Wednesday, January 19, 2022 - 17 Jumada al-Akhirah 1443

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COVID-19 and Divine Punishment

Some extremist movements claim that the COVID-19 virus is a punishment from God which he has inflicted upon His enemies from among the followers of the tyrants of our age and their followers, electors, minions, and soldiers. What is the position of Islamic law on this? 

Answer

Afflictions and tribulations fall in the scope of divine providence and mercy. They carry within them a capital of grace, kindness, benevolence, and grants. And although afflictions seem to be anything but momentary, they too shall pass like countless others. Patience and perseverance are, however, what we need most at such times.

Epidemics are ultimately a mercy from God almighty. ‘Aisha, the Mother of Believers (may God be pleased with her), once asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about the plague. He replied, “[Previously], it was a means of torture sent by God on whoever He willed, but then God made it a source of mercy for the believers. So no servant of God who remains in the land in which plague has broken out, exercising patience and knowing that nothing will befall him except what God has ordained for him, except that God will grant him a reward similar to that of a martyr.”

We are invited to look at epidemics from the perspective of mercy, not in their outward manifestation, but in terms of their repercussions and the rewards that ensue from them. All trials, hardships, and distress are in reality working for us, not against us, at a higher level; they elevate the rank of a believer, increase reward, and remove punishment. Mercifully, nothing goes unrewarded by God Almighty, not even something as minor as the prick of a thorn. ‘Aisha (may God be pleased with her) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No affliction that befalls a believer, were it the prick of a thorn or something greater, except that God raises him one degree in rank or removes one of his sins by it.”

If a believer is rewarded for the prick of a thorn, then a fortiori fatal diseases and epidemics! God Almighty says, “And God made it not except as [a sign of] good tidings for you and to reassure your hearts thereby,” and “And We tested them with good [times] and bad that perhaps they would return.”

Contrary to the apparent, the ultimate purpose of adversity include knowing God’s power and might, turning to Him, and submitting to His will and decree as per the words of God Almighty, “Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves?” and “And We had gripped them with suffering [as a warning], but they did not yield to their Lord, nor did they humbly supplicate.”

With this in mind, it is important not to despair of God’s mercy, tire of supplicating Him, or allow undue distress to creep into our hearts due to the protraction of affliction since we do not know the wisdom behind it nor can we fathom its essence.

The current pandemic that is sweeping across the globe is considered a matter of the unseen, the truth of which no one knows except God Almighty. Consequently, it is impermissible for us humans to speak without knowledge of God’s will and truth and anyone who does so is to turn to God in sincere repentance and ask Him for forgiveness as well as do good deeds in abundance. All of this brings relief from adversity for God Almighty says, “And if God should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him.” It is erroneous to ascertain that the pandemic is a punishment from God because He has no use for our obedience or disobedience. Similar adversities, hardships, and epidemics occurred during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and our pious Predecessors and they did not perceive them as divine punishment nor as a cause for being cast out of God’s mercy but faced them with resignation and submission to the will of God Almighty.

Based on this, despite seeming outwardly an affliction from God, the COVID-19 virus is not a punishment as some claim it to be. Rather, it is a mercy for believers and therefore it is necessary that we construe this pandemic in terms of consequences and the ensuing rewards generated by patience and acceptance. We should not only look at the outward reality of afflictions but also at the unseen realities and sublime wisdom they hold.

We are certain that we will overcome this adversity by raising humble prayers and earnest solicitations to God Almighty. We are likewise certain that God will protect us especially after we learned the necessity of prioritizing, how to function at times of crises, and the importance of infection control behaviors and preventive measures in reducing infection rates.

As for those who categorically assert that COVID-19 is a punishment from God, their claims are nothing more than questionable predictions and ignorant assumptions. However, we should ask God Almighty for a cure and repentance. We are to invoke peace and blessings upon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), do good deeds, and make supplications to God in abundance in affirmation of His words, “And if God should touch you with adversity, none can remove it except Him.”

And God Almighty knows best.