Dear brothers and sisters in humanity,
This letter is sent from Muslim scholars, educators, preachers and thinkers from around the world. We pray that you are in good health and that you are safe from coronavirus (technically referred to as COVID-19). We are committed to your safety, happiness and wellbeing; it is in this spirit we write this letter.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Coronavirus is in almost every country of the world. People are more likely to die once infected with the disease than if they were infected with the flu. Fear and anxiety have dominated our day-to-day lives. Countries are on lockdown, schools are closed and social lives are dismantled. Many will inevitably lose their loved ones. Many will die before they can say goodbye.
Many of us have shown great compassion and unity, irrespective of our differences. This is why we believe that, even in these unprecedented times, coronavirus can be the means for an intellectual and spiritual awakening. What follows are some key points for us to consider.
WE ARE DEPENDENT ON GOD
“O humanity! It is you who stand in need of God, but God alone is the Self-Sufficient, Praiseworthy.” The Qur’an, Chapter 35, Verse 15.
Coronavirus has made us realize that we are not self-sufficient. We are limited and needy. Our very existence and our ability to function is dependent on almost an infinite number of things; things that we cannot control and have no power over. All of these things are ultimately dependent on God. Since God created us and all of the things mentioned above, our very existence is solely dependent on Him. We are not self-sufficient, even if some of us are deluded into thinking that we are.
“Indeed, man transgresses, because he sees himself as self-sufficient.” The Qur’an, Chapter 96, Verses 6 and 7.
The whole world has been turned upside down over a single strand of RNA. This small virus, which we cannot see with the naked eye, has affected nearly every country in the world. There is currently no cure. Economies are on the verge of collapse and health systems are overwhelmed. People are fearful and anxious. Populations have been asked to stay at home. No amount of money and power in the world can reverse what has happened. This should teach us an important lesson, especially for those who are arrogant: we must be humble. One of the biggest barriers to Divine guidance and mercy is the delusion of self-sufficiency, which is ultimately based on ego and arrogance.
“We have already sent [messengers] to nations before you; then We seized them with suffering and adversity that perhaps they may humble themselves [to Us].” The Qur’an, Chapter 6, Verse 42.
CORONAVIRUS AND GOD’S SIGNS
Many of us have never directly observed a virus. Even though it is visible with an electron microscope, many of us rely on scientific textbooks and images, and what the experts tell us. However, we do observe and feel the effects of the virus. This is enough for anyone to conclude the virus exists. We also act and take measures to prevent ourselves and others from being infected with this unseen disease. Applying this to God, not only do we have an innate awareness of His existence, we can observe and feel the effects of His reality.
We live in this amazing universe. We hope, love, seek justice and believe in the ultimate value of human life. We reason, infer, deduce and discover. We live in a vast universe with billions of planets, stars and galaxies. The universe has laws and fundamental physical constants that, if even slightly different, would have prevented the emergence of conscious, sentient life. We live on a planet with over 6,000 languages and over eight million species. We feel—deep down inside—the wrongness of evil, and the rightness of good.
These are all signs for God’s existence and greatness.
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth; the alternation of the night and day; the ships that sail the sea for the benefit of humanity; the rain sent down by God from the skies, reviving the earth after its death; the scattering of all kinds of creatures throughout; the shifting of the winds; and the clouds drifting between the heavens and the earth—in all of this are surely signs for people of understanding.” The Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verses 164
LIFE, DEATH AND PURPOSE
Coronavirus has been and will be responsible for many deaths. We have seen the global death toll increase at an alarming rate day by day. This has evoked fear and anxiety. But it has also created a window of opportunity for us to reflect on the nature of our existence, and ponder over death and life.
“Every soul will taste death. And you will receive full reward on the Day of Judgment. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and is admitted into Paradise will triumph. For the life of this world is no more than the delusion of enjoyment.” The Qur’an, Chapter 3, Verse 185.
Rejecting the fact that our lives have an ultimate purpose is absurd and counter-intuitive. We are purpose-driven creatures. We do everything for a purpose, from brushing our teeth to buying a car, yet some of us do not believe we have a purpose for our own existence. Without an ultimate purpose we have no real reason to exist, and we lack a profound meaning for our lives. Denying purpose for the basis of our existence while attributing a made-up purpose to our lives is, by definition, self-delusion. It is no different than saying, “Let’s pretend to have purpose.”
“Our Lord! You have not created all of this without purpose.” The Qur’an, Chapter 3, Verse 191.
SO WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE?
Coronavirus has made us think of, and want to preserve, the things we need, love and revere. Many of these things are the things we worship. Even people who do not believe in God, manifest signs of adoration, reverence and devotion for things. The object that we love and revere the most, including whatever we attribute ultimate power to and believe we are ultimately dependent on, is essentially our object of worship. For many people, this can include an ideology, a leader, a family member, and their own selves. Polytheism and idolatry are not just about praying to or physically bowing down in front of an object.
“And [yet], among the people are those who take other than God as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love God. But those who believe are stronger in love for God.” The Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 165.
God is essentially telling us that if we do not worship Him, we end up worshipping something else. These things ‘enslave’ us and they become our ‘masters’.
“Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire?” The Qur’an, Chapter 45, Verse 23.
Even those who call themselves atheists worship someone or something, perhaps unknowingly. This something could very well be one’s own desire. When we reject God’s message and refuse to change ourselves, be it because of arrogance or love of this material world, we have let our own desire get the better of us. We have become slaves of our desires.
God, who knows everything, including our own selves, and who is the Most Merciful, is telling us that He is our master, and that only by worshipping Him alone will we truly free ourselves from the shackles of the things we have taken as replacements for Him.
“I did not create the Jinn [spirit world] and humans except to worship Me.” The Qur’an, Chapter 51, Verse 56.
Worshipping God is our purpose in life. God is rooted in our innermost nature, and when God commands us to worship Him it is actually a mercy and act of love. Once we fill our hearts with the awe and love of God we feel at peace and experience a tranquillity that can never be put into words, and a serenity that is undisturbed by calamity.
“O humanity! Remember God’s favours upon you. Is there any creator other than God who provides for you from the heaven and the Earth? There is no God worthy of worship except Him. How can you then be deluded from the truth?” The Qur’an, Chapter 35, Verse 3.
STOP THE CORRUPTION AND INJUSTICE
This pandemic is not a random accident. Our individual and collective actions are responsible for what happens on our planet. This should make us reflect over what we have done, and not done, that may have caused this pandemic. Given our dependence on God and our interconnectedness to other things, including our environment and other people, we should realise that it is our corruption and injustice that may have contributed to this pandemic.
“Corruption has spread on land and sea as a result of what people’s hands have done, so that God may cause them to taste the consequences of some of their deeds and perhaps they might return to the right path.” The Qur’an, Chapter 30, Verse 41.
The condition of our planet is such that it is on the verge of being destroyed; the staggering levels of pollution are corrupting and destabilising our home. Injustice and war abound. Millions of our fellow human beings have become refugees, millions have been killed during ongoing conflicts, and millions do not have enough to eat to survive. We are collectively responsible for not doing enough to stop evil, and many of us are directly responsible for causing it. We need to take responsibility and understand that this pandemic is a signal, a divine sign, to stop the injustice and corruption on earth.
“Do not spread corruption in the land after it has been set in order.” The Qur’an, Chapter 7, Verse 56.
We must realise that we are caretakers of the earth. This means that we are responsible to maintain the balance, ensure order and not be wasteful. Unjust wars must stop, the murder of innocent people must cease, unfair economic policies must be scrapped, the ill-treatment of animals must come to an end, wastefulness and greed must be eradicated. We are confronted with some choices. To follow God’s guidance which will reset the balance and order, or to continue with the corruption.
“Indeed, God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” The Qur’an, Chapter 13, Verse 11.
TRUST THE TRUSTWORTHY
This global pandemic has kept us glued to our screens waiting for the next update and guidance from the experts; the virologists, epidemiologists and other people of authority. We trust what they have to say and follow their instructions. However, many of us, the majority in fact, have no way of assessing the truth of their statements. We do not have the academic background nor the expertise. Given our limitations as human beings, we simply cannot know everything. Relying on other people’s testimony is an inevitable and essential part of living. Since we can trust some people’s testimony, it would make sense to trust someone more trustworthy than the people we currently trust.
“Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The Qur’an, Chapter 48, Verse 29.
Prophet Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) claimed prophethood over 1,400 years ago with the following simple, yet profound message: there is none worthy of worship but God, and Prophet Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) is the final messenger of God. We strongly advise studying the rigorously-recorded history of Prophet Muhammad’s (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) life which will reveal considerable information showing us the integrity of his character. He was not a liar nor deluded, but the last of the glorious Prophets and Messengers like Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all). The oneness of God is what they all preached, and the oneness of humanity is felt most when asserting that truth.
Studying Prophet Muhammad’s (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) life and guidance will also bring to light that he was divinely inspired, and it will provide substantial evidence that the Qur’an is God’s final revelation.
In light of the above, to accept Prophet Muhammad’s (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) message would be logically equivalent to accepting the message of the experts we’ve been listening to attentively during this pandemic.
CORONAVIRUS CAN LEAD YOU TO PARADISE
“He is the One Who created life and death in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving.” The Qur’an, Chapter 67, Verse 2.
God created us to worship Him, and part of worshipping Him is to be tested, and trials like this global pandemic are part of this test. Passing the test, by responding in a way that is pleasing to God, facilitates our permanent abode of eternal bliss in Paradise. The world is an arena of trials and tribulations that act as a mechanism to cultivate virtue, ensure our moral and spiritual growth, and decide who among us are truly deserving of eternal happiness. During these difficult times we must be patient and courageous and show compassion for those infected with the virus by helping them in any way we can.
“Do you think you will be admitted into Paradise without being tested like those before you? They were afflicted with suffering and adversity and were so severely shaken that even the Messenger and the believers with him cried out, ‘When will God’s help come?’ Indeed, God’s help is always near.” The Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 214.
Islam is empowering. It sees suffering, evil, harm, pain and problems as a test and it views tests as signs of God’s love. The Prophet Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When God loves a servant, He tests him.” The reason God tests those whom He loves is because tests are the pathway to Paradise—and being admitted to Paradise is a result of divine love and mercy. This is why this particular test of COVID-19 can help us achieve Paradise. However, if we cannot overcome these trials after having tried our best, God’s mercy and justice will ensure that we are recompensed in some way, either in this life or the eternal life that awaits us.
“We will certainly make them taste some of the minor torment in this life before the major torment of the Hereafter, so perhaps they will return to the Right Path. And who does more wrong than the one who is reminded of God’s revelations then turns away from them?” The Qur’an, Chapter 32, Verses 21 and 22.
This global pandemic should create a spiritual and intellectual awakening. It is time to return to the path of God. This God-given test can be a sign of either Divine love or our own arrogance. If we are humble, patient, hope for God’s reward, worship Him sincerely, act compassionately and do the right thing, we will pass the test and be eligible for eternal bliss in Paradise—a place that is so blissful that if the one who has suffered the most on earth would be admitted into it for just a moment, he would exclaim, as the Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) informed us, “I have never suffered!”
The choice is ours. We can accept the fact that God is the only deity worthy of worship and that Prophet Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) is His final messenger, or we can reject the truth and by virtue of that risk punishment from God—because we have chosen to reject His guidance and mercy. Now is the time to believe and be mindful of Him:
“And whoever is mindful of God, He will make a way out for him, and provide for them from sources they could never imagine.” The Qur’an, Chapter 65, Verses 2 and 3.
May God guide and protect us all, and make us eligible for His special mercy.
-Mufti Muhmmad Taqi Usmani, vice president of Darul Uloom University Karachi, Pakistan. The most Influential Muslim in 2020 according to www.themuslim500.com.
-Sheikh Dr Sharif Ibrahim Saleh Alhussaini CON, Grand Mufti of Nigeria, Chairman, Fatawa Committee of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs of Nigeria, Chairman, Assembly of Muslims in Nigeria AMIN.
-Muhmmad Seydya Suliman al-Nawawi al-Shanqiti, vice president of Association of Muslim scholars.
-Hussain Yee, president of Serving Mankind Association, Malaysia.
-Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad al-Sallabi, Muslim historian and religious scholar, Libya.
-Dr Zakir Naik, Founder, Peace TV Network, Malaysia.
-Dr Mohd Asri bin Zainul Abidin, Mufti of Perlis, Malaysia.
-Abdul Raheem Green, international preacher, UK.
-Sheikh Dr AbdulHayy Yusuf, Vice president of the board of the scholars of Sudan.
-Dr Muhmmad Yusri Ibrahim, Academic and researcher, Egypt.
-Daei al-Islam al-Shahhal, scholar, Lebanon.
-Dr Haifaa Younis, Jannah institute, St. Louis, MO, USA.
-Dr. Yasir Qadhi. Dean, The Islamic Seminary of America Dallas, TX, USA.
-Sheikh Shadi Alsuleiman, Chairman of Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), Australia.
-Dr Muhmmad Salah, Huda TV, Egypt.
-Hamza Tzortzis, author and international preacher, UK.
-Dr Tawfique Chowdhury, Australia.
-Sheikh Omar Suleiman, Founder & President of Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, USA.
-Imam Said Rageah, Chairman of Journey of Faith international conference, Chairman and founder of Sakinah Foundation, Toronto Canada.
-Fadel Soliman, Director of Bridges Foundation, Egypt.
-Dr. Anas Altikriti, CEO and founder, The Cordoba Foundation, United Kingdom.
-Sheikh Zahir Mahmood, founder and teacher at As-Suffa Institute. Birmingham, England.
-Sheikh Dr Haitham al-Haddad, founder of AlMarkaz for Revival and Reform Studies, UK.
-Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Houiyat, scholar, Germany
-Dr Kamil Salah, lecturer in Islamic jurisprudence University of Jarash, Jordan.
-Sheikh Ihsan Mohammed Alotibie, scholar, Jordan.
-Nour al-Din Yildiz a scholar and a preacher, Turkey.
-Shaykh Asrar Rashid. Founder of Hadithiyya Institute, Imam at Jamatia Islamic Centre Birmingham. Author, theologian and orator, UK.
-Muhammad Idrees Zubair, former professor and member BOG of IIU, Islamabad, Pakistan.
-Dr. Bachir Aissam Almorrakochi, scholar, author and the director of Irshad Academy for studies and development, Morocco.
-Shaykha Dr. Tamara Gray, Executive Director, scholar and chief spirituality officer of Rabata.
-Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Masjid Al Taqwa New York.
-Imam Dr. Khalil Abdur-Rashid, Muslim Chaplain at Harvard University, Instructor of Muslim Studies at Harvard Divinity School & Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.