In the midst of our Covid suffering, the birth of our grandchild brought new hope and optimism

Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar

My family and I contracted the Coronavirus and tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday 20 December 2020. We are extremely grateful that we only experienced mild symptoms and after a 14-day period of quarantine we are all feeling much better and are on the mend. We are grateful to Allah, the Source of all-Healing, for all of Allah’s mercy and protection during our trial of illness. We also thank all of you for your concerns, support and especially for your du`as and for healing. May Allah bless and reward you and your families abundantly and keep you all safe and healthy. 

Needless to say, we have been through a difficult and challenging time. What made our experience even more harrowing, however, were the almost daily reports of record numbers of infections and deaths. May Allah grant all those who have passed away during this pandemic the status of martyrs and resurrect them with the Prophets, the virtuous on the Day of Judgment. Amin.

Throughout our ordeal we were sustained by the loving care and supplications we received from our loved ones and friends. But we were also given renewed hope and optimism in the midst of our suffering by the wonderful news of the birth of our eighth grandchild, Hud. Hud Amlay was born on the 22nd of December 2020, the third day of our quarantine.  This was followed three days later on the 25th of December by an email from a colleague at the University of Notre Dame, USA, asking me if I would consider officiating at an online name giving tasmiya ceremony for her new baby son. On the 30 December 2020, the tenth day of our quarantine we received more good news in the form of the birth of Yara Moosa Palenski, the first grandchild of my good friend and colleague, Professor Ebrahim Moosa. Yara is a Persian word meaning strength and resilience. An appropriate name for the challenging time we live in. 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that close to 116 million new babies were born across the globe during the past nine months since Covid-19 was recognized as a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. 

This constant and steady news of new born babies to people who were close to us was an important part of our spiritual sustenance and emotional well-being during the period of our illness. It gave us hope and optimism for the future.

We welcomed and celebrated the news of the births of these beautiful babies and thousands of other newborn healthy babies across the globe in the midst of this pandemic. It reminded me of the following poignant quotation by the renowned India poet, Rabindranath Tagore:Every child born comes with the message that God is not yet despaired of humankind”

This quotation resonates well with the Islamic theological perspective which holds that each child is born in fitrah i.e. pure and without sin and carries within him/herself the breath of God. This positive Islamic perspective of human life is best illustrated in Surah Al-Sajdah, chapter 32, verse 9, which reads as follows:

“God fashioned the human being in due proportion and breathed into him something of God’s spirit. Then He endowed you with [the faculties of] hearing and sight and feeling and understanding:but little thanks do you give!” 

The lesson from my Covid-19 illness which I would like to share with you is that in the midst of the suffering and death all around us we need to remain positive and hopeful that we will eventually get through this pandemic. For Allah, the Giver and Taker of Life, has promised that at the same time that we are experiencing hardship and suffering there will be ease (Qur’an 94:5-6).

One way in which we can keep hope alive in the midst of the pandemic is to be attentive to the vitality and creativity of our children and to ensure their well-being. Children are not merely physically more resilient than adults in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic but they also inspire us with optimism for the future. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic we need to focus some of our attention to creating a supportive environment in which the innate talents and zest for life of all children can assist humanity in reshaping a post-Covid world of greater compassion and socio-economic and environmental justice in which all of humanity can flourish and reach their full human potentials.

I conclude with three practical suggestions as to how we may be able to support children in the midst of this difficult time. First, we need to spend quality time with our children. With work from home being a more common experience for many, it is important to set aside specific time for your children, time where your attention is solely occupied by them. 

Second, we must instill in our children a great sense of gratitude for all of the blessings in our lives despite our current difficulties. We may consider creating a thankful box once a week where they write something they are grateful for during this pandemic and place it in the box. It is vitally important to instill in them a sense of shukr and gratitude and to understand the many blessings Allah has bestowed upon us.

Last but not least we should have casual conversations with our children to hear what their thoughts are about the current situation and listen to how they are making sense and coping with reality. We must guard against projecting our own fears and grief onto our children and seek rather to balance the need for safety while nurturing their curiosity and zest for life. Our children are our future and we should strive to expose them to vistas of a more caring, compassionate and socially just world.

In conclusion I am optimistic and hopeful that many children will be enriched and inspired by this distinctive period in human history to fashion a more just and compassionate post-Covid world. 

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