Why have we been sent the Coronavirus? And why we need istighfar

Signs الإعراض والاستغفار

What we are going through is very severe. But also very special. We have read in history about plagues and families and calamities but we never lived through one of these. Subhanallah Allah in his destiny has written that we would live this moment. This calamity. Let’s reflect on why Allah sent these signs and tests to people.

Hardship

The word which comes to my mind is ba’s بأس which means hardship. Allah sends hardship to test people. I went through these verses in the Quran and I found it in about ten places in different grammatical forms in the Qur’an.

It seemed very clear to me in Surah Isra, Allah says wa ma nursilu bilayati ila takhweefa:

وَما نُرسِلُ بالآيات إِلّا تَخويفًا

We do not send the signs but as a warning (17:59)

Though we memorise ayahs, the meaning does not hit us until we face that situation. The coronavirus is a sign. I am not saying, as many preachers are saying, that this is a punishment from Allah Almighty. I do not think so. I think this ayah made it very clear that this sign is a warning, takhweef. The word takhweef is related to fear (khawf) and is warning that there is something to be feared.

Fear the consequences

Takhweef is a warning to fear the consequences. If these signs are warning, how do we respond th this scenario? I tried to find the answer in the Quran. In Surah Yaseen, which many of us have memorised (and are reading frequently these days as so many people are departing from this world and going back to Allah), it says whenever ayah came from the Lord people were dismissive of it:

وَءاتَينٰهُم ءايٰتِنا فَكانوا عَنها مُعرِضينَ

We gave them Our revelations, but they turned away from them. (15:81)

وَما تَأتيهِم مِن ءايَةٍ مِن ءايٰتِ رَبِّهِم إِلّا كانوا عَنها مُعرِضينَ

Yet never came to them a sign of their Lord’s signs, but they turned away from it. (36:46)

Ayah

An ayah is a verse in the Quran and also a sign from Allah.

In our history, whenever ayahs or signs were sent, people refused to accept them, they were not interested in the least, they were mu’rideen (the ones who turn their back (i’rad) to it.)

Allah Almighty is describing it visually, as the one who turns away when you are talking to them. Whatever ayah He sent, whether they were physical or spiritual or His Messengers they turned away from them

The warning

Allah Almighty out of His mercy wants people to listen, to understand the severity of what is ahead of them. We do this with small children. For instance, we might tell them not to touch the oven but they keep touching it, so when the oven is warm, not burning hot or cold, we allow them to touch it, so that they learn their lesson without getting burned. Similarly, Allah Almighty wants to warn us.

Wake up call

If we don’t understand Allah’s message to us, Allah Almighty sends His signs to us as a wake up call. The coronavirus is our wake up call to understand our priorities in life.

Refocusing

For too long we have been focused on materialism, consuming and luxury. However since we have been isolated, we realise that life is not about luxury, it is about the basics. We are focused now on survival. Simply staying alive and having the basic necessities.

All the luxury we were chasing is not important now. Even though we spent all our time chasing it. Yet faced with the prospect of our mortality, it is meaningless now. The most important thing we have is our health and family. The rest is illusion.

Nightmare or reality

The situation we are experiencing is so surreal that it feels like we are inside a nightmare and that we might wake up. Yet this is our reality.

It might take some time for people to wake up and realise that this is our new reality. Some philosophers and righteous people have said post-Covid 19 will never be like life before Covid 19. If we live beyond it we will see inshallah.

How to prioritise our life

Allah Almighty wants us to learn from our mistakes how to prioritise our life and how to regain our humanity, which has been lost in our commercialised world. Everything has become commercialised. Even the deen, which has been politicised and polluted to a certain extent.

Allah Almighty wants us to return to the purity of His message, how we apply it and how we connect to Him. We need to have compassion and support one another. This is the test Allah Almighty has sent us all of us so that we may listen, act and respond to His call.

What should our response be to Covid 19 and the signs?

Allah has sent this sign to warn us so how should we respond? I went through the Quran to get the answer. These are the ayahs I found:

وَما كانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُم وَأَنتَ فيهِم ۚ وَما كانَ اللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُم وَهُم يَستَغفِرونَ

But God would not punish them while you are amongst them. And God would not punish them as long as they seek forgiveness. (8:33)

This ayah is related to the Prophet (peace be on him), but it also says that Allah Almighty will not punish us as long as we are seeking forgiveness. This means our response during the time of test should be istighfar. Allah Almighty is saying if you want to be safe, you need to seek forgiveness.

Talabul maghfirah – seek forgiveness

The essence of the word istighfar is ghafara (to forgive).

وَاستَغفِروا رَبَّكُم ثُمَّ توبوا إِلَيهِ ۚ إِنَّ رَبّى رَحيمٌ وَدودٌ

And ask your Lord for forgiveness, and repent to Him. My Lord is Merciful and Loving. (11:90)

وَيٰقَومِ استَغفِروا رَبَّكُم ثُمَّ توبوا إِلَيهِ يُرسِلِ السَّماءَ عَلَيكُم مِدرارًا وَيَزِدكُم قُوَّةً إِلىٰ قُوَّتِكُم وَلا تَتَوَلَّوا مُجرِمينَ

O my people, ask forgiveness from your Lord, and repent to Him. He will release the sky pouring down upon you, and will add strength to your strength. And do not turn away and be wicked. (11:52)

فَقُلتُ استَغفِروا رَبَّكُم إِنَّهُ كانَ غَفّارًا

I said, ‘Ask your Lord for forgiveness; He is Forgiving. (71:10)

Therefore it is clear that Allah Almighty is directing us in the time of calamities and tests to come back to him and seek His forgiveness. Usually, when you fear something as a child you go and hide, or you run to your mum and seek comfort in her.

Call of love

Allah Almighty wants us to come back because of His mercy and love.

Allah Almighty is more merciful than our mother, so He wants to protect us from harm and is calling us back to Him.

Allah Almighty is sending each one of us these letters in our letterbox. You are receiving a letter with your name on it and when you open it, it says come back to me. If you are afraid come back to me. If you are ill, I will cure you. If you are afraid I will give you safety. If you are sad, I will make you happy. If you are overburdened, I will relieve you. If you are tired, I will give you rest.

The mu’rideen are the ones who are not listening or not trying to understand the signs. However the more we listen the more we can understand. Otherwise, the closer we get to the edge of the cliff.

Responding to the call

The Prophet (peace be on him) used to have daily adhkar remembrances and one of the main dhikr was istighfar, even though he himself was ma’sum (infallible and free of sins), this was to teach the ummah, that when you sin you need to ask for forgiveness. Istighfar gives you clarity.

How to seek istighfar

In one of the verses Allah Almighty mentioned that we should return to Him with humility:

وَلَقَد أَرسَلنا إِلىٰ أُمَمٍ مِن قَبلِكَ فَأَخَذنٰهُم بِالبَأساءِ وَالضَّرّاءِ لَعَلَّهُم يَتَضَرَّعونَ

We sent messengers to communities before you, and We afflicted them with suffering and hardship, that they may supplicate us with humility. (6:42)

There is no room for arrogance in Islam. And as we have been shown by the virus, we are not self-sufficient. This is where istighfar comes in, because it is a state of humility.

Ibn Omar (may Allah be pleased with them) said: We counted Messenger’s saying a hundred times during one single sitting:

rabb-ighfir li, wa tubb `alayya, innaka antat-tawwabur-rahim.

رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَتُبْ عَلَيَّ إنَّكَ أَنْتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ

My Rabb! Forgive me and pardon me. Indeed, You are the Oft-Returning with compassion and Ever Merciful. (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

From this he taught the ummah how to seek Allah’s forgiveness, because He is full of mercy and forgiveness.

Istighfar brings relief from distress

Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them) said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:

If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not. (Abu Dawud)

This is good news for us. Whoever is continuously doing istighfar Allah provides them relief from every hardship and an exit from all their problems. So if you have any anxiety, do istighar, unless you have a psychological issue, then seek help from a qualified specialist. But if you have normal anxiety, make a lot of istighfar and Allah will clear it.

The one who [regularly] says Istighfaar: astaghfirullah al-’azeem al-ladhi la ilaha illa huwal-hayyul-qayyum wa atubu ilaih Allah Almighty will open a path for him from all difficulties, remove him from all sorrow, and grant him sustenance from unimagined and unexpected sources. (Abu Dawud)

If you have any concerns, Allah will clear these concerns for you, and your sins will be forgiven.

The master of istighfar –  sayyid ul istighfar

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ

 allahumma anta rabbi la ilaha illa anta khalaqtani wa ana abduka,

wa ana ‘ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu,

a’udhu bika min sharri ma sana’tu,

abu’u laka bini’matika ‘alaiya,

wa abu’u bidhanbi faghfirli fainnahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta

 

O Allah! You are my Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but You. You created me and I am Your sevant, and I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as much as I can. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You. (Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Nasa’I, Ahmad)

Istighfar leads to paradise

Shaddad ibn Aws (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Prophet (peace be on him) said that he (Sayyid al Istighfar) most superior way of asking for forgiveness from Allah is to say (the above du’a).

‘If somebody recites it during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise. (Bukhari).

As per this hadith, whoever says this dua for istighfar every morning will be from people of Jannah. Why? Because it is very comprehensive and detailed. It succinctly captures our relationship with Allah Almighty.

Humility

O Allah! You are my Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but You. You created me and I am Your servant.

The first aspect in this is humility, as we are calling on Allah with deep humility, as a servant, because He is the Lord. He looks after us in every aspect, great or small. So therefore we have no reason at all to be afraid, disturbed or anxious. He is looking after our family, rizq and well being. In every thing, we refer back to Him. He is not just our Lord, but the Rabb of al Alameen (all the worlds). It is the reflection of imaan in words, as we accept Allah as our Lord and Protector.

Understanding our relationship with Allah

It gives us satisfaction, as whoever accepts Allah as His Lord from the bottom of His heart, has tasted the sweetness of imaan and understood the essence of tawheed.

Al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abdul-Muttalib said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“He has found the taste of faith (iman) who is content with Allah as his Lord, with Islam as his religion (code of life) and with Muhammad (ﷺ) as his messenger”. Narrated by Imam Muslim, Tirmidhi and Ahmad.

It acknowledge the favour of Allah upon His creation, as Ibn Ata Al-Sakandari said each being has been given two favours, (whether they are human or not), the first is the favour of existence, and the second is the favour of sustenance.

Allah is sustaining all of His creation. We are apologising to Allah by recognising that even though we may act as if we are independent, we have no ability of our own.

This is why it is this dua is so powerful and considered the Master of Forgiveness.

 I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as much as I can. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You.

Being weak but clinging to the covenant

Next we declare that we hold to our covenant as far as possible- the covenant to believe in Him, respond to his commands and stay away from prohibitions. We are apologising for our shortcomings and asking Allah for forgiveness despite all our mistakes.

We acknowledge that we are weak, that we keep making mistakes but nevertheless we are still clinging to our covenant.

Istighfar breaks our ego. If we think we have no mistakes, we are being eaten by our ego. Our ego will ruin our deeds. The person who never says they are sorry and that it they made a mistake is arrogant person. It is never their fault. There is always someone else to blame. If this is you, then it is a reflection of arrogance.

Gratitude

We acknowledge all the favours of Allah upon us, the ones we know and the vast favours we do not even realise. And with self-isolation we are coming to realise many, many favours which we took for granted. Just to be able to buy milk and bread and be free to leave your home, or to hug and shake hands.

and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You.

Begging from a broken heart

Here we entreat Allah for forgiveness. We are being taught to come to Allah with a broken heart and broken ego, to acknowledge our sins, with remorse and regret and beg Allah for forgiveness. When you are a child, you do this with your mother, and even as an adult you still feel this warmth when you go to your mum. When we do this istighfar, Allah is more merciful to us than our mums. And we appreciate that no one can forgive us but Him, and no one knows some of them except Allah, and no one can shield us from them, except Allah.  And this is a favour. He is not exposing our sins.

Being shielded

Our teacher once said, imagine if Allah exposed your sins, no one would be friends with anyone. Imagine if there was a bad smell for sins, the more you sinned, the more smelt bad, no one would come near you. Yet Allah out of His mercy screens our sins. So don’t expose your sins. Ask Allah to conceal them. Don’t publicise your sins on social media and don’t share other people’s sins and make them go viral.

We see that when we recite this dua and understand it, every single word brings us closer to Allah Almighty.

This dua is the antithesis of arrogance. The first sin was arrogance and it was committed by shaytan, so humility takes us away from shaytan.

We recognise that we are fallible; we are not like the angels without sin. We are human and Allah created us from weakness.

Allah created man weak (4:28)

We need to seek Allah’s support for our weakness. And seek refuge in Him from the evil we have done. It is not about being a man, rather about weeping. Usually we cannot see the arrogance in ourselves. So how do you recognise arrogance in your own self? You need a sincere friend or family member or close to you, whom you trust, who can reflect your mistakes.

This dua connects us to the last two verses of Surah Baqarah in which we beseech Allah for His mercy and forgiveness:

The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], ‘We make no distinction between any of His messengers.’ And they say, ‘We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.’

Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. ‘Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.’ (2:285-286)

Delivered on 26th March 2020 at the Online Youth Circle Session.

share

Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001.His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College).He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.