By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
It is almost sure that the entire world, perhaps for the first time in human history, would impose a lock down due to Coronarius unprecedented spread. The governments would ensure that people maintain social distance, avoid assemblies of more than ten people, stop visiting places of worship, clubs, and sports arena, and stay at home. This unusual house detention of the entire family may last until the end of June or July, depending on the outcome of the testings.
As of March 17, 167, 515 cases were found with 6606 deaths, almost four percent of the infected people. In nearly 80 percent of the countries, people were infected through local transmission, while in the 20 percent, the reported cases are the imported ones.
Regardless, the coronavirus will impact the life of every human around us. We need to prepare ourselves for a changed lifestyle. We will have more time to spend with our spouses and children. We will not find many social gatherings around us to visit and relax with our friends. We will not even have the places of worship open for congregational prayers. During the month of fasting, Muslims may not have the special Taraweeh prayers in mosques. Christians may have to postpone their Sunday mass, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews may also have to cancel their collective services.
During this time, we will have our televisions, the internet, and cell phones, and our family members around us. Exceptions will be homeless people, seniors living in hospices, or people without a family.
How should we use our time?
These are trying times for all. But, if we follow a disciplined and organized approach to make use of the time and opportunities we have, we can improve the quality of life for all.
We should not neglect our physical health. Staying in one place for 24 hours without exercising and physical movement will impact every aspect of our health. We can still go out to walk alone or with our family members in our neighborhood. We can do light exercises at home, individually and collectively. We can take time to organize our home and clean our attic or garage if we have one. We can work on our lawn if we have, trim the trees, rearrange the bricks, cut the grass, remove the weed or clean the patio, etc. If we are physically fit, we can ensure that we clean our toilets, bathrooms, and all those areas that remain out of sight during regular days.
We would need a rational understanding of everything happening around us. We would like to know why the logic behind quarantine? Why did this disease spread so fast? We want to decipher the reasoning behind the assertion that viruses the centuries-old notion that infections are divine punishment. We want to understand the religious argument that such moments allow us to test our strength and capacity. We cannot do that purely based on the knowledge that we have created through our experience. We will have to return to a higher authority for guidance. Most of us believe in a higher power whom we remember through different names in different languages. We believe that he spoke to us through his specially chosen individuals, known as messengers and prophets. The message delivered through them is in books we call holy scriptures.
The scripture Muslims call the Quran reminds them that when “calamity befalls them, they say, verily, unto God do we belong to and unto, God we shall return.”
Muslims usually recite this expression at the time of someone else’s funeral. However, the verse has broader implications. It means that God is our creator, and we must try to understand the purpose of our creation to make our life meaningful. In this journey to rediscover ourselves, we may come across many hurdles and obstacles, but we must not lose hope in our ability to overcome. We must return to divine guidance to understand the causes of the calamity and try to fix them so that we do not repeat the same mistake.
It is in this context we can return to the divine guidance, reflect on them, and evaluate our lives accordingly. We can select passages from the Quran and reflect on its relevance to our situation. We can do it individually or collectively.
Additionally, we can plan to memorize passages from our scriptures. We can choose those passages that have messages for our day to day life. We can seek the help of those who are familiar with such passages through emails or phone calls or search them on google or use the vast resources available at Islamicity.org.
One of the goals we all can have is to read the scripture with meaning if we are not well versed in the Arabic language. These days, the Quran translations are available in audio and written form all over the internet.
The other thing that we can do is select a book or books to read at least 25 pages a day. If we cultivate this habit, we will reap its benefit when we return to our regular life. It will become our daily chore and a life long companion.
We should also plan prayers on time in family settings. Perhaps, we could organize a smaller scale, Jumah, at homes with ten or fewer people. The Fiqh of numbers comes from jurists based on their times and situation. It is not a divinely ordained number, and it can change according to the circumstances.
The time we have will allow us to build a relationship with our spouses and children. We can have daily meals with the family together. We can turn these meals into family meetings and discuss issues that impact us all. We should use these forums to inculcate the habit of listening to others patiently. If we have young children, we should help them overcome their fears and concerns.
It is also essential that we play some sports or board games or indulge in some entertaining activities. We can watch a good movie or an excellent documentary together. We can play games that many of us might have played in their childhood.
Perhaps, we can use the time to tell our children and spouses about our family history and our roots, revisit our values, and remind ourselves of the task that lies ahead of us. We can all participate in the family to prepare the food menu and help each other in cooking the food and setting up the tables and cleaning afterward.
Friend’s and Neighbors
During this period of isolation, it is also useful to call your friends from time to time. You may offer your services to local hospitals in case they would want a patient to talk to someone over the phone. Or you can call some senior whom you know and seek his welfare. Diseases do not spread through talking over the phone. It would be an excellent way to keep your contacts fresh.
Similarly, you can engage in social interaction with your neighbors while maintaining the social distance.
However, the success of all these recommendations would depend on our ability to translate them into reality. Doubtlessly, if we are disciplined, we will see a qualitative change in our life. If not, it will be just a few more months of social isolation. It is up to us to return to our world as a transformed individual or in a state of stagnation.