure.

Muslims struggling to process a pandemic (opposed to coping with associated tragedies, such as loved ones dying or suffering) show the lack of edification feel good talks can produce.

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Coronavirus

A Doctor And A COVID19 Patient: “I will tell Allah about you.”

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By Dr Farah Farzana

I get bleeped at around 2.30am to review a patient. A Pakistani gentleman admitted with Covid19.

The lovely nurse on duty says, “He is on maximum amount of oxygen on the ward, but keeps on removing his oxygen mask and nasal cannula, very confused and is not listening to anyone.”

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I arrive as soon as I can to the ward. I stare at him through the glass doors of the closed bay, while putting on my inadequate PPE.

He looks like he is drowning, he is gasping for air, flushed and eyes bulging like someone is strangling him.

I immediately introduce myself, hold his hands and he squeezes my hand pulls it close to his chest. Starts to speak in Urdu and says he doesn’t know what is going on, he cannot understand anyone and he is so scared.

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I give him my Salam and start speaking to him in Urdu. His eyes fill up with tears and hope.

I explain to him he really needs to have his oxygen mask on as we are trying to make him feel better. He tells me he is suffocating with the mask and he doesn’t like the noise. I grab his arm help him sit up in his bed.

We exercise synchronising his breathing and I put the mask and nasal cannula back on.

He asks me Doctor, am I going to die? I cannot hear the voices anymore, they don’t come to visit, everything is quiet and silent, like Allah is waiting to take me to Him. I am lost for words and tell him we are doing all we can to make him feel and get better. He tells me he has been speaking to Allah, he doesn’t care for himself just his family. I know he is scared and feels so alone. I tell him I’m here with him and am not leaving yet. I monitor his saturations and surely they come straight back up. I tell him I am going to give him medications for his temperatures and fluid in his lungs.

He agrees to take them.

He asks me why I didn’t come to see him until now, because I am his own. He says when he speaks to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) he will tell Him about me and that I am a good person and I cared for him.

I get a little choked up.

I can’t gather my thoughts before my bleep goes off again. I have to leave now though I tell him I have lots of patients who need my help. He begs me not to leave, but understands after a while and lets me go.I take off my inadequate surgical mask (PPE) before I leave the bay I look back at him to smile and he smiles back. We both wave goodbye. I can see tears rolling down his cheeks.

I don’t know how he will do, how he is now but I cannot stop thinking about him. I always assume positive outcome if I don’t get called back during the night to see the patient again. Plus it was such a busy night I had no time to stop to reflect, and I continued with a smile.

I speak fluent Bangla and my Urdu isn’t very good. But that night Urdu flawed so effortlessly out of my mouth without any hesitation and I was able to say exactly what I needed to him *SubhanAllah*.

My heart breaks for the minority patients, with language barriers. They are fighting this battle more alone and scared than ever.
Normally, they would rely on family members to translate for them, but given the current situation they must feel helpless.

It’s not just the suffering it’s the suffering alone that pulls on my heartstrings.

‘Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return’
Quran 2:156

When all this is over, please remember to appreciate the little things.

  • Appreciate your freedom.
  • Appreciate all the hugs and love.
  • Appreciate your health and your health service.
  • Appreciate your families and loved ones.
  • And just be grateful to be ALIVE.
  • Stay at home. Save lives.
    #stayhome #nhs #gratitude

Courtesy: Facebook post

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I Once Spent Ramadan Semi-Quarantined, Here’s How It Went

Even though it was over 10 years ago, the memory of that Ramadan is seared into my mind.

I’d just taken my first consulting job – the kind in the movies. Hop on a plane every Monday morning and come home late every Thursday night. Except, unlike in the movies, I wasn’t off to big cities every week – I went to Louisville, Kentucky. Every week.

And because I was the junior member on the team, I didn’t get the same perks as everyone else – like a rental car. I was stuck in a hotel walking distance from our client in downtown, limited to eat at whatever restaurants were within nearby like TGI Friday’s or Panera. This was a pre-Lyft and Uber world.

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A couple of months into this routine and it was time for Ramadan. It was going to be weird, and no matter how much I prepared myself mentally, I wasn’t ready for it — Iftar alone in a hotel room. Maghrib and Isha also alone in a hotel room. Suhur was whatever I could save from dinner to eat in the morning that didn’t require refrigeration.

Most people think that with the isolation and extra time you would pass the time praying extra and reading tons of Quran. I wish that was the case. The isolation, lack of masjid, and lack of community put me into a deep funk that was hard to shake.

Flying home on the weekends would give me an energizing boost. I was able to see friends, go to the masjid, see my family. Then all of a sudden back to the other extreme for the majority of the week.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about that Ramadan with the prospect of a quarantined Ramadan upon us. I wish I could say that I made the most of the situation, and toughed it out. The truth is, the reason the memory of that particular Ramadan is so vivid in my mind is because of how sad it was. It was the only time I remember not getting a huge iman boost while fasting.

We’re now facing the prospect of a “socially distanced” Ramadan. We most likely won’t experience hearing the recitation of the verses of fasting from Surah Baqarah in the days leading up to Ramadan. We’re going to miss out on seeing extended family or having iftars with our friends. Heck, some of us might even start feeling nostalgia for those Ramadan fundraisers.

All of this is on top of the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ramadan traditionally offers us a spiritual reprieve from the rigors and hustle of our day to day lives. That may not be easy as many are facing the uncertainty of loss of income, business, or even loved ones.

So this isn’t going to be one of those Quran-time or “How to have an amazing Ramadan in quarantine!” posts. Instead, I’m going to offer some advice that might rub a few folks the wrong way.

Make this the Ramadan of good enough

How you define good enough is relative. Aim to make Ramadan better than your average day.

Stick to the basics and have your obligatory act of worship on lockdown.

Pray at least a little bit extra over what you normally do during a day. For some, that means having full-blown Taraweeh at home, especially if someone in the house is a hafiz. For others, it will mean 2 or 4 rakat extra over your normal routine.

Fill your free time with Quran and dua. Do whatever you can. I try to finish one recitation of the Quran every Ramadan, but my Ramadan in semi-quarantine was the hardest to do it in. Make sure your Quran in Ramadan is better during the month than on a normal day, but don’t set hard goals that will stress you out. We’re under enormous stress being in a crisis situation as it is. If you need a way to jump-start your relationship with the Quran, I wrote an article on 3 steps to reconnect with the Qur’an after a year of disconnect.

Your dua list during this Ramadan should follow you everywhere you go. Write it down on an index card and fold it around your phone. Take it out whenever you get a chance and pour your heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Share your stresses, anxieties, worries, fears, and hopes with Him.

He is the Most-Merciful and Ramadan is a month of mercy. Approach the month with that in mind, and do your best.

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