The Covid-19 pandemic: Divine sign or caution?

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Last Updated on 4th June 2021

We are seeing an increase in natural disasters. They don’t always mean that it’s the wrath of God, but at the same time, we cannot ignore what the Promised Messiahas said

Athar Mirza, Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya UK Writers Base

In this time, more than ever, we are seeing a large increase in the prevalence of natural disasters.  We cannot simply assume that these disasters express the wrath of God, but at the same time, we cannot ignore the words of wisdom that the Promised Messiahas has left us with on this issue.

In recent days, there have been two volcanic eruptions and a cyclone in India that has halted its Covid relief efforts in some parts of the country. As soon as I heard the news, I immediately thought of what the Promised Messiahas had said over 100 years ago that this period would be marked by an increase in crises. One volcano exploded in the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland for the first time in 781 years. 

Of course, the prime example is the Covid-19 pandemic which has swept across the globe, affecting rich and poor alike. Its severity and global effect have led people to question if the spread of this virus is a sign from Allah. Of course, we cannot declare that which the Khalifatul Masih has not; rather, these words are a contemplation of what Huzooraa said. Could it be that our Creator is not happy with us? 

Huzooraa mentioned the pandemic for the first time in a Friday Sermon on 6 March 2020: 

“Allah the Almighty knows best to what extent this epidemic will spread and what He has decreed. However, if this virus has emerged owing to the wrath of God, and just as we have seen in the present age, since the advent of the Promised Messiahas there has been a significant increase in the number of epidemics, diseases, earthquakes and storms, then one ought to turn towards God Almighty more than ever before to be safeguarded from the harmful impacts of what has been destined by God Almighty. 

“Moreover, every Ahmadi ought to pay particular attention towards prayers and also to improve their spiritual condition. One also ought to pray for the world in general that Allah the Almighty may grant them guidance. Instead of immersing themselves in worldly endeavours and being neglectful of God, may Allah enable the world to recognise their True Creator.” (English translation taken from Al Hakam, 3 April 2020)

As the true nature of the virus unveiled itself, Huzooraa once again addressed the issue in one of his sermons: 

“I too have been saying for many years that after the advent of the Promised Messiahas, and since he especially warned the world about calamities and heavenly afflictions, the frequency of storms, earthquakes and pandemics has increased greatly in the world. Generally, these pandemics and calamities come to caution mankind that they should fulfil the rights of their Creator as well as His creation […]

“We do not know if this is a specific sign or not. However, certainly, we do say, as I have mentioned just now and a few sermons ago when I referred to the pandemic for the first time, that this is a general sign. Since the advent of the Promised Messiahas, there has been a huge rise in heavenly and earthly calamities.” (Friday Sermon, 10 April 2020, English translation published in Al Hakam on 8 May 2020)

Though we are in no position to deem this pandemic as the wrath of Allah, as Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa stated, this is certainly a moment to pause and reflect.  

It may be appropriate to compare this relationship of God and His servants – us – to that of parent and child. If a parent loves their child, then that parent will show this love openly. However, if the child is continuously chastised, it must mean that the parent is unhappy. 

To an atheist, the prominence of such disasters is nothing but the laws of nature in action. Therefore, the Covid-19 pandemic could constitute no type of divine sign. 

In a beautiful five-part article that goes much further in depth into this topic than I do, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh explores the difference between natural disasters and divine punishments. Establishing the Muslim stance on this matter, Huzoorrh states that “the Ahmadiyya Community does not consider natural laws to be independent of or divorced from religious laws. Both are part and parcel of the laws of God.” (“Natural Disasters or Divine Punishment? Part I”, The Review of Religions, December 1993)

The Holy Quran states:

وَ‭ ‬مَا‭ ‬تَسۡقُطُ‭ ‬مِنۡ‭ ‬وَّرَقَةٍ‭ ‬اِلَّا‭ ‬يَعۡلَمُهَا

“And there falls not a leaf but He knows it”. (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.60)

He is:

الْعَلِيۡم

“The All-Knowing”.

Returning to our analogy, as Allah has knowledge over all things, then surely it is incorrect to attribute the rise in natural disasters and the spread of global pandemics to the acts of mother nature alone, devoid of meaning. Surely, as Huzooraa stated, a person with belief in God must see the rise in natural disasters and the sheer scope of the current pandemic as a reminder from God to fulfil the rights due to Him and due to mankind.

What’s important to remember, in addition to the above, is that Allah the Almighty told the Promised Messiahas, “You and those who dwell within the four walls of your house; those who unconditionally follow you and are obedient to you, and who, on account of true righteousness, have become devoted to you, shall all be safeguarded against the plague.” (Noah’s Ark

We need to remember that this promise extends to the community of the Promised Messiahas in times of crisis as well as peace. 

At this point, two questions arise in relation to the pandemic: Firstly, why are pious people being affected by the pandemic? Secondly, why are the effects of this pandemic so widespread?

Huzooraa addressed the first question in his Friday Sermon specifically. Huzooraa emphasised the Promised Messiah’sas point that the Holy Quran establishes that when “divine calamities befall the world, they engulf the righteous as well as wicked and corrupt people. As such, people will be judged according to their deeds. It is not the case that the righteous will remain completely unaffected; rather, they too will be impacted.” (Friday Sermon, 10 April 2020, English translation published in Al Hakam on 8 May 2020)

Many pertinent examples were given. One such example related to the people of Noahas: “The flood at the time of Hazrat Noahas affected many, whereas there were men, women and children who were oblivious to the claims and beliefs of Noahas, but yet succumbed to the calamity.” 

When we look through these examples narrated by Huzooraa, it broadens our understanding of the philosophy of global disasters and demonstrates why we are in no position to question the piety of those of succumbing to this pandemic.

Secondly, when evaluating the widespread nature of this pandemic, we are left with no choice but to concede that global disasters and crises are occurring today, more than they occurred in the past.  

Indeed, the Holy Quran also explains this in the words of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa when he said, “O mankind! Truly I am a Messenger to you all from Allah”. 

The Holy Prophetsa was the messenger for all of mankind, which inevitably means that from his advent, disasters began to take more of a global shape as opposed to being limited to only certain regions of the world. To put it simply, what happens in one part of the world is not limited anymore in its effect.

We should also remember that Huzooraa wrote to the heads of various countries and religions emphasising the same message. Each one of Huzoor’s letters emphasised the need for man to turn back to his Creator in the wake of the pandemic. 

A particular quote emphasised by Huzooraa in these letters reads:  

“The matter of a person’s faith or disbelief will be decided in the Hereafter. These natural disasters or calamities that occur or through which the nations of the past were destroyed were not merely due to their disbelief. Rather, they were ruined as a result of their arrogance, transgressions and cruelties. Even the Pharaoh did not perish due to his disbelief, rather due to the injustices and brutalities he perpetrated.” (The Review of Religions, January 2021, Vol. 116, Issue 1)

However, not everyone will take the same perspective as our community on this matter, and this was evident from the collective response of world leaders. 

A press release published early in 2021 stated the following:

“His Holiness said that although some of the leaders responded to the letters expressing their desire for peace, in reality they offered only vague and diplomatic responses without seriously taking heed of the underlying message contained in the letters to bring about a spiritual and moral reformation. His Holiness said they did not touch upon the religious aspect contained in the letters whereby His Holiness drew attention towards fulfilling the obligations owed towards God Almighty as a means towards establishing peace.” (pressahmaddiya.com, 3 January 2021)

Although disappointing, the only thing that we as Ahmadi Muslims can control is our own conduct. This is not the first time in the history of the community that we have experienced a pandemic. 

In 1919, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra gave crucial advice to the Jamaat at a time of great worry. His words came at the peak of the influenza pandemic, which was estimated to have claimed the lives of up to 50 million people. 

In the 13 September 1919 edition of Al Fazl Qadian, Huzoorra said the following:

“First and foremost, our belief in Allah being the only protector from any adversity and hardship, should make us bring about, in ourselves, such change and [we must] show such endeavour, through absolute obedience, that He becomes pleased with us […]

“If we were to obey Him with complete submission, why would He not show extraordinary grace in the wake of this deadly pandemic? 

“Secondly, more time should be spent in invoking Allah’s tasbih [glorification] and tahmid [praise] […]

“Thirdly, remember that prescribed chanda is not sufficient as alms-giving and charity. Although the prescribed chanda is beneficial in this regard, more should be spent to fulfil the needs of the underprivileged, as it is this form of charitable spending that repels hardships and troubles […]

“Fourthly, we should fall before Allah and pray fervently to Him […] Praying for the betterment of others is a great means of prevention from difficulties and hardship […] 

“All the above are means of spiritual nature, but these should be topped-up with physical precautions. The Promised Messiahas said that one who does not observe physical precautions tests Allah the Almighty – as if to say, ‘Let’s see whether Allah saves me or not!’ […] 

“I would also like to tell you about something which is both of spiritual and physical nature: Never despair and never be disappointed. Disappointment is a spiritual and physical disease; spiritual because it leads to disbelief and physical as it leads to a weakened body which attracts infection […]”. 

Yes, this pandemic has not been followed by an open claim of it being the wrath of God, but time and time again, divinely guided leadership teaches us that moments like these ought to be marked by self-reflection and reformation. 

It is for us Muslims to follow this guidance and show our positive examples: we ought to emerge from this pandemic as better people, closer to God. 

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