Surat Al-Mulk: A Spiritual Antidote to the Global Pandemic

Dina Mohamed Basiony, April 19, 2020 Spiritual Productivity

In this global pandemic, it is understandable that we have fears and anxieties. Reflecting on the current situation and the way out of this global crisis can make us feel overwhelmed. But is there a way to find peace, perspective and balance in approaching this situation?

This is what Surat Al Mulk (‘The Sovereignty’ Chapter 67 of the Qur’an) presents; it gives a powerful perspective and a means to find peace and answers to many of the fears and uncertainties ahead. In this article, we’ll share a few thoughts and lessons inspired by this Chapter.

A Mindset Shift: Give up Control to The One in Control

تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ الْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

“Exalted (Blessed) is He who holds all control in His Hand; and He has power over all things” (Qur’an 67: 1)

On March 29, The Director-General of the World Health Organisation tweeted one word commenting on the global pandemic, and that was “Humility”. He explained in a later conference that this pandemic made us realize how vulnerable we all are. We are not in control, so we have to be humble. Even the world’s greatest powers are humbled. Which world leader, king or CEO can come out and comfortably say, “don’t worry, I have everything under control”? None.

The first word of Surat Al-Mulk in Arabic is often translated to blessed or exalted. Yet, the word “Tabaraka”, is a superlative form for the word “Barakah” that contains all meanings of exaltation, greatness, abundance, and permanence of virtues and excellences. When this superlative form of Barakah is describing God, it means He is Unlimitedly Superior over everything else in His creation, He has complete control and the entire dominion of the universe is in His grip.

Why is this relevant?

One of the primary Barakah Culture mindsets we promote at Productive Muslim Company is: being Allah-centric versus being Self/Ego-centric. This is important now more than ever as we’ve realized how the self is limited and how incapable it is to deal with inevitable matters beyond our human capacity. If matters were strictly in the hands of our limited worldly means, we should certainly panic. But when we are directed to the Unlimited, we experience peace and tranquility knowing that He is capable over all things.

Before this pandemic, many of us were centering our lives around mini-gods we created and served with our time and utmost attention, like our work and relationships. Yet all these things are now submitting to new realities beyond their control. That career which was making us miss prayers, disconnect with our family, and be busy in the “rat race” of life is now potentially not going to survive this pandemic. Those social relationships which made us neglect our values all in the name of “fitting in” may not be accessible for a long time. It’s as if we’re being directed to let go of these ‘mini-gods’ and instead connect and pray to The One True God, Who’s truly in control. We realize the helplessness of all that we felt was important before, and we turn for help, peace and a feeling of vastness and abundance from The Vast, The All-Capable. When we align our will with The Will of the One in control, it can lift much of the fear and burden we experience.

“And it is Allah’s Will to lighten your burdens, for humankind was created weak.” (Qur’an 4: 28)

Lesson #1: Be Allah-Centric, not self-centric. The whole world from the East to the West is in His Hand. When we align with The One in control, the Capable Owner, not the limited creatures, this will give peace and alleviate much of our panic, stress, and anxiety.‘If matters were strictly in the hands of the limited worldly means, we can certainly panic. But when we are directed to the Unlimited, we experience peace and tranquility knowing that He is Capable over all things.’ Dina Mohamed BasionyClick To Tweet

Dealing with the Fear of Death

الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ

“[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Most Forgiving -” (Qur’an 67: 2)

The modern world has difficulty processing death and is obsessed with Life.  Yet, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) highlights in this verse that He created death before He created life. The time, date, and scenario of our death have been decreed by the Creator before He breathed life into our bodies. In a hadith, narrated Abdullah bin Mas`ud, that “The Messenger of God Muhammad, the true and truly inspired, narrated to us:

Verily the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for 40 days in the form of a nutfah (a drop), then he becomes an alaqah (clot of blood) for a like period, then a mudghah (morsel of flesh) for a like period. Then an angel is sent to him (by Allah) and the angel is allowed (ordered) to write four things; his rizq (sustenance), his (date of) death, his actions, and whether he will be a wretched one or a blessed one and then the soul is breathed into him.” [Sahih Al Bukhari]

This is an important reminder: The Coronavirus will not create anyone’s death beyond the decree of the Creator Himself. It will not speed up or delay our death; our death date has already been decided before our souls were breathed into us. This necessitates that we don’t panic over the Coronavirus itself. But to benefit from the pandemic as a strong reminder of the closeness of death.

When we are afraid and panicking over our lives and/or our loved ones’ life, what we can do is turn to the Creator of death and life remembering that He is The Incomparably Merciful and Compassionate. And we ask Him “O Allah, if you have decreed that this is the time for me/my parents/my children to return back to You, then descend upon us Your mercy and reassure our hearts, and make our meeting with You the best day we’ve ever lived. And if you know that it is best for us to remain alive and increase in good actions in this life, then, give us steadfastness and enable us to do what is best for us to do in this life and protect us the way You protect your closest slaves”.

Acknowledging that Death has been decided for us is to acknowledge that this life is not the end. It is a phase. And the phase must end sooner or later, so we accept that in peace and get ready and look forward to the coming eternal period. This is living with an Akhirah/Hereafter-focus (another Barakah Culture Mindset).

When we die, we go back to Allah, the Creator whose Beautiful Names include The Incomparably Merciful, The Source of Beauty, Light, Peace, Affection, Generosity. Going back to Allah is not a source of panic, rather it’s the ultimate moment of peace. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught: “None of you should die but hoping only good from Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.” [Sahih Muslim]

Lesson #2: Be-Akhira Centered and not Worldly-Focused. When we remember that death is not created by Corona, but created by Allah, we don’t overly fear Corona, but we take the necessary precautionary measures and turn to Allah. We only need to do as much good as we can do, and surrender to Him, and He is The Most Generous and Most Forgiving towards those who surrender to Him.
‘The Coronavirus will not create anyone’s death beyond the decree of the Creator Himself. It will not speed up or delay our death; our death date has already been decided before our souls were breathed into us.’ Dina Mohamed BasionyClick To Tweet

Dealing with Panic over Safety & Security

أَمَّنْ هَذَا الَّذِي هُوَ جُنْدٌ لَكُمْ يَنْصُرُكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ الرَّحْمَنِ إِنِ الْكَافِرُونَ إِلَّا فِي غُرُورٍ

“Or who is it that could be an army for you to aid you other than the Most Merciful? The disbelievers are not but in delusion.” (Qur’an 67: 20)

The greatest countries of the world have spent fortunes on armies and weapons, but all of this is not helping them fight an enemy so small that it can’t be seen with the naked eye.

“Or who is it that could be an army for you to aid you other than the Most Merciful?”

There is no army, no guns and no tanks that can help anyone if Allah decided to affect them with the disease.

The Prophet explains “(There is) no ‘Adwa (no contagious disease that is conveyed without Allah’s permission).” [Sahih Al Bukhari]

This means that no disease will decide on its own who to infect beyond the permission and decree of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The matter is beyond the calculated human control. These reminders are a means for people to reflect, turn to Allah and overcome their self-centeredness.

On the authority of Abu Abbas Abdullah bin Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said “One day I was behind the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)[riding on the same mount] and he said,

“O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” [Tirmidhi]

Lesson #3: Take the means but don’t be attached to the outcomes/results, and increase your mindfulness of Allah. This is a reminder to reclaim our sense of humility instead of arrogance over our means and resources because we’ve seen how the strongest of means can stand helpless if Allah wills.

Dealing with Fear over Scarcity of Resources & Provision

أَمَّنْ هَذَا الَّذِي يَرْزُقُكُمْ إِنْ أَمْسَكَ رِزْقَهُ بَلْ لَجُّوا فِي عُتُوٍّ وَنُفُورٍ

“Or who can provide for you if He withholds His provision? Yet they persist in their insolence and their avoidance of the Truth.” (Qur’an 67: 21)

The fear over the scarcity of resources and provision has led many people to hoard goods and empty supermarkets’ shelves. People’s fears are understandable, some have kids or old parents and are afraid of not being able to go out if they have to quarantine themselves. On a more grand scale, with a looming global recession, there are legitimate fears of losing one’s job and means of income.

It’s in the human instinct to hoard things and fear uncertainty, yet the above verse reminds us to embrace the abundance mindset knowing that sustenance is not confined by worldly resources, rather it comes from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

One man came to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and he gave him until he was pleased, then this man returned to his people saying: “O my people! Embrace Islam because Muhammad gives like one who has no fear of poverty!” [Muslim]

This is the abundance-mindset. Our hearts should not be attached to what’s on the supermarket shelves or any worldly provider, our hearts should be attached to the endless source, The One who provides from the heavens and the earth, and He is unboundedly and unlimitedly Vast and never affected by any circumstances.

To bring this meaning closer, in a powerful hadith, the Prophet narrates that Allah Almighty says:

“O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, and the humans of you and the jinn of you, were all to stand together in one place and ask of Me, and I were to give everyone what he requested, then that would not decrease what I Possess, except what is decreased of the ocean when a needle is dipped into it.” [Muslim]

This is why the Prophet said that giving is a sign of faith because panic and withholding means one only sees worldly providers and disregards the Unlimited Source of Provision.

A man asked the Messenger of Allah Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): ‘O Messenger of Allah, which kind of charity is best? He said: ‘Giving charity when you are in good health, and feeling stingy, hoping for a long life and fearing poverty.”‘ [Sunan an-Nasa’i]

And he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also said,

“[…] charity is a proof (of one’s faith), and patience is illumination, and the Qur’an is a proof either for you or against you. Every person starts his day as a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or causing its ruin.” [Muslim]

So, this is the time to believe in Allah and adopt the abundance mindset – especially with the month of Ramadan ahead of us – and in doing so, you will see how much vastness will enter your heart and life. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “If you all depend on Allah with due reliance, He would certainly give you provision as He gives it to birds who go forth hungry in the morning and return with a full belly at dusk”.

Lesson #4: Attach your heart to Allah and give. ِAllah Almighty says in a Hadith Qudsi: “Spend (on charity), O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.” [Bukhari and Muslim].The worldly resources are not our sole providers, they’re just means, our sustenance comes from above unlimitedly through Allah. Allah can open and create means where you couldn’t imagine and couldn’t expect.

Remembering our Ultimate Destination and Moving Steadfastly Towards It

أَفَمَنْ يَمْشِي مُكِبًّا عَلَى وَجْهِهِ أَهْدَى أَمَّنْ يَمْشِي سَوِيًّا عَلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ

“Who is better guided: someone who falls on his face, or someone who walks steadily on a straight path?” (Qur’an 67: 22)

Because of the fear and uncertainty of the global pandemic, many people have found themselves panicking or feeling low and depressed. We need to challenge ourselves and truly recognize that this world is not the end. We’re not going to stay here forever. This shall pass, like everything else.

Life is a journey; any journey has paths. And the straight path has a clear beginning and an end. In Islamic theology, Allah reminds us that we come from Him and we’re journeying back to Him; this reminder in times of difficulty is important because it brings to our attention the destination and that whatever we’re in is just one stop, not the final point.

“We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops. And give good news to those who patiently endure—who, when faced with a disaster, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah and indeed to Him we will [all] return” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are rightly guided.” (Qur’an 2: 155-157)

Additionally, the straight path is in the middle of two extremes. one neither reacts with extreme hopelessness nor extreme indifference and obliviousness. The straight path is about balance and moderation in feelings and actions while moving steadily towards our ultimate destination.

The emotional and spiritual impact of remembering the destination is that one feels a sense of relief from sadness. Not necessarily because the situation has ended, but because regardless of how bad it is, it’s not the end. Therefore, the person gets internally strengthened and comforted due to connecting their hearts and souls with their Creator and remembering the vast relief that He has prepared in the destination to come.

“As for those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and take the straight path towards Him, the angels come down to them and say, ‘Have no fear or grief, but rejoice in the good news of Paradise, which you have been promised. We [angels] are your allies in the worldly life and [are so] in the Hereafter. And you will have therein whatever your souls desire, and you will have therein whatever you request [or wish]” (Qur’an 41: 30-31)

Lesson #5: Look up to Him and have hope in Him and keep moving towards Him. Try not to spend too much time looking down in this world and getting absorbed in sadness, stress, and anxiety over matters beyond your control (and certainly don’t look down to your phones and get sucked into endless cycles of negativity). Do as much as you can and leave the rest to Him.

Finding Mercy and Peace in the Trust & Submission

قُلْ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ آمَنَّا بِهِ وَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا فَسَتَعْلَمُونَ مَنْ هُوَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ

“Say, “He is the Most Merciful; we believe in Him and we put our trust in Him…” (Qur’an 67: 29)

The Name of Allah that He chose to use in the above verse is Ar-Rahman, it is a superlative form of Merciful. It means the incomparably Merciful. The name of the womb in Arabic الرحم is extracted from this specific Name of Allah, Ar-Rahman الرحمن. 

‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Awf’ said: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saying: “Allah, Most Blessed and Most High, said: ‘I am Allah, and I am Ar-Rahman. I created the Rahim (womb) and named it after My Name.…’” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi] 

In the aforementioned verse, we are asked to say that we rely upon and put our trust in Ar-Rahman. If we reflect on this early stage of the womb: who was supporting the child in its mother’s womb? Who was feeding it and moving it around and taking care of it completely? It is Ar-Rahman. Even the mother, the most merciful upon her child, was not able to plan and do that on her own. It was a matter left to Allah to create all conditions of comfort for the child’s sustenance and survival in the mother’s womb, and He completely took care of that. 

This is The One we believe in and trust now. And He is perfectly capable of taking care of us now like He’s taken care of us before.

Lesson #6: In remembering the vastness of His mercy, one can submit and trust in peace.

Does this mean we ignore public health measures?

Of course not. We are rewarded to take the means. And all the means that Allah has presented to us are part of His Mercy. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has instructed quarantine, not placing a patient with a healthy person and regular hygiene as precautionary measures. Another holistic perspective is what the Prophet taught in this hadith, for example, narrated ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

“I asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), “How can salvation be achieved?” He replied, “Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins.” [At-Tirmidhi].

The advice here can’t be more relevant today:

  • ‌Keep to your house/Stay at home: This is the global request of health officials, and it has been recommended by the Prophet 1400 years ago. Staying at home allows one to collect his thoughts and emotions, and protect himself and others from any potential harm. ‌
  • Hold‌ ‌your‌ ‌tongue: Neither flood others with every thought you have, nor open your soul to receiving every thought they present thus overwhelming and stressing your soul. Phone addiction and 24h exposure to media can be very troubling to the soul. Instead, make it a time of peace by unfollowing toxic/unfruitful content, and embrace the quietness and what it’s meant to bring internally.
  • Regret your sins/Cry over your sins: Just like the body is purified with water, the soul is purified with tears; the sincere humble tears of acknowledging one’s weakness and shortcomings. This humility brings in the powerful aid of The All-Powerful, The Most Merciful Himself. As the Prophet said, “no one will humble himself for Allah’s sake except that Allah raises his status.”

The imposed confinement and quietness we’re in calls for introspection and self-accountability. It opens room for reflection on one’s purpose in life, shortcomings ‌and‌ ‌the way forward to mend one’s ‌ ‌affairs‌ and evolve from this situation as a better version of oneself. ‌

The purpose of this article is not to negate the importance of taking the means, rather it’s about balancing between taking the physical means while‌ ‌connecting‌ ‌the‌ ‌heart‌ ‌to‌ ‌The‌ Wise, All-Capable ‌Healer‌ ‌Himself. This is a holistic approach that serves the body while attending to the needs of the soul, thus providing the much-needed balance, peace, and tranquility.

Final Thoughts

Before this pandemic, we were hustling. We were rushing, we were not being present in the moment. But now we’re in lockdown. The whole world is in lockdown. Allah has limited our bodies so that our hearts can move.

This is the time to return home in the physical and spiritual sense. Return home with our bodies, and return to Allah with our souls, because our souls too need to connect with its home.

“Indeed we belong to Allah and indeed to Him we will return”

“Those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah- truly it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find peace” (Qur’an 13: 28)

Written by Dina Mohamed Basiony

Dina Mohamed Basiony is the Chief Content Officer at the Productive Muslim Company. She is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt and frequently writes for global Islamic platforms.

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