Allāh created the Heavens and the Earth and based their creation on the Sunan (laws) that govern their existence. Gravity is an example of such a law. If the Earth’s gravitational pull fluctuated and was irregular, the Earth would not be habitable. Likewise, if the boiling or freezing point of water were inconsistent, life would be impossible.
لَا الشَّمْسُ يَنْبَغِي لَهَا أَنْ تُدْرِكَ الْقَمَرَ وَلَا اللَّيْلُ سَابِقُ النَّهَارِ وَكُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ
“It is not permitted for the sun to catch up to the moon, nor the night to outstrip the day; each swims along in its own orbit.”
One of the universal features of creation is utmost consistency and regularity, almost like a mathematical equation.
سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا
“[This is] the Sunnah of Allāh that has occurred before. Never will you find in the Sunnah of Allāh any change.”
These universal laws of Allāh are not restricted only to matters of nature, but rather extend to the manner in which Allāh deals with mankind and how He interacts with His creation. There are also Sunan that govern this and, yes, they are also fixed. Thus, if a believer wants to understand how Allāh interacts with His creation, it is a necessity that he ponders over such Sunan that have been mentioned throughout the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Examples of these fixed laws include:
– The nurturing of Imān and working of good deeds will bring about a “good life”.
– The punishment for oppression has to appear in this world before the next.
– When sins prevail, Allāh will send messages of warning to humanity by releasing calamities upon them.
The COVID-19 pandemic is tearing through the human population at an alarming rate as even the most powerful of humanity watch on in despair. President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency, as the US unveils a rescue package of around 2 trillion dollars. The president of China has described the virus as “a devil” and “the country’s most serious public health crisis.” French President Emmanuel Macron said that the coronavirus epidemic was “France’s worst health crisis in a century.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that “up to 70% of the country’s population – some 58 million people – could contract the coronavirus”, whilst Boris Johnson said “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
COVID-19 has covered the world. It has covered headlines, as well as the minds of humanity. Yet it has also uncovered so many matters that had been – in the lives of many – obscured for all too long:
1) It has uncovered the helplessness of man and the Might of Allāh
China staged its largest ever National Day military parade in Beijing, putting some of its most advanced and powerful weaponry on show to mark the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule. President Xi Jinping said in a speech commemorating the anniversary, “There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation.” Yet only a few weeks later, a microscopic and ‘undeveloped’ capsule shook not only China but the rest of the world: the coronavirus.
Wherever you turn, you can’t help but see it in their eyes, hear it in their conversations, sense it from their body language, and witness it in their buying; terror (compounded by ignorance) of what is a tiny, invisible, and completely silent soldier of Allāh. This is the time to release your gaze into the Heavens in wonder, as your heart confesses: “How Supreme You are, O Allāh.” Then, as your heart melts in awe of His Might, and as your soul shudders in amazement, lower your gaze back down to the Qur’ān with a brand-new appreciation of its verses:
وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ وَمَا لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ وَالٍ (11) هُوَ الَّذِي يُرِيكُمُ الْبَرْقَ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَيُنْشِئُ السَّحَابَ الثِّقَالَ (12) وَيُسَبِّحُ الرَّعْدُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ مِنْ خِيفَتِهِ وَيُرْسِلُ الصَّوَاعِقَ فَيُصِيبُ بِهَا مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُمْ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي اللَّهِ وَهُوَ شَدِيدُ الْمِحَال
“But when Allāh wills evil for a people, there can be no turning back of it, and they will find besides Him no protector. It is He who shows you lightening, causing fear and aspiration, and generates the heavy clouds. And the thunder exalts Allāh with praise, and the angels too from awe of Him, and He sends thunderbolts and strikes whom He wills, yet they dispute about Allāh – He is mighty in power!”
Even if a vaccine is found, the virus has already achieved its goal: the arrogant have been humiliated, the sinners have been brought to their knees, humanity has been defeated, and as time progresses, man is confessing his weakness and the awe of the One above.
2) It may have uncovered the status of humanity in the Eyes of Allāh
Allāh is the Most Merciful, the Most Gentle, and the Most Patient. Yet despite His attributes of compassion, when He permits the release of a soldier as devastating as COVID-19, one cannot help but assume just how deplorable the status of humanity must be at present in the Eyes of Allāh.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
إذا ظهرَ الزِّنا و الرِّبا في قَريةٍ ، فقد أَحَلُّوا بأنفسِهم عذابَ اللهِ
“Whenever fornication and interest prevail within a city,then they would have released the punishment of Allah upon themselves.”
A world already plagued by so many diseases can only expect further disease. At the macro level, thousands of abandoned Syrian refugees are left to die in the freezing cold. Yemen is home to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 14 million people at risk of starvation and repeated outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera. Over 1 million Muslims from the Xinjiang province are being detained and tortured by their Chinese government. Scholars of Islam are left to die within the dungeons of Muslim countries. The list continues as the world looks on in monstrous hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, at the micro level, extra-marital relationships have seemingly become the norm. No business venture works – or so many claim – without involving Riba, drugs, or anything else that is harām. The true hijab is either neglected or contested by our very own. The Muslim identity continues to erode generation after generation. Sins have reached a level of innovation, creativity, and access like never before. How naïve must we be to assume that matters would just continue as per usual without life-changing and sense-awakening events. No, sins, oppression and moral decay bring retribution, even if man needs to learn the hard way.
We are weeks away from Ramaḍān, yet – despite the blessings of the month ahead of us – the doors of mosques are being vaulted shut one after the other, as if Allāh doesn’t want us anywhere near His houses – as if we’ve been kicked out until we find our senses and religion again, and pick up the responsibility towards our souls and Ummah. This is the truest definition of a calamity that dwarfs all others – to be shunned from the Houses of Allāh as we wonder: did we shut our mosques or did they shut us?
Let the Muslims cry over those days that they abandoned the mosques, as they now miss out – for however long Allāh decrees – the tranquillity of prostrating in His House, the companionship of angels, and its enormous sin-erasing opportunities. As the virus engulfs the world and the doors of mosques close shut, we can read this as a powerful message from a Lord who is angry at the global level of senselessness, saying: “I have never been in need of you or your worship.” What must our status be, as a human race, in Allāh’s Eyes?
3) It has uncovered the double standards of man
The world is taking the most severe precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus. Large gatherings are avoided, hand sanitisers have virtually disappeared from store shelves, hand shaking has become forbidden, shop customers are being asked to stand 2 metres away at checkout lanes, and anyone showing symptoms is ordered to self-isolate. Tougher measures are soon expected, all to protect ourselves from the potential of being infected. Humanity is strictly conforming to the principle of never gambling with health, as well as the adage of “prevention is better than cure”.
I cannot help but remember the Islamic maxim of sadd al-dharāʾiʿ, which translates to ‘closing off the means (even if they are permissible) that may lead to evil or that which is impermissible’. This principle is discussed at length by the likes of Imam Mālik and Al-Shātibi, and one which Imam Ibn al-Qayyim described as being “a quarter of the religion”.
What is amazing is the extent to which humanity has gone out of its way to apply this principle for the preservation of its worldly affairs, both willingly and lovingly surrendering many of their freedoms for its protection, whilst astonishingly applying a completely different standard when it comes to their religious affairs.
How is it that we’ve accepted every single medical recommendation pertaining to the COVID-19 situation whilst showing nowhere near the same enthusiasm when it comes to Islamic recommendations? Why does the latter not seem as urgent? How is it that it takes some of us years to be convinced into action, repentance, and change? How is it that, as Muslims, our enormous worldview – which transcends the sky above us and extends to the hereafter and reaches Allāh Himself – has been limited only to the observable life of ours today? How did this happen?
Whilst I do not belittle any of the precautionary measures in place, I ask: What is the worst that could happen should a Muslim (Allāh forbid) contract this virus? Well, there is a possibility of it ruining your livelihood and causing your death. But what is the worst that could happen should the virus of ‘Iman-neglect’ be contracted? A potential eternal residence in the Hellfire.
There, as they suffer in Hell and miss out on the pleasures of Paradise, the inhabitants of Hell will realise just how small the prospect of death actually was all along in the grand scheme of things, particularly when they see death being slaughtered in the form of a ram. Death is nothing in comparison to the eternity that awaits.
What sin out there deserves spending a night in Hell because of it? What, then, about days, weeks, or even years? The principle of sadd al-dharāʾiʿ must be upheld primarily in religious matters, where we take every precautionary measure in the preservation of our religion and practice, whether it relates to finances, dress code, relationships, or any other decision. In the same way that you have rearranged your entire life in fear of a meeting with the coronavirus, be shy of Allāh and rearrange your life with greater enthusiasm in fear of meeting your sins in the court of Allāh.
يَوْمَ تَجِدُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَا عَمِلَتْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ مُحْضَرًا وَمَا عَمِلَتْ مِنْ سُوءٍ تَوَدُّ لَوْ أَنَّ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَهُ أَمَدًا بَعِيدًا وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللَّهُ نَفْسَهُ وَاللَّهُ رَءُوفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ
“The Day every soul will find what it has done of good present [before it], and what it has done of evil, it will wish that between itself and that [evil] was a great distance. And Allāh warns you of Himself, and Allāh is Kind to [His] servants.”
4) It has uncovered the way forward for nations and individuals
Assessing the situation as we did above is not for the purpose of lowering morale or adding to people’s misery. But, as is the situation with COVID-19, it cannot be properly treated until it is fully understood. Similarly, we are to understand the divine messages behind our ordeal today to carve a way forward.
With this said, I ask: What is the most dangerous thing that one could possibly be doing during these plagued times? Is it to be on the receiving end of a sneeze, to not wash one’s hands after being in public, not being stocked up on food, or perhaps being in the middle of a congested gathering? In reality, it is none of these. The single most dangerous act that one could possibly do at this moment is continuing as usual in sinning.
Al-Nu’mān b. Bashīr, the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), said:
إن الهلكة كل الهلكة أن تعمل السيئات في زمن البلاء
“The truest meaning of devastation is for you to commit sins during times of calamities.”
As a rule in life, a calamity that affects the masses is one of the clearest indicators that Allāh is calling them back to Him.
فَلَوْلَا إِذْ جَاءَهُمْ بَأْسُنَا تَضَرَّعُوا وَلَكِنْ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ
“Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing.”
Travel has come to a standstill. Parties have been cancelled. The music industry has been silenced. Cinemas are dust ridden. Tourist destinations have become ghost towns. Presidents and policy-makers have gone into self-isolation. Freedoms have been suffocated. All of this not only shows the Might of the Supreme Allāh, but also the bitter consequences of sin. Everything has been forced to come to a grinding halt, both the good and bad, and this is what happens when sins prevail.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was asked:
“O messenger of Allāh, is it possible for us to fall into ruins whilst righteous people are amongst us?”
نعم! إذا كثر الخبث
“Yes, when evil becomes dominant.”
Indeed, COVID-19 has uncovered a clear way forward for everyone who cares; an overhaul in attitude towards worship, sins, laziness, relationships, and behaviour. If man still does not feel stirred to make these changes, then he is to realise that his internal calamity is far more serious than the pandemic one.
With this said, below are a few recommendations for us in these times:
1. Intensify your acts of worship
Pray at night, prolong your prostration, take care of your days of fasting, and allow your heart to adore Allāh more than ever before. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
العبادة في الهرج كهجرة إلي
“Worshipping Allāh during times of turmoil is equivalent to the reward of migrating to me.”
2. A soul search
Sit with yourself (each night if possible) and track down your shortcomings and sins one by one. Create a plan of action to overcome them. In fact, it is for this exact exercise that Allāh sends us times like ours:
أَوَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّهُمْ يُفْتَنُونَ فِي كُلِّ عَامٍ مَرَّةً أَوْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ لَا يَتُوبُونَ وَلَا هُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ
“Do they not see that they are put to test every year once or twice but then they do not repent nor do they remember?”
Spend more time doing this than following the news and social media.
3. A family search
Seek to improve your personal well-being and prosperity by looking out for your family members, even if it is through phone calls or regular messages. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
إِنَّ أَعْجَلَ الطَّاعَةِ ثَوَابًا صِلَةُ الرَّحِمِ، حَتَّى إِنَّ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ لِيَكُونُوا فَجَرَةً، فَتَنْمُو أَمْوَالُهُمْ، وَيَكْثُرُ عَدَدُهُمْ إِذَا تَوَاصَلُوا، وَمَا مِنْ أَهْلِ بَيْتٍ يَتَوَاصَلَونَ فَيَحْتَاجُونَ
“The good deed that is quickest to be rewarded is establishing family ties. In fact, there may be a household of sinners, but nevertheless their wealth continues to increase and so does their household because they take care of their ties with one another. Any household that establishes its family ties will end up not needing anyone.”
In fact, there are no less than 15 narrations that explicitly mention that upholdingfamily ties extends a person’s life.
4. Aid those who are aiding
How great it would be to see an initiative for the creation of a system where the shopping requirements of nurses, for example, are arranged for them, similar to the systems that are available for the elderly. Due to the selfish shopping habits of the masses, those who will take care of us at our worst moments are struggling to eat healthily as shelves are consistently empty after their long shifts.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
وخير الناس أنفعهم للناس
“The best of all people are those who are most beneficial to people.”
5. Mosques that have decided to close their doors
Investigate the possibility of offering your space to a nearby hospital that may be struggling for space, up until Allāh has mercy upon us and gives permission for relief to arrive.
6. Give Islamic loans
Not everyone will have the luxury of working from home. Many will be struggle to make ends meet with no other source of income. This is a great opportunity to revive a much-neglected act of worship. If you are blessed enough to be able to offer this, make this known to your circle of contacts.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
من أنظرَ معْسِرًا فله بكلِّ يومٍ مثلَهُ صدَقَةٌ [..] قبلَ أنْ يحلَّ الدَّيْنُ فإذا حلَّ الدَّيْنُ فأنظرَهُ فلَهُ بكلِّ يومٍ مثلَيْهِ صدقَةً
“Whoever gives time to a borrower who is struggling to pay back the sum before the loan is due will be given the reward of its equivalent in charity on every day that passes. However, whoever gives time after it is due will be given reward in charity on every day that passes.”
7. Settle your scores at once
If there is someone who you have wronged, money you owe, or outstanding disputes, now is the time to settle them. If matters do escalate with the virus as widely predicted, realise that your dispute will automatically be deferred to the Day of Reckoning.
We are confident in Allāh that this trial shall pass. Our concern, however, must not be the mere passing of the trial, but more so with what state we will be in when it eventually does. Don’t wait for the ideal circumstances to arise – they never will – but instead engineer the current circumstances to serve your quest for Paradise, as our predecessors would say:
سيروا إلى اللهِ عُرجًا ومَكاسيرَ؛ فإنَّ انتِظارَ الصِّحَّةِ بطالةٌ
“Travel to Allāh with your limps and injuries, as waiting for health will cause idleness.”
As mentioned in the introduction, one of Allāh’s Sunan states, ‘When sins prevail, Allāh will send messages of warning to humanity by releasing calamities upon them’. So, I urge myself, my immediate family who read this, as well as my extended one – the Ummah of Islam – to not sit on the sidelines watching the events unfold as if watching a film that you have no involvement in. You are heavily involved in this one. You are the star of its show. So please, let your awakening be seeded within it.
 Al-Qur’ān, 36:40
 Al-Qur’ān, 48:23
 Al-Qur’ān, 13:11-13
 Al-Tabarāni, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās
 Al-Qur’ān, 3:30
 Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba
 Al-Qur’ān, 6:43
 Al-Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Zaynab b. Jahsh
 Muslim, on the authority of Ma’qil b. Yasār
 Al-Qur’ān, 9:126
 Ibn Hibbān, on the authority of Abu Bakra
 Attributed to Imam Al-Shāfi’i