By Dr. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali
Coronavirus is considered variously by different people. Some consider it as pandemic which kills human beings. Some consider it as a warning or punishment from God. Yet others may consider coronavirus to be a destructive disease. There are several perspectives on coronavirus. Most people and experts are focussing on how to control it. No doubt it is a common enemy of mankind and we have to fight against it collectively and cooperate with one another. It has rejected the national boundaries of the countries and nationalities and is spreading everywhere. Borders cannot be obstacles towards it. It has given a call for a borderless world. Islam and Muslims stand together on this issue with the rest of humanity. Islam rather inspires its followers to fight against it and any other disease or evil collectively. Islam as the worldview and way of life look at everything from the people-oriented and truth based perspective of life and society. It organizes life and society on the firm foundation of ethics, spirituality and morality. It always emphasizes that without the strong moral foundation life and society cannot be developed. It stands for a righteous and morally sound life and society. Denial of truth and wrong doings are considered as the cause for God’s wrath. It sees calamities and diseases in the context of the denial of truth and wrong doings. Before we elaborate the Islamic perspective on corona, it seems imperative for us to explain certain facts of Islam.
FUNDAMENTAL FACTS OF ISLAM
The Islamic perspective on anything or idea is characterised by physical, ethical, spiritual, moral, legal and consequential dimensions of life. Man’s life is conditioned by these characteristics. Hence, nothing is accepted as truthful or useful if that thing does not fit in the circle of above-mentioned characteristics. For example, from ethical [rational] and spiritual [purposeful] point of view Islam declares that man is created by God. In line with this, his true position in this world is of physical and spiritual in nature. Hence, man is a responsible being. Life in the world is not mere play and sport so he cannot follow any path, right or wrong. Man’s place in the scheme of creation is characterised as being abd [obedient being] and vicegerent [responsible being], with which he is invested on earth. These dual positions have been conferred upon man by God, the Creator and Sustainer. God has granted man the freedom to maintain his original positions or to defy them. He also enjoys power and authority, granted to him by God, as long as he remains within the moral and legal framework set by God. The logical consequence of his freedom and authority is that he is held responsible for his actions and will be awarded for both his good and evil deeds. From an ethical and spiritual point of view man cannot enjoy power and authority as his own. Rather it is delegated to him by God as His representative on earth. Accordingly, he is accountable to God for his use or misuse of power and authority.
Secondly, the main sources for the understanding of Islam are the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]. The Quran was revealed by God the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, to the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] as the book of knowledge, guidance and mercy. The Sunnah includes the practices of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh], the explanations by him and the practices of the companions observed in the presence of the Prophet [pbuh]. The main theme of the Quran deals with man and society. The objective [maqasid e Quran] is to educate people based on knowledge about the truth and reality of life and the physical and metaphysical world so that they can understand the true purpose of their creation and act accordingly to develop themselves and societies. The development of man and society on the basis of the promotion of maroofath [virtues] and elimination of munkirath [vices] as explained by Allah SWT is the goal of Islam and Muslim community. The Quran asks people frequently to accept and submit to the true God and do good deeds. The objective of this is to provide a sound moral basis of life and society. Righteous deeds are always encouraged.
Thirdly, Islam was introduced in the Quran as Din which communicates the meaning of worldview, the way of life, code of conduct and law. It is the source of culture, civilization and comprehensive development. We find in the Quran a number of ayaths [verses] which support this claim: “Allah proclaims the Truth and directs you to the Right Path [33: 4]”; “…You will be guided to the Right Way [2: 150]”; “He teaches you the right way and has full knowledge of everything [2:282]”; “The Right Way stands clearly distinguished from the Wrong. [2: 256]”.
Fourthly, from the very outset it was made clear to people, rather beyond any doubt, that in the process of comprehension and cognition of anything or any idea or concept, physical or metaphysical, there is no place for blind faith, dogmas, myths, illusions, doctrines, superstitions, desires, fancies, imaginations, assumptions, distortions, presuppositions, biases, prejudices, reactions, hasty decisions, speculation, conjecture, enmity, hate etc. “They have no definite knowledge [True, Authentic and Universal Knowledge – TAUK] of it, but merely follow conjecture [4:157]”; “Many indeed say misleading things without knowledge [TAUK], driven merely by their desires [6: 119]”; “While they have no knowledge [TAUK] thereof. They only follow their conjecture, and verily, conjecture is no substitute for the Truth. [53:28]”.
Fifthly, for the understanding of the physical and metaphysical dimensions of existence people need knowledge [TAUK]. It is considered absolutely indispensable. Hence, through the process of revelation, knowledge [TAUK] was granted to the Prophets [pbut]. The Quran declares: “…true knowledge has come to you. [3: 61]”; “We granted knowledge to David and Solomon and they said: ‘All praise be to Allah Who has exalted us above many of His believing servants!’ [27: 15]”. The Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] being last in the chain of the Prophets [pbut] received the Quran. It was introduced in the Quran itself that it is the book which contains in it true knowledge [TAUK]. “Say to them: ‘My Lord hurls down the Truth [34: 48]”; “There has now come to you a Light [TAUK] from Allah, and a Clear Book [5:16]”.
Sixthly, the Messengers were sent towards mankind to give them good tidings and warnings. God says: “This is nothing but an Admonition for all people the world over. You [all] will know the truth of the matter a while [38: 87-88]”; “Then God sent forth Prophets as heralds of good tidings for the righteous and as warners against the consequences of evil-doing. [2: 213]; “We do not send Messengers except as bearers of glad tidings and warners [6: 48]”; “We sent you with the Truth as a bearer of good tidings and a warner [2: 119]”. God’s purpose in raising the Prophets [pbut] was to establish His argument against mankind. God did not want people to have any basis on which to plead that their actions were done in ignorance and that no arrangement had been made to guide them to the Truth. Furthermore mankind is being informed that their Lord is not at all unaware of the wickedness in which people indulge, nor does He lack the capacity to deal severely with those who violated His commands.
Seventhly, the Quran taught to the mankind the method of cognition which includes TAUK as the basis of comprehension along with critical thinking, analysis, comparative approaches, historical and empirical evidence. God in fact presented in the Quran a powerful ethical discourse for the reflection of mankind. It is encouraged not to accept things blindly and dogmatically.
Lastly, a few clear instructions in the form of moral and legal teachings of Islam were given to mankind. Allah says in the Quran: “…These are the bounds of God which He makes clear to a people who have knowledge [of the consequences of violating those bounds] [2: 230]”; “Those who reject God and hinder [people] from the Path of God – for them will We add Penalty to Penalty; for that they used to spread mischief. [16: 88]”; “Though killing is bad, persecution is worse than killing [2:191]”; “Say [O Muhammad]: ‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to Al-Fawahish [shameful sins, illegal sexual intercourse, etc.] whether committed openly or secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause [according to Islamic law]. This He has commanded you that you may understand. [6:151]’”; “Say [O Muhammad]: ‘(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are Al-Fawahish [great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.] whether committed openly or secretly, sins [of all kinds], unrighteous oppression, joining partners [in worship] with God for which He has given no authority, and saying things about God of which you have no knowledge. [7:033]’”; “And remember when We sent Lot [as a Messenger] to his people and he said to them: ‘Do you realize you practice an indecency of which no other people in the world were guilty of before you? You approach men lustfully in place of women. You are a people who exceed all bounds’”; “Then We delivered Lot and his household save his wife who stayed behind, and We let loose a shower [of stones] upon them. Observe, then, the end of the evil-doers [7:80, 81, 83and 84]”.
FUNDAMENTAL OBLIGATIONS OF MAN
After giving these instructions God expects from people that they would commit righteousness and understand His Power of creation and Sustenance and obey Him. God declares: “He loves such good-doers [3: 134]”; and “does not love the wrong-doers [3:140]”,; as His is the “Excellent… admonition God gives you. God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing [4: 58]”. He instructed people, “O mankind, obey your Lord Who has created you as well as those before you [2:21]”; “Whoever submits himself completely to the obedience of God and does good will find his reward with his Lord. No fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve [2: 112]”; “So excel one another in good works [2: 148]”; “…fear God and remain conscious that God is with those who guard against violating the bounds set by Him [2: 194]”; “O people! Fear your Lord Who created you from a single being and out of it created its mate; and out of the two spread many men and women. Fear God in whose name you plead for rights, and heed the ties of kinship. Surely, God is ever watchful over you [4: 1]”; “I shall punish them with a terrible chastisement in this world and in the Next; and they shall find none to help them [3: 56]”; “Do not think that they are secure from chastisement. A painful chastisement awaits them [3: 188]”; “Worldly life has been made attractive to those who have denied the Truth [2: 212]”; “As for worldly livelihood, God grants it to whomsoever He wills without measure [2: 212]”; “He will bestow upon those who have been disdainful and arrogant a painful chastisement; and they will find for themselves neither any guardian nor helper apart from Allah [4: 173]”; “…and for him who commits excess after that there is a painful chastisement. [2: 178]”.
CURRENT PHENOMENA OF MAN IN CURRENT TIMES
Let us see against the above-mentioned instructions and declaration of God, what are the achievements of humanity?
Humans were asked to avoid some major sins such as, bribery, gambling, killing, tyranny, theft, usury etc., but these are rampant in our contemporary age. Millions of people around the world are hungry but the so-called advanced and civilized nations produce millions of weapons of mass destruction including chemical and nuclear and sell them to weak nations. There have been continuous fatalities during wars in which weapons produced by so-called superpowers were used. These weapons are sold to both parties on the either side of the war. In spite of a number of problems in the area of education and health, every year, governments’ defence budgets are increasing. In spite of clear instruction by God against mass killings, wars are created and imposed.
And kill not yourselves [or one another]. Surely, God is ever Compassionate to you. And whosoever does this by way of transgression and injustice, him shall We surely cast into the Fire; that indeed is quite easy for God [4: 29-30].
For last several decades people around the world are suffering from poverty and hunger but neither UNO nor super and major powers were able to solve them. Issue of human rights and people choice of government are pending. During 1990’s in Algeria Abbas Madani’s Salvation Front won the election and formed the government but it was dismissed. Today no one remembers Abbas Madani and democracy in Algeria. In recent years in the same manner Mursi’s elected government in Egypt was brutally dismissed, thousands of people were killed and arrested and put in prisons, consequently, another military dictator came to power and controlled the government and people. The situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria is known to everybody. Thousands and thousands of lives have been scarified. No permanent solutions were sought out. Contrary to this, Sudan was divided into two states and a Christian dominated government was established in South Sudan as a separate country. In recent years thousands of people in Myanmar were tortured and displaced. For quite some time people of Hong Kong were scarifying their life for democracy and human rights yet it was denied. In North Korea and China powerful governments refuse to grant democratic rights to their people. The failure of UNO seems to be the source for the anger of God. Women are still ill-treated today, in spite of the slogans of women empowerment. Hundreds of cases of rape and women harassment are being registered. Instead of controlling it, it is only rising. God warns against this kind of behaviour. “…whereas those who give the lie to Our signs, chastisement will visit them for their transgression [6:49]”.
If people assign the place of God to anyone else, be it philosophers or scientists, God will warn them in this world also. If they insist, God will punish them especially those who deny the Truth or be hostile towards it and commit evil. They can be destroyed in a moment by spreading diseases and hurricanes. We observe that through earthquakes, villages and cities are razed to the ground. Likewise, a few sparks of hostility could ultimately wreak such havoc among tribes, nations and countries that bloodshed and lawlessness will plague people for years as we have seen with in last 7 decades. If people ignore the above signs and demonstrate heedlessness and continue to live in total disregard to distinctions between right and wrong, Truth and falsehood, then, God takes note of them and gives warnings before they are punished.
Say: “It is He Who has the power to send forth chastisement upon you from above, or from beneath your feet, or split you into hostile groups and make some of you taste each other’s violence. Behold, how We set forth Our signs in diverse forms, so that maybe they will understand the Truth” [6: 65].
Those who do not obey God and be thankful to Him and rather choose the course of disobedience and ingratitude may be punished.
“…Eat of your Lord’s provision, and render thanks to Him. Most pleasant is your Lord”. But they turned away and so We let loose upon them a devastating flood that swept away the dams [34:15-16]
When people are engaged in a life of ease and self-indulgence, enjoy a long life of pleasure and comfort and forget God and His teachings then suddenly comes the punishment of God. The worldly life of luxury does not help them to stop the scourge of God. In the past we have seen the destiny of Aad, the Thamud and Lot and now we are observing the conditions of affluent nations in the world. God said: “We shall cause whoever of you commits wrong to taste an enormous chastisement [25:19]. Wrong doing here means the denial of Truth and Reality and acceptance of irrational and unscientific assumptions. It also includes the arrogant attitude of so-called religious authorities, thinkers and philosophers who construct false theories and obey false goddesses. Denial of true God is taken in the Quran as lies against God. The attitude of the rejection of the Prophet Nuh [pbuh] is referred in the Quran as the rejection of Truth and Reality. God says He warned in the past many nations and then totally annihilated them due to the denial of Truth [25:39]. People who fail to understand the Truth and Reality and ignore God’s guidance and indulge in raising their standards of life and insist on the construction of mansions, palaces, high rising building at the expense of weaker sections of society are punished. The erection of lofty buildings in big cities creating environmental crisis which hardly serves any good purpose other than to brazenly display their power and affluence also invites God’s wrath. Their level of concern for humanity falls so low that they have no sympathy for the weak. All these are observable dimensions of life and society everywhere in our age. The poor are denied justice and suffer manifold oppression.
According to 2019 report of UNICEF, children the world over will suffer from inequality in such a way that from 2019 to 2030 there would be:
167 million children under extreme poverty
52 million children under age 5 will die
60 million children of primary school age will be out of school.
The graph of world hunger has slowly been on the rise since 2015. An estimated 821 million people in the world suffered from hunger in 2018. According to UNHCR of UNO:
The world is witnessing today the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced to go out from homes by conflict and persecution at the end of 2018. Among them are nearly 30 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
WARNING OF GOD
People have forgotten that ultimately they have to return to Him. God reminds:
“…take heed of your ultimate future and avoid incurring the wrath of God. Know well that one Day you shall face Him. Announce good tidings to the believers [2: 223]”; “God warns you to beware of Him for to God is the ultimate return [3: 28]”; “Have they not seen how many a people We have destroyed before them? People whom We had made more powerful in the earth than you are and upon them We showered from the heavens abundant rains, and at whose feet We caused the rivers to flow? And then [when they behaved ungratefully] We destroyed them for their sins, and raised other peoples in their place [6: 6]”; “And your Lord is not such as would wrongfully destroy human habitations while their inhabitants are righteous [11: 117]”. I think corona is not a punishment but warning. O God, protect us, save humanity, accept our repentance and forgive Us. You are Most-Compassionate and Most-Merciful.
Dr. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali is teaching at Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences. International Islamic University Malaysia.