Allah it is Who enables you to journey through land and sea until, when you are on board the ships and they sail with them with a fair breeze and they rejoice in it, there overtakes them (the ships) a violent wind and the waves come on them from every side and they think they are encompassed, then they call upon Allah, purifying their religion for Him, saying, ‘If Thou deliver us from this, we will surely be of the thankful.’
But when He has delivered them, lo! they begin to commit excesses in the earth wrongfully. O ye men, your excesses are only against your own selves. Have the enjoyment of the present life. Then to Us shall be your return; and We will inform you of what you used to do. (Al Quran 10:22-23)
By M Adam Ahmad, Al Hakam
In times of crisis or calamities, people use different means to lessen the effect or impact of the trauma to try and help them cope. One of the most widely recognised mechanisms that individuals utilise the world over in trying times is to turn towards religion.
Sociologists and researchers have conducted studies to comprehend the response of mankind in stressful times in various kinds of crises. They have found that religion is most commonly used to deal with unprecedented and uncertain cataclysmic situations.
Religion and spirituality are the two terms that are frequently used in researches related to the said subject.
According to their definition, used in almost all studies, religion is a collection of morals, beliefs, practices and symbols that is almost always under the supervision and guidance of a central governing body or an institution; thus, religion is an organised and formal way of man’s communion with God Almighty.
Religions also emphasise the importance of following certain tenets that all adherents follow in the same way, so usually, practicing a religion will transcend racial and geographical divides. (https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-isspirituality)
On the other hand, spirituality is thought of as more of a personal factor and private enterprise. It is an intrinsic relation that a person has with the Supreme Being from Whom they seek help or support in times of need and crisis. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705681/)
Religion plays the most important role in coping with stressful circumstances. It allows a person to count on the support of their God as well as the central authority and other members of their congregation and this, coupled with their intrinsic spirituality, promotes resilience and allows for healing.
Studies have also shown that adherents of religion live longer than non-religious people. The reasons for their longevity include seeking spiritual support, forgiveness and affiliation with social organisation. (www.aau.edu/researchscholarship/featured-research-topics/people-religious-affiliations-live-longerstudy-shows)
When a person is going through a crisis – for example they are in quarantine or a lockdown, and they see that others are dying from an illness for which there is no cure – they may experience depression and suffer anxiety.
It is in times like these that a person, who in other times may not have been an active practitioner or even spiritually inclined, will turn to religion for guidance from the Almighty God and will seek emotional reassurance, trying to cultivate a close relationship with God and other fellow believers in order to alleviate the emotional strain and trauma of such a profound crisis.
Studies carried out by The Guardian in the UK have shown that in the ongoing lockdown and quarantine caused by the coronavirus, more and more people are turning towards religion. Harriet Sherwood writes:
“A quarter of adults in the UK have watched or listened to a religious service since the coronavirus lockdown began, and one in 20 have started praying during the crisis, according to a new survey.” (theguardian.com/world/2020/may/03/british-public-turn-to-prayer-as-one-infour-tune-in-to-religious-services)
When people turn to religion in flocks, they seek relief from emotional stress and guidance, so it is the duty of religion to provide them with solace and direction. However, if we cast even a cursory glance at religions of the world, we see them lacking when it comes to providing emotional or mental relief to their people in crisis.