Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”
By now, no matter where you are in the world, you have formulated your stance on the coronavirus. The groups vary. Some are of the opinion that it is a man-made virus ready for World-Economic- destruction, some feel hysterical and have already begun stocking up on cans of foods and hand sanitizers, whilst others are deeply contemplating whether or not to buy that cheaper plane ticket to their next destination. Some have been affected and are now in quarantine. Some have died from the virus and others have recovered. Whether or not you believe the virus will physically affect you, psychologically, it already has – be that on the news or around dinner-table conversations. People are wearing masks, consistently aware of how often they touch their face or are so hysterical, they have begun their preparation for the end of the world. Some of us are even already under lock-down in countries with everything shut down and restricted movements. Hysteria has been internalized.
I had recently watched the Netflix Series Messiah that sparked up some interesting conversation over social media around the concept of the Messiah or the return of Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him (PBUH). Watching this show, all of my criticism aside (there were many), I found myself thinking about one thing throughout the series: how utterly hysterical the world is going to become in the end.
As a Muslim, from the time I attended Madressah, I was told about the grand existential notions of life, death, the in-between and the after-life. More than this, we were taught about the signs of the end. It’s strange to think that as a child, I was faced with such intense paradigms around ideologies that often leave us depressed or thinking about our lives and how we have spent them. It doesn’t matter how often we consume an incredible amount of Futurism, Zombie Apocalypse, science fiction films- living in a world that is not ending seems easier. This idea cutting to the now lived reality of Zombie like humans in masks, parading hysteria and consuming hygiene products and vitamins in the hopes of preventing influenza has left me with the question:
Do we fear the coronavirus or just the idea of dying from it?
The reality is that twenty years ago, we never imagined a world where we would witness hysteria in this manner. My fear is what this has done to us. Reportedly, a diagnosed South African woman in China had been locked up in her tiny apartment for weeks resulting in her running into the streets naked and wailing entering a sort of hysteria or ‘mad’ deranged state.
Imam Omar Suleiman in his Talk “The Plague that Killed Sahaba and the Coronavirus” recently brought to our attention as Muslims the difficulty of what is to come. For example, shaking hands, going for Umrah and even performing Salaah in congregation. An Image of an empty Haram in Makkah recently trended on Social Media during the cleaning taking place for the prevention of the coronavirus. Some comments about the image started from “The End is near” to “May God save us from this world” to “There is no one circling the kabah- we are doomed and the end is finally here.”
Imam Omar Suleiman discusses the Coronavirus from a spiritual perspective and relates it back to an incident in the time of the Plague that killed some Sahabah (companions of the Prophet, PUBH). A hadith by the Prophet (PBUH) in which he had asked of Allah three things, “I asked Allah that He would not destroy my Ummah [nation] in an entire fashion the way that previous nations were destroyed, that Allah does not allow an external enemy to wipe us out and that Allah does not cause the destruction of the Ummah from the inside of that Ummah.”
We are then affirmed that we will suffer but that we will not be completely wiped out by something like a disease. However, he mentions that even when the Prophet (PBUH) was affected by a strange wind, he resorted to Salaah (prayer). Some Sahabah thought that it could have been insignificant, but the Prophet (PBUH) always expressed himself as an example for when something should occur so that the Ummah would not feel a sense of hysteria. More so, it was a reminder of the fact that humans were not in control of what was to come or what was happening. Imam Omar mentions that even if we were to control all the things that could prevent disease, we wear the correct masks, we use hand-sanitizer, we stay inside of our homes, we don’t touch surfaces in public spaces, we are still vulnerable to the Mercy of our Lord. A tornado could affect an entire community, an extremist guns down praying people in a mosque, an insect bite can kill you in your sleep…
He goes on to speak about a plague or a mass health scare that occurs due to a contagious disease. The Prophet (PBUH) says in a Hadith narrated by Hazrat Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her (RA); “It is a punishment that Allah has sent on a people whomever He willed (a plague/illness/disease could indeed be seen as a punishment) then Allah made it a mercy for the believers, so there is not anyone from the Servants of Allah who is struck by the ‘plague’ that he stays in his/her place, patient. And he knows that nothing has struck him unless that Allah has willed it.”
Two important things are mentioned here: the first is that of patience and the second is that Allah has willed for it and if the person dies in this case, he/she dies a Shaheed [martyr]. The Prophet (PBUH) was educating us on the notion of dying, affliction and acceptance.
The Amwas plague that had occurred in the time of the Sahabah was not the first or biggest. This plague occurred in the tie of Omar (RA) and in this period there was also a drought in Madina that caused the death of many of the Sahaba. Omar (RA) then began travelling from Madina to As-Sham. En route, he met some of the Sahaba who said to him,
“We are dying like sheep.”
For this move, Omar (RA) was advised to return to Madina to firstly prevent the plague from spreading and secondly, he was the Khalifah at the time and needed to continue discharging his duty as leader. It was at this point that Abu Ubaidah who questioned Omar’s religiosity was told in response by Omar (RA):
“We have come from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah.”
To settle this, Abdurahmaan ibn Auf came in to the conversation and mentioned that the Nabi (PBUH) had mentioned that if you are struck by a plague, do not enter into that place and if you are in the place that the plague has struck, don’t leave it. This can be compared to the notion of quarantine. The idea of containment is not a new phenomenon. Omar (RA) then turned around and went to Madina instead of continuing into As-Sham. It was in this plague that many Sahabah had passed away.
What we are currently witnessing may only be a part of the beginning of severe difficulty and perhaps not as severe at all.
But, we feel it.
Whatever it is. We are feeling it consistently. Do we or don’t we travel? Do we or don’t we keep ourselves indoors? Do we or don’t we survive whatever may come?
Whatever it is. It is a hysterical time for many of us. The fear of the unknown or the complete dismissal of the hysteria surrounding us. Snippets of conversation here and there as people pass us by in public spaces or the banter of non-stop panic on our radio stations or the sold out signs on all hand sanitizers…
I end off with a hadith reported by Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”
What is the lesson in this hadith for us if we really reflect on it? What does it mean to understand that when the world really ends and the last hour is upon you – if you are planting a seed – continue?
It’s time we start making this question a part of the conversation in the midst of hysteria.
Thank you for asking such important questions and the context you have given with the story of the plague.
I always love reading your articles :)