COVID-19 pandemic: An Islamic perspective
By Mustapha Aminu Yusuf
Ordinarily, Muslims need not be disturbed by pandemics. Going by a prophetic tradition, even the current Covid-19 pandemic could be a blessing to Muslim victims who lost their lives to it.
They could be rewarded with martyrdom just as those that suffered could be rewarded with forgiveness. Even those that surrendered to the divine will, affirming that they came from Allah and to Him they shall return share in the mercies bestowed on those that died or suffered.
But those are ancient times when Muslims, devout as they were then, practiced the ideal Islam, and so had their faith tested. In sharp contrast, ours are different times.
Nowadays, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are both guilty of promoting injustice and the open violation of Allah’s injunctions; the two causes of punitive epidemics.
And the scriptures have forewarned us, in detailed terms, to expect a preponderance of natural disasters; droughts, earthquakes, floods and epidemics, from previously unknown diseases, whenever open promiscuity and injustice corrupts the earth.
Therefore, from the Islamic perspective, the Covid-19 pandemic could be a warning or reminder from Allah that may persist as long as our graver wrongdoings.
On one hand, Muslims have betrayed their religion, their Qur’an and their pledge to Allah for following the atheist footsteps of pagan Graeco-Roman thought. They chant all the divine wisdom in the Qur’an beautifully and loudly but leave its teachings confined to the paper on which it is written.
In their modern thinking, the teachings in the Glorious Qur’an have no place in political, economic and social life.
Also, in careless neglect of Allah’s purpose, they have allowed to the point of approving an unjust socio-political world order that undermines Islamic values, persecutes Muslims and shed their innocent blood.
In addition, they watch complacently as a powerful minority cornered the economic resources of the world, distributing them in such an unfair manner that enslaves a large majority of mankind, most of them Muslims, to perpetual poverty.
So, Muslims need to be reminded that it is to guide themselves and the entire human race away from the darkness of disbelief, injustice and sin that the Almighty Allah made them the chosen nation and gave them His book.
He expects them, as custodians of the book, to lead mankind by example, to His light and to liberate them both in this life and the hereafter. The more they fail in discharging this obligation, the more readily He disowns them, equating them with the unbelievers.
On the other hand, non-Muslims too, especially those who control the levers of global power need to be reminded that if they would not deliver the trusts of global leadership with the requisite fairness, then they should as well forfeit some of His favours.
And now it appears that He has passed on us all; an imprisonment sentence, considering the similar conditions we now share with prisoners on account of the coronavirus, which was unknown until five months ago.
Like prisoners confined to their cells, we too, can neither move about nor carry out our normal activities.
Cities, like nations, have closed their borders as communities, neighbours and individuals are compelled to distance themselves from one another. Even family members who share the same house are supposed to keep away from one another.
In fact, for maximum protection from either contracting the virus or infecting another person, every individual ought to, ideally, seclude himself or herself, neither touching what others touched nor breathing near others. Clearly, this is an imprisonment more severe than the solitary confinement of hardened criminals in prisons.
Worst still, we also have to act funny; washing our ‘clean’ hands repeatedly and wearing masks seemingly in self-mockery of our collective guilt; a guilt on the spilt blood of innocent human lives in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa and a guilt of our tacit approval of a repressive world order that thrives on double standards; fighting Islam secretly while professing religious freedom openly.
As with the hand washing which depicts a domineering and intolerant Western civilization with its allegedly blood-stained hands, so also are the face masks which portray the Muslims custodians of justice who closed their mouths when they should have protested. Each is guilty, in a different way though.
In addition, unlike the individual convict, whose prison term is clearly defined, ours, presumably, would last till the discovery of a preventive vaccine or a curative medicine. Or, the spread subsides as a result of the distancing measures.
Although true in medical sense, these hopes are, in reality, too distant to cover our present urgency. The new coronavirus of yet unknown resilience may still defy our best efforts in the laboratories.
It may disgrace us again as much as the fright we are made to take, fleeing to our homes in panic and locking ourselves indoors. After such a submissive show of our weakness, we cannot also afford taking chances, especially when no end is sighted to the ever-rising toll on economies, peoples’ lives and welfare and certainly not when, in addition, our provoked God seems to be threatening us with His superior powers. Evidently, arrogance time is up.
It is now time to surrender to the Glorious Qur’an as the solution not only to pandemics, of which corvid-19 is only one, but by extension also other pressing problems facing humanity.
Should we commit ourselves to its collective recitation, seeking its intercession, we would see first, a miraculous relief of the disease, then after appreciating its value, the need to follow its teachings for a better ordered world.
And to practically show our repentance, I also suggest that, using force if necessary, the authorities should, in addition, collect Zakat from the rich and distribute it to the poor according to Allah’s instructions.
In a world contending with millions of refugees, immigrants, starving and displaced persons, few things would be half as pleasing to Allah as providing for those desperate souls, while at the same time reinstituting an important but forsaken pillar of His religion.
All the same, my observations and suggestions should not distract from looking at the pandemic from its rather superficial medical angle.
In this regard, it is the guidance of medical experts and governments that we should follow. As instructed, we must all endure the personal isolation, social distancing, frequent hand-washing, face masks, hand globes and all which are, incidentally, also endorsed by Islam.
However difficult they seem, we should still prefer their attendant inconveniences to the free spread of the horrible virus.
All in all, we should heed the warning in this pandemic. After bearing with our excesses so far, Allah to whom we give less obedience than He deserves seems to be displaying His capacity to dictate alongside our rights of choice.
On His part, He does not, as a rule, change whatever adversity befalls a nation unless the nation reforms the existing wrongs within it. So, if on our part, we do not change our unjust sinful ways, as the Corvid-19 warning demands, then we may as well adjust and get accustomed to our long corona-imposed prison term.
Like cholera, HIV, Ebola, Avian Flu and Lassa fever that were all unknown a century ago, this new Covid-19 too, may persist until new epidemics, yet unknown, strike us again one after another. The choice is ours. May God forbid!
Yusuf wrote in from Tukuntawa Quarters, Kano Municipal Local Government Area, Kano State.