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The Virus: An Ayah Within Yourself

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Ibn al-Jawzi once wrote that "I've never suffered an illness, sadness, or anguish except that it was due to a wrong I committed that I could pinpoint, such that I could say that this happened because of that... So await the consequences of your sins, as few are safe from this, and exert yourself in tawbah."

Ibn al-Jawzi lived & died eight centuries ago in Iraq. This month of coronavirus outbreak also marks the anniversary of that land being attacked & invaded by America. In the process of trying to duplicate their lifestyle in Iraq, Americans (and later, Iranians) ruined a country, traumatized generations, killed many people, then simply moved on. Until now, many corpses remain forgotten under the rubble in places like Mosul.

A virus works in much the same way. On its own, a virus particle is inert and unable to reproduce. But once it finds a living cell, it forces its way in and tricks its host into duplicating itself so many times that the host cell ultimately bursts apart in a flood of newborn virus. And as we've been seeing in places like America & Iran, this invader can likewise ruin countries, traumatize generations, and kill many people.

A virus is an ayah within yourself: {"And on the earth are ayat for those with certainty, and within yourselves - will you not then see?"} (51:20-21)

The definition of an ayah is "a sign, token, or mark by which a person or thing is known," "a wonder," "an example," "a message or communication from one person or party to another," and "a warning." Indeed, the purpose of an ayah is to frighten you, as Allah said that {"We don't send the ayat except to strike fear."} (17:59) As a human being, you try to forget your wrongs, move on, and live comfortably. But such comfort is an illusion, as the Prophet (sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that "if you see Allah giving someone what he wants from the dunya despite his sins, then this is istidraj (entrapment)."

Out of mercy, Allah sends you ayat to remind you of your wrongs, and of what He can do to your fragile body in this life and the next due to those wrongs. In one ayah, Allah said that {"the fire will scorch their faces, leaving them with a disfigured frown therein."} (23:104) Both Ahmad & Tirmidhi report that the Prophet commented on this ayah by explaining that "the fire will scorch their faces to the point that the upper lip will peel back to the middle of the head, while the lower lip will unfurl until it hangs down to the navel." When Allah eclipses the Sun & Moon with each other, effortlessly moving them like pebbles, the Prophet explained that they're "ayat He uses to frighten His slaves."

The ultimate aim of these ayat is to lead you to tawbah. When Kufah was stricken with an earthquake, Ibn Mas'ud turned to those with him and said: "O people! Your Lord is teaching you a lesson, so learn it!" But how well you learn that lesson is up to you:

i) You may not need to see much, and simply {"when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble with fear..."} (8:2)

ii) You may need to have the ayah looking you in the face. It wasn't until Yunus threatened his people and abandoned them in anger that they finally realized the danger they were in, gathered outside, and pointed their palms to the sky for forty days of sincere tawbah while Allah's punishment hovered above them in the sky like a piece of dark night.

The first step of tawbah is to acknowledge your wrongs, then to apologize to Allah from the bottom of your heart. Writing about contagion, Ibn Rajab said that "all disasters are caused by sins, as Allah said that {"whatever harm befalls you is from yourself,"} (4:79) and {"whatever disaster strikes you is because of what your hands earned..."} (42:30) So they aren't to be ascribed to anything but sins, as in the case of contagion." And the Prophet himself linked contagion to sins: "When people practice open promiscuity, a plague & anguish will spread amongst them that was unknown to their predecessors."

One way Allah made a virus most frightening is its immense destructive power despite its near invisibility. The average virus is between twenty to a hundred times smaller than bacteria. In fact, viruses are classified as ultramicroscopic - too tiny to be seen through even a light microscope. But we poetically find that Allah has always used the smallest instruments to humble the biggest egos:

* According to one hadith, the wind that destroyed 'Ad emerged from a space "no larger than a ring."
* According to Qatadah, the flood that ruined Saba' came about because "rats gnawed at the bottom of the dam until it became weak."
* Ibn Kathir wrote that when Hajjaj bin Yusuf killed Sa'id bin Jubayr, Hasan al-Basri supplicated: "O Allah! Breaker of tyrants! Break Hajjaj!" Three days later, bugs began pouring out of Hajjaj's mouth, after which he died.
* When Ya'juj & Ma'juj besiege 'Isa bin Maryam near the end of time, the Prophet said that "'Isa and his companions will supplicate to Allah, and Allah will send against them bugs in their necks, leaving them all dead."

iii) Finally, you may not learn the lesson at all even after being struck by one ayah after another, as Sa'id bin Jubayr (the aforementioned scholar killed by Hajjaj) narrated:

"When Musa came to Fir'awn, he demanded: 'Release Bani Isra'il to me.' But Fir'awn didn't comply, and Allah sent upon them rain that continued to fall until they feared it to be a punishment. They told Musa: 'Ask your Lord to relieve us of this rain, and we'll believe in you and release Bani Isra'il to you.'

Musa invoked Allah, He stopped the rain, but they didn't believe or release Bani Isra'il.

In that year, Allah allowed the soil to grow various types of vegetation for them as never before. They said: 'This is what we hoped for.' So Allah sent the locusts, and the locusts started to feed on the grass. When they saw the effect of the locusts on the grass, they knew that no vegetation would be safe. They said: 'O Musa! Ask your Lord to relieve us of these locusts, and we'll believe in you and release Bani Isra'il to you.'

Musa invoked Allah, He removed the locusts, but they didn't believe or release Bani Isra'il.

They collected their grains and kept them in their homes. They said: 'We saved our crops.' However, Allah sent the grain bugs. One of them would take ten bags of grain to the mill, only to return with three. They said: 'O Musa! Ask your Lord to relieve us of these grain bugs, and we'll believe in you and release Bani Isra'il to you.'

Musa invoked Allah, He removed the bugs, but they didn't believe or release Bani Isra'il.

Once, when he was with Fir'awn, Musa heard the sound of a frog. He said to Fir'awn: 'What will you and your people suffer from this?' Fir'awn said: 'What can frogs do?' But by nighttime, a man would be sitting in a pile of frogs that reached up to his chin, and wouldn't be able to open his mouth to speak without a frog jumping in it. They said: 'O Musa! Ask your Lord to relieve us of these frogs, and we'll believe in you and release Bani Isra'il to you.'

Musa invoked Allah, He removed the frogs, but they didn't believe or release Bani Isra'il.

Allah then sent blood that filled their rivers, wells, and water containers. They complained to Fir'awn: 'We're afflicted with blood. We have nothing to drink.' He said: 'Musa has bewitched you.' They said: 'How can that be when we find that the water in our containers has actually turned into blood?' So they went to Musa and said: 'Ask your Lord to relieve us of this blood, and we'll believe in you and release Bani Isra'il to you.'

Musa invoked Allah, the blood stopped, but they didn't believe or release Bani Isra'il."

{"So We took retribution from them, and We drowned them in the sea because they denied Our ayat..."} (7:136)

Written by: Tariq Mehanna
Tuesday, the 29th of Rajab 1441 (24th of March 2020)
Marion CMU


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