BY: Dr. M. Ayman al-Akiti
Islam, in its pillars, teaches us that everything that happened; either good or bad, ultimately came from Allāh Most High. He created us solely for the purpose of ʻibādah and to serve Him to the best we could. He is the one who created the heaven and the earth where we lived, and He alone created all of our actions. Qur’an said: “Allāh created all of you and all of your doings” [al-Ṣaffāt: 96]. This is our creed, a Sunni creed, that has been taught by our teachers and scholars, who were earlier taught by their teachers and their predecessors, like what has been understood from the sacred revelation to our beloved Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH).
Although all good and bad ultimately come from Allāh Most High, He also grants us kasb i.e. the ability to do something or the capacity to put effort in doing something, so that we may act in accordance with His commands and orders. Our actions would be judged by His justice and His mercy. Subscribing to this concept of “effort” makes us different from the teaching of Jabariyyah (Fatalism). The Jabariyyah believes that everything which happens in an individual is due to pre-eternality (beginningless) omnipotence (al-Qudrah al-Qadīmah) without having any association with any kind of contingent omnipotence (al-Qudrah al-Hādithah). The Jabariyyah teaching sees that individuals do not have any effort (kasb) at all. They place the accountability and responsibility of either good or evil behaviours on Allāh Most High. For example, when a person commits adultery, he would say that it is God who is doing it, and not himself. Conversely, the Sunni’s tradition holds on to the belief that an individual’s effort is a basis that makes his or her deserving reward or punishment, praise or dispraise devoid of any effect without the will of Allāh Most High.
Since we believe that everything is from Allāh Most High, we consequently need to have faith that COVID19 pandemic is part of His plan, will and doing. This pandemic is a test from Him. We can choose to face or accept it with ikhlāṣ (sincerity) to take preventive steps as part of our effort (kasb). But if we choose to rebel against His command by doing something that will incite His wrath such as committing suicide, we have to face his condemnation in the hereafter. Allāh Most High said: “And do not kill yourselves, Indeed Allāh is most merciful to you. And whoever does that in aggression and injustice, We will soon make him enter the Fire, and that is easy for Allāh” [al-Nisāʼ: 29-30].
Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) had also taught us how to act in the pandemic outbreak situation. He said: “If you hear of an outbreak or a plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place” (narrated by al-Bukhārī). His teaching is relevant to the present situation where quarantine is considered as one of the most effective methods to fight COVID-19. For those who are inflicted with this virus, they should be calm and patient during the recovery process. Obeying the Movement Control Order (MCO) that has been announced by the Government is considered as an act to obey Allāh’s commandment, hence befits the aim of MCO which is to preserve lives of the masse by limiting their contact with each other. We shall not put harm whether to ourselves or to others. Allāh Most High said: “and do not cast yourselves with your own hands into destruction” [al-Baqarah: 195]. Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) also said: “Do not cause harm or return harm”, narrated by al-Bayhaqī in his Sunan Kubrā.
Imam al-Ghazālī (d. 1111 AD) had also reminded us the importance of making prayer (dua’) to Allāh Most High in the time of trial. He said in his Magnum Opus: Iḥyāʼ ʻUlūm al-Dīn: “The benefit of prayer (duʻā) is to repel tribulation.” Although we live in the time of tribulation, we shall not forget that we are all one ummah. A Muslim is a brother to his fellow Muslims. Those who are fortunate to be given more rizq (wealth) from Allāh Most High should help their brothers and sisters who are in need. Ibn Shāhīn (d. 385 AH) said in his Targhīb fī Faḍāʼil al-Aʻmāl: “Charity will shut 70 doors of harm”. Allāh Most High said in Surah al-Baqarah: 261: “The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allāh is that of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allāh enhances severalfold whomever He wishes, and Allāh is all-bounteous, all-knowing”. All of this effort is part of kasb that Allāh Most High has grant us.
We pray to Allāh Most High, with all His mercy and kindness; to protect us in this trial, to bring the best of us out from this turbulence and to give us patience in this hardship. May Allāh Most High favors us to be his humble and pious servants. Amīn Yā Rabb al-ʻĀlamīn.
Dr. M. Ayman al-Akiti is an assistant professor at Department of Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion, Kuliyyah of IRKHS
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