Does washing your hands repeatedly to fight off Covid-19 manifest a lack of faith in God?
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, as many nations remain in lockdown, videos of clerics continuing to pray as normal in large numbers in their Mosques in South Asia have emerged. One cleric said it was essential to keep the Mosques open so that forgiveness could be sought from God.
Such statements lead a religious person to ask whether taking precautions to slow the spread of the pandemic is actually a manifestation of a lack of faith in God?
Does the fact that I am washing my hands repeatedly indicate a lack of trust in Him? Is social distancing an anathema to the belief that God is the Protector?
Should I carry on as normal, whilst the rest of the world retreats to the safety and sanctuary of their homes?
As a Muslim, inevitably I am drawn to the Holy Quran and the life of the Prophet of Islam (saw) in search of answers.
In chapter 5, verse 68, Allah the Almighty states:
“And Allah will protect thee from men.”
In this passage, Allah the Almighty vouchsafed to the Prophet of Islam (saw) a promise of His divine protection. Yet, despite this guarantee, the Holy Prophet (saw) clad two armours when taking to the battlefield.
Furthermore, in spite of Allah’s promise of absolute safety, the Holy Prophet (saw) left Mecca in secrecy during the darkness of the night and sought refuge in the Cave of Thaur.
It is therefore clear, that despite the existence of absolute faith – temporal resources ought to be availed to the maximum level possible.
The truth is that, ‘Tawwakul’ – faith and trust in Allah the Almighty – is often misunderstood to mean that no practical effort needs to be employed.
Famously, once a Bedouin chief came to visit the Holy Prophet (saw) and left his camel untethered and unattended outside the Prophet’s Mosque and upon return, he found it had ran away.
In dismay, he returned to the Holy Prophet (saw) and narrated what had happened, saying that he had left the camel in the care of Allah the Almighty.
In response, the Prophet of Islam (saw) said:
“Tether her first and then leave her to the care of God.”
Moreover, chapter 11, verse 7 of the Holy Quran states:
‘And there is no creature that moves in the earth but it is for Allah to provide it with sustenance.’
This verse proclaims that Allah is He who makes provision for every living being.
Does this mean that a person does not need to work to secure his livelihood? Can a person acquire Allah the Almighty’s sustenance by sitting idly in their home? Should a believer forgo all work and live as a hermit in the knowledge that God is the Sustainer and Provider?
To the contrary, invariably, a person reaps what he sows and this is in accordance with God’s Law.
In essence, the believers are instructed to struggle and strive and thereafter to put their trust in Allah.
One cannot separate the status of trust in God Almighty with the need for human effort. In fact, practical efforts, whilst remaining focused upon God Almighty and considering one’s own exertions inadequate and relying on Allah the Almighty as the source of all success, constitutes the true understanding of Tawwakul.
Elucidating these truths, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Promised Messiah(as) counselled his community saying:
“I do not forbid you to employ material means within moderation; only that you do not become slaves to them like other nations and that you do not forget the God who is the very Provider of these means.” (Noah’s Ark, page 20)
So as we respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, where Muslims should pray and seek the forgiveness of God, they must also adhere to those precautions and measures that science drives us towards.
Therefore, it is only right that we avoid unnecessary social contact and follow government’s instructions.
Once this pandemic is over and we start to return to our normal lives, one thing I really hope is that we keep washing our hands!
That’s just basic hygiene!
By Adeel Shah, staff member at the Press & Media Office of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community