Aeysha Nusrat Jahan, Netherlands
As the world is in the grips of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with global deaths surpassing 2 million people, I reflect on the last few days of October 2020, when my family and I were all hit hard by the dreaded coronavirus. A month and a half later we were still suffering from some lingering symptoms. We are unsure where it came from as we were being reasonably careful about washing hands and wearing masks and had not ventured out much. We had not socialised with anyone for the last eight months either and were taking all the precautions suggested by health authorities. Our eldest was attending online classes, but the youngest two were physically attending school. It seems likely that the virus entered our home through one of the children’s schools.
It all began on a Friday afternoon with one of the children feeling unwell after school and then the other one caught the bug. As all parents know, you can never isolate yourselves from sick children as it is then that they cling to you the most. Additionally, we never ever imagined that this was anything other than a seasonal cold and flu; never for one moment did I think this could be a Covid-19 infection. After a couple of days, I was relieved to see the younger ones had started feeling better but as they were still displaying flu-like symptoms, they had to stay home from school. It was then that I started feeling a little tickling in my throat. I have a habit of not paying attention to minor health complaints so thought nothing of it. In fact, my mind was occupied at that time with worries for two of my brothers; one had recently undergone cancer surgery and the other was suffering from Covid-19 in Dubai. Additionally, my nephew in Canada had also been infected and was quite unwell.
Understandably my focus was elsewhere and I did not give much thought to a tickly throat. My symptoms, however, started advancing each day from then on. First came the deeply dry cough spasms, then my limbs began to feel like they were being hammered, then the onset of low-grade fever accompanied by anxiety and inability to sleep. By that point, my husband and eldest daughter had started to display mild symptoms like cough, neck pain and fatigue. It was only by the third day while having spicy eggs on toast, that felt like I was chewing flavourless cardboard when I also realised that I had no sense of smell whatsoever. Suddenly it dawned on me that this could be a Covid-19 infection and I immediately booked my test. The results came out positive after 48 hours and by then I was flat out with shattering body pain, deep fatigue and fever. It felt like a heavy machine was weighing me down and was not allowing me to breathe.
As I received the results of my coronavirus test, my husband and eldest daughter went to get tested straight away and the results came back positive. The youngest two would not be tested but would have to quarantine for longer. By this point, they were a little better anyways, Alhamdolillah (All praise belongs to Allah). Our eldest suffered mostly from cough and fatigue.
The thing with this virus is that it affects everyone differently. For most people, it only brings a few symptoms of mild cough and flu-like complaints. For others, it can be extremely dangerous, and they end up fighting for their lives. Sadly, we all know friends or members in the community who have lost their lives due to this nasty disease. At this point, my thoughts and prayers were constantly with families who had lost loved ones to this pandemic. I realise now how lucky we have been and Allah has protected us from the worst.
For us, the first week was bearable but the second week brought indescribable pain and weakness. My husband is diabetic and his symptoms worsened and for five or six days he developed a very high fever and breathing issues. His oxygen levels were worryingly low. We would both struggle to stand up for a minute before collapsing again. Throughout this ordeal, my father kept reminding me to recite certain prayers and to write to His Holiness, the Caliph (aba), for prayers which I did, and His Holiness’ (aba) replies gave us great strength and energy. I think for me personally, the most emotionally disturbing part of this ordeal was seeing the worry, despair and helplessness visible on our parents’ faces during our calls. However, I felt it was important to keep my family and friends all over the world who were inquiring about us informed regarding our health so that they would be extra cautious.
With this rather lengthy glimpse into our illness, I come to the real reason I wanted to write this piece. Although the world has pulled together remarkably during the pandemic, and neighbours have helped neighbours and communities have mobilized to support one another; this phenomenon is not new to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community but is a hallmark of the community from its inception. During the peak of our illness, all sorts of thoughts were running through our minds. As with all illnesses, this virus affects the mind as well as the body. It was a difficult time; we felt lonely, we felt scared, we both saw our own and our children’s’ strengths and weaknesses and also their vulnerability in circumstances where no close family was around to care for them in case things turned for the worse for either of us. My memory took me back eleven years to the time when we first set up home in the Netherlands and the only concern I had, was that we had no family support here. In fact, I hardly knew anyone in the Netherlands. On the night we arrived, the bell rang, and a local Ahmadi family very kindly dropped off some dinner for us. Very quickly, acquaintances turned into friendships and friendships into life long bonds of kinship.
As the first week of illness drew to a close, my seven-year-old son Munawar attended his weekly online youth class and as the local Imam and local youth leader asked how the children were, he announced:
‘My mama has corona!’
Prior to this, no one apart from family members was aware of our illness. After the class, we were overwhelmed with messages of prayers from everywhere and offers of help. The next two weeks were witness to the remarkable kindness of Jama’at [Community] members from all over the Netherlands. Many friends came repeatedly from long distances to drop off soup, food, fruit, medicines and other essential necessities for our family. Some friends had fruits and food items delivered to us. We found strength in the knowledge that so many brothers and sisters of our Community were thinking of us and keeping us in their prayers. I was most humbled and in tears when I received a heart-melting phone call from a sister in faith, who herself was undergoing painful cancer treatment, expressing her wish that if she was healthy enough, she would bring us food. (May Allah heal her completely and bless her with a long healthy life, Ameen). Messages of concern and prayers were not just limited to the Netherlands but were pouring in from all over the world.
These overwhelming gestures of kindness and generosity reminded me of something I have often heard my elders say:
‘The Community members are bonded together like pearls on a string. The string, the rope of Allah (the Caliphate) binds us together and we function just like a body. When one part of the body hurts, the other feels its pain.’
I could never return the kindness of our brothers and sisters and can only pray that may Allah reward them abundantly. My heart is filled with deep gratitude to every single person who inquired after us and kept us in their prayers. To be part of this family of the followers of the Promised Messiah (as), consisting of people of all creeds and colours, held together at the hands of Khilafat, is the greatest blessing on earth.
As we continue our journey towards recovery each day, I have become acutely aware of the uncertainty of life. Nothing in this mortal life is under our own control. The only thing I can be sure of is no matter where we are in this world, whether in this country or another, as long as we remain obedient and faithful to the Caliphate of the Ahmadiyya Community and firmly attached to the system of the Ahmadiyya Community, we will always be home, God-willing!
May Allah keep all Ahmadis around the world safe and under His divine protection. Ameen.
About the Author: Aeysha Nusrat Jahan lives in the Netherlands with her family. She has a degree in French and Psychology. Aeysha serves the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in various capacities, and has also worked as a program producer for MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya). Aeysha is a regular contributor of the Review of Religions online.