I am an undergraduate student in Toronto and I will never forget the moment I got an email from the university declaring that classes are going to be delivered remotely starting next week. That same morning at 9 am, I was on campus attending a tutorial for one of my classes. I didn’t want to go because of the looming news about how quickly COVID19 was spreading the past few days, but I also thought that it can’t be a huge issue as the classroom is not always full, so I should be fine. Besides, tutorials are mandatory and I needed the mark.
I sat at the back, away from the other students, completed my quiz, and was picked up to go home. Later that day, I had a biology exam that I had spent the last week studying for. I was going home to do some more studying before returning to campus. Then, 2 hours before the exam was to start, right as I was leaving my house to go to campus, I see the email; “Exam has been postponed”. To say that I was upset is an understatement. I went on a furious rant with my friends about how hard I studied for this exam and how prepared I was - how was I going to remember the anatomy of a crocodilian heart or blood circulation of fetal mammalian hearts by the time they figure out the next appropriate exam date?
As I sulked in my room, Allah’s words popped into my head, “…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (Quran 2:216)
My anger subsided and I reviewed my notes daily to keep things fresh. I grew accustomed to my new life in quarantine with my family and made witty remarks about how my introverted self can live her best life now that I can stay home all day long.
But two weeks later, I grew tired and bored of staying home. Netflix wasn’t as fun as it used to be and TikTok was just a mindless void I fell into whenever I was bored (which was quite often). I felt trapped and it was as if my country had grounded me for a month in my room. I felt like I had no freedom because I was being forced to stay home.
But suddenly, subhanallah, I focused my attention on how much freedom I did have. I realized how selfish I was being. I have access to warm, running water. I can eat or order whatever food I want. I have a roof over my head. I can trust my government and trust that I am safe in my own home. I have access to the internet so I can connect with my friends and family whenever I feel lonely. The reality is, I am so privileged and I never realized it until now.
The plight of the Kashmiris has been on my mind constantly. They live in fear of prosecution because of their religious beliefs. They have limited freedom of movement, of internet, of speech. It’s not just about the lack of entertainment, but of whole livelihoods being put on pause. According to NY Times, pharmacists couldn’t restock supplies and social media use was banned. Countries that are at war such as Syria fear for their lives, for their children, every single day. Going to school is as big of a risk as it can get and food insecurities are highest in war-torn parts of the country. But here I am on my comfy bed in Canada whining about the lack of freedom I have.
No one is perfect, we all fall into dark pits sometimes. We shouldn’t blame ourselves for having negative thoughts and for questioning ourselves once in a while. I personally take these moments and turn them into self-reflections, coming up with ways to better myself as a Muslim and citizen. We shouldn’t be scared to share our feelings with friends we trust because doing so allows us to dig deep within ourselves and uncover hidden thoughts that we keep even from ourselves. I learned to empathize with people who are in much worse situations than me and educated myself on their plight. I donated to causes which are fighting COVID19 and donated to rehabilitation efforts in war torn countries. It seems there always is light at the end of every tunnel.
I reflected on the ni’mah I do have from Allah and learned to stop taking what I have for granted. Now that we are in the midst of the Holy month of Ramadan, I urge us to give to those who have less and to take a few minutes out of our day to reflect on little blessings we enjoy every day – the ability to walk to the fridge and eat fresh fruit, the ability to learn from free courses online, the ability to say salaam to our family every day.
I completed an online course taught by Professor Steve Joordens of the University of Toronto and he remarked that during this time, we should be physical distancing, but becoming socially closer. In essence, this is part of our duty as Muslims, to check up on our neighbours, our friends, our family. And now more than ever, it is essential we practice social closeness. Quarantine, as bad as it seems, not only made me a better Muslim, but it made me an empathetic human being. This just goes to show that Allah truly is the best of planners. https://www.coursera.org/learn/manage-health-covid-19/home/welcome https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/technology/india-kashmir-internet.html https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/india-restores-internet-kashmir-7-months-blackout-200305053858356.html