When we hear the word devastation, an image that comes to mind is of a ruined building in a war-torn country. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the world sees another type of ‘devastation,’ worse in many ways than the destruction caused by missiles or war. All of us are fighting an enemy that we cannot see, and even worse, we do not have any effective weapon to combat it yet. At this time, there is no known cure for this virus, and as a result, the number of people dying grows exponentially every day. Since the outbreak in China last December (and as of June 2020), the coronavirus has infected more than 6.5 million people worldwide, 386,000 patients have died,, with the world’s superpower, the United States, experiencing the most COVID-19 cases in the world.
From Uzbekistan to the United States, the coronavirus is causing great devastation on many levels, such as economic disruption, unemployment, an increase in depression and anxiety, and the spread of misinformation. This article briey analyzes three aspects of major devastation due to coronavirus – the economy, health, and communication.
Economic Devastation: Unemployment and Disruption of Supply Chain Market
According to a Federal Reserve survey, one in five American workers lost their jobs in March, and almost 40 percent of those belong to lower-income households. American workers have led over three million new unemployment claims (1). This data provides evidence that the economic impact is hitting more impoverished Americans harder than others. It is common sense that when the economy declines, and people lose their jobs, these factors cause higher anxiety as people begin to ask how will we survive in this pandemic and uncertain situation?
Moreover, according to a survey conducted by the Institute For Supply Chain Management, nearly 75 percent of companies reported supply chain disruptions in one form or the other due to coronavirus-related transportation restrictions, and the figure is expected to rise in the future. Other interesting figures that emerged from the survey included the lack of any trace of a well-thought-out plan for almost half the companies in case of a supply chain disruption leading back to China. Over 50 percent of the companies also reported experiencing sudden, unexpected delays in receiving orders, a problem compounded by supply chain information blackout from China (2).
In addition to rising unemployment, consumers are also hoarding and stockpiling essential commodities and over-the-counter medicines. This has led to unusual stress on the supply chains. While this activity leads to stress, if the stockpiling goes beyond a few weeks, it is natural for consumers to be anxious about availability and resort to this kind of behavior. This unnatural spike in demand and the required supply fluctuations are extremely difficult to handle and together create a harmful effect in the entire global supply system.
Although many Americans receive aid from the government, the nation’s economy is becoming worse every day. The fact that the origins of the virus lie in China, the de-facto ‘factory of the world,’ has only served to emphasize the damage from an economic perspective with a significant percentage of supplychains collapsing in shock and crumbling with each passing day. Although the world’s philanthropists such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg, and many more, pledge to help in the best manner, their help will not provide a permanent solution.
We all learn from history that economic decline is normal and often happens during a variety of crises. However, what the world is missing is the true new world order. A comprehensive system that gives permanent solutions whenever an unexpected disaster like the coronavirus happens. The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), who is also the Promised Messiah and Mahdi awaited by major religions in the Latter Days, has shared the solution. In 1905, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) set out his vision for the new world order in his book Al-Wasiyyat, or The Will. This is a divinely-guided voluntary system in which Ahmadi Muslims are encouraged to donate from 1/10th to 1/3rd of their wealth for a variety of social and spiritual benefits.
Imagine even if only a small percentage of the world’s population, regardless of socio-economic status, followed this system, people would have resources to meet their basic needs such as food, shelter, and medical relief, which is the essence of the Islamic social and economic system. We are hearing in many reports that people are protesting around the nation, demanding to work again. Islam also teaches its followers to use intelligence and skills. Thus the economic devastation happening because of coronavirus teaches a valuable lesson that everything is temporary, and we cannot always have things under our control. Islam again provides effective solutions to this uncertainty. Almighty Allah says:
“Hearken ye! To Allah belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth. He does know what condition you are in” (3).
Health Devastation: Anxiety and Depression
Isolated and bored are the two words that are often being used to describe the majority of people in the world right now. Although there are many opportunities to engage in virtual events, as human beings, we are social creatures. We must go out of our homes, visit friends, enjoy the fresh air, and participate in in-person contact and connections. Our nature is notprogrammed solely for online meetings or virtual travel to Hawaii. Dr. Lorna Breen, NYC Emergency Room Physician, died by suicide in April because, among other factors, she had challenges handling the devastating situation at the hospital in which she worked, where she witnessed the suffering and helplessness of countless patients(4). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. They may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern” (5). There are many more examples of depression and anxiety in this pandemic. General guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are to take care of yourself, your loved ones, take a break from coronavirus media coverage, do not hesitate to seek help, connect with others, and engage in activities that make you happy (6). Islam also provides remedies for anxiety. God says in the Qur’an:
“Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort” (7).
Communication Devastation: Spread of Rumors and Misinformation
In this Digital Age, we spread information that is within reach of our fingertips. We may unconsciously forward messages without checking their accuracy first. The Holy Qur’an commands news verification in Chapter 49, Verse 7, where it states:
“O ye who believe! If an unrighteous person brings you any news, ascertain the correctness of the report fully, lest you harm a people in ignorance, and then become repentant for what you have done” (8).
This verse is crystal clear in stating that if anyone tells you something, be it in the form of a face-to-face conversation or posting a message via social media, we, the recipients, should not believe it just as is. The recipient should check the given information carefully from trusted sources and validate whether the information is true.
This pandemic has also caused an increase in racism against Asian Americans in large part due to false information about the origin of the disease. In USA Today, , journalist Kristine Phillips wrote about how Asian Americans, not just those of Chinese descent, have been victims of racist behavior. The title of the article speaks for itself: “They look at me and think I’m some kind of virus’: What it’s like to be Asian during the coronavirus pandemic.” Phillips talks about Carl Chan, President of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, who often got dirty looks from other people just because of his race. Phillips also included guidelines from experts such as Cynthia Choi, Co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. Choi urged against using the country of origin of the virus when discussing in public because she believed “it does not help us solve problems” (9). Nowadays, the world is a global village and responsible journalism l as was reported by USA Today in this instance is much needed because responsible journalism provides the most reliable sources.
In conclusion, it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic appears to be like a little war. The world seems to be under darkness and needs enlightenment. People are searching for hope and eternal peace. The world has faced many wars, conflicts, and disasters through the course of its history, and it has recovered.
The economic decline can and will improve; however, the thing that cannot be easily replaced is moral decline. Spreading hatred, racist comments, and false rumors is more dangerous than the virus itself because the only one who can control hatred is oneself, not the government, nor the scientist. Thus while the coronavirus already has caused so much damage in the world both physically and mentally, we all can take part in being the solution by not spreading moral devastation in the form of hate and misinformation. During this time of difficulty, it is reasonable to feel sad and be worried. Just as there is always morning sunshine after night, the Holy Qur’an gives us a powerful reminder:
“Surely there is ease after hardship” (10).
This article appears in the Summer 2020 issue.
1. “Federal Reserve Board issues Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households.”https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/pressreleases/other20200514a.htm
2. “COVID-19 Survey: Impacts On Global Supply Chains” https://www.instituteforsupplymanagement.org/news/NewsRoomDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=31171&SSO=1 3. The Holy Qur’an (24:65). Holy Qur’an translation by Maulawi Sher Ali.
4. Romo, Vanessa. “NYC Emergency Room Physician Who Treated Coronavirus Patients Dies by Suicide.” npr.org. Apr. 28, 2020. 6. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-up dates/2020/04/28/847305408/nyc-emergency-room-physician-who-treated-coronavirus-patients-dies-by-suicide
6. “Coping with Stress.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
7. The Holy Qur’an (13:29). Translation by Hazrat Maulawi Sher Ali.
8. The Holy Qur’an (49:27). Translation by Hazrat Maulawi Sher Ali.
9. Phillips, Kristine. “ ‘They look at me and think I’m some kind of virus’: What it’s like to be Asian during the coronavirus pandemic.” March. 28, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/na tion/2020/03/28/coronavirus-racism-asian-americans-report-fear-harassment-violence/2903745001/
10. The Holy Qur’an (94:6). Translation by Hazrat Maulawi Sher Ali