Unhappy with restrictive measures ceasing business activities and causing joblessness, Americans are pouring into the streets to voice their desperation. From New Hampshire to Utah, frustrated citizens, who are mostly conservative, are appealing to their federal and local governments to lift stay-at-home restrictions and reopen the economy.
For every COVID-19 related death in America, nearly 450 Americans have lost their jobs. ‘If I don’t get back to work, I can’t live. I have no money coming in,’ pleaded a Maryland protester.‘Not being able to provide for your family is a hundred times bigger health crisis than any virus,’ a Utah protester said.
On the other side, experts warn that re-opening America right now will lead to more infections and, inevitably, more death. This ongoing debate between prioritizing health versus prioritizing the economy rages on.
As some Americans express their anxieties through public protest for re-opening the economy, Muslims across the world are also preparing to express their anguish, as the holy month of Ramadan has arrived. During this month, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, to inculcate the spirit of self-discipline and sacrifice.
As their stomachs ache in hunger, with long fasts from early morning to late night, Muslims feel some of the pain that many jobless Americans are enduring. And they will spread their prayer mats and beg God for His mercy. Whilst doing so, they will insist, ‘To You alone do we voice our desperation and announce our agony. We will not leave Your Presence until You accept our pleas. We will stand desperately at Your door, waiting for You to admit us into Your Nearness.’
And this Ramadan, Muslim-Americans must also join their fellow citizens and plead that the doors to America’s businesses reopen – just not in front of city hall, or by blocking the entrance to hospitals, or before this pandemic subsides. This plea must remain on our prayer mats, in the confines of our homes. For prayer is the greatest weapon Islam permits, not open protest against the government.
Given the tumultuous state of the Muslim world today, you might be surprised to learn that Muslim Scripture prohibits harmful rebellion or protest. In fact, the Qur’an instructs Muslims to ‘obey those in authority amongst you’ (Qur’an 4:60). Additionally, not a single prophet mentioned in the Qur’an incited his followers to protest against the state.
Even Prophet Muhammad (sa) prohibited government rebellion. He once stated, ‘Whoever disapproves of an unjust measure taken by his ruler should be patient’ (Sahih Bukhari, Book of Afflictions, 7053). On another occasion, he stated, “You will see injustice, you will witness your rights suppressed and see others given preference over you.” When his followers asked how they should respond to such injustice, the Prophet (sa) replied, ‘Give your leaders their rights, and then ask God for yours’ (Sahih Bukhari, Book of Afflictions, 7052).
Indeed, Muslims can express their opinion, but only ‘to the extent where they do not harm or cause damage to the nation or to the economy.’
Given the alarming state of restrictions, many Americans are understandably agitated. ‘It’s either die from the coronavirus if you catch it or die from not being able to live,’ a protester laments. One can understand why jobless Americans are protesting against this pandemic and its destructive effects, for they may not know when – or if– their next meal will come. But one must also consider that America’s economy cannot just reopen at the cost of innocent lives.
Instead of pouring into the streets, ignoring social distancing in street marches, and prioritizing our own lives over the lives of others, Americans can outlet their frustrations and anxieties through the power of prayer. It’s what their Muslims brethren are doing. And it’s the American thing to do, as 55% of Americans pray daily.
Even for those who hold no belief and don’t pray, to remain home is an act of service, as it protects other Americans from contracting the disease. We can all save lives like this, and whoever saves even one life will earn a reward as if he has saved all of humanity (Qur’an 5:33).
Some may contest: ‘Praying won’t put food on the table for my children. Opening the doors to my business will.’ Remember though: ‘Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened to you’ (Mathew 7:7).
Also remember: ‘Pray unto Me. I will answer your prayer’ (Qur’an 40:61).
May God Almighty eradicate this pestilence from this earth. May He reopen the doors not only to our economy, but to our hearts.
Frasat Ahmad serves as a Missionary at the US National Headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.