Case study on prayer and coronavirus by Heart Rhythm Institute

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Ibn Rasheed, UK

Should God have been “more careful” when creating the coronavirus?

It’s certainly what’s being suggested by some on social media, after a hospital in America was reported to be carrying out an experiment to test the effect of the prayer on Covid-19 patients.

It was the idea of Dr Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, a cardiologist at the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute. The study takes 1000 intensive care patients, half of whom are prayed for by Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Bhudists and Jews – members of the five major world faiths. Both sets of patients receive the same care and treatment, but only one group receives a daily prayer from the five religions. It’s an intriguing experiment.             

Instead of waiting for the results and its implications for faith, prayer and belief in God though, sceptics rushed to blame God for this outbreak and question what kind of a deity would allow this to happen or create something which could cause so much harm.

The first question that must be asked in this instance is whether those blaming the Creator of the universe for this outbreak, would place the same liability upon Microsoft, or Bill Gates if and when their computer crashed or picked up a virus due to not having taken adequate precautions, failing to install anti-virus, or ignoring warnings of the threat of infection? 

Human error and failings are found in abundance in the lead up to most misfortunes or tragedies. The indifference which was shown to the threat of this virus by some leaders, and their paralysis in acting, despite ample warnings from China and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and by experts many years prior, are indicative of the failure of people, in face of overwhelming signs. 

If God is the designer, and created a system of nature, which if contravened, would lash back in disease and disorder, who else would be to blame but the contravener? 

But disease and pandemics are nothing new. This is also part of the grand design through which humankind has learnt about health, hygiene and the science of anatomy and biology. The wisdom of the grand Creator is easy to question when looking from a very narrow viewpoint with limited perspective and knowledge, as compared with the Supreme Being.   

Speaking of Bill Gates, in 2015 he warned of the possibility of such a pandemic, and likewise many others have as well. But it’s not just scientists and researchers who’ve been alert to the risk. Religions and religious leaders have spoken of such events occurring. Both Jesusas and Muhammadsa  prophesied great calamities and the wide occurrence of disasters, earthquakes, epidemics and plagues in the future. As did Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community whose predictions and warnings of the plague were proved true in India in his own lifetime. He went on to foretell that humanity will undergo a series of further disasters and calamities in the near future, because man had turned it back on God and fell into a life of materialism and blind luxury, forgetting about its true purpose of life – the attainment of high morals and cognisance of God. 

It’s no wonder a couple of comments on Twitter mentioned this exact point, that would it be any wonder if such an outbreak was an expression of God’s displeasure? God has used the forces of nature in the past to display his wrath, destroy the wicked, and save the believers. Think of Noah’sas flood, the plagues of Egypt, and the rain of stones that fell upon the people of Lotas

But we cannot just blindly attribute every pandemic or natural disaster as an expression of the wrath of God. Natural disasters are also part of the wider design of the world, and of the law of cause and effect. Yes, God may utilise nature in the support of His servants at an appointed time – like the splitting of the Red Sea by Moses, or the destruction of former nations who rejected and persecuted their prophets, by storms, earthquakes and floods, but natural occurrences of this type are also a result of the rule of cause and effect in the functioning of the world. 

Questioning “why God created the coronavirus” or any illness or disease is an over-simplistic way of analysing the situation. One may as well ask why He created anything at all. Disease is a departure from health. Suffering is often a departure from acceptable norms and misuse of natural laws. Nothing is harmful in itself. Illness and suffering borne out of neglect or carelessness is only the natural outcome of failing to take adequate precautions or follow certain procedures. Had God not created the system of cause and effect, the very objective of creation would be cancelled out. Only because we know committing a certain crime will have a certain outcome, do we refrain from that action?

Another comment on Twitter complained how God could treat one part of His creation – those who worshipped and prayed to Him – better than those who did not. He suggested that it would be cruel and unjust to heal one half of Covid-19 patients and let the others be left untreated. Why should God save one half and not the other? It’s like saying why should God admit only pure and righteous souls to paradise and not impure and darkened ones? Why should those who have spent their lives praying, giving charity, believing, fearing God, treating others with kindness, acting with justice and being upright human beings, the same as those who harbour malice, hatred and resort to violence, deceit, lies, malpractice and arrogance? 

God will treat everyone how he likes, hear the supplications of those who bother to ask of Him and utilise the means God has given man to express his inner feelings, desires and anguishes so that God may respond to them and manifest His Being to them. The power of prayer is the test, we must not forget. 

Those who seek and ask, have the door opened for them. Those who don’t even try, and remain sceptical and prejudiced from the beginning, why should they expect anything from God? When one party treats the idea of God, religion and His believers with disdain and looks down on them, while the other party believes and hopes in the mercy of God and tries its utmost to please their Creator and supplicate to Him, who should God treat with greater favour? 

God is in no need of our prayers or worship, but man always stands in need of support, guidance and comfort from on high, without which his future prosperity and success in the afterlife cannot be guaranteed. As the Holy Quran explains:

“Say, but for your prayer to Him my Lord would not care for you” (Surah Al-Furqan, Ch.25: V.78). 

Unless man himself seeks the means, the answers and the help for his problems, why should God pay any heed to him? If the purpose of life is to attach ourselves to the Lord and establish a bond with Him and we don’t fulfil this objective of life, then how can anyone except God to treat them the same way He treats His devoted, regular supplicants? 

Prayer also has its conditions for acceptance: The supplicant must submit his pleas with the utmost humility, recognising God as the Supreme Being, capable of all things; it should be made with conviction; one must pray repeatedly and also take the practical steps to accomplish the task – it’s no use praying without taking the necessary steps alongside it. As the Holy Prophetsa said: “Tie your camel first then put your trust in Allah.” Further, it should not be opposed to the divine plan and scheme of things and not be detrimental to the supplicant’s welfare in this life or the hereafter.  

So, prayer and effort have to go hand in hand, otherwise one is merely testing God and playing a game. Serious prayer requires the use of the available and apparent means for achieving the objective. If a farmer prays for a good crop, but fails to adequately water and care for it, only he can be blamed for a poor harvest. God has created means through which we satisfy our needs and desires. But at times, prayer makes the means apparent, at other times it makes the means more potent or creates the circumstances for the desired objective to be brought about. At other times, when someone with a close relationship intervenes on behalf of another, God has the power to change the destiny of a person and reverse the downward course he is on. God also hears the heartfelt prayers of a distressed and anguished supplicant when prayer is made in earnest and sincerity and transforms the situation. What else was it apart from the impassioned and lowly cries of the Israelites to God which saved them from the clutches of Pharaoh by the means of Prophet Mosesas? God heard their cries and raised Mosesas to deliver them from tyranny, until they were made to rule over a mighty kingdom themselves. 

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Promised Messiahas summed up prayer thus:

“What is prayer? It is to present one’s humility and supplications and weaknesses before God and to desire the fulfilment of needs from Him; at times, to stand before Him respectfully, to pay homage to His magnificence and fulfil his commandments; at times, to fall before him in prostration with complete humility and modesty, to implore one’s needs from Him – this is Prayer. Just like a beggar, to praise Allah saying, ‘You are like so and you are like such and such’. To express His magnificence and majesty and inducing His mercy, then imploring of Him.” (Tafsir Hazrat Masih-e-Maudas, Vol.3, pp.612)

As for the impact of prayer on the coronavirus, this study is something to be closely watched and its result eagerly anticipated. Believers in God however are no stranger to the effect of prayer. 

But it must also be remembered that unless the supplicant has a strong pre-existing relationship of servitude and connection with God, one’s prayer cannot be guaranteed to be answered or accepted. And the prayer must also be made to the One True God, recognising and knowing Him, having already established a bond with Him and having firm faith and belief in His existence and omnipotence. 
Hence the Promised Messiahas and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which claims to be a divinely commissioned movement has long suggested this kind of an experiment and has countless examples of the acceptance of prayer.
In this study, however, people of various faiths are involved, some who pray to idols other than the One Supreme Being. Such prayers which are made to false gods and lifeless idols and beings cannot have much hope of being heard according to Islam. So in the event that the results from this experiment are inconclusive or seem to have no effect, these factors must also be noted.

Ahmadi Muslims who had caught the coronavirus and were on the verge of death have detailed how through Allah’s grace and the prayers of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, Allah gave them complete recovery.

So these are just some of the ways and means God answers prayers but since change naturally takes place gradually, prayer has to be combined with patience and persistent effort. And when an entire group of people humbly submit to Him with humility and earnest supplications, he answers their prayers and removes the distress they suffer from. 

“…Who answers the distressed person when he calls upon Him, and removes the evil, and makes you successors in the earth? Is there a God besides Allah? Little is it that you reflect.” (Surah Al-Naml, Ch.27: V.63)   

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