For centuries, humankind has faced challenges from nature in the form of pandemics, earthquakes, tsunamis and other uncontrollable natural events. These natural disasters are the result of many men made products. Take global warming for example, which has contributed to more frequent and deadlier earthquakes, bush fires, storms, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. However, sometimes we forget that God the Almighty’s power and jurisdiction reign over everything. From a bee’s heartbeat to tsunamis and pandemics, nothing happens on our planet without His control. It can be seen in the past that God Almighty has often punished human civilisation through the form of natural phenomena. The question which then arises is regarding the current coronavirus pandemic. Is this a punishment from God? Let us find out. Primarily, however, we must understand how to define a pandemic.
The Oxford Dictionary has defined a pandemic as “a disease that spreads over a whole country or the whole world”. The coronavirus originated in the Chinese province of Hubei. Wuhan was the first city in China to record cases of a pneumonia-like illness and on the 31st of December 2019, the first 27 cases had been recognised. By the 13th of January 2020, the first case of Covid-19 was recorded in Thailand, becoming the first recorded case outside of China. Only on the 23rd of January 2020 was the city of Wuhan finally placed under lockdown. A few days later, however, millions of revellers were allowed to travel to different parts of the country to celebrate the annual lunar holiday. Finally, on the 30th of January 2020, Covid-19 was declared a public health emergency outside of China. From there onwards, cases increased dramatically and 57,665 cases of Covid-19 were reported by the end of March 2020 internationally. Within a span of two months, this virus spread internationally to the corners of the globe, and as this article is being written, cases of the virus stand at 122 million (people infected). More than 2.69 million people worldwide have died, but the question that is so difficult to answer is how and why this virus conquered the world in such a short space of time?
As it was quickly identified by scientists, SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus, was not like any other virus encountered before. The Covid-19 virus is highly contagious. Like regular cold and flu viruses, it is transmitted via infected surfaces, physical contact or via water droplets through the air which are inhaled. Once an infected surface is touched, the virus can make its way into the body via the nose, mouth and eyes if contact is made with the face immediately after this. Once the virus has entered the body, it attacks healthy cells and essentially begins to kill them. It is incredibly contagious and can survive on surfaces for up to 3 days. The coronavirus was so effective in spreading due to several reasons. For example, governments and international organisations failed to react and put the correct measures in place to prevent their citizens from becoming infected. Lack of funding for health services leads to many services struggling to cope with the high intake of patients. Another reason is that people highly underestimated its deadliness.
Why did people underestimate it? The answer is simple. People predominantly care about two things. Money, and their wellbeing.
The government of the United Kingdom as well as many other governments across the globe, were aware of the severe impacts a lockdown and furlough schemes could have on their economies, so they tried to delay it for as long as possible before finally imposing a lockdown. Ministers and senior members of the government themselves were caught breaking lockdown rules and so it became evident very quickly that if leaders were not listening to their own rules, why was the public in general obliged to follow them?
The sad reality is that this disease was created by Allah the Almighty and it has been sent for a reason. However, to understand how God the Almighty works, we sometimes have to look into the past and see how God dealt with the people before us.
In the past, Allah the Almighty has sent pandemics or natural phenomena for two main reasons. The first one is as a sign of great divine punishment for the reformation or destruction of a people.
God only sends these punishments if two conditions are broken. The first is Huqūq Allah or mankind’s rights towards God and the second is Huqūq ul Ibād, or mankind’s rights towards man. Huqūq Allah relates to mankind abiding by all of the commandments of God and worshipping Him and paying charity etc, whilst Huqūq ul Ibād relates to mankind’s duty to serving man and treating all of God’s creation with love and respect. In the time of Hazrat Moses asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" the Pharaoh committed heinous atrocities and injustices upon the people of Egypt. For example at the time of Moses’ asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" birth, the Pharaoh ordered all newborn boys to be killed. “Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.” He felt that the population of the slaves was increasing too rapidly and that they could try to overpower him. Slavery was reaching its peak during that period of time and innocent people were regularly beaten and slaughtered if they disobeyed the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh lived a life of incredible luxury, whilst his people suffered the brutality of famine. Once Moses asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" became a prophet, Allah the Almighty sent him to the Pharaoh to warn him of his actions. But due to his arrogance and ignorance, the Pharaoh refused to listen to him.
These injustices continued and so Allah the Almighty sent down nine punishments upon the kingdom of Egypt. In the Holy Qur’an, it states:
فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الطُّوفَانَ وَالْجَرَادَ وَالْقُمَّلَ وَالضَّفَادِعَ وَالدَّمَ آيَاتٍ مُفَصَّلَاتٍ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا مُجْرِمِينَ. وَقَالُوا مَهْمَا تَأْتِنَا بِهِ مِنْ آيَةٍ لِتَسْحَرَنَا بِهَا فَمَا نَحْنُ لَكَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ
“And they said, ‘Whatever Sign thou mayest bring us to bewitch us with, we will not believe in thee.’ Then we sent upon them the storm and the locusts, and the lice, and the frogs, and the blood — clear Signs; but they behaved proudly and were a sinful people.”The Holy Quran (7:133-134)
Egypt has a harsh climate and due to this, crops and vegetation only grow in appropriate conditions, and the River Nile was the main source of hydration for many farmers and the general public. When Allah the Almighty punished the Pharaoh, the river was polluted and swarms of locusts began to suddenly breed. The locusts destroyed all the remaining crops and vegetation and no food was left for the ignorant people. For so many years, the desperate people of Egypt were made slaves. They would not be given water or food and were made to work in terrible conditions. When God Almighty sent these punishments on the Pharaoh, he was put into a similar condition where he could not eat or drink. He had to suffer the wrath of Allah for his actions, but he still refused to accept this. This is how Allah the Almighty punished those who failed to uphold the concept of Huqūq ul Ibād.
Similarly, this is seen in the story of Prophet Saleh asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". He was sent to the people of Thamūd to warn them to turn towards God, otherwise, they would face an end similar to their ancestors. They mocked and ridiculed him, and tried to stop him from preaching. They threatened him and his family and wanted to kill them, however, Hazrat Saleh asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" only warned them not to hurt his camel. Instead, they amputated his camel’s legs to stop him from going to different areas to preach. As they had disobeyed the commandment of the messenger of God, they had disobeyed God Himself and similarly, they had injured an innocent creature of God. Hazrat Saleh asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" warned them of God’s wrath but they did not listen. Consequently after three days, God Almighty destroyed that civilisation through a series of very powerful earthquakes.
Another well-known example is Hazrat Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and his people. Their civilisation was becoming increasingly advanced, however, they turned towards idol worship and refused to listen to Hazrat Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". Akin to Hazrat Saleh asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", the people of Hazrat Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" began to threaten him. However, despite their refusal to listen, Hazrat Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" continued to preach to them. Even his own wife and son were of the disbelievers and Hazrat Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" was disappointed. Eventually, Allah the Almighty told Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" to build a large ark — big enough to fit all the believers. Hazrat Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" continued to pray for his people, especially the disbelievers, however, Allah the Almighty revealed to him:
وَاصْنَعِ الْفُلْكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا وَوَحْيِنَا وَلَا تُخَاطِبْنِي فِي الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا إِنَّهُمْ مُغْرَقُونَ
“And build thou the Ark under Our eyes and as commanded by our revelation. And address not me concerning the wrongdoers. They are surely going to be drowned.”The Holy Quran (11:38)
The chiefs of the people began to mock him and continued in their mischievous acts, however when the time came, Allah states:
حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا وَفَارَ التَّنُّورُ
“Till, when our command came and the fountains of the earth gushed forth,”The Holy Quran (11:41)
A great flood engulfed these people and thus Allah the Almighty fulfilled His promise of destroying the evil. As Noah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" lived in mountainous terrain, it can be assumed that the area naturally would have been quite high above sea level. However, Allah made it rain so much and created the unbelievable situation which caused even these mountainous areas to flood, thus showing His power and grandeur and highlighting the use of natural disasters in punishing people.
In the Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states:
لَقَدْ كَانَ فِي قَصَصِهِمْ عِبْرَةٌ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ مَا كَانَ حَدِيثًا يُفْتَرَى وَلَكِنْ تَصْدِيقَ الَّذِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَتَفْصِيلَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُون
“Assuredly, in their narrative is a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a thing that has been forged, but a fulfilment of that which is before it and a detailed exposition of all things, and a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe.”The Holy Quran (12:112)
Therefore, it is critical to always view the past and avoid those mistakes that were made by those before us. From these three examples, it becomes evident that the use of natural disasters and pandemics etc. have been used by Allah to punish or destroy the people who committed atrocities against mankind and who purposefully aimed to hurt the creation of Allah to try and gain some benefit out of it. Can the coronavirus be classed as a punishment? What is the current situation of the world?
Today, countries are continuing to manufacture and trade arms. In 2017, it was reported that the global arms industry was worth up to $95 billion. This is how much countries were investing in weapons which would go on to take away more life. More than two million people have died in armed conflicts since 1989. Every day, millions of children suffer from starvation and 5.6 million children under the age of five died in 2016, and nearly 15,000 deaths occur in Africa daily. As a result of starvation, 150 million people are homeless. Human trafficking earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation. In 2017, 464,000 people across the world were killed in homicides. Extremism continues to grow and terrorists continue to act out horrible acts in the name of Islam. 26,000 people died from terrorism in 2017. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states:
مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
“whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind”The Holy Quran (5:33)
So this raises the question, what is wrong with our world?
In his address at the Peace Symposium of 2015, Huzoor abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper", stated that the root cause of the world’s conflicts was the “unquenchable thirst for power, influence and resources”. That is exactly what these statistics show us. Anywhere a country or business can make a profit, they will invest in it without a second thought. Countries are continuing to fight over natural resources and oil is running the world’s economy. People are most certainly not upholding the rights of their fellow man. And as the world’s economy continues to grow, money becomes the centrepiece of our lives.
Who remembers their duty towards God? 7% of the world’s population is atheist. This is gradually increasing. People are starting to forget their Creator and it is obvious to say what can potentially be looming ahead.
However, in the past, the other reason why Allah the Almighty has used natural events and pandemics is to show a divine sign of His mercy to mankind.
A prime example of the latter can be seen from the example of the bubonic plague which devastated India in the years building up to 1902. During this period of time, God Almighty showed the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" a vision in which he relates as follows,
“Angels of God are planting black trees in different places of Punjab. These plants are very ugly, black, frightening and stunted. I asked the person planting these trees, what kind of trees are these? He replied that these were plague trees, which would spread in the country very shortly”.
Allah the Almighty showed this heavenly sign (the plague) to the world to prove that the time of the advent of the messiah had come. Allah the Almighty also showed this sign to the people as a sign of His great mercy as the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" was told “I will protect all those who are within the periphery of your house” and consequently God fulfilled His promise and saved Qadian and thousands of Ahmadis from the disease. Hence showing God’s incredible mercy.
In the current climate of the world, natural disasters and diseases can sometimes be caused due to human error or obsessive human interaction with the environment. Any ecosystem around the world works as a scale; every part of it has to be in perfect unison and balance, but if one part becomes too overpowering, the ecosystem is affected. For example, in the Amazon rainforest, humans have been cutting and selling trees for many years. If a region loses too many trees, that area becomes susceptible to flooding and landslides as water does not get absorbed quickly into the ground due to a lack of trees and so can become unstable very quickly.
Similarly, with global warming and humans polluting the air with tons of fumes excreted by cars and planes daily, we see the ice caps in Antarctica melt due to warmer air, which then leads to more water being released into the oceans, which leads to more frequent flooding. At the same time, many animals in Antarctica lose their homes as a result of our actions. The point is that the way we interact with the environment has a very major impact on the cause of disasters that occur later on. For example with the spread of EBOV (Ebola virus) in African countries in 2013, the virus was successful in spreading as the virus was present in many forms of wild bush meat – the famous one being bats – and people would consume this regularly as it was part of the culture. The second reason why it was rapid in its spread was due to the lack of education on hygiene which also lead to the virus transferring quickly. Essentially, sometimes we humans are the cause of events which later go on to affect us, not God.
Sometimes God creates a situation in which we think all is bad but actually ends up being a blessing in disguise. For example with the coronavirus, different countries from across the world have had to put aside their differences and work together to tackle this virus. We have seen beautiful and emotional scenes of doctors working together for hours upon hours in saving the lives of other humans. We have seen doctors from countries like China and Pakistan go and help fellow doctors in Italy to save lives together. We have also seen the positive impacts lockdowns and reduced cars on our roads have had on our environment with cleaner and clearer air, wildlife returning to habitats they had left previously, cleaner rivers and oceans, reduced CO2 emissions and countless other benefits for our environment. So much so that people have even nicknamed this pandemic as a healing period for the Earth.
Before the coronavirus, due to busy worldly engagements such as work, schools (etc), families were not able to interact and spend time with each other. However, during these lockdowns, families have had the opportunity to bond together closely. Similarly, lockdowns have had many positive impacts on millions of people’s mental health as people are less stressed about work-life and are able to spend time with their loved ones. Likewise, this pandemic has also turned our attention to better and more frequent hygiene care which benefits our health and highlights the importance of keeping clean.
For us Ahmadis, it is possible that we took some things for granted before. For example, going to the mosque daily or seeing Huzoor abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" regularly was something we considered normal, and we never really understood how blessed and lucky we truly were until we faced the conditions and restrictions of Covid. Similarly due to work, we never really stopped and gave time to our God properly, however now in millions of households across the world Muslims are offering salat five times a day and are strengthening their connections with God. In terms of the Jama’at, we see that where God closes one door, He opens up countless new avenues for the spread of His community. The humanitarian efforts provided by the work of Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, Majlis Ansurallah and Lajna Immailah through this pandemic have also been immense and have been a way of tabligh to so many external people as they have now come into personal contact with the Jama’at. Every week, we see our Ahmadi brothers and sisters who live far and wide on continents over the globe being given the blessed opportunity to speak to their beloved Khalifatul Masih abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" virtually. Something that we have never seen happen during any Khilafat in the history of any community before. Alhamdulillah!
However, the conclusive piece of argument that I will now present which answers the question of Covid being a punishment from God is from a statement taken from his Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" from an interview taken by Al-Hakam in which Huzoor abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" stated: “If this [coronavirus] was a sign, then first and foremost, I would have announced it that it is a sign.” Huzoor abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" further stated, “These epidemics will keep happening. It is absolutely wrong to declare every such outbreak to be a divine sign.”
On the 12th of March 2021, whilst speaking to the community of Australia and Nigeria, Huzoor abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper"stated:
“During the time of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", divine punishment was also sent down on the people of Arabia and during the life of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", however these were in the form of wars in which countless Muslims were martyred and disbelievers were killed. But eventually there came a time when people realised that they had a duty to fulfill towards God and mankind. Even now in present times, the world is immersed in materialism and the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" has written that if people do not pay heed (towards rights to man and God), these divine punishments will increase and people and civilisations will be destroyed. The Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" has also stated that it is not compulsory for people to convert to Islam and Ahmadiyyat to avert these divine punishments; rather if people begin to fulfill the rights of Allah and His people, and stayed away from vulgar and immoral acts and sin, even then can Allah show His never ending mercy and save the people from punishment.
At present, the world is engrossed in materialism and cannot seem to understand why we are in the situation that we are in. I have also written letters to world leaders again in which I informed them with references of the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" that if people do not pay heed, then Allah the Almighty’s punishments will continue to descend upon them.
Even now when Covid-19 came, or when any natural disaster occurs like a tsunami or storm or earthquake, some people do briefly turn towards God and call out his name like “Allah Allah” or “Ram Ram” or in whichever way they have been taught by their faiths, they try to reform themselves so that they may fulfill the rights of one another and Allah, however when the punishment subsides, they go back to their old bad habits as stated in the Qur’an when it mentions a punishment being inflicted upon a people, they pray and call out for Allah that if He removes their affliction they will reform themselves. However Allah the Almighty also states that when the punishment is averted, they again become immersed in materialism. Thus, this is the current state of the worldly people. Eventually if they do not pay heed and do not understand, they too will be destroyed like the nations before and as we can see, they are being devastated currently and gradually they will disappear.”
In conclusion, it becomes evident that the coronavirus pandemic which is currently dominating our world is not a sign from God Almighty. There are many ways of interpreting this pandemic, however, one thing is for certain, this pandemic has been sent from our Creator. If it was a punishment or a divine sign, then God Almighty’s representative on earth would have been informed. If we stop and take a look at its effects, we see that money used to be the centrepiece of our lives, many had forgotten their Creator and we were not caring about the welfare of those around us. But when this disease hit, we saw global markets tremble for the first time since the 2008 economic depression. We see world leaders who were previously ready to go to war, stand in unity and work together to save each other’s nations from destruction. We have seen people of all ages, old and young, look after each other and help each other together. We have seen people care less about materialistic gain. This pandemic has destroyed the lives of so many through the loss of loved ones, yet we also have seen this pandemic bring the whole of humanity together. As Allah states in the Qur’an:
“Allah burdens not any soul beyond its capacity.”
We know that the suffering caused as a result of this pandemic will eventually come to an end. Only one Being has the power to bring about that end. As the Holy Prophet Muhammad saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" was reported to have once stated:
“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.”
As Ahmadi Muslims, what can we do during these troubling times? In an extract taken from Abid Khan Sahib’s diary of lockdown, our beloved Huzoor, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" stated:
“Where a disease or virus is spreading then the rights of the Mosque actually determine that the worshippers refrain from offering prayers in the Mosque. At such a time, we should remember that there are also great blessings associated with worship in solitude and so Ahmadis should utilise this period to draw closer to Allah by worshipping Him in their homes.”
Beloved Huzoor abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" continued by stating:
“Whilst congregational worship enables us to become more united as an Ummah, it is when a person worships in isolation that he is able to truly open up his heart before Allah and to grow closer to Him. At this time, most people are at home and free from the shackles of their normal worldly endeavours and so, more than ever before, they may spend their nights in Tahajjud and offer prayers and recite the Holy Qur’an throughout the day.”
May Allah the Almighty have mercy on us and end this pandemic so that we can avert any divine punishment. May Allah enable the world to realise the rights it has to fulfil towards the creation of Allah, and may we all create a better and stronger relationship with our Creator in these times and continue to obey and act upon every command of our beloved Khalifa abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper". Āmeen.
- Ayyam al-Sulh, page 121
- Kashtee Nooh, page 4, October 5th, 1902