Locating Allah’s Promise of Mercy During a Global Pandemic

By Haadia Mumtaz

With almost 10 months into a global pandemic, just recently, I found myself thinking: Allah Himself says, “My mercy encompasses all things” (Surah Al-A’raf 56). But where is He now that we are a year into this global crisis? Why can’t I see His mercy encompassing the world like He said it would? Why are their losses of every sort surrounding us? When will God engulf everyone in His promised mercy and set it all right?

I think it is just human nature to try and justify why any suffering exists. We realize that if we do not have the big ‘why’ behind everything, there is something lacking. We are in a rush to map out all the intricacies of God’s marvellous plan that goes beyond our comprehension. But perhaps, faith does not operate in figuring out all the ‘whys’; rather, it must operate in relying on God for His plans behind the ‘why’.

If anything, this year has been a reminder of how fragile our lives are. We are living on the brink of uncertainty – navigating through a world of fluctuations. However, it is crucial to remember that we are not the first in history to face such circumstances. My favorite narrative of all times is the story of Prophet Yunus. It is not just a story of a man stuck in a whale’s belly, it is a lesson of patience and a fight against despair. It is an account of Prophet Yunus listening to Allah’s mercy through his circumstances.

The story has become more relevant that ever today – we are not stuck in a whale’s belly, but we are surely stuck within a pandemic. Like Prophet Yunus, we are also struggling with despair, questioning why the world stopped like this. Whatever we are facing today leaves us with two courses of action: submitting to the crisis we are facing today? Or submitting to the power of Allah?

A lesson to take away from Prophet Yunus’ story is to hold on to the idea of leaning on a Being much greater than our own circumstances. Who can imagine being caught up in a Whale’s belly amidst a sea? Yet, Prophet Yunus chose to call onto God from a place of fear and isolation. Even in the depths of despair, God heard him: “So We answered his call and delivered him from the distress.” [21:88]

Today, in 2020, aren’t we facing a similar human condition? A condition of fear, isolation, and loss of so many kinds? But prophet Yunus’ story does lend a tool to counter this condition – the tool of a heart felt prayer, the tool of faith and reliance; the sort of reliance that begins anew every day.

We can spend just so much time questioning the shape of world today, but it is more important to question what we can do while we navigate the uncertainty.

A belief in God and a surrender to His purpose means participating in the purpose too. It is important to introspect our place in a world that is constantly shifting. If we have the resources to live a stable life amidst this crisis, share it with those who do not. If we have not faced a grave loss in times like these, it is crucial to make a conscious effort of sharing the pain of those who are struggling to configure their place after a loss. We have to constantly check what God might be trying to do through us.

Yes, it is tough to come to terms with the fluctuations when we had been so accustomed to our routine drills. We are manoeuvring through one of the global crises in history. But we are also handed reminders to lead a life of meaning, and a life that is submitted to a Presence beyond ourselves. I did not find an answer to when God will set it all right. When will life take a normal course again and we will get back to dozing off on our daily commute, meeting friends or sharing a box of fries together. Yet, I did realize that His mercy does not always come in evident shapes. Within a kind neighbour, within two friends sharing a loss, within every penny that goes out to help another soul, there are glimpse of His mercy. Surely, His mercy does encompass everything – He knows how to keep His promise even if we cannot see it at work.

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