Friday Sermon: The Coronavirus Pandemic and Where Do We Begin?

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It may be that after protecting life, the most urgent thing we need to do it take a step back and reflect on just how much change society is capable of in these days and for the Muslim community especially, to review how the Qurโ€™an demands we organise our global community.

How quickly we have changed our realities when needed

In part one we made an audacious but self-evident claim:ย Change no longer needs to take centuries. We have shifted our realities and laws through the urgency of the need to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

We also stated that this pandemic is purposeful and that is to stir the hearts of people and see through the changes that need to be made in society that we otherwise would not have made. From this perspective, these trials are in fact a blessing overall, for Allah (swt) does nothing except what is in the interest of our betterment.

In this part we will introduce the primary change the world order can make and that is seeing the world through the lens of global equality and that the resources needed to live and prosper are the rights of everyone, not the right of a nation state, corporation, or elite group of people.ย 

We have mentioned some of the behavioural changes recently seen, but it is worth reflecting on just how much has changed in such a short span: Awareness of and interaction with neighbours; binge drinking and fast-food diets has reduced; the homeless are being housed; many landlords are ceasing evictions for those who cannot work.

Yes, in many cases people are forced into these changes. But in many others, people are volunteering theseย phenomenal changes. In either case, change in happening and in multiple spheres of life.

Now donโ€™t go backwards on your achievements, go forward

The Qurโ€™an makes great emphasis on not unravelling the strides that have been made post-facto:

ูˆูŽู„ูŽุง ุชูŽูƒููˆู†ููˆุง ูƒูŽุงู„ู‘ูŽุชููŠ ู†ูŽู‚ูŽุถูŽุชู’ ุบูŽุฒู’ู„ูŽู‡ูŽุง ู…ูู† ุจูŽุนู’ุฏู ู‚ููˆู‘ูŽุฉู ุฃูŽู†ูƒูŽุงุซู‹ุง

โ€œBe not like her who breaks and completely untwists the yarn which she [herself] has spun and made strong” (16:92).


ูˆูŽู„ุงูŽ ุชููู’ุณูุฏููˆุงู’ ูููŠ ุงู„ุฃูŽุฑู’ุถู ุจูŽุนู’ุฏูŽ ุฅูุตู’ู„ุงูŽุญูู‡ูŽุงย 

“And do not spread corruption on earth after it has been so well orderedโ€ (7:56).

YOU are worth more than measuring yourself primarily by material things

The Qurโ€™an also tells us not to structure society based on material aspirations nor to measure its success as such:

ูˆูŽู„ูŽูˆู’ู„ูŽุง ุฃูŽู† ูŠูŽูƒููˆู†ูŽ ุงู„ู†ู‘ูŽุงุณู ุฃูู…ู‘ูŽุฉู‹ ูˆูŽุงุญูุฏูŽุฉู‹ ู„ู‘ูŽุฌูŽุนูŽู„ู’ู†ูŽุง ู„ูู…ูŽู† ูŠูŽูƒู’ููุฑู ุจูุงู„ุฑู‘ูŽุญู’ู…ูŽูฐู†ู ู„ูุจููŠููˆุชูู‡ูู…ู’ ุณูู‚ููู‹ุง ู…ู‘ูู† ููุถู‘ูŽุฉู ูˆูŽู…ูŽุนูŽุงุฑูุฌูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ูŽุง ูŠูŽุธู’ู‡ูŽุฑููˆู†ูŽ

“And were it not that [with the prospect of boundless riches before them] all people would become one [evil] community, We might indeed have provided for those who [now] deny the Most Gracious roofs of silver for their houses, and [silver] stairways whereon to ascend” (43:33).

In short, this verse tells us mundane possessions and luxuries are so valueless before God that they should solely be given to people like the disbelievers in Truth so that everyone would know that such material things are not the measure of human dignity.

Indeed, there is not any allegory more eloquent than the one mentioned in shattering false values and being a means of changing a society whose standards of merits rest on economic growth, the import and export of luxury, and military might.

There is a very real consequence to organising society around this materialism and perceived power. We have now become a hyper-individualist society – and we have witnessed this with the panic buying. When nations become self-serving and its people are bred to be hyper-individualistic, this leads to a deeply insecure and unequal society, especially at a global level. Take the case of healthcare in this moment of a pandemic.ย 

People have been told for years, your government cannot afford you. Services must be cut. You are an expense and the โ€˜immigrantโ€™ is the reason you can no longer be afforded. Youโ€™re not worth insuring, youโ€™re a drain on society.

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Whether or not this is audible is not the point. People have come to believe it through the years ofย rhetoric and practise, such that they donโ€™t imagine that putting their most basic needs first is the base line responsibility of a government.ย People have allowed their governments to devalue them. To reduce their worth to monetary value and being considered a burden on the State.

Not having enough beds or equipment to fight a pandemic – which weโ€™ve known about since November of 2019 – or even pre-pandemic, is justified because everyone and everything is seen through the lens of the economy and the value placed on people is no more than a pound or dollar sign.

Yet despite this observable situation in China and Italy and Iran, several weeks ago, Western countries still did not stockpile that which would save lives; PPE clothing, sanitisers, ventilators.

What have we stockpiled? Weapons to kill each other; to destroy lives. Those we literally have tens of thousand stockpiled and replaced every few years with the latest technologies. But not medical supplies to save lives. This has somehow become acceptable to us?!

How does the Qurโ€™an call us to organise ourselves?

ูˆูŽู„ูŽูˆู’ ุดูŽุงุกูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ู„ูŽุฌูŽุนูŽู„ูŽูƒูู…ู’ ุฃูู…ู‘ูŽุฉู‹ ูˆูŽุงุญูุฏูŽุฉู‹ ูˆูŽู„ูŽูฐูƒูู† ู„ู‘ููŠูŽุจู’ู„ููˆูŽูƒูู…ู’ ูููŠ ู…ูŽุง ุขุชูŽุงูƒูู…ู’ ููŽุงุณู’ุชูŽุจูู‚ููˆุง ุงู„ู’ุฎูŽูŠู’ุฑูŽุงุชู ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ู…ูŽุฑู’ุฌูุนููƒูู…ู’ ุฌูŽู…ููŠุนู‹ุง

โ€œAnd if Allah had pleased He would have made you (all) a single people, but that He might try you in what He gave you, therefore strive with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; to Allah is your return, all of you” (5:48).

This verse explicitly tells us the resources given to each region and people does not belong to them for their selfish or internal needs. It is given to see how they would utilise it.ย This means resources like water, oil, food stuffs and medical equipment do not belong to nations or corporations, but to people, equally.

These resources must be pooled and shared equally amongst people as they are a test upon us, not a resource to be consumed by those who have the access or funds to gobble them up. But at what point do Muslims take this system of living seriously?

It seems at least in part, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has, last week calling for a taskforce involving world leaders, health experts and the heads of the international organisations that would have executive powers to coordinate the response against Covid-19.

โ€œThis is not something that can be dealt with in one country,โ€ he said. โ€œThere has to be a coordinated global response.โ€

Brown said his proposed global taskforce would fight the crisis on two fronts: First, the need to be a coordinated effort to find a vaccine, and second to organise production, purchasing and prevent profiteering. Is this not a beautiful reflection of the aforementioned verse?ย 

It is this moment we are truly seeing the gaping flaws of State-nannied capitalism; the haveโ€™s and have-nots that is left in its wake. With millions of children and university students studying from home and many more millions now working from home, the utility – or rather human right – of broadband should be available to everyone. Yet,ย Microsoft has said its research shows thatย if broadband access was counted more precisely, the number of Americans without it would be closer toย 163ย million people. Thatโ€™s half the country. In the richest country in the world.ย 

It may be that after protecting life, the most urgent thing we need to do it take a step back and reflect on just how much change society is capable of in these days and for the Muslim community especially, to review how the Qurโ€™an demands we organise our global community.

As the Qurโ€™an states about itself:

ู‡ูŽุฐูŽุง ุจูŽุตูŽุงุฆูุฑู ู„ูู„ู†ู‘ูŽุงุณู ูˆูŽู‡ูุฏู‹ู‰ ูˆูŽุฑูŽุญู’ู…ูŽุฉูŒ ู„ู‘ูู‚ูŽูˆู’ู…ู ูŠููˆู‚ูู†ููˆู†ูŽ

โ€œThis [revelation] is a means of insight for mankind, a guidance and grace unto people who are endowed with inner certaintyโ€ (45:20).

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