بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
A few years ago, in April of 2010, I wrote some reflections on the volcanic ash cloud that had erupted, causing plane travel to halt worldwide. At the time, I was supposed to be visiting London, but our flight was cancelled at the last minute.
At the time, it seemed crazy that a volcano erupting in Iceland could literally bring the world to a halt. But it was a time for reflection on the things we take for granted, the power of Allah, and focusing on the truly important things.
In the midst of this Corona epidemic, I started thinking back to that standstill, and the current one we are experiencing. Thinking about it now, we were not as attached to our phones then (did Instagram even exist?), and while it is easy to distract ourselves with a constant stream of messages and stories, there are bigger lessons we should be taking. While everyone is dealing with it in a different way, I started thinking of the spiritual messages we should be paying attention to. Below are some reflections.
Turn to Allah
In this age of distraction, focus and mindfulness are endangered species. While if this had happened 20 years ago we would be forced to reflect or at least have moments of reflection, our Instagrams, Twitter, and Whatsapps are beeping off the charts. We wake up to messages and fall asleep to them, and the quarantine has made us depend on them more since we use them to communicate with people we would otherwise be seeing in real life.
When the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ experienced anything that appeared out of the ordinary, they turned to Allah. Everything was considered a sign and opportunity to reflect on Allah’s power and on ourselves. It is no coincidence that we have a specific prayer during an eclipse, supplications for witnessing the new moon, and prayers for when we are ill (and so much more).
Perhaps this period of social distancing and self-isolation is so that we can find times of solitude to be with Allah. If we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, this is the time to put the phone away and pray to Allah, express to Him our stress, and ask for His help.
I’m linking here to the Sweetness of Prayer Series and the Names of Allah series, only because we all need a place to start, and there is no better way to turn to Allah than through knowing Him and turning to Him in devoted prayer.
Most of us have likely heard of the saying “When you want to talk to Allah, pray, and when you want Him to talk to you, recite the Qur’an”. We can take some time in the morning or before bed to recite the Qur’an, and if we are busy taking care of kids who are out of school, we can listen to Qur’an. Sheikh ash-Sha’rawi in his book of tafseer (commentary on the Qur’an) quoted a beautiful statement of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, who he said was the most knowledgeable of the secrets of the Qur’an:
“I am amazed at the one who has been afflicted with fear, and he does not flee to the Words of Allah:
‘Sufficient for us is Allah, and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs’ for verily Allah has said after it
‘So they returned with favor from Allah and bounty, no harm having touched them.’ (Qur’an, 3:173-174)
And I am amazed at the person who is afflicted with sadness, and he does not flee to the Words of Allah:
‘There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers,’ for verily Allah has said after it
‘So We responded to him and saved him from the distress. And thus do We save the believers.’ (Qur’an, 21:87-88)
And I am amazed at the person who is afflicted with betrayal and deception by people, and he does not flee to the Words of Allah:
‘I entrust my affair to Allah. Indeed, Allah is Seeing of [His] servants’ for verily Allah has said after it:
‘So Allah protected him from the evils they plotted, and the people of Pharaoh were enveloped by the worst of punishment.’ (Qur’an, 40:44-45)
And I am amazed at the person who is afflicted with sickness, and he does not flee to the Words of Allah:
‘Indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful,’ for verily Allah has said after it:
‘So We responded to him and removed what afflicted him of adversity. And We gave him [back] his family and the like thereof with them as mercy from Us and a reminder for the worshippers [of Allah].’” (Qur’an, 21:83-84)
The Qur’an is a true reminder of what is truly important, and a comfort to the hearts.
Istighfar (seeking forgiveness)
The companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and the righteous that came after them regarded everything as a sign of Allah; and thought that perhaps it was their sins that caused these disasters to affect them. They would repent and seek help from God. Seeking forgiveness from Allah allows us to reflect on our states, seek to rectify ourselves, and take our actions more seriously. It lifts the burden of the mistakes we carry on our shoulders, and brings us closer to Allah.
Social Distancing and Social Care
While it is imperative for people to practice social distancing, it is even more important to check up on people. Maybe your pantry is full, but is your neighbor’s? And even wider than that, healthcare and other workers need our help. We should be considerate of how we use facilities or expose ourselves and others to risk. Finally, if we are fortunate enough to be able to donate, we should do so in order to get much needed help to those who need it. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Good works protect from evil fates. Charity in secret extinguishes the wrath of the Lord, maintaining family ties increases life span, and every good deed is charity. The people of good in the world are the people of good in the Hereafter, and the people of evil in the world are the people of evil in the Hereafter. And the first to enter Paradise are the people of good.” [al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 6252]
Du’a is an expression of need and trust. We are told:
“And your Lord says, ‘Call upon Me; I will respond to you.'” [Surat Ghafir, 40:60]
This is the time to turn to Allah and ask Him with all of our hearts. I pray that you are all healthy and well, and may we use this time to truly do what is important.