The Apocalypse as an ‘Unveiling’: What Religion Teaches Us About the End Times

For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near.

00VIRUS-APOCALYPSE-palehorse-superJumboShamain Webster, who lives in the suburbs outside of Dallas, has seen the signs of a coming apocalypse for a while now, just as the Bible foretold.

Kingdom would rise against kingdom, Jesus taught his disciples in the Book of Luke. Ms. Webster sees widespread political division in this country. There will be fearful events, and great signs from heaven, he said. She sees biblical values slipping away. A government not acting in the people’s best interest. And now this — a pandemic.

But Ms. Webster, 42 and an evangelical Christian, is unafraid. She has been listening online to one of her favorite preachers, who has called the coronavirus pandemic a “divine reset.”

“These kinds of moments really get you to re-evaluate everything,” she said. As everyone goes through a period of isolation, she added, God is using it for good, “to teach us and train us on how to live life better.”



How coronavirus challenges Muslims’ faith and changes their lives

5e5fc86cfee23d229f525014As the world faces the greatest disruption of our lifetimes, Muslims throughout the world are also grappling with the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Islamic cultural, spiritual and theological dimensions offer Muslims myriad ways of coping.

Adapting to new social norms

Muslims have relatively large families and tend to maintain extended family relations. Prophet Muhammad encouraged Muslims to keep strong family ties. The Quran inspires Muslims to be generous to kin (16:90) and treat the elderly with compassion (17:23).

These teachings have resulted in Muslims either living together as large families or keeping regular weekly visits and gatherings of extended family members. Many Muslims feel conflicted about the need to apply social distancing on one hand and the need to be close to family and relatives for comfort and support. Tighter restrictions on movement in some parts of Australia (NSW and Victoria) mean Muslims, like everyone else, are not allowed to visit extended family anymore.

Read more: What actually are ‘essential services’ and who decides?

One of the first changes brought about by social distancing has been to the Muslim custom of shaking hands followed by hugging (same gender) friends and acquaintances, especially in mosques and Muslim organisations. After a week or two of hesitation in March, the hugging completely stopped, making Muslims feel dismal.

Visiting the sick is considered a good deed in Islam. However, in the case of COVID-19, such visits are not possible. Checking up on those who are sick with phone calls, messages and social media is still possible and encouraged.

Cleanliness is half of faith

One aspect of coronavirus prevention that comes very naturally to Muslims is personal hygiene. Health organisations and experts promote personal hygiene to limit the spread of coronavirus, especially washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.

Islam has been encouraging personal hygiene for centuries. The Quran instructs Muslims to keep their clothes clean in one of the earliest revelations (74:4), remarking “God loves those who are clean” (2:222).



Grassroots Muslim Volunteer Effort Delivers Food to Metro Detroiters Doorsteps

The Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service sprung up to deliver meals and groceries to individuals at-risk or affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

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cb5b11dafd6c0f5b1010Samuel Albaugh just picked up two boxes of chicken sandwiches and snacks from a meal pick-up site, to deliver it to a family with five children.

Albaugh has never met the family. He’s helping them out because he signed up to be a volunteer for the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service, a grassroots project started by Riyah Basha and Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh.

I just started a new job and we’re not able to work. A lot of good things were happening and then it kind of just stopped with the virus.” — Amy Stewart, resident

Sheikh says when COVID-19 hit she was worried about how high-risk people would be able to safely get their groceries.

And I honestly started with just posting a Facebook status to see what was going on in the community,” Sheikh says. “Very quickly, Riyah reached out and said, ‘Hey, I think it would be really great to start something locally in the Troy and Rochester area at our local mosque.’”

While the project is called the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service, the volunteers and community members served come from a variety of faith, beliefs and backgrounds. Sheikh says in just their first week and a half of operation more than 300 volunteers signed up to be a part of the project and 40 people have received food.

Click on the player above to listen to a local volunteer deliver groceries to a family in metro Detroit.

The women partnered with the Amity Foundation and quickly expanded into a well-oiled machine serving anyone in need of getting food on their doorstep in more than 12 cities across Southeast Michigan. The current list includes Ann Arbor, Canton, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Detroit, Flint, Grand Blanc, Northville, Rochester, Saginaw, Sterling Heights, Troy and Warren.


How Are Major Religions Responding to the Coronavirus?

The religious practices of hundreds of millions of people are undergoing profound changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused by a new coronavirus. The crisis has prompted many religious leaders to appeal to their followers to not only take safety precautions but also to embrace their spirituality to help confront the health, social, and economic challenges ahead.

How has the pandemic disrupted religious observances?

A Buddhist monk provides hand sanitizer to another monk. Both wear orange robes and surgical masks.
Buddhists monks wearing protective masks due to the coronavirus outbreak use alcohol gel as they take part in a ceremony at Wat Suthat Thepwararam in Bangkok, Thailand. Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

In some cases, religious gatherings have proven to be hotbeds for outbreaks. Half of South Korea’s cases can be traced back to a meeting of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a Christian denomination. In Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, several hundred Muslims who attended a mosque service contracted the virus, and in Washington, DC, a rector tested positive for the virus after performing communion at an Episcopalian church with more than five hundred congregants, all of whom were asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Many religious authorities are closing places of worship or limiting public gatherings. In an extraordinary gesture in February, Saudi Arabia banned foreign arrivals and halted visits to Mecca and Medina for umrah, a religious pilgrimage that Muslims can undertake at any time of year. Riyadh also briefly shuttered the Great Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina for disinfection. Many mosques have canceled Friday services, and calls to prayer in countries such as Kuwait and Malaysia have been altered to tell people to pray from home. Buddhist New Year celebrations, which often bring thousands of people together for public water fights and other events, have been canceled across South Asia.

A crowd of Hindu devotees covered in multicolored dye raise their hands above their heads in prayer.
Hindu devotees raise their hands daubed in colors as they pray at a temple during Holi celebrations in Ahmedabad, India. Amit Dave/Reuters



Expressions of faith in some religious services emphasize close contact, such as hand-holding and sharing communion in Christian churches and touching or kissing religious objects at synagogues. Such practices are now being avoided in many religious spaces. At the same time, some religious orders have embraced technological solutions. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, has begun livestreaming the Pope’s daily mass and Sunday sermon, and some parishes are offering drive-through confessions. A livestream of a service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, drew more than twenty-five thousand viewers earlier this month.


Muslim and Jewish paramedics pause to pray together. One of many inspiring moments in the coronavirus crisis

200326123906-israel-emergency-services-praying-exlarge-169Jerusalem (CNN)There was barely any time to pause.

Avraham Mintz and Zoher Abu Jama just finished responding to a call regarding a 41-year-old woman having respiratory problems in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva.

Before that, they were checking on a 77-year-old man. There would be more calls ahead. Of that, there was no doubt.
As the clock neared six in the afternoon, Mintz and Abu Jama realized it may be their only break of the shift. The two members of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency response service, paused to pray. Mintz, a religious Jew, stood facing Jerusalem, his white and black prayer shawl hanging off his shoulders. Abu Jama, an observant Muslim, knelt facing Mecca, his maroon and white prayer rug unfurled underneath him.
For the two paramedics, who routinely work together two or three times a week, the joint prayer was nothing new. For so many others, it was an inspiring image in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.
A picture of the two men snapped by a co-worker quickly went viral, garnering thousands of likes on social media and appearing in international media coverage. One user responded on Instagram: “I’m proud of all of the rescue services, it doesn’t matter from what community or religion.” On Twitter, another user said: “One fight! One victory! Let’s unite.”
“The fact that it is so simple makes it so powerful. I believe that Zoher and I and most of the world understand that we have to raise our heads and pray. That’s all that’s left,” Mintz told CNN. A father of nine who lives in Be’er Sheva, the 42-year-old is a full-time MDA worker who trains volunteers.

Covid-19: Christians, Jews and Muslims join in prayer in Jerusalem

FILES-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-HEALTH-VIRUSThe Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land reflects on the significance of a common prayer raised to the Lord by believers of the three Abrahamic religions in the sacred city of Jerusalem.

By Linda Bordoni

The leaders of the three Abrahamic religions – Christians, Jews and Muslims – prayed together in Jerusalem on Thursday amid the global Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative, taken by the Mayor of the Holy City, took place at 12.30 pm local time at Jerusalem City Hall and saw the presence of representatives of other faiths as well, including Druze and Bahai.

Speaking to Vatican Radio before the common prayer, the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, highlighted the significance of this moment and explained that every religion was to recite a prayer according to its own tradition.

Listen to Franciscan Fr. Francesco Patton

“We will be together to pray to the Almighty God that this pandemic may stop,” Fr. Patton said explaining the initiative has a deep spiritual significance.

“It is important in itself because we are all believers with the same roots; and thanks to this same root we can express with faith and with confidence our prayer to God the Almighty,” he said.

The common prayer comes on the heels of a joint communiqué, issued on 21 March, in which the leaders of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Latin, Greek Orthodox and Armenian) expressed their hope that “in this dangerous situation all the children of Abraham could pray together to the Almighty to ask for protection and mercy”.



Prophet-MuhammadThe COVID-19 pandemic is forcing governments and news sources to provide the most accurate and helpful advice to the world’s population, as the disease is indeed global in reach. Health care professionals are in high demand, and so too are scientists who study the transmission and effect of pandemics.

Experts like immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci and medical reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta are saying that good hygiene and quarantining, or the practice of isolating from others in the hope of preventing the spread of contagious diseases, are the most effective tools to contain COVID-19.

Do you know who else suggested good hygiene and quarantining during a pandemic?

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, over 1,300 years ago.

While he is by no means a “traditional” expert on matters of deadly diseases, Muhammad nonetheless had sound advice to prevent and combat a development like COVID-19.

Muhammad said: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague outbreaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”

He also said: “Those with contagious diseases should be kept away from those who are healthy.”