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A Quick Guide to Social Media Etiquette

Islam is a complete and comprehensive religion. All the guidance that we could possibly need can be found within the teachings of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “And We have revealed to you the Book which clarifies everything, and it is a guidance, mercy and source of good tidings for the Muslims.” (16:89) Thus, in every issue, religious or worldly, classical or contemporary, our religion has some guidance concerning it.

A very good example of this is the teachings we find in the Qur’ān vis-à-vis the way we interact with others and the words we utter. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein. When the two receivers receive, seated on the right and on the left. Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared.” [50:16-18]

These verses inform us that every word we utter is being recorded, and will then be presented before us on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said in the narration of Bilāl ibn al-Ḥārith, “Indeed a man says a word from that which pleases Allah, and he never thinks anything of it, but Allah will record for him His pleasure due to it until the Day of Judgement. And indeed a man will utter a word from that which angers Allah, and he never thinks anything of it, but Allah will record for him His anger due to it until the Day of Judgement.”[1]

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Applying the above verse and ḥadīth in a contemporary context, we must understand that these rulings and etiquettes do not only apply to the spoken word but also to the written word. We live now in a time where we communicate just as much by writing – text messages, emails, WhatsApp, Facebook posts, tweets, etc. – as we do verbally. In fact, visual communication is also popular know in the form of Instagram. The problem however, is that although we know that we should not lie when we speak, nor backbite, cheat, slander, swear and so on, we do not apply this knowledge into what we write, post or tweet. However, the same etiquettes we use in speech should be observed in the world of social and online media too.

The Good of Social Media

I want to begin by saying that social media is not evil in and of itself. It is a means, and like other means such as wealth or technology, it can be used for good or bad. Thus, it is the user who relegates it to harming and offending others. There is much good for which social media can be used. It can be used as a means of connecting with family and joining the ties of kinship, communicating with friends and increasing the bonds of love, reminding others of Allah and benefitting them in this life and the next.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The one who guides to good is [rewarded] like the doer.”[2] In another narration, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The most beloved of people to Allah are those most beneficial to others.”[3]

The Reality of Social Media

Social media is an outlet to instantaneously connect with others on a mass level. However sometimes we misunderstand its purpose and role, or confuse it and substitute it for other things. Social media is not a place of Islamic study or where one can become a Muslim scholar. It is not the place for in-depth discussion and debate on complicated and detailed issues which require years of study and knowledge of the various branches and disciplines of Islamic studies.

People with the most ‘likes’ on Facebook or ‘followers’ on Twitter are not necessarily the most knowledgeable, wise and mature of scholars. Social media following is neither a qualification nor a measure of piety. YouTube views do not by themselves mean that a lecture is the most authentic or authoritative on a subject. These things may seem obvious when expressed like this, but sometimes many of us treat social media in this way, knowingly or unknowingly. We therefore need view social media for what it is and what it is not.

The Wildfire of Social Media

We live in the age of fake news, but we also live in the age of fake fatwas and peculiar opinions. We see social media being used to besmirch the honour of others, and especially our scholars, imams and preachers. It is bad enough that we have to contend with such issues. Yet what makes this phenomenon substantially worse is the culture of ‘forwarding’. In this manner, a single rumour initiated by one person spreads like wildfire across the world.

We are responsible not only for the things we say and write, but also what we are party to. If you help to spread something, be sure it is correct and authentic. Don’t fall for the line, ‘If you love Allah/Islam/the Prophet then forward this’. The falsehood you help to spread and facilitate is also in your record of deeds.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned us against such things in the narration of Samurah, “I saw in my dream last night that two men came to me, took me by my hands and transported me to the blessed land. There I saw a man sitting, and another standing with a metal hook in his hand. The standing man placed the hook inside the sitting man’s mouth, into his inner cheek and pulled with such force until he tore his mouth and reached the back of his head. He then did the same with the other cheek, by which time the first cheek was healed. He then returned to the first and did the same… The angels said, ‘As for the man whose cheeks were torn, it was the one who spread a lie until it reached the ends of the world, so this is his punishment until the Day of Judgement.’”[4]

General Etiquettes

Using social media whilst hidden behind a screen or using a pseudonym, does not give you carte blanche to write what you please. Rather, Allah sees, hears and knows what you do, and the angels still record it. Therefore:

  1. Maintain good character always – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is nothing heavier on the scales on the Day of Judgement than good character.”[5]
  2. Respect others – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The Muslim is the one who others are safeguarded from his hand and tongue.”[6]
  3. Do not attack the honour of others – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Indeed the worst type of usury is to attack the honour of another Muslim unjustly.”[7]

Writing is like Speaking

Although the person you write to or about may not be in front of you, you should act as if they are. Things which are prohibited when speaking are also prohibited when writing.

  1. Do not belittle others – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “It is sufficient evil for a Muslim to belittle his fellow brother.”[8]
  2. Do not lie – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “A person may leave their house and say a lie which then reaches the horizons.”[9]
  3. Do not swear or curse – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not one who cursed, swore or spoke vainly.[10]
  4. Do not backbite – Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Do not spy on one another nor backbite one another.” [49:12]
  5. Be gentle, polite and forbearing – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The strong is not the one who can out-wrestle another, but the one who controls his anger.”[11]

Online Modesty

One of the dangers of social media is that people view it as a platform to expose their sins, or to make things public which otherwise they would keep private. We have a false sense of security online as we believe things we do anonymously are only seen by individuals we wish to share them with. Yet the reality is often the opposite. Keep things private if they deserve to be kept so and respect the privacy of others. Be modest and shy online and do not showcase your sins.

  1. Respect the privacy of others – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “From the beauty of one’s Islam is to leave that which does not concern them.”[12] In another narration, the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever veils a believer will be veiled by Allah in this life and the next.”[13]
  2. Lower your gaze online – Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze… And tell the believing women to lower their gaze…” [24:30-31]
  3. Do not use social media to interact with the opposite gender in an unlawful way – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “A man should not be secluded with a woman unless her mahram is with her.”[14]
  4. Do not boast about your sins online – The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “All of my nation will be forgiven except for those who sin publicly. Indeed from this is a man who sins at night, and he awakes with Allah’s veil over that sin. He then goes and tells someone about what he did. He slept with Allah’s veil over him and awoke to shed that veil from himself.”[15]

 

The above are some of the etiquettes that we should observe in the world of social media. Most importantly, if we have the fear of Allah and are conscious of Him in our hearts, knowing that all our words, actions and writings are being recorded and then will be presented before us, we will surely think twice before disobeying Allah and harming others, whether in person or behind a screen.

May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him, and safeguard us from evil, and protect our tongues and limbs from harming others. And Allah k

[1] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmi῾

[2] Jāmi῾ al-Tirmidhī

[3] Al-Silsilah al-Ṣaḥīḥah

[4] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

[5] Jāmi῾ al-Tirmidhī

[6] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmi῾

[7] Sunan Abū Dāwūd

[8] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim

[9] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Jāmi῾ al-Tirmidhī

[13] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

[14] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

[15] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

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Shaykh Ahsan Hanif, PhD, was born and raised in Birmingham, UK. He memorised the Qur’an at a young age and at the age of 17 received a scholarship to study at the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia. As well as attaining an ijazah in the Qur’an and a diploma in Arabic, Shaykh Ahsan graduated from the Faculty of Shari’ah Studies in 2006. Upon his return to the UK he attained his PhD from the University of Birmingham.He is currently an imam at Green Lane Masjid, Birmingham as well as the head of the Qur’an & Hadith Studies Department for AlMaghrib Institute. He has spoken at Islamic conferences in various countries, published translations of Arabic works and is a presenter of IslamQA for Islam Channel.

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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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