It started from one country and spread throughout the world like wildfire. It was identified as ‘Corona Virus’ or COVID-19. The world had not experienced anything like this for a century, since the Spanish Flu, in which 50 million people perished.
Men, women and children were restricted to their homes; schools, offices, restaurants and other businesses were shut. Even churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship were forced to close their doors. Like people of other faiths, Muslims too were saddened as well as frustrated but had no choice but to bow to the will of God Almighty. Indeed it has been a trial for the whole of humanity, of a scale beyond imagination. I feel deep pain and indeed heart broken when I see little, innocent children wearing masks for long hours! The plight and pain of those being isolated for days or weeks in case of ‘testing positive’ is beyond imagination. Not being able to hug your dear ones and often not seeing your close relatives for fear of contracting or spreading virus is indeed unbearable.
As Muslims, we are supposed to pray five times a day, preferably in congregation at the mosque. Due to the pandemic, all mosques were closed initially and then some opened up gradually with maximum restrictions and rigid protocol. Some larger mosques even started holding congregational prayers virtually and gradually moved to holding in person prayers with multiple shifts under a registration process. As a standard practice, we stand in prayer shoulder to shoulder and feet to feet with no gaps at all. In these difficult times, we started praying in the exterior spaces of the mosques standing at least six feet apart. Everyone wore face masks, no handshakes or hugs! Prophet Muhammad’s teachings say that handshakes enhance our mutual love and when we hug or embrace each other, we transmit warmth and affinity. But none of this is allowed in times of the pandemic. Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures and hence rules have completely changed.
Our gatherings during Friday’s congregational prayers are the largest in the week. These prayers were held in the open spaces and we continued praying outside till cold weather forced us to move indoors where even stricter protocols had to be followed. Twice a year, Muslims hold Eid celebrations, the first marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The second Eid occurs about seventy days later and this one commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s tradition when he was commanded by God Almighty to sacrifice his son Ismael. Allah (God Almighty) was so pleased with their spirit of obedience and faithfulness that He replaced young Ismael with a lamb.
It was an incredible sight to observe hundreds of believers, men, women and children, gathered for Eid prayers on the lush green soccer field dressed in their colorful attire. It was a pity that no hugs or embraces were allowed thus missing a major source of joy and jubilation but bowing to the will of Allah in these times of trial and tribulation. The two Eid occasions are usually accompanied by family fun including kids games, communal feast followed by fireworks at nightfall. The most spiritually painful change was the cancellation of the annual pilgrimage, Hajj, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia and almost total closure of the two holy mosques - the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina.
In conclusion, one can say that just like everyone around the world has been tested physically, mentally, economically and psychologically, Muslims too were tested and continue to be tested in their faith and spirituality. Undoubtedly we have all received practical lessons in patience and perseverance, which may be the subject of a future Interfaith event In Sha Allah (God Willing).
To be a catalyst for world peace and harmony in society
Strive for peace, harmony, goodwill and understanding between people of all faiths and cultures, facilitate interfaith dialog and enlighten society about true Islamic values and principles
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