COVID- 19 and its impact on our normal lives now and post COVID are, and will be difficult and at times overwhelming. We may experience, emotional fatigue, anxiety, financial restraints and a feeling of overwhelming dread. Please remember these are normal responses to crisis and uncertainty. Experiencing these feelings does not make us a “bad or weak” Muslims. There are reminders in the Quran- that we humans are prone to anxiety and that Allah is Merciful.
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the
patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, "Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return." Those are the ones upon
whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided ( Al-Quran 2:155-157)
The following counsel is derived from the Quran and practise of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). When followed consistently, will give us relief and strengthen our spirit to face this current or any other crisis with steadfastness and inner resolve. We will be able to maintain healthy equilibrium of our body, mind, spiritual and emotional self, InshAllah. I pray that this humble offering is of benefit.
The 5 daily prayers ritual is not only a religious obligation, but also a prescription that has much more built in to it. Salah when offered with mindfulness offers healing, protection and resistance to negative cognitive patterns. To achieve the spiritual and psychological benefits of prayers, we need to be cognisant about this fact and be aware off all the benefits that we can attain and draw from our five daily prayers, by being mindful.
In a state of anxiety, it can be a challenge to keep our focus on the prayer, however, when we preserver and continue our prayers, even when we are distracted or start to wonder, what’s the point of praying in a distracted state. Remember this distraction is from Shaitan and shaitan wants you to abandon your prayers since the prayers offers us protection from his waswasa (whispering). While enduring our inner distraction, we continue to pray, we will achieve even if for a moment our connection with the Ar-Rahman (The Merciful), - a connection even as brief as a moment will sustain us in times of trials.
Offering prayers with our family members will also improve our mutual relationships and grow us in fondness and kindness towards each other – both of which are a prerequisite to facing the current challenge at a family front. Salah strengthens our spiritual resolve to be steadfast in reliance on Allah (tawakul). Salah and its various physical postures are a therapeutic exercise of the soul. Through the physical posturing of bowing and prostrating before the Creator, we develop the inner spiritual humility to accept Allah’s will and the opportunity to cry and plead our case in utter abandonment of our egos.
The ritual of wadu, we perform before salah is not only an exercise in cleansing, it is also, if we are mindful provides us with relaxation and refreshes not only our body but also our spirit. We gather our thoughts while water touches our skin- soothing our physical self, it also reminds us of the blessing of water and the worship we are about to undertake. However, wasting water while doing wadu will rob us of this blessing.
Fasting is a ritual that carries within it a healing for body and soul. Fasting cleanses us physically of toxins and gives our body functions a rest. Sawm also develops self discipline and patience which are two pillars of Taqwa. We all aspire to be a Mutaqi – one who lives in a constant state of Allah consciousness, measuring each deed on the scale of pleasing Allah. Always, assessing our intentions, evaluating that our worship and our deeds are to gain Allah’s pleasure, and to avoid deeds in word and in action, that displease Allah is a trait fostered by fasting. When sawm is practised with the consciousness that all difficulty we bare, is for the pleasure of Allah, we benefit from the promise of Allah - that the reward for sawm that my servant observes for Me their reward is with Me. Sawm is not just a worship ritual of abstaining from food, drink and marital intimacy. In fact, it is a spiritual boot camp for refreshing, enhancing and polishing our Taqwa.
Sabr (patience, perseverance steadfastness):
Sabr as and attitude, characteristic and trait of a Muslim, is a gift from Allah. Sabr as a concept and a practise encompasses, Tawakul (reliance and resilience). Reliance on Allah strengthens our spirit to face and to endure during trying times. Reliance reminds us that all is in Allah’s hands and no one or any thing can harm us or benefit us unless Allah wills it. Tawakul makes us strong spiritually, emotionally and cognitively. It offers the realization and acceptance that we do not and cannot control everything and that "Allah alone we worship and Allah alone we ask for help". This acceptance deters helplessness and offers hope and assurance that we will by Allah’s will come out of this trial.
The other outcome of Sabr is resilience, unlike popular belief sabr is not resignation which is fatalistic world view, rather sabr is resilience that thrives on tawakul and offers a reservoir of spiritual strength that does not waiver when faced with trials. Sabr enables us to keep a positive state of mind and to resist negativity. May we be blessed with sabr, so that we have an antidote to situational depression and anxiety. When we completely and totally submit to Allah’s will, with all necessary prerequisites in place our spirit reaches a level of peace that is empowering. Sabr is not resignation but resilience which animates from reliance.
Sabr provides us with the root that is tawakul, and the sweet gift of this root is Resilience.
Further more we are promised in the Quran that Allah is with those who patiently persevere. Who when they are afflicted with a trial say From Allah we come, and to Allah is our return.
It is important to note that salah fosters sabr, and sabr strengthens our spirit. For iman to flourish we are told in the Quran that our worship must be complimented with good deeds and actions. To achieve state of peace and hope, needed in times of crisis, we must along with act of worship, develop taqwa, and practising sabr and simultaneously perform acts of charity, kindness, repentance and forgiveness. Following, are practical tools in our spiritual tool kit, that when observed along with worship namely, Sabr, Tawakul, and Taqwa-will ease our pain, anxiety, and strengthen us to resist to hopelessness, helplessness, despair, anger and frustration. InshaAllah.
Surrender and Submission :
While, belief (iman/aqeedah) compels us to worship Allah. This sincere and informed worship empowers us to surrender our will to the will of Allah the All Mighty. This surrender to the Supremacy and Oneness of Allah and our total dependence on the One and only Merciful Creator develops in us the three fundamental characteristics -namely, humility, humbleness and modesty. All 3 characteristics, help us navigate the path to service to all of Creation. Surrender to Allah, is willing submission of sincere devotion that is neither a burden nor a chore, it is freeing from bondage of our egos and the limitation of empirical knowledge. To surrender to Allah's will, is to be blessed with spiritual and emotional joy, even in the most troubling of times.
Service to Allah’s creation:
Observing rituals of worship, strengthens our Iman, which inspires us to be in the service of Allah’s creation with humility, modesty and humbleness. This service expresses our love, gratefulness and appreciation for the blessings the Merciful, Ar-Rahman has bestowed upon us. In this time of COVID Allah has provided us the
opportunity to be away from tasks of daily lives, to shut out the noise so we can listen to our heart beat and know that Allah is nearer to us than our jugular vein. We have solitude and silence to reflect on our deeds.
Guided by our love for the Creator and his creation let us devote some of our time in the service of humanity, to care for the needy, to mend relationships, to stand with the oppressed, give in charity, guard human rights and protect the environment from pollution and destruction. All of this devotion will see the merger of Momin and Muslim in wholesome unity within us. We are faced with a crisis where all of humanity is in the grip of a deadly virus, global economy is in recession and people are losing their livelihood. During this difficulty our religious duty is to care for all- including our family, neighbours, city, country and beyond. We must make sure no distinction or discrimination is made between Muslim and others.
This service to humanity must be provided with humility and not for self glory. Do it quietly and sincerely and be sure that Allah’s blessing will shower on you and your family tenfold, InshaAllah.
This Ramadan, let us substitute iftar parties with donating food to food banks, helping social services efforts and provide and order prepared meals for international students who are fasting from halal restaurants. We will with one deed- help gain multiple hassanath, for providing iftar as well as helping small businesses.
Our faith and the sunnah of our beloved Prophet Mohammad (sw) teach us that when facing, danger, illness and difficulty, to give sadaqah (charity) in terms of money or goods to the needy. Sadaqah is a source of protection for us and our family. Prophet Mohammad stated, “Best among you, is one from whom most good comes to humanity”.
Beyond giving money and physical support, sadaqah can also include the time you volunteer talking to someone to ease their fear, pain and anxiety. Listening and consoling and reminding the afflicted of Allah’s mercy, all these are acts that are loved by Allah.
There are many who are in need of emotional supports and are feeling lonely –connect with them, listen to their pain, cheer them up and tell them this too will pass. Remind them that Allah is listening to our prayers. Counsel them to be patient and trust that Allah will give us relief.
The message of hope and relief are the two most credible healing balm we can share with our fellow human beings. This message of hope and promise, that this trial will end, is a message we all need to hear over and over again. Repetition of the words of the Quran “After Hardship, cometh ease, verily after hardship cometh ease...." is a promise that Allah gives us to sustain us through difficulties and fill us with hope.
This beautiful phrase, “Shukr Alhamdulillah”, is the most potent antidote to despair. A grateful heart that verbalizes gratefulness repeatedly, thanking Allah for all blessings, big or small, with soul deep appreciation and heartfelt gratitude will enjoy barakah (abundance).
Shukr expresses our love for Allah and Allah reciprocates with love. What better reward then to have Allah swt respond “Is there any reward for good other than good!”. When we are generous in expressing our gratefulness to Allah first and then and also to fellow human beings, we enjoy the riches of emotional, spiritual and psychological peace and well being.
Dua is the most intimate part of our relationship with Allah. This relationship is established when we reflect, understand and gain insight in to who Allah is. When we supplicate and raise our hands or fall in prostration crying out the names of Allah- including- The Merciful, the Compassionate, the Forgiver, the all Knowing, the all Wise, the Loving - we find solace and our spirit rejoices. Duas made with conviction that Allah hears us, is in itself the essence of the relationship that is all consuming between the All Mighty and seeker of mercy. We, all cry out when going gets tough, However, to be in a constant state of dua is to remember Allah even when times are good. To take the time to see the signs of Allah and then to glorify Allah is a cure for our ailing heart that seeks solace.
When we recognize the wisdom of Allah, when we are able to make dua even for our enemies or for those who have done us harm, our hearts will be clear of the pollution of hate and we will be free to worship Allah with pure love and a heart that submits to Allah's will with assurance that whatever Allah wills is for the best.
One who has formed an intimate relationship with Allah, will, when afflicted state 'From Allah we come and to Allah is our return" with a smile in anticipation of returning home.
Verily, Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, and the men who give Sadaqah (charity) and the women who give Sadaqah, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and the men who guard their chastity, and the women who guard their chastity, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember Allah much- for them, Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.( Al-Quran: 33:35)
Shahina Siddiqui is co-founder and volunteer executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association based in Winnipeg. , spiritual counsellor, freelance writer and a human rights activist