The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on humanity at large, people of all backgrounds and walks of life. This encompasses faith communities worldwide.
Being cut away from worship places is not an easy task for any faith community, although faith itself teaches us to care for the safety and security of one and all, even if that means locking up your Masajid, Churches, Synagogues and Temples.
Faith communities are having to resort to online services and worship via YouTube, Zoom, Facebook and other social media platforms, rather than devotion in the comfort of their worship homes. This in and of itself is as different as worship will become.
The Qur’ān – which Muslims submit to being the final word of the Almighty for humanity – states: “You may dislike a matter, but God will bring about much goodness within the matter [that you dislike].”
The thought of abandoning the Masjid in any case is heartbreaking to myself and many of my congregants whose schedules revolve around the Masjid. Ramadan (the holy month of fasting, prayer and devotion) was going to be different for Muslims amidst COVID-19. Indeed, different it was.
In a usual Ramadan month, the Masajid are packed with devotees and worshipers; sharing smiles and prayers, extending greetings and increasing in their generosity, community dinners and remembering their Lord and productively taking benefit from the celestial light of Ramadan.
Muslims worldwide did miss out on this blessed Ramadan opportunity which is the highlight of our year, but the Almighty opened up the doors to another unique opportunity. Amidst a situation that we as humanity detested, Muslims –– like other faith communities –– were gifted with a form of goodness which hid itself from our minds and hearts until we were made to discover it through the trying times we are living through.
Ramadan was definitely different. But due to the loss of life because of COVID-19, we learned to value our neighbors (and ourselves by virtue of caring for others) much more than ever before. Among the many outreach programs initiated by our Masjid, we reached out to the Center For Prevention of Abuse to facilitate meals for those who have to resort to making that their temporary home due to unfortunate circumstances.
Many of my fellow Muslims attested to the fact that they only genuinely understood the value of their families after being quarantined with them. People have uttered statements like, “We only realized the gift family / parents / siblings while getting to know them for the amazing people they actually are amidst this pandemic.”
Muslim doctors and medical professionals in Peoria understood another perspective of care and sacrifice that the holy month teaches us. This resulted in them putting their lives on the line while fasting in the month of Ramadan.
I have been receiving WhatsApp images from my congregants which display mini Masajid in their homes (a beautiful prayer area set up with heart warming designs), hence bringing about the light of the Masjid, generosity and devotion in their homes and their communities.
Interfaith communities and faith leaders are virtually meeting to discuss commonalities and differences between their respective faiths and brainstorming how they may reach out to the broader community as a single body, despite their differences.
All these fruitful endeavors and many more were inspired because of being challenged by COVID-19, which harmed us greatly, but also made us better people.
We salute all the heroes who are fighting this battle. Everyone from valuable essential workers to the brave medical professionals.
This is only a small stepping stone in further becoming proficient champions for humanity. Let us increase in loving and caring for one another as diverse members of one human family.
May the Almighty grant us all safety and security. May He grant humanity relief from the COVID-19 pandemic and every other calamity. May He facilitate eternal success for us all.
Imam Mazhar Mahmood serves as the Director of Religious Affairs at the Islamic Foundation of Peoria and can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.