MERS virus and what it brings to one’s mind

Updated 01 May 2014
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MERS virus and what it brings to one’s mind

We have frequently heard of viral epidemics in recent years. Many people are familiar with the names of these viruses, such as HIV, Ebola, Nile Virus, H1N1 (swine flu), SARS and now Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, known as MERS.
MERS has a relatively high mortality level; thirty-five percent of reported cases have ended in death. According to the World Health Organization, 254 cases have to date been identified in various countries. Fifty new cases were reported last week and the Saudi death toll has crossed 100. In addition to Saudi Arabia, MERS cases have been seen in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Germany, Great Britain, France, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
It is not yet known how the MERS virus infects humans. People carrying the virus can transmit the disease without being aware of it, or the disease may quickly end in pneumonia, organ failure and death. Research has thus far provided no answers, meaning there are no drugs or vaccinations against this virus at the moment.
The above information is what you can read in any newspaper or website. However, what I wish to emphasize in this article is something different. A tiny entity invisible to the naked eye is able to baffle 21st-century science and technology. A tiny virus may cause the death of thousands of people, as has been seen before in history. But what is it, apart from the will of God, that makes a virus impossible to beat?
The answer to this is an important sign leading to faith. God has created diseases in order to show the transitory nature of this world and to show people how weak they are, and has created and equipped viruses, which cause some of these diseases, with an amazing system.
The war between our cells and viruses is vitally important for human life. Viruses can be very active in the body and they literally invade cells; they then use the machinery and metabolism of the host cells for their replication and thus turn the cell into a factory producing more copies of themselves.
In order to accomplish its task, the virus needs enormous information, awareness and also power. It is obvious that a virus so small that it can only be seen under an electron microscope is itself unaware of this immaculate structure. So how did that structure come about? Even though the virus has no brain or eyes, how does it know when and how to act?
There is no doubt that it is Almighty God Who creates the virus, and the host cell and its machinery. With these complex entities He creates, God shows us His matchless artistry and infinite might. As we look at the details of these entities with their flawless structures they are evident signs for believers of the presence of God.
God reveals in one verse that: “In the alternation of night and day and what God has created in the heavens and the earth there are signs for people who have piety.” (Surah Yunus, 6)
The virus is one of the most interesting structures in nature. It does not possess a cellular structure and consists solely of a genetic mechanism. It consists of a protein coat and genetic material (DNA or RNA) inside that coat. By itself it has no functions or organelles exhibiting signs of life. However, when it enters an organism it comes to life and becomes active. From the moment it interacts with a living cell it starts to exhibit life properties; it becomes an aggressive and also highly intelligent creature.
Before entering a cell, the virus works out which cell is suitable for it. If the test result is positive, it injects its own genetic material into the cell and begins replicating using the host cell’s DNA and RNA synthesizing machinery, and RNA processing machinery.
It is indeed very hard for the cell to become aware of the situation: It is like finding a short sentence from an encyclopedia consisting of 20 volumes. By means of this “intelligent” method, the virus mixes with the host cell’s own programming mechanisms and literally becomes a part of the cell.
Under normal circumstances, a cell never reads the code for any protein, not even of proteins of other cells, apart from those it needs whose codes are marked in DNA with special locks. However, the cell reads the virus DNA and continues producing the virus. How the virus does this is still a mystery for scientists.
This spells disaster for the cell. A dying cell is used right to the end of its energy for production according to the program wrongly encoded in its nucleus. Then it dies and is broken down. As it breaks down, the accumulated viruses enter other cells and find new targets for themselves.
This viral invasion would proceed fast enough to kill a normal person in a few days were it not for the immune system; that defense mechanism identifies the virus soon after it enters the body and immediately initiates a counter-offensive. This enables us to survive instead of being killed by the simplest virus.

God shows us our weakness through a tiny entity
In order to behave so successfully, the virus has to fit the cell in the same way a key fits a lock. We are looking at a most evident truth here; God has created viruses deliberately to cause disease. By means of troubles of this kind, human beings are better able to realize their helplessness and the infinite might of God.
People who reflect on all this will realize their own weakness before God and will turn to our Lord, seeking forgiveness. God reveals in a verse how He forgives those who turn to Him:
Your Lord knows best what is in your selves. If you are righteous, He is Ever-Forgiving to the remorseful. (Surat Al-’Isra, 25)


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.