Source: USA Today
Omar Ricci knew the title of his khutbah, or sermon, at the Islamic Center of Southern California would catch some people off guard. “Thank God for the coronavirus,” read the headline, which made more than one Muslim in the audience do a double-take.
When he spoke, Ricci explained what he meant: Thank God for this reminder that we are not in control and must always be dependent on God. Thank God for this reminder that we should be grateful for all things – for groceries, toilet paper, good health. Thank God for reminding us life is fragile, and “we had best appreciate the miracle and blessing that God has given us in creating us as souls.”
As a spokesperson for the ICSC, home to one of the oldest and most prominent mosques in the USA, Ricci is one of many faith leaders around the world helping their congregations navigate the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus, which has killed more than 49,000 worldwide, infected nearly 1 million and crippled the global economy. As church services go viral and newsletters promising of God’s goodness throughout this tragedy populate inboxes, questions about whether God created coronavirus – or if it’s God’s will for the virus to flourish or if it was sent as some sort of punishment – abound. Many faith leaders say this is not a punishment, and they challenge their followers to find God even in suffering.
From Ricci’s perspective, coronavirus is not only a test of faith but a “solidifying agent of faith,” he says. “When you’re in difficult times, that’s when you actually get to practice faith.”
He points to the 67th chapter of the Quran, verse 2: “He who created death and life – to test you – as to which of you is better in conduct. He is the Almighty, the Forgiving.”
From an Islamic standpoint, Ricci says, part of that test includes how Muslims react in difficult times.
“The Quran says trials will come and to be prepared for them,” Ricci says. “So how do we react – do we go off and hoard toilet paper? Or do we take care of others? If we know trials are coming, that’s where faith is supposed to kick in.”