Islam and Pandemics: A Muslim’s Guide to Navigating Times of Despair

By Zainab Farooq

Living through a global pandemic, like the spread of COVID-19, can strain us not only in physical terms, but it can also be emotionally and spiritually taxing. Whether it is your inability to perform certain acts of worship such as gathering in congregation to offer Friday prayers, or the tinge of sadness that engulfs you while watching the tawaf in holy Ka`abah coming to a halt, a feeling of panic, hopelessness and anxiety seems inevitable. When confronted with overwhelming situations like these, it is important to take a step back and remind ourselves of the mercy of our Creator, while directing efforts towards prioritizing our health and safety and holding tightly to our faith in the impeccable mercy of Allah. Here are a few ways we can navigate through such times of despair, that can not only help us strengthen our relationship with the Creator but also prioritize our health and those of us around us:

  1. Precaution and Prayer go hand in hand

We often hear people brush off any needs to go to the doctor or take any precautionary measures under the excuse of `Allah reham karega! Dua kar li hai bass kafi hai`. Surely, the numerous benefits of supplication cannot be negated, but does this mean that there is no need left for us to take any precautions? Certainly not.

Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidh? 2517

The main implication here is to utilize every opportunity that we have with us and then leaving the rest in the hands of Allah, knowing that whatever happens to us is in accordance with the will of Allah. Wisdom lies not in waiting for the calamity to strike and then taking any action, but by safeguarding ourselves from the very beginning. Just as important it is for us to make du`a, it is equally important for us to avoid congregating in the mosque and to take social distancing seriously, all while knowing that the reward lies in the hands of Allah, and He knows what we are going through.

2. Charity in abundance

In situations like these, helplessness may be a feeling many become acquainted with, in a way that you feel that you can do nothing to make things better and everything is beyond your control. Giving out in charity is one way that you can make a contribution, no matter how small it seems to make things better for people in need. There are numerous ration and donation drives going on, which present a perfect opportunity to become a glimmer of hope in otherwise desolate and turbulent times, while simultaneously earning the blessings of Allah and engaging in an act of worship.

If you`re worried that giving out more would mean that you are left with less, then know that the reality is in fact the opposite; when you engage in selfless charity, you are indeed earning the pleasure of Allah who will take care of you in ways that are beyond your imagination. It has been narrated that:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (May Allah exalt his mention and protect him from imperfection) said, “While a man was walking through a barren land, he heard a voice coming out of a cloud saying: ‘Irrigate the garden of so-and-so.’ Thereupon the cloud drifted in a certain direction and discharged its water over a rocky plain. The streamlets flowed into a channel. This man followed the channel until it reached a garden and he saw the owner of the garden standing in its center, working with his spade spreading the water (changing the course of the water). He asked him: “O slave of Allah, what is your name?” He told his name, which was the same that he heard from the cloud. The owner of the garden then asked him: “O slave of Allah, why did you ask my name?” He replied: “I heard a voice from a cloud which poured down this water saying: ‘Irrigate the garden of so-and-so.’ I would like to know what do you do with it.” He said: “Now that you asked me, I will tell you. I estimate the produce of the garden and distribute one-third of it in charity, I spend one-third on myself and my family and invest one third back into the garden.” [Muslim]

Here, Prophet S.A.W narrates the story of a man who once heard a voice commanding a cloud to irrigate a man’s garden. When the man was asked about this, he replied that he distributed one-third of the produce of his garden in charity. Just as Allah looked out for this poor man by sending a cloud to irrigate his garden, we need to have faith that no act of kindness goes unnoticed and we will inevitably be rewarded in miraculous ways. It is this spirit of charity that we need to revisit in these times of a global pandemic where many people are left jobless and without any basic income to sustain themselves.

3. Reliance on Du`a

We often dismiss du`a as a last resort, something that we turn to only we have exhausted all of our other options. However, it is in times of crisis when we are utterly helpless that we must remind ourselves of the control and autonomy Allah has in our lives. It is a time to remind ourselves that when all our efforts have failed, it is only Him that can turn back things for us. And what better way there is to realize this than by making dua, supplicating before your Creator, accepting your weakness and begging Him for forgiveness and mercy? How will things not get better then, that too when He has guaranteed that He listens to every prayer we make?

“When my servants ask you concerning me, (tell them) I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on me.” (Quran, 2:186).

The key here is not to underestimate the power of du`a in these difficult times, and while we take the necessary precautions, we must also put our trust in Allah and make du`a religiously.

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