.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم. وَصَلَّى اللهُ عَلَى سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ وَسَلَّمْ تَسْلِيمًا كَثِيرًا
“We will certainly test you with something of fear, and hunger, and loss of wealth, and lives, and fruits (earnings); but give glad tidings to the persevering and patient. Holy Qur’an, 2: 155.
“Do you reckon that you will enter paradise while you have not suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, and so terribly shaken were they that the messenger and the believers with him would exclaim, ‘When will God’s help come?’ Surely, God’s help is close at hand. Holy Qur’an, (2: 214)
I have decided to make the above Qur’anic verses the subject of this week’s reflections because of their significance for humanity, particularly, Muslims following the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19).
As a matter of fact nothing depicts the current situation of humanity than the foregoing verses.Since the outbreak of the pandemic the whole of humanity has been gripped by a mortal fear, fear of an unseen virus with great and devastating consequences. In the words of an environmentalist, humanity “fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another. Suddenly Disney is out of magic, Paris is no longer romantic, New York doesn’t stand up anymore, the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, and Mecca is empty. Hugs and kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents and friends becomes an act of love. Suddenly you realize that power, beauty and money are worthless, and can’t get you the oxygen you’re fighting for….. The world continues its life, (but only that it has) put humans in cages”. Thousands of human lives continue to be lost to the disease globally, economies of even the most economically advances countries are being devastated and human beings are losing their earnings and means of livelihoods on a scale never experienced before. Humanity is so devastated that questions are being asked daily whether “the coronavirus is a punishment from Allah or not?” “Is Allah angry at us?” “Is the coronavirus a blessing, test, or punishment?”
Life in this world is not without its challenges. This is how Allah SWThas determined for His creations, to test and enhance their Iman and resilience, as stated in the Holy Qur’an, 2: 155 and 2: 214; and in a hadithof the holy Prophet Muhammad SAW narrated by Imam Ahmad: “Allah will test the people whom He loves.”
It is in light of these verses and hadith that we must take all challenges in good faith and with confidence. When there is a challenge, it does not mean our lives should become miserable. Instead, challenges are opportunities for us to reflect, think, and find solutions. At the same time, these are also opportunities for us to seek Allah’s help and guidance.
This hadith of the Holy Prophet SAW also reminds us to be always ready to face any challenge. This readiness is part of our Muslim Identity, whereby based on our faith and confidence, and guided by our awareness and understanding of the world situation around us, it shall insha Allah help us navigate through the storm safely and successfully.
In the following verses Allah SWT says “those who, when a disaster befalls them, say, “surely we belong to Allah(as His creatures and servants), and surely to Him we are bound to return.” Such are those upon whom there are blessings from their Lord (such as forgiveness, answering their calls, and satisfying their needs) and mercy (to come in the form of help in both this world and Hereafter, and favours in Paradise beyond human imagination); and they are those who are rightly guided. Holy Qur’an, 2: 156-157.
We can understand from the foregoing verses and the hadith that Allah tests His beloved ones, and the main purpose of this testing is to mature and perfect the believers both as individuals and as a community, purify them, distinguish the true believers among them from the hypocritical ones, develop their capacities, prepare them for the future and make them worthy of paradise.
“Do you reckon that you will enter paradise while you have not suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, and so terribly shaken were they that the messenger and the believers with him would exclaim, ‘When will God’s help come?’ Surely, God’s help is close at hand. Holy Qur’an, 2: 214.
The significance of the foregoing verse lies in the fact that it reminds us that when the early believers, the founding community of Islam encountered some adversities of their time, Allah reassured the believers that what they faced was part of the experience and education they needed to qualify for Allah’s reward in paradise. He also drew their attention to the experiences of their fellow believers before them who were entrusted with the same task of establishing the divine code of living on earth. Nevertheless, the message in these words is timeless. It is directed to all humanity.
What it tells us we the present day Muslims, who have chosen to thread on the path of Allah and his Messenger is that we have to face up to numerous challenges and much hardships. In our lifetimes we shall experience triumphs as well as setbacks. If however we persevere, stand firm and hold on to our beliefs and convictions in the face of those challenges, we will earn Allah’s succour and trust. We will deserve to be the custodians of Allah’s message in this world. Our reward will be in paradise in the life to come. It is a fitting reward for our courage in defeating our own weaknesses, resisting all manner of temptation, and refusing to surrender our life and destiny to any other power or authority except that of Allah SWT.
We should please take a look at the following part of the verse “Affliction and adversity befell them, and so terribly shaken were they that the Messenger and the believers with him would exclaim, ‘When will God’s help come”? We may take note of the intensity of the trial the Prophet and his followers went through; So awesome was the experience that Allah’s own Messenger and those who have accepted the faith close to him had to despair and cried out with frustration: “ When will Allah’s help come”?
Allah’s support that ensures victory is reserved for those who earn it: those who persevere and stand firm to the end in the face of all adversity and misfortune, never wavering but always certain that Allah’s help is on its way. No matter how severe the ordeal may become, true believers will always look to Allah, and to Allah alone, for salvation and support. By displaying such faith and trust in Allah, believers are deservedly rewarded by being admitted into paradise.
The dynamism of social and religious struggle reinforces the human spirit and encourages man to rise above his own ego and so emerge purer and stronger, ready to uphold the faith with greater energy and vigour. Thus, believers become a shining role model even for their most ardent adversaries, some of whom are liable to be impressed and join ranks with the believers, as witnessed throughout human history. But even if this were not the case, something else much greater and much more admirable happens: Life and its comforts become of no real consequence, and man assumes control of his world, which can only mean a triumph for humanity and the human spirit as a whole.
From these verses, we learn that the ingredients of success are faith, hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance. With those qualities, the believer is assured that victory is guaranteed and the road to greater, everlasting rewards, to eternal bliss, is direct and clear, in sha Allah.
No doubt, COVID-19 is a picture of great trepidation and unimaginable apprehension that causes a believer’s faith to be tested so severely and shaken in such a profound manner. However, with determination and steadfastness, Allah’s help is sure to arrive, for “Surely, Allah’s help is close at hand.”(2: 214)
WaMa Tawfiqi Illa BilLaahilAzeem. To be continued next week.