April 17, 2020, THE NEW YORK TIMES
KARACHI, Pakistan — Is the coronavirus an expression of God’s wrath, a punishment for our sins or, as some of us believers like to think, merely another sign that He is testing us? I’ll address later the godless anthem that insists this epidemic is about nature healing itself, because matters of God are urgent and they might be getting us killed at the moment.
Until a few years ago, Fridays in Pakistan were an occasion to remember God’s grandeur and His kindness, as well as the terror exacted in His name. We used to get together in mosques for weekly prayers, and regularly mosques used to get blown up. Security guards were posted at the entrances, and the terrorists were hunted down or made peace with. But the mosques were never shut down.
And so last month, as the first Friday after the coronavirus’s arrival in Pakistan approached, the government dithered: Can you close the mosques during an outbreak? You can shut down McDonald’s — yes, even home deliveries — but the mosques? Wouldn’t that be like declaring war on God?
But maybe it’s God who has declared a war on us? Or is this epidemic just a test? How can anyone be sure?