By Mansoor Clarke
There is no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic is a terrible state of affairs. The loss of even one life is one too many, and the ramifications of the outbreak will, it is predicted, be felt for years to come.
But as we stock up on tinned foods, dust off the family board games and log in to the office conference call, we should remember, that what we in our seemingly impregnable societies see as a state of emergency, others around the world experience as regular day to day life.
Covid-19 has laid bare the vulnerabilities in a system that we believed to be unbreakable. From disruption in the transport and education systems to power outages and the unavailability of food or medical treatment, these may feel like unprecedented times in many people’s lives, yet there are others around the world who very much see this as the norm.
In 2018 I was fortunate enough to be sent as a missionary to Sierra Leone for a few months. While I was there, I saw both what you would expect from a bustling center of culture and business, but I also met with some people who had never had electricity at home and didn’t have access to clean drinking water, let alone medical assistance or proper education.
There is nothing wrong with feeling the pressure of today’s predicament, but it should lead us to building a strong sense of empathy and compassion for others who have to endure much worse from birth. If ever we feel that ‘this is too difficult’, try to look at the circumstances of those who don’t have the privileges and ease that we often take for granted.
This concept is explained to us in a narration of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) when he stated:
‘Look at those below you and do not look at those above you, for it is the best way not to belittle the favours of Allah.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
Just a few days ago a friend of mine dropped off a 3kg bag of uncooked pasta, I had a time deciding whether to go with fusilli or penne. The very fact that I had the luxury to be able to make that choice and yet still feel pressured speaks volumes about the luxuries and ease we have become accustomed to.
The fact of the matter is that there are many innocent people who are losing their lives as a result of this tragic pandemic. Where we mourn for them, and applaud the NHS for their mammoth efforts, we should also harbor and hold the same admiration and affection for those around the world who endure the very same thing, but all year round.
As we endeavor towards finding a vaccine and a cure for Covid-19, remember that around 300-600 million people a year suffer from malaria, a disease which in most cases is completely treatable, and yet a million of those cases still end in death.
God willing, the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic will soon come to an end, but with its passing, we should not forget the relative suffering that we have undergone over the past few months. We have had just a small taste of what others around the world are forced to endure all the time. The difference being of course, that their ‘state of emergency’ won’t come to an end in 3 months’ time.
So over the next few weeks, while we make the most of family time, playing carrom board with the kids, or tutting over the hiccups in our video conference call, let’s also take a moment to contextualise our ‘suffering’. Take a moment to think about those that have lost their loved ones to this pandemic, and to those that have to endure these difficulties for the rest of their lives. If we do so, and inculcate the advice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), we just might start to appreciate the wonderous favours that Allah has bestowed upon us.
About the Author: Mansoor Clarke is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community currently working in the community’s International Press and Media Office in London. He also serves on the Editorial Board of The Review of Religions.