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Ramadan Amidst The Coronavirus

The gravity of the challenge that the world is facing today cannot be overstated. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected people and nations across the world medically, financially, socially, politically, spiritually, and psychologically, beyond anything ever recorded since the dawn of time.

This article will cover how the pandemic is affecting Muslims around the world, what Islam teaches about this kind of calamity, and how to deal with it especially when social distancing defies the spirit of the sacred month of Ramadan.

Spiritual Trauma

Though Muslims are not unique when compared to the rest of humanity with regards to the numbers of people who have suffered or died as a result of the virus, Muslims stand unique in terms of the value we place on certain spiritual rituals that we have now been deprived of as a result of social distancing rules put in place to prevent spread of this virus.

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The mandatory Friday sermons are banned in almost all mosques across the world. So is Umrah and possibly Hajj (the annual pilgrimage). So is Taraweeh, I’tikaf, and collective iftars (joint meal to break the fasting).

The new rules also deprive faithful Muslims with living parents from one of the most sacred and blessed acts that he or she could engage in on daily bases: visiting and expressing love and reverence to their parents through a kiss of the hand and forehead, whether they live under the same roof or not. This, needless to say, is critical for protection of the elderly’s well-being.

Moreover, the new rules mandate that we quarantine suspected or infected loved ones in rooms away from rest of the family, or in Intensive Care Units where they are, in some cases, left to die alone with no one to read them their last rites (bearing witness to The Oneness of God). And when they die as a result of the virus, more often the bodies of the deceased are denied the Islamic ritual of being purified with water, given Islamic ablution, and of having the  Janazah prayer conducted upon the body before burial.

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Is There a Reason for this Affliction?

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is the Absolute Sovereign Authority who can choose to punish or bless his servants (mankind) as he pleases. In different periods of human history, Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wrath did befall upon communities and nations for the purpose of permanent destruction. But, for any human-being -save the Prophets and Messengers who delivered God’s revelations to us- to claim either this virus or another is Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) punishment directed at this particular group or that is nothing but a testament of their ignorance or pride, as that is within God’s exclusive domain of knowledge.

وَمَا يَعۡلَمُ جُنُوۡدَ رَبِّكَ اِلَّا هُوَ ​ؕ 

“…And none knows the armies of your Lord except Him” [Al-Muddaththir; 31]

In Islam nothing happens at random. In the grand scale of things and within a Divine reality that we as human-beings cannot entirely witness, everything happens for the right Divine reason and at the most appropriate time.

Calamities could afflict people as a divine punishment or in order to test their faith so that others would know them for what they are. God, The Knower of All Things, does not need verification.

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ 

“And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient” [Al-Baqarah; 155]

 

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً ۖ وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ 

“Every soul will test death. And We test you with evil and with goodness by way of trial” [Al-Anbiya; 35]

However, the faithful is blessed on both occasions. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said:

“Amazing is the affair of the faithful for every aspect of it is good….If he is blessed with what brings joy to the heart, he praises God in gratitude and it is good for him. If he is challenged with what distresses the heart, he practices patience and it is good for him” [Sahih Muslim]

According to the Qur’an and Sunnah, calamities can afflict Muslims and non-Muslims alike,  righteous people as well as dreadfully vile characters. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) may afflict calamity on people as impetus to abandon their heedlessness and rush back to their Lord. He may afflict them to expose their hidden qualities or true characters. In other words, their sincerity or hypocrisy. He may afflict others to cleanse all their sins to receive them on the Day of Judgement as pure as the day they came out of their mothers’ wombs. And yet, He has also afflicted the Prophets and Messengers who are immune from committing sins in order to elevate their status among themselves.

Contrary to common perception, when the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked who among people does Allah afflict with individual calamities the most, he answered:

“The Prophets, then those nearest to them, then those nearest to them. A man is tried according to his religion; if he is firm in his religion, then his trials are more severe, and if he is frail in his religion, then he is tried according to the strength of his religion. The servant shall continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sins.” [Al-Tirmidhi]

Can We Gain Anything Out of This?

This sort of phenomenon is most certainly a test to our faith. Would we be among those who maintain their sense of optimism, reinforce their faith under distress, and reflect upon what fills their conscience and hearts, their attitude toward the purpose of their lives, and how their daily choices are in line with that purpose? Or will we be among those who simply look for any form of entertainment that will keep us busy until the pandemic passes?

It is only through reflection that we stand to gain the most valuable experience out of this calamity. So, let us ponder over how insignificant all of the worldly things that preoccupy our minds turn out to be when faced with the threat of death.

Harun Al-Rashid -who ruled the Islamic empire during its zenith- was once asked by his spiritual advisor:

“If you got lost in a desert and you were about to die of thirst, how much would you have paid for a cup of water?” Harun answered: “One half of the empire.” The spiritual advisor flowed up with another question: “What if God blocked that water in your bladder, how much would you pay to be able to urinate?” Harun answered: “The other half of the empire.” The spiritual advisor then said: “So this whole worldly empire that preoccupies your mind is worth nothing more than a half glass of water.”

The global lockdown will, in one way or another, impact most of us if not all. It may worsen one’s health, financial status, concern for others, tolerance levels, and possible one’s entire outlook in life. Under such condition, there are three things that one must remember:

First: Follow the law and public health instructions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Second: Don’t overreact. A sure way to failure is to try to attempt solving all of one’s problems at the same time. Prioritize according to importance and be patient with the process.

Third: Never let your anxiety, fear, or despair overload your conviction and hope for God’s divine relief. Whether it coincides with yours or not, don’t lose the faith that God has a plan for you, and His plan is always the best. Praise and Glorify God and always seek His redemption.

Beware of irrational over protection. The Howard Hughes Syndrome is named after a man who was the wealthiest and most famous person of his time. At the latter part of his life, he developed paranoiac fear of germs or viruses in order to preserve his life. As a result, his life became more miserable than any death.

Fourth: Never forget that regardless of your hardship, there are others who have been suffering worse misfortunes and calamities than you. Imagine the misery experienced by those who have been dying from cholera, starvation while being bombarded for more than five years. Imagine the victims of Myanmar’s ethnic-cleansing, the brutal Syrian civil war, those imprisoned in China’s concentration camps, or under the tyranny of the last apartheid regime in the world-Israel. Imagine those in the notorious dungeons of Egypt and even those who are being tortured with silk ropes in a hellish Five-Star hotel.

After that empathic tour, let us find solace in this verse:

قُل لَّن يُصِيبَنَا إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَنَا هُوَ مَوْلَانَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

“Say, never will we be afflicted except that which Allah has decreed for us; He is our Protector, and upon Allah let the faithful entrust their affairs.” [Al-Anbiya; 51]

Also, in this short and profoundly compelling verse:

فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا 

إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا

“For indeed with hardship comes ease. Indeed with hardship comes ease.” [Al-Sharh;5-6]

Mindful of the human tendency for hasty or superficial understanding, The Most Compassionate repeated the same verse back-to-back to remind the forgetful ones (you and I) that it is within the hardship that we must find the ease.

This may be the best Ramadan for all of us. This may be the Ramadan that we collectively discover what Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) repeated three times while pointing to his heart:

“Piety is in here. Piety is in here. Piety is in here” [Al-Tirmidhi]

For when this pandemic passes, will we still be yearning for what we are yearning for now?

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Abukar Arman is a former diplomat and a local khateeb. He writes on Islam, foreign policy, East Africa and Middle East affairs. Website abukararman.com Twitter: @Abukar_Arman

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Badrul Samad

    April 26, 2020 at 2:59 PM

    Very informative Mashallah.

    I saw a book on Amazon titled ‘Asiyah and Asad Save Ramadan’ which deals with this very subject of living through the coronavirus epidemic during Ramadan.

    I found it to offer a hopeful message for the young ones.

  2. Avatar

    Omar Farah

    April 26, 2020 at 3:23 PM

    A great article that soothes the heart in the middle of calamity.

    However, I would like to point out a typo in one refered Qur’anic verse as follows:

    The word “test” was wrongly typed instead of “taste”.

    “Every soul will “taste” death. And We test you with evil and with goodness by way of trial” [Al-Anbiya; 35]

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 10: The Dua’ of Umm Salama

Now that we have learnt about a good word, let’s talk about the dua’ of Umm Salama.

Today I’m going to share with you a story of a very important woman in Islamic history named Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). She was a female companion, which means she was a sahaabiya (female companion)

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was one of the first people to embrace Islam and she was one of the few Muslims who actually performed the hijrah twice. 

Question: Who can tell me what a hijrah is?

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A hijrah is when someone leaves a place they are in for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The first hijrah was to Ethiopia, where a just Christian ruler named Najashi took in a group of Muslims and took good care of them. 

So Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) went to Ethiopia. After some time living there, they really wanted to go back to Mecca so that they could be next to the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and learn everything about Islam. As they waited patiently, news traveled all the way to Africa saying that the Muslims were no longer getting persecuted because Umar ibn al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and Hamza raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the uncle of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), had embraced Islam. 

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) decided to return back to Mecca, and when they did, they realized that it was only a rumor and that the Muslims were still being tortured by Quraysh. So, when the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) instructed all of the Muslims of Mecca to leave to Madina for the second hijrah, they wasted no time getting ready. 

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Question: Do you see how they were so active and didn’t take their Islam for granted?

As Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was about to mount her camel, her tribe, the Banu Makhzum, came and told Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that they would not allow him to take Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) to Madina. Then Abu Salama’s tribe, the Banu Asad, takes Salama, his child, away.  Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) could not defend himself against all of these men, so he sets off to Madina.

In just one day Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) lost her husband and her child, and she suffers so much because of it. She is in a lot of pain. After some time her cousin starts to feel sorry for her and speaks to the tribes on her behalf. He is then able to reunite her with her son. Then after a year of waiting, Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is finally able to meet her husband in Madina. 

Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was known to be a very caring husband and courageous man. He fought in the Battle of Badr as well as in the Battle of Uhud. In Uhud, he received a wound that he wasn’t able to recover from. 

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was so sad the day Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) died, but the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught her to recite a beautiful dua’:

إِنَّا لله وإنا إليه راجعون اللهم أجرني في مصيبتي وأخلف لي خيرا منها 

“We belong to Allah and to Allah is our return. Oh Allah, reward me for my calamity, and replace my loss with something better.”

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) recited this dua’, but in her mind she thought, “Who can be better than Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)?” 

After a few months passed, Umar ibn al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) proposed to Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), but she said no. 

Then, Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) proposed to Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), but again she said no. 

Then, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) proposed to Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and she accepted. So now, she was not only the mother of Salama, but the mother of all of the believers until the end of time! 

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This Eid And Beyond Boycott Goods Made With Enslaved Labor Of Uyghurs Even If It Is Your Favorite Brand

Bidding farewell to Ramadan, celebrating Eid?

Well, the Muslims of East Turkestan under Chinese occupation had neither Ramadan nor will they have Eid…

Not only that, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) run government has transferred Uyghurs and other ethnic minority citizens from East Turkestan to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Nike, Gap, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Carters and others. Read Uyghurs for Sale for more information

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CCP is also pressuring governments across the world to extradite Uyghurs back to occupied East Turkestan.

Here is what you can do to help them:

Action Items

  1. Keep making dua for the oppressed of East Turkistan and the world.
  2. Boycott Chinese products! Do not be complicit in slave labour. Start with focusing on the companies in the graphic. Share it with #SewnWithtTears, #StopChina, #BoycottChina. Write to them and demand that they do better.
  3. Raise awareness on the plight of Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause. Learn more at SaveUighur.org
  4. Work towards reducing your country’s economic dependence on China.
  5. Build alliances with all people of conscience to demand a cessation of China’s oppression of all faith groups, be it Muslim Uyghur, Hui; Chinese Christian; or Tibetan Buddhist.
  6. Encourage and promote fairer trade and commerce with Muslims and others rather than China.
  7. Inquire about Uyghur diaspora members in your area. Organize to help out orphans, widows, and students.
  8. Pressure governments to provide legal protection to Uyghur refugees-exiles by granting either citizenship or refugee/asylee status. Stop the “extradition/repatriation” of Uyghurs to China!
  9. Get your universities/endowments to divest from China. Raise awareness about Chinese espionage and hired guns in academia. Demand academic and financial support for Uyghur scholars and students. Request more academic attention and funds for Central Asian, Uyghur, Turkistani studies. 

Read a greater discussion of action items in A Response to Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments on the Uyghurs, which also contains a greater discussion on East Turkistan’s history and its current situation. A condensed Arabic version of the article can be found here

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 9: A Good Word

Now that we have learnt about the life of this world, let’s talk about a good word.

I want you all to close your eyes and think of a beautiful tree. 

Question: Who can tell me what their tree looks like? Is the tree big and strong? Does it have lots of branches and leaves? Does it have fruit?

Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something really nice to you.

Question:  What are some of the nice statements you remember people telling you?

Question: How did those statements make you feel?

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Yes, they fill us up with a warm feeling. We may have felt proud of ourselves and we may have felt loved. Do you know that Allah [wt] describes a good word to a good tree? 

In Surah Ibrahim, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ 

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تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ 

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? [Surah Ibrahim; 24]

It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. [Surah Ibrahim; 25]

Question: Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something mean to you. How did that make you feel?

It’s not fun to remember the mean stuff right? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) continues in Surah Ibrahim and says:

وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ

And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. [Surah Ibrahim; 26] 

Question: What do you think are good words we can use to build strong, firmly rooted trees?

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