It is most likely that the entire world, perhaps for the first time in human history will impose a lockdown due to the unprecedented spread of a Coronavirus. The governments will ensure that people maintain social distance, limit gathering of people, stop visiting places of worship, entertainment centers, professional conferences, education centers, sporting events, etc. This extraordinary home detention of people may last until the end of June, July or beyond.
As of March 18, the number of reported cases crossed 200,000 and is rising. So far the average mortality rate is about 4% of the infected people based on how various communities manage the situation. In addition to the people who are and will be directly affected by the virus, this pandemic will impact the life of every human being in the world. We need to prepare ourselves for a major change in lifestyle. People who are healthy and are able to withstand the physical and financial toll will have the responsibility to support their family, friends and communities.
As God has promised us that He has created ease in every difficulty (Q 94:5), we need to practice patience and focus on higher values that can make us better. We will not find social gatherings around us to relax with our friends but we can still connect with them in this digital world on various social media. We will not have the places of worship open for congregational prayers but we can still support mosques and organizations to make sure they are there for us after this crisis passes. During the month of fasting, Muslims may not have iftar's and Taraweeh prayers in mosques but they can still feed the homeless and read and connect with the Quran.
While we are required to isolate ourselves we are living in a time of unparalleled ways to connect with each other and access resources to entertain, educate, socialize and do much more. If we follow a disciplined and organized approach to make use of our time and opportunities, we can improve the quality of life for ourselves and the people around us.
The following are some ways we can take advantage of our time.
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 exercises at home, individually and collectively. We can take time to organize our home and clean our attic, garage, closet or draws. Clean out the clutter and simplify your life. You can work on home projects you have been putting off. Consider any work you do around your home as exercise.
We need to reflect and develop 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 need to rethink the reasoning behind the assertion and centuries-old notion that infections are divine punishments. We want to understand the religious argument that such moments allow us to test our strength and capacity. We will have to return to a higher authority for guidance. We are among people who believe and depend on a higher power who is referred to with 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 revere as 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." (Q: 2:156)
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 them. 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 mistakes.
It is in this context that we can return to 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 identify passages of the Quran that we feel have messages for our day to day life and study them with family and friends. We can seek the help of those who are familiar with such passages through emails or phone calls or research them on Quran websites.
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, many Quran translations are available.
The other thing that we can do is select books to read. If we cultivate this habit, we will reap its benefit when we return to our regular life. It will become part of our daily routine and a lifelong companion.
We should also plan daily prayers with the family. 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 lockdown at home will allow us to create quality time with our spouses and children. We should have daily family meals. We can make 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 documentary together. We can play games that many of us might have played in our childhood.
Perhaps, we can use the time to tell our children and spouses about our family history, our roots, our values, and remind ourselves of the task that lies ahead of us. We can experiment with new food recipes and make it a collective family activity.
Friends and Neighbors
During this period of isolation, it is also useful to call your friends from time to time. You can call seniors whom we know and seek his/her welfare. It would be an excellent way to keep your contacts fresh. Develop a stronger relationship with your neighbors, of course, while observing social distancing.
The success of all our activities will depend on our ability to translate them into reality. If we are disciplined, we will see a qualitative change in our life. If not, it will be just a few months of isolation. It is up to us to return to our world as a transformed individual or in a state of stagnation.