Resetting our values and valuing humanity in the wake of the coronavirus

As you sit to read this, you are probably exhausted with the overwhelming information that we’ve been swamped with since the World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus - COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic. With conflicting articles, careless and fear inducing media coverage, and the general panic and hysteria that is circulating amongst social platforms, friendship groups and families, it is hard to take a moment to breathe, to process and to search for the good. We are blessed as Muslims to be able to look at this crisis with the firm foundation of faith. 

We can strive to take a balanced view and use it as an opportunity to return to our Lord, to see this for the test that it is, and trust that Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala in his infinite wisdom, has sent this particular trial for a good reason. We pray and hope that it is a trial that will awaken our souls, cleanse our hearts, purge us of our sins and allow us to reconnect with our ultimate purpose. In doing so, we are reminded of the transient nature of this Dunya, the absolute might and power of our Creator and that a calamity that is sent as a punishment can, in fact, become a mercy for the believer. Alhumdulilah. 

Aisha (radiallahu ‘anha) narrated:

I asked Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wassalama) about the plague. He told me that it was a punishment sent by Allah on whom He wished, and Allah made it a source of mercy for the believers, for if one, in the time of an epidemic plague stays in his country patiently hoping for Allah’s reward and believing that nothing will befall him except what Allah has written for him, he will get the reward of a martyr.

Reference: Sahih al-Bukhari 3474

Let us take this opportunity to momentarily mute the complex and conflicting noise surrounding COVID-19, and focus on the good that we can extract amidst what is proving to be a very stressful time for all. With many countries in lockdown and most communities practicing ‘social distancing’, families across the globe are being forced into a period of isolation. This respite from the flurry of social activity that we are used to, provides a unique opportunity to truly look at ourselves, our lifestyles and the values which we choose to live by. We cannot deny that whilst facing these uncertain times, we still hold so much privilege and for that, we must be grateful; we must also ensure that we use that privilege proactively to benefit our communities but also the wider world. 

If Coronavirus has taught us one thing, it’s that it knows no bounds, it isn’t determined by race, age, status or wealth, it is here and it has caused a great deal of hardship and loss. However, the impact of this outbreak has forced us to slow down the pace, and we are seeing people working for home, reducing travel and staying more local. Families are looking at how they can become more self-sufficient and live with less; aside from the panic buying of hand wash and toilet roll, there is likely to be a general slowing down of consumption. It suddenly doesn’t seem important to feel compelled to obtain the latest trends in fashion, or the fancy new latte mix at large coffee shop chains, when we are in the middle of a global crisis. 

As things progress there will be fewer options, less choice and less need to advertise. Anything that addresses the future seems irrelevant, we are non committal, we are driven to living in the here and now, whether we like it or not. Perhaps with this slowing of consumption people will get used to having less, traveling less, and perhaps we can even rediscover the things that we already own and appreciate the smaller blessings in life that actually carry us through our days. 

On a larger scale, people may not realise how many of our goods are in fact, made in China from substances such as plastic or polyester, and how particular items that have become so easily accessible (shoes, phones, clothes) will suddenly be in much shorter supply. The continuous stream of exports from China have disrupted local economies but that could all be set to change. It has even been reported that, "the recent pictures of the air above China showed how two months without production cleared the skies and allowed people to breathe again.” This virus, as destructive as it has been, is also showing us the greater impact that we can have on the environment if we just shut off and slow down. Is it possible that a new system can be born? One that is more humane, one that has more respect for the people and the planet?

For many years we have known that in order to survive and keep the world going we would need to make some extreme changes to the way we live our lives, and suddenly we have been thrust into a calamity that has pushed us to do just that. The decision has been taken out of our hands, The Sustainer has given us signs to re-evaluate our role as supposed caretakers of this earth. 

What we are left with, is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves; especially in relation to how we consume, how we work and how we move. We may have to start from a foundational level, but it is possible to rebuild an economy with sustainability and conscious living at the core. Maybe countries can start to look more at their strengths, and people can look more toward each other; communities, neighbors, friends and family - what will it all mean to us in the wake of this virus? 

Let’s hope that in the coming months and years, as we piece ourselves back together, we will not forget this great blessing that Allah gave us, this great opportunity to strip everything back to basics so we can see how much we really do need. Let us pray that we see more emphasis on being nations and tribes that should know one another, empathise with each other’s struggles and lift one another’s spirits when life gets tough. Perhaps we can appreciate and build upon traditional skills that are passed down through generations, the use of raw materials, local initiatives, farmers’ markets and street celebrations. 

This is without doubt an extremely challenging time for so many across the globe; Allah has shown us through something smaller than a grain of rice; His might and His control over all things. In what feels like the blink of an eye, He has brought the world to its knees SubhanAllah. But what we do with the lessons and how we extract the blessings, is down to us. 

Can this be our time to reset and realign? We hope so.

Words by Sarah Yataghane

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