By Maryam Mahmood – first year HSPS student

I remember carrying out my normal Friday routine of attending lectures, followed by jummah, blissfully unaware that it would be my last day for a long while doing so. This one Friday also had a scheduled shura meeting where we all sat optimistically discussing our plans and ideas for the upcoming Easter term. 

It all changed in a day.

I woke up the next morning to a sudden break in routine and the erupt news that we are experiencing a pandemic. 

We get so caught up in daily life that we forget that we’re not in control of the future. We dismiss our own weakness as humans and fail to acknowledge regularly that Allah (SWT) is the almighty, the all powerful and ultimately has the most control. 

عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ الْكَبِيرُ الْمُتَعَالِ

“He is the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible, the Great, the High Exalted” (13:9) 

Alhamdulillah, ISoc has been a community for me since arriving in Cambridge and the thought of not re-uniting for another term, I’m sure for many of us, is difficult. Especially as someone who does not have access to the same community at home, I was in denial about the university entering the red phase. I was eagerly waiting for the email telling me that everything is okay now. Everything is fixed now. Easter term will be commencing as normal and all my plans for ISoc would still be on their way to becoming a reality. 

Instead I received panicked phone calls, urgent news updates and empty promises from the institutions around us. 

I acknowledge that I am in a privileged position. I was able to easily pack my bags and head home once my college told everyone to leave. International students cannot do the same. I may miss out my first Easter term but I’ll be back for Michaelmas in October insha’allah. Finalists cannot say the same. Some people are going home only to be stuck in vulnerable positions. 

But remember, whatever your situation, this is ultimately a test from Allah (SWT). 

Let us take away a lesson from Surah Ar-Rum which states 

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

“Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men’s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return” (30:41) 

We should view the pandemic as a reminder that we need to adopt both taqwa (fear of God) as well as tawakkul (trust in God) into our daily lives. Have you ever thought about why our iman tends to be at its highest when faced with difficult situations and hardships? It is during these tough times that our hearts yearn for our Lord the most. Almost as if we know subconsciously that the solution to our problems can only be sought through our repentance and remembrance of Allah (SWT). 

I find that being Muslim during a troubling time like the one we are currently experiencing is incredibly comforting. While I watch everyone around me struggle to find positivity amongst the bleakness, I know that I’ve got Islam. And Islam teaches us to be patient and put all of our trust in our Lord. Everything that is happening is maktub. The uncertainty that is enveloping the world currently can either be a) cue to panic or b) time for self-reflection. It’s a test to see if we will distance ourselves from our faith or grasp on to it tighter. 

This is why I urge you all to use this time to reconnect with your faith. View this period of self-isolation as the perfect opportunity to put your spiritual needs at the forefront and start attending to all the tasks you’ve been putting off: memorise that surah, delve into Islamic history and study the fiqh. 

Ramadan is also right around the corner; don’t wait for it to arrive before you start perfecting your iman. Start now. COVID-19 may have resulted in a break from our normal hectic lives but this break is a chance to relax and take things slow. A chance to reconnect with your faith, rebuild your iman and experience Ramadan at your own pace. 

I was very much looking forward to ISoc iftars and Eid garden party; all of which I’ve heard positive things about. The cancellation of these events as well as the prospect of a Ramadan without community is upsetting for everyone. But now is a chance to focus on your own spiritual self-growth and a reminder that everything in this life is temporary and can be taken away without a moment’s notice. Everything is temporary other than your religion. So let Islam ground you, let it act as your diversion and as your comfort.