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Sh Haitham: Lessons from the Coronavirus Story

All praises are to Allāh, the Most Kind and the Most Merciful, and may His peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).

A few months ago, I had long discussions on two separate occasions with two individuals who specialise in international law. We were discussing Da’wah, Islam, and strategies for Muslim countries, as well as the role of superpowers in controlling the world and the efforts of Da’wah. They were arguing that China is the upcoming world superpower, and one of them said that if China were to close its borders, it could live by itself. It does not need anyone, yet everyone is need of it. The world is afraid of it. My interlocutors on both occasions highlighted the fact that no one can defeat China. A few weeks before my discussions, 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. Chinese 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 China and the rest of the world: the coronavirus.

There are many lessons to be taken from this coronavirus episode.

I

Real power lies with Allāh, our Lord and Creator. I am not addressing those who claim that they are atheists, as I do not believe that they are genuinely authentic to their true inner beliefs. Rather, I am addressing those who acknowledge they believe in God. They should remind themselves of the power of Allāh. This microscopic capsule that is the virus, which is among the smallest and weakest creations of Allāh, has shaken the world. People are trying to run away and hide from it, trying to stop it from spreading and protecting themselves from it, yet they are unable to do so.

And none knows the soldiers of your Lord except Him.[1]

Even if a cure is found, the virus has already humiliated the proud. Viruses will continue to humiliate the arrogance of human beings. Can humans stop such viruses from arising and causing chaos? The answer is an emphatic no. Science is defeated, human beings are defeated, and superpowers are defeated. People have started to boycott China; they have minimised travel to it; they have minimised their trade with it; and some countries have stopped dealing with it completely. I hope that human beings, even if they are part of great superpowers, humble themselves before their Creator whom they predisposed to believe in even if they pretend that they do not.

They have not appraised Allāh with true appraisal, while the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him[2]

Allāh hates arrogance before His majesty. The Pharaoh was the most hated human being because of his arrogance before the Creator when he built such a powerful nation. Satan is the most hated one from the jinn, and his main sin is his refusal to obey Allāh due to arrogance.

II

What is the value of this worldly life? The fear that is felt by the entire world from this virus – this microscopic, non-living agent – confirms for any rational person the value of this worldly life. The life of thousands has either ended or is under the threat to end simply because of this virus. The material composition of this life is truly insignificant; it is not worth even a sip of water. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is reported to have said,

“Were this world worth even the wing of a mosquito, He (Allāh) would not have given so much as a drink of water to a disbeliever.” [3]

No one is safe from the virus – no country, no human being, and no system. No cure has been found yet. Any wise person would ask himself: is the material of this worldly life worth desiring, striving, and aiming for? The Islamic viewpoint is the best answer for such key questions and the treatment for such reality.

Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.[4]

III

The nature of this life is that it is full of calamities. Many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, expect to live in this life without facing difficulties and challenges. They categorically misunderstand this life. Before I quote the Qur’ān in explaining the reality of this life, consider whether there has been a period in history where people have lived without challenges. Consider whether there have been people who have lived without trials. There have never been any such people. This reality is confirmed many times in the Qur’ān and the traditions of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). For example, Allāh says,

[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.[5]

Understanding this reality instils peace in our minds and hearts. People will raise their expectations in terms of living standards if they expect to live without trials and tribulations. 

IV

Believers are content, fulfilled, and satisfied despite such challenges. Human beings are searching for happiness and fulfillment; this is the main aim of every single human being on earth. They work hard in order to secure a ‘happy life’ by securing materialistically a high standard of living, as well as safety, physical needs, psychological needs, social needs, and emotional needs. The challenges they face disturb their efforts and disturb their lives. However, believers in Allāh know the reality of this life and know that Allāh will test people with such challenges. They accept the Will of Allāh and they know that they escape from such challenges by acknowledging the noble purpose behind them.

No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allāh, is easy. In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allāh does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.[6]

V

Is this punishment from Allāh for the disbelievers? It could be so; no one can deny that. However, a few points have to be mentioned here. Allāh punishes disbelievers for their disbelief in the Hereafter. He wants to allow them more chances in this life. When Allāh sends punishment on disbelievers in this life, Allāh is showing them mercy! Indeed, Allāh is showing them mercy by reminding them of the reality of this life and His majestic power so that they may go back to Him and submit to Him.

And We have already sent [messengers] to nations before you, [O Muhammad]; then We seized them with poverty and hardship that perhaps they might humble themselves [to Us]. 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. So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.[7]

The norm of divine law is that Allāh punishes both Muslims and disbelievers when they commit corruption and mischief on this earth.

“And We had already destroyed generations before you when they wronged, and their messengers had come to them with clear proofs, but they were not to believe. Thus do We recompense the criminal people.”[8]

VI

This can also be a warning and a threat for China as a state, in particular for what it has  done to the Uyghur Muslims. The oppression that the Chinese authorities have exercised on Uyghur Muslims is well known, and it is unfortunate that the world has watched without doing anything. The world was afraid of China, but Allāh is the Greatest, and everyone should be afraid of Him.

In the same vein as mentioning the Uyghur Muslims, this is also a warning to the Indian government to avoid carrying out the same strategy with Indian Muslims. If Muslims have no human superpower behind them to defend them, they always have the real divine superpower with them: Allāh, the Lord of the universe. Abu Hurairah (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

“Allāh the Exalted, has said: ‘I will declare war against him who treats with hostility a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing nawāfil (voluntary prayers or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) until I love him, (so much so that) I become his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me something, I will surely give him, and if he seeks My Protection (refuge), I will surely protect him” [9]

VII

Furthermore, in China are some of those who are among the cruelest in treating animals. Allāh becomes angry at anyone who does not show mercy to any of his creation, including dogs and pigs. Although we do not say with certainty with respect to individuals, this virus could also be seen as a punishment for those among them who show cruelty to animals.

Abu Hurairah (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) kissed his grandson Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali (may Allāh be pleased with him) in the presence of Al-Aqra’ b. Habis, who remarked:

“I have ten children and I have never kissed any one of them.” The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) looked at him and said, “He who does not show mercy to others will not be shown mercy”[10]

VIII

There are some people in that region that are also the furthest away from Islamic guidelines on health and hygiene; they reportedly eat any animal and insect. Islām prohibits us from eating dead animals and other animals that were not created for human consumption. Allāh called dead animals a rijs (impurity). We need to remember that even a disbeliever who follows Islamic instructions in hygiene lives a better lifestyle than the disbeliever who is far away from such guidelines. This can be seen from the huge improvement the western world for instance has had from its exposure to Islamic norms of hygiene and cleanliness in the modern period, but dating all the way back to the crusades with returning knights bringing “strange” Islamic practices such as bathing home.[11]

IX

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued some guidance to help people protect themselves from this virus. Many other organisations in different countries have also issued similar guidelines. However, it is very unfortunate that Muslims – whether countries or individuals – have not included in their guidance the most powerful protection: divine protection. Either they are embarrassed to include such protection, or they have absorbed Christian/Secularlist doctrines, that there is one, monolithic thing called “religion” (of course defined according to Christendom), and it has nothing to do with health. Divine protection is summarised in the next few points.

X

People will not escape from divine decree (qadā’ and qadar). People should understand that nothing happens in this life without the permission of Allāh. He planned everything in this world, but He also allowed a space within His plans for people to do what they want to do (i.e. the concept of limited free will), and He created certain laws that operate within His Will. This includes the scientific laws for human bodies, nature, planets, and so on. These are divine laws that can be discovered by science and technology, yet they are set and governed by the only Creator: Allāh the Almighty. We will not escape the qadar of Allāh. Let us do our best in taking the material means for protection and cure, but we should also remember that we will not escape the qadar of Allāh. This belief puts a person at peace and contentment.

No disaster strikes except by permission of Allāh. And whoever believes in Allāh – He will guide his heart. And Allāh is Knowing of all things[12]

Put your trust in Allāh and move on. People should rely on Allāh and put their trust in Him.

If Allāh should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allāh let the believers rely[13]

Ibn ‘Abbās reports:

“One day, I was riding behind the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) when he said, “O boy! I will instruct you in some matters. Preserve Allāh (i.e. be watchful of the Commandments of Allāh), He will preserve you. Safeguard His Rights, He will be ever with you. If you beg, beg of Him Alone; and if you need assistance, supplicate to Allāh Alone for help. And remember that if all the people gather to benefit you, they will not be able to benefit you except with that which Allāh had foreordained (for you); and if all of them gather to do harm to you, they will not be able to afflict you with anything other than that which Allāh had pre-destined against you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried.”[14]

XI

Of course people should use material measures for protection determined by sound science, but they should also remember that it is Allāh who allows these measures to function. Therefore, they should first seek protection from Allāh and rely on and put their trust in Him in the beginning, in the end, and during the measures they take. They should rely on Him all the time. Divinely-ordained measures include:

  1. Seeking protection from Allāh by remembering him specifically. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) taught us many supplications for protection: for the morning and the evening, for when we eat, when we enter our houses, before we sleep, when we arrive at a place, and so on.
  2. Following other Islamic guidelines will help in protection from such diseases. This including washing hands regularly which takes place during wudu for salāh, for sleeping and for other activities, and washing hands before having food, washing private parts, regulating sexual relationships, applying infection control that Islam has taught us (such as no sneezing openly and applying quarantine on those who are infected with infectious diseases).

XII

Finally, do not live in fear and do not spread fear. This will only worsen the quality of your life rather than improve it. We are going to die anyway! There are many other deadly things besides the coronavirus. The believers are waiting to live beside their Lord, the Most Kind and Merciful; disbelievers have made Him angry and are therefore trying to run away from Him, wishing to delay their inevitable meeting. Yet He is so Merciful that there is no way to run away from Him except towards him. Hence, I urge all disbelievers to treat this as a wakeup call and run towards their Lord, submit to Him and accept his final Messenger Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Al-Qur’ān 74:31

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 39:67

[3] Tirmidhi

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 18:7

[5] Al-Qur’ān 67:2

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 57:22-23

[7] Al-Qur’ān, 6:42-45

[8] Al-Qur’ān 10:13

[9] Bukhari

[10] Bukhari and Muslim

[11] https://www.islam21c.com/podcasts/unscripted-31-islam-was-in-europe-before-europeans-dr-stef-keris/

[12] Al-Qur’ān, 64:11

[13] Al-Qur’ān, 3:160

[14] Tirmidhi

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About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

4 comments

  1. A very well thought out and balanced piece and much needed to set the tone under these circumstances. Jzk

  2. Great article

  3. Subha Allah the first paragraph was enough for me mashAllah tabarakAllah, I jumped and felt like shouting Subha Allah when you mentioned the link between China and the virus.

    How great Allah SWT, we barely ever appreciate and we are drunk on anything other than this.

  4. Julie Amal Rashid

    Maa’sha’Allah excellent points raised.

    JazakAllahKhair

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