Back in mid January, when the news of the new Coronavirus started filtering out of China, I remember one evening, waiting to pick up my order at the local fried chicken shop. It was a typical evening, with the kind of rush you expect inside a chicken shop in East London and with same type of customers. Sitting at the table behind me, while I waited for my food was a group consisting of five to six males, between their late 20s and 30s. They fitted a stereotype, Asian, long beards, shorts hair with big winter coats and talking of religion. My ears drifted in and out of their conversation, as they did. I heard one of them, talk a bit aloud but then silent, upon realising, his comments had got my attention. “China is being punished by Allah, for their treatment of Uyghurs Muslims“.
I guess it was no surprise that some were making that connection, I was kind of waiting for it. Plagues, illnesses and natural disasters had always been attributed as an act of God to punish the people, depending on who the victims were and whose perception it was coming from. It seemed if a Muslim land or people had come across calamities, it was a test from God, anywhere else or anybody else, it was a punishment. I’m sure the same applies for all faith and beliefs, when they come to analyse the natural acts of this world.
As the situation started to become worse and the virus became a global pandemic, it didn’t take time to yield out the conspiracy theorist and the zealots. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, viruses and illnesses have long been a companion of religious scriptures, a weapon of choice of God to vent his anger and vengeance to the people of this world. History and scriptures are filled with stories of locusts and plagues to warn mankind of their deviance. So, as Covid 19 rapidly took course over the globe. As expected, preachers, imams and self graduated scholars came out of the woodwork, almost salivating and drooling with glee as they preached about how this is God’s punishment and signs of the end of times. One could be forgiven to think they took pleasure of mixing and making no distinction between vengeance, wrath and the tormented traits of God and at same time asking for his mercy, as they joyfully warned us of the impeding Armageddon. You can hardly blame them, it does sometimes feel like we are living in Biblical times. How similar does the current situation stand against, stories of God sending plagues and locusts to defeat Pharoah at the time of Moses. Lands and people being destroyed as written in the Quran, even stories away from today’s mainstream religion such as Norse mythology, tells us of the destructive nature of an angry God ready on his heels to spite Man for their transgression and we have indeed transgressed.
Covid 19, had played right into the hands of all the preachers from all religion, who have for years, decades and centuries, warned us of our deviant lifestyle. The signs of end times are now coming to manifest in front of us. What made it eerie and more true, was when Mecca, the most quintessential global icon of a religious holy place, shut its doors for the first time, to its 1.2 billion followers. The Vatican followed and soon after all the door of mosques, churches, temples and synagogues around the world followed suit. The call for prayers in certain Muslim countries, no longer called for people to come to mosques but rather stay at home. No signs can be so apparent and symbolic in its nature. The places a lot of people needed now more than ever, to find salvation through prayers, hope and faith, no longer available to us. It seemed scary, but all signs pointed that God had abandoned mankind. Or did he?
As we stay in our homes, isolated, some grieving the loss of their place of worship and feeling a sense of abandonment. You need to ask yourselves, the true meaning of faith. I am not a theologian, I don’t have any interest in indulging in religious theology and beliefs, as they all seem distorted and mindless at the best of times. Taking an interest and reading about the universe the way I do. For a long time, it has been clear to me, the answers we search for in faith, such as the creation, creator, life, fate, destiny and the meaning of our souls, lies out there in the cosmos then it does here on this earth. If anyone takes the time to study the stars, the planets, the galaxies, the sheer size of this universe and its meticulous design, you cannot doubt this is an intelligent design and the answers we are looking for in our existence, is in indeed out there. Maybe it’s that complicated and meticulous design of the universe, which makes it hard for our minds to comprehend it magnificent nature and we find it easier to focus and hone in all our thoughts, existence and answers into this pale blue dot, we inhabit. We are not the centre of the universe, we are very insignificant, if only we could agree to this.
One cannot disagree that it is painful to see places of worships closed, for many, it is their life. I can understand the pain of those Muslims who planned to perform Umrah or Hajj this year, for not being able to go. We can feel for the devout religious people, for who their rituals and place of pilgrimage is now closed, how lost they must feel. But whether it is Allah, God, Jesus, Yahweh, Krishna, you worship, their divinity had always given a similar message and that is, everything happens for a reason. Now is the time to think, rather than mourn.
If what is happening in this world now, is a wrath of the Divine, then the world has been under his wrath for as long as its existence. Deaths, plagues, wars, famine, has been around since day one, yes its true, it has taken much sinister form throughout the centuries, but that has been due to human engineering. In the last decade, Wars- a purely man made creation created to feed the banks and lust of man, has killed more than Covid 19 ever will. TB another virus, kills approximately 1.6 million people a year. The statistics of Cancer, HIV and other diseases have affected or killed more or less in the same level as Covid 19. These stats are not to take away and dilute the real and imminent danger of Covid 19, but a reality check to people, to make them see that we as a globe are always dying from diseases and this is not something new or killing at a rate that we are not used to. This is not a weapon from the Benevolent to show his wrath and the doors of Apocalypse opening up, with the messiah floating down from the sky anytime soon. If that was the case? Then as far as history and humanity has been around, we have always been at the end of his smite.
For many of you, it should be a time of deep contemplation. Time to shed the armours that you thought had built your faith. What are mosques and churches, but brick and mortars? For years I have witnessed people going in through the doors of places of worship, exiting through the rear door and resuming their lives as normal, no evidence of the impact of their visits. Beautiful architecture and materials have been used globally to design building to play homage to their God/s, for the world to see their psychical beauty, representing their purity, yet the purity of the people who attend there had very little to show. Many started operating as business overlooking the true purpose behind it, even the most holiest of sites such as Mecca had erected massive clock towers over their sacred buildings, to feed into the capitalist greed and ideas of people, of what it means to visit there. Grand constructions have led the average person, to folk out quarter to half of their income for a visit. Only to mark it with selfies and souvenirs rendering it a tourist place rather than the spiritual pilgrimage it is intended to be. Whilst many dream and wait for a chance to visit, but can’t afford to. Across all religion the relationship with God has become superficial. Being seen to say the right things and attending the right places has taken away the real questions you should be asking yourselves about your existence here in this universe. In this state of isolation, ask yourselves, what builds your faith, is it the clothes, the buildings, the tourist pilgrimage, the forwarding of faith inspired memes and texts that even you don’t read or is that belief in your heart that the divine is everywhere inside you. There is no abandonment and there is not wrath or punishment, there is only he and there is only life. With the closes of places of worship, it times to build them inside you. You can get lost looking for God in a mosque or a church but find him in the back alley of a club. Sometimes giving you a million pounds can be his curse but giving you an illness can be a blessing. If it means, you will learn your place in this universe.
After the death of Prophet Muhammed, his best friend Abu Bakar, got up to the grieving people and told them
“For those who worshiped Muhammed, let them know Muhammed is dead. But for those of us who worship Allah, for he lives in us and can never die.”
And that is truer words, if any.