I took the above picture roughly two years ago, at a time when I – like most others where I live – was free to visit the mosques of my city. This particular shot was taken after the late afternoon prayer (‘Asr), when the day is in decline, and busy-ness recedes as we prepare to retire for a well-earned rest at night.
I’ve always loved being in mosques at this time, particularly when I’m alone. There’s a special atmosphere that radiates throughout the building – a spiritual peace and light, which is unique to that time of day.
I can no longer experience that feeling. At least, not in such buildings.
A week ago, a growing number of mosques here in Cape Town decided to close their doors to the public, as the reality of Coronavirus increasingly dawned on the consciousness of South Africa. There were numerous heated arguments and debates, as many simply could not agree that this course of action – closing public places of worship – was the right thing to do.
As I write this, the country prepares to enter a 21-day lockdown period, starting a little over 24 hours from now. Those arguments are now irrelevant.
And as chaos descends upon our society – people panic buying, stockpiling goods, while the poor and vulnerable are unable to get their basic necessities – we are assured by our government that essential shops and services will still operate. That we will be able to get what we need.
Yet, judging by the shortages before lockdown even commences, there’s no certainty that this claim will be realised.
It’s a sobering time for us all.
Businesses are facing closure – with a lack of income threatening to decimate the livelihoods of millions. And those who were so assured of their wealth – with money in the bank, and investments as an alternative – are no longer so assured, as our financial system sits on a precipice – hoping that government’s measures will safeguard the economy from collapse.
The entire world has been turned upside down – threatened by a microscopic, invisible enemy that no one – or not many – could have anticipated. A virus that has no nationality (despite a certain president’s claims), and does not discriminate based on race, wealth, social status, or location.
A pandemic that has destroyed – or paused – so much of what the world has become, while also bringing much benefit and opportunity for us all.
A reminder to humanity that we are not really in control. That we are not masters of this universe.
It’s a time to look inward and reflect – each and every one of us in our individual capacities – on who we are, what’s most important in life, and who we want to become – if we live to see the end of this challenge.
Sometimes, it all feels like a dream. Like none of this is real. Just a few weeks ago, life was normal…things operated as they always had. I could never have imagined that this would be the reality I lived to see…a time akin to a World War, where the entire planet is threatened by a global challenge.
Yet this is reality. This is what I…you…every human being…is facing.
We have no control over the situation. All we have control of – hopefully – is how we respond.
And, if we survive, may we all get to return to the environments that bring us inner peace – strengthening us for whatever future challenges lie in wait on our journeys of life.
I pray that each and every one of you – and your families, friends, and societies – will be safe, take the best out of this, and learn whatever tailor-made lessons the Almighty is trying to teach you.
Thank you for reading.
Your brother in humanity