MUSLIM MICROLESSONS: Plague, Ramadan, Oppression

Muslim Microlessons are regular spiritual nuggets by Omer Mozaffar, who has received Islamic studies training both through traditional and academic sources, and has addressed theological, personal, social matters for college students of all sectarian outlooks. 

Plague continues. Quarantine continues. Divert stress with Iman.

A week into Ramadan fasting, whether you start on the first day or you start later (because of physiology or travel) you get reduced to your real personality. The daily cycle of fasting squeezes us. We struggle to sustain the composure we normally share in public, as unresolved matters within ourselves reveal themselves to us. Meaning, a week of fasting wears you down to your real personality. 

We are now reaching such a point in this national quarantine. The tension we feel will begin to reveal itself as our inner demons, including ingratitude, anger, impatience, fear, selfishness, chauvinism, bigotry, or whatever ills we keep hidden from ourselves rise to the surface.

The hopeful part of Ramadan, however, is that it is only a month-long; this quarantine, in contrast, is indefinite. With each pressing week we will have to continue handling the tension, knowing that our society is a pot of water that is steadily boiling, waiting to burst. 

Such is the experience of oppression: while fasting squeezes us until iftar, Ramadan squeezes us until it completes, but oppression squeezes us indefinitely. Under sustained oppression, people become self-destructive, first by abandoning faith in God’s mercy and justice, second by internalizing self-destructive thinking, third with verbal and physical violence. While I do not anticipate violence in the immediate, a test of our faith has begun. 

The first step, thus, is in seizing control of our hearts by directing them toward Allah, with both an increase in worship *and* reflection on Allah’s mercy. In the period from the Prophet’s first experience of revelation, may peace be upon him, until the Companions stepped onto the Badr field, the *only* true sustenance, protection, and weapons they had was in their reliance and dependence upon Allah. Meaning, the only wealth they had was their Iman; everything else was support. 

If, despite the noise around us, we can shift our focus to developing our Iman, then this moment is a mere temporary struggle that Allah has mandated upon us, that will complete with us leaving the cocoon like a new butterfly spreading its wings. 

For the rest of society, however, as resources become scarce, the pot continues to boil. We will watch people break down in myriad ways and we may have to take additional steps toward protection.

Some plagues are the fault of oppressors. We cannot forget that the most incorrigible person leads us. Remember: as quickly as a virus spreads from body to body, so too do other contagions spread with equal speed, including anger from heart to heart and fake news from mind to mind. Be vigilant regarding your disposition, knowing that the Pharaoh *and* the accursed devil seek to divide us. 

Further, when there is oppression, you know there are others suffering more than you. Walk the steep slope: when you are hungry, find others who are needy and feed them and serve them. 

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