Contemporary and Social Issues

The Beauty of Faith – Salisbury Cathedral Transformed into Covid-19 Vaccine Centre

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 Munavara Ghauri, UK

As I read that my local Cathedral in Salisbury had become a hub for Covid vaccinations [1], the long queue of people outside this formidable feat of 13th-century gothic architecture that I had witnessed earlier in the day, began to make sense. Living less than a mile away from this historic building, which boasts the tallest spire in England (404 ft high), and the best of four original documents of the Magna Carta (one of Britain’s most eminent legal documents, first granting rights to English citizens in 1215), I can see its aspiring spire from my bedroom window. As I passed its graceful, gothic arches on my routine walk to the High Street, I had thought that the rush at its entrance was a consequence of current restrictions on worshippers in places of worship as opposed to the pop-up vaccination clinic that had emerged inside, phoenix-like, bringing hope and safety to my local community. It will undoubtedly be the first of many such hubs if the Government is to achieve its target of immunising 15 million people by mid-February. Witnessing the Cathedral as a symbol of hope and as a safe haven is something that I can appreciate even as a Muslim, just as I appreciate the intricate carvings that adorn the cathedral itself and the cascading colours that dance through its stained-glass windows. Just as I admire the ingenious mechanical clock that it exhibits which is claimed to be the oldest working clock in the world and its amazing acoustics that I have experienced at the many school prizegiving ceremonies I have attended over the years. [2] 

Reflecting on how the Cathedral is now playing one of the most important roles of its rich history, saving lives in this unprecedented pandemic, I cannot help but recollect how one of the verses of the Holy Qur’an has mentioned protecting not only mosques but also churches, cloisters and synagogues (Ch.22-V.41). This verse was revealed as Muslims were instructed to stand up not only for those Muslims who were oppressed and persecuted due to their faith, but also to uphold the freedom of conscience of other faiths and thus to equally defend the sanctity of their places of worship. Such words of wisdom 1400 years ago, make me think that assuredly their origin was divine and an acknowledgement that all faiths have fundamental core values which must be preserved; those of integrity, justice and compassion.

It is what Salisbury Cathedral is representing today as it helps to battle coronavirus and as a Muslim, something I am keen to uphold. Indeed, in the opening verses of the Holy Qur’an, God describes Himself as ‘The Lord of all the Worlds’ and the prophet of Islam – Muhammad (sa), is defined as ‘a mercy for all peoples’ (Ch.21-V.108). This illustrates the universality of Islam. Islam is a faith which teaches true tolerance and compassion, as opposed to the headline-grabbing, distorted values of extremists perpetuated by the media.

One incident from The Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) own time demonstrates the high level of tolerance that he personally exemplified. Once, a group of Christians from the city of Najran came to discuss certain theological issues with the Prophet (sa) of Islam in his mosque (Masjid-e-Nabawi) in Madinah. When it was their time for prayer, the Christians inquired of a suitable place to observe their worship. Thereupon, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) invited them to pray in the mosque. Consequently, the Christians freely observed their worship. [3] Furthermore, this Islamic principle of tolerance was meticulously upheld by the first spiritual successor of Muhammad (sa), the Caliph, Abu Bakr (ra). It is narrated that whenever he had to dispatch a Muslim army, he would instruct the commander-in-chief that non-Muslim places of worship and religious elders must be given due reverence. [4]

The Fifth Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), further explained as he opened a mosque in South Virginia, USA, 2018:

‘Islam’s teachings unite mankind and foster a spirit of mutual love and respect between all people, irrespective of racial, religious or social backgrounds. It is a religion that breaks down barriers and encourages peaceful and tolerant dialogue. Thus, it is inconceivable for a true Muslim to persecute or oppose other religions or their followers.’ [5] 

The Holy Prophet (sa) of Islam also taught:

‘Lighten the people’s burdens and do not add to them. Bring them hope not chagrin. Work for unity and not discord.’ [6]

It seems that the NHS and local communities have currently converged at Salisbury Cathedral to lighten our burdens and to bring us hope and unity in a very Islamic manner.    

About the Author: Munavara Ghauri BA (Hons) Eng Lit, is married with 3 children and works as a School Librarian. She is currently serving as the Branch Leader for Bournemouth of Lajna Imaillah – the Women’s Auxiliary Association of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and is an Editor for the Women’s Section of The Review of Religions.


ENDNOTES

[1] https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-salisbury-cathedral-proves-to-be-efficient-vaccine-hub-now-rollout-is-about-to-step-up-another-gear-12189843

[2] www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salisbury_Cathedral

[3] Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A., The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets, Islam International Publications Ltd, 2013, p.562

[4] Ibid, p563.

[5] https://www.reviewofreligions.org/14243/religious-tolerance-and-freedom-in-islam/

[6] Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Wisdom of the Holy Prophet, The London Mosque,1981, p.75.