As one scholar put it, never since Adam (peace be upon him) set foot on Earth, a lockdown at this scale has been imposed on entire mankind; forced to stay indoors at home, simultaneously. This is the first time mankind is experiencing anything like this. We are indeed living in a very unique time in the history of our existence.
This pandemic of Covid-19 gives me mixed feelings. It surely brings a message from Allah the Exalted to the entire mankind, with a special message and blessings for Muslims. It could be a punishment for some, while a warning to others, or an invitation to reflect, change, repent and return to Him. Some who die from this disease could be martyrs in the sight of God. For each individual therefore it has different meaning. For my self, I am saddened that it prevents Muslims from performing congregational prayers in the mosque, Friday prayers, Umrah and so forth. Probably our much anticipated Taraweh and Eidul Fitr prayers too. Pictures of empty Masjid al-Haram and Prophet’s Mosque cause my heart to shrink with sadness. Instantaneously, it drew me to seek forgiveness from Allah SWT for all my shortcomings, mistakes, wrongdoings or sins that I might have done. Could this be the reason why I am living through this, in this time? Oh Allah, please forgive me! Please forgive us!
Our health workers – the doctors, nurses and supporting staff – are all working tirelessly, putting in over-time, in order to handle the large number of patients who arrive at the hospitals, having the disease. We are therefore faced with shortage of hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment etc. To help slow-down the spread of the disease and thereby ease the pressure on the healthcare system, i.e. what is termed as “flatten the curve”, the government issued a Movement Control Order (MCO), i.e. a nationwide lockdown. A 40-day lockdown (18th March till 28th April 2020) can destroy as much as 10% of the GDP. A large number of SME’s can go bust and many workers rendered unemployed. Even after the MCO is lifted many businesses may not be able to rise up and resume operations again. In other words, some production activities will be lost forever. The economic costs associated with a lockdown, therefore, is huge.
Initially, economists were expecting a severe global economic crisis to emerge from the financial sector, i.e. from the burst of some financial bubbles as were the cases in the past immediate economic crises, but now however we have a pandemic that is creating simultaneous Supply and Demand shocks, coming from the real sector. Therefore, in a way what the world is facing is a “double-recession”, which is likely to be severe, deep and prolonged.
On the other hand, I also see a lot of hikmah or wisdom, embedded in this pandemic. Personally it gives me a lot time to ponder, read and write; add a little bit of ibadah to the normal routine. Reflecting on our existence as the vicegerent of Allah; what should the government and each one of us do to play our part, now and post Covid-19. After all, this pandemic has a message for each and every one of us. Spending everyday at home with family also gives me pleasure.
This crisis is a game-changer. It is causing tectonic shifts on many fronts – economics, geopolitics, global hegemony, international relations, banking and money, religion, environment and even on personal levels. Perhaps I have a role to play in the economics, money and banking arena?
Observing as events unfold, I am inclined to believe that this pandemic is a manmade one, but Allah SWT in His great Wisdom has allowed it to happen. Surely He has powers over all things. There are many parties waiting to gain from this pandemic – political dissents stopped, protests by environmentalists stopped, gains from export of healthcare products, medicines, promotion of 5G technology, an “economic-hitman” strategy unleashed on weaker nations meant to force them into taking large amounts of loans from international lenders like IMF, World Bank etc. to finance the huge economic stimulus packages needed to turn-around the economy, sale of vaccines for mass vaccination, sale of test-kits and even to derail Trump politically to prevent him from winning the US Presidency again this year. There are some assertions that some unscrupulous parties are attempting mass vaccination of all people with some digital RFID infused in it, with the objective of “bar-coding” every human. With that, these parties are aiming to gain humongous profits, control over all humans in wide areas, including the right to transact in the economy, travel and even to control the population size. Some people would easily dismiss such things as mere Conspiracy Theory, but I have reasons to believe in them. Therefore, evil indeed is their plan. Those are some of the expected gains to certain parties from this pandemic. If it is indeed a manmade calamity, then such a pandemic can occur again and again. Are we then going to vaccinate ourselves again and again?
Notwithstanding the fact that Covid-19 could be a manmade bioweapon, the Qur’an reminds us,
وَمَكَرُواْ وَمَكَرَ اللّهُ وَاللّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ
And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.
This pandemic, as mentioned earlier, has a lot of hikmah embedded. Firstly, a lot of munkar in society has stopped or reduced significantly – brothels, bars, undesirable gatherings and even crimes. The environment has become much cleaner, with good air quality, even polluted rivers now look clean and clear. Many wild animals have been spotted returning and examining their new quiet and serene environment, with minimal human encounter.
Among the greatest hikmah from this crisis is that it has revealed some of the goodness embedded in Islamic practices – like eating halal and tayyiban food can prevent one from contracting such Coronaviruses. Many such viruses are said to have originated from exotic animals that some humans consume; ablution helps keep our facial areas – mouth, nose, ears – clean. The facial area is paramount for the virus to enter the human body. The washing of hands and legs too help in this respect. Internationally the pandemic has even increased the respect for those who wear hijab and niqab. If France, for example, recently enforced a law prohibiting Muslim women from covering their face in public, now not only they don’t fine anymore but indeed the Prime Minister came forward in defense of Islam. The stopping of Umrah revealed to the non-Muslim world that Muslims really do not worship the Ka’aba. Also the charity work Muslims are doing throughout the world, to help those severely affected by the crisis, particularly those without even food or accommodation, is revealing the true nature of Muslims, that they are truly nice, society-centric people who come forward with a lot of charity work in times of need.
The lockdown however will have dire consequences for the Malaysian economy, indeed for the global economy as a whole. As mentioned earlier, a 40-day lockdown as in Malaysia can destroy about 10% of GDP, that is about RM150 bil and as many as 2.4 mil workers are expected to become unemployed, mostly low-skilled labor. Many such workers in Malaysia and in the developing nations earn meager daily wages and rent their accommodations. Without a job and having almost no savings, such workers and their families could become devastated having no money to pay for food or rentals; truly a precarious situation. It is gratifying though that some Muslims have started feeding such people on a daily basis.
The lockdown will affect the money and banking sector immensely. When businesses and individuals fail due to this crisis, they would default on loans, causing NPLs to rise. This in turn will cause a credit crunch where the banks will be unwilling to give out new financing. This would further shrink the real economy. Bankruptcies and foreclosures will ensue. The banking sector, however, including Islamic banking, actually operates like a risk-free business, hence they do not really lose even in recessions. They still GAIN ENORMOUSLY, that’s why bankers love recessions and crises like this. They will gain back when collaterals are confiscated and properties foreclosed. It’s the SMEs, businesses and individuals who will suffer the most. Hence, by whatever standards, this Covid-19 crisis will bring about the GREATEST WEALTH TRANSFER IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. It will impoverish large number of people throughout the world to a great extent, some pushed into poverty or even die out of starvation, disease etc. The rich will become much wealthier while the poor become even poorer. Many contracts will get breached – between business and business, worker and employer, tenant and landlord, supplier and buyer etc. – causing conflicts, disagreements and agony are likely to emerge like mushrooms. In such scenario, not much can be expected from governments to help the people. The people must now take actions on their own to protect themselves, initiating more self-supporting, peer-to-peer financing and projects.
As the global economies flounder simultaneously, there is a high probability the global fiat money system might collapse. If so, there surely will be attempts by the global Deep State to instate a single money for the whole world – a digital money system, that is still fiat but strictly controlled by them. If this happens, practically we would have surrendered our entire sovereignty and resources to them. Basically our freedom, liberty, privacy and dignity all gone. Our authority over everything including Islam as the official religion of the country will go with it. That would be the most unfortunate thing to happen for which I therefore constantly doa that it will never happen.
Since this pandemic is a worldwide crisis, it will be very difficult for all the affected businesses and individuals to rise back in operation simultaneously. It all depends on how each country tackles the problem. Surely life after Covid-19 may not be the same again. Political systems, business, economy, banking, money systems, international relations all would take new shapes and relationships. The ultimate “recovery” from this crisis may take a long time. We should be ready for this and must face this with love and compassion towards all, with a lot of give and take.
Due to the shortage of output in almost every industry, there is a possibility a food crisis might emerge. Some countries, for example Vietnam, were already considering banning the export of rice, for example. Net food-importer countries, therefore, can be severely affected by this. Malaysia, for example, imports some RM50 bil worth of food annually. Food security, therefore, is likely to become an issue and a priority post Covid-19. In some parts of the world, famine is a possibility.
Lessons I Learnt and Actions to Take Post Covid-19
In summary, the lessons learnt from this crisis and what we could do post Covid-19 are as follows:
- Seek forgiveness from Allah SWT for all mistakes, shortcomings and sins. Improve overall ‘ibadah.
- Post Covid-19 many individuals will be in a precarious situation, looking for jobs etc. Food crisis and famine are possibilities. Must help them in whatever ways can.
- Form communities – wakaf-based communities, trade communities, cooperative etc.; Must try to be self-sufficient in food as much as possible. Produce locally and exchange. Use e-business models and digital marketing.
- Buy agricultural land and do permaculture farming. Build your own simple green-home using volunteerism, cheap and riba-free. Avoid bank loans.
- Use real money to avoid inflation. Need to aggressively promote the gold dinar and silver dirham hereon. Can operate mutual credit clearance (Netting) system, based on gold and silver, among the formed communities.
- Support and popularize bottom-up, non-bank Islamic Finance – peer-to-peer financing, wakaf, sadaqah, zakat, micro-finance etc. using Fintech and crowdfunding platforms. Baitul Mal wat Tamwil (BMT) in Indonesia and similar concepts must be promoted aggressively. Just move away from the top-down, oppressive “Islamic” banking and finance that do not want to take or even share risks.
- Initiate, assist, promote and operate wakaf projects like Asean Mall, Malakat Mall, Finterra Paulownia Plantations etc. that give opportunity for all to invest in a truly Islamic way.
- Popularize traditional medicines – Indian Ayurvedic, Chinese, Malay, Arabic, homeopathy etc. Production of herbs. Our climate is very suited for this.
- Healthcare products and personal hygiene products will become important. Produce these locally as much as possible – masks, sanitizers, PPE, medicines like Hydroxycloroquine (that comes from the Cinchona tree) etc.
- Look into preschool education that also focuses on character building.
What we are observing today is only the tip of the iceberg. The global economy will flounder and be shaken with an utmost shake. Hence if we don’t initiate those changes to protect our selves, and when the global money system collapses, we are not sure what will be the end game of it. There is a possibility nations that have taken large loans from international agencies will get “taken over”, at least politically, banks are likely to be merged, and even Islamic banking sector is likely to be taken over by non-Muslim foreign owners, i.e. basically the New World Order. In such a state, even funding to Islamic universities are likely to be cut severely, or forced to change programs, syllabi and the overall structure of the universities (i.e. no more “Islamic”) and the education system. Such is the grave scenario we picture from this lockdown (not so much due to Covid-19 pandemic). Hopefully this would not be the case, but let us be ready.