By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali
Coronavirus has affected entire humanity the world over. We Muslims, Sunni and Shia, Dewbandi and Barelvi, Qadariya and Chistia, Sufi and mujahid, revivalist and traditionalist, modernist and liberalist, rich and poor, urban and ruler, living in Muslim majority countries or minority ones all are equally victims to the catastrophe caused by COVID-19. Everywhere mosques have been closed for Muslims irrespective of big or cosmopolitan cities, towns or villages. Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Majid-e-Nabawi in Madinah, Baitul Maqdis in Jerusalem all are closed for Muslims. During the month of Ramazan Muslims would not be allowed to offer daily prayers and taraweeh prayers in mosques. We are confined to our homes. I do not know exactly whether we would be able to perform Eid prayer on the day of Ramazan collectively. I am also not sure whether we would be authorized to perform Hajj this year. We have already been stopped from performing Umrah. Can this be done by Coronavirus? Does it have this power to stop Muslims to enter mosques all over the world? Does Coronavirus dare cancel Hajj? Where have we Muslims gone wrong that we are controlled by Coronavirus?
Our governments and experts are all continuously and tirelessly thinking to control coronavirus. For this purpose, they are trying to utilize and mobilize their resources and energies. Some of them are making their supplication to the Supreme Being for safety from the pandemic. Some Muslim scholars referring to our misdeeds as the chief reason for the Corona onslaught and advising Muslims to go back to Allah SWT to repent and seek His forgiveness.
I have gone through hundreds of messages and watched equal number of videos. Everyone is focusing on preventive measures and solutions. Majority of Muslims especially religiously oriented personalities and even so-called scholars are looking towards the people of this world and thinking that due to their injustices and oppressions God is punishing them. All blame is put on wrong doers both Muslims and others. What are the major wrong doings? Are we able to identify them? Are we really committing major sins continuously like other nations that Allah SWT punishing Muslims? I personally think that majority of Muslims are not involved in major sins. Most of us offer daily prayers. On Fridays, mosques are filled with Muslims for the weekly special prayer. Every year millions of Muslims perform Hajj and every day go for Umrah. We regularly pay zakah (poor-due) and give charities and fulfil our social obligations of Nikah for extension of families. After prayers we conduct zikr and tasbeeh, send darood regularly on the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]. I believe we are the upholders of tawhid in the real sense of the word. Yet Muslims did not constitute any exceptions to the impact of the outbreak. Why?
In this regard I have my own perception, which may or may not be right, but I want to share my insights with everyone. For humble comprehension and further reflection on my observations I argue we need to review our understanding of Islam and the role of the Muslim Ummah. According to my modest experience and observations, Muslims have fulfilled some of the obligation individually and some time collectively as well. Along with these obligations they have also committed collectively some big mistakes which can be measured by Allah SWT as big crimes or sins for which Muslims are subject to dreadful consequences. I will list down only two of them.
REDUCTION OF ISLAM TO THE LEVEL OF RELIGION
For the last two hundred years since the time of Shah Wali Allah of Delhi we have been informed that Islam is not a religion but the Din. We see a good number of authentic scholars from both traditional religious educational system and modern Western secular system of education emphatically and tirelessly put their energies to explain Islam in terms of worldview, way of life and code of conduct. They argue that Islam cannot be taken as a religion like any other religion as it deals with life and society and present the Truth about life and the world. It is the source of culture and civilization. To make this view of Islam acceptable for people they conducted several activities individually as well as collectively. Islamic scholars who argued Islam is the only true way of life given by Allah SWT for the well-being of the entire humanity were labelled as fundamentalists, extremists and source of violence and intolerance. After the attack on the twin towers of New York City, the mode of Muslims in general and scholars in particular changed under severe pressure from outside world.
There are hundreds and thousands of articles, books and preachers now who are presenting Islam as a religion. In seminars, discussions and even Friday sermons Islam is being presented as religion. There have emerged a number of preachers all over the world who are focussing on individual righteousness and convincing Muslims to be pious and virtuous individually. This is no doubt obligatory for them. While they emphasize on individual piety, they ignore to enlighten audiences on the negative impacts of social, communal, national, international, cultural and civilizational affairs which are based on secular teachings. Why do they forget that Allah SWT emphasised with equal force on the proper development of society, state and government based on Islamic teachings and values? There are a number of teachings of Islam and values which cannot be practiced individually; they require collective efforts and a social system. Several new trends of thought such as the implementation of educational, economic, political, legal and social system of Islam in Muslim majority countries emerged. A very powerful and logical movement of transformation of educational system and curriculum based on fundamentals of Islam was launched several decades ago. There was a debate for the overhaul of the existing system and sub-systems in Muslim countries. These new trends emphatically argue that they want to help the people of the world to solve the cultural, civilizational and developmental issues and the ensuing crises.
Unfortunately, these new trends of the Muslim Ummah were treated by majority people of the world, the champions of the slogan of freedom of choice and expression, as exclusive and extremists. Their premises were checked and resources were cut down tremendously. In their place, with the full force of power and money, the frameworks of liberalism, and relativism etc. were introduced. As a whole majority of the Muslim Ummah overlooked the need for a change in socio-economic, educational and political systems and structures based on Islam and accepted liberal and plural prescriptions. Majority of Muslims neglected the need of review of sustainable development for humanity and surrendered to the religious and limited view of Islam, instead.
HIDING THE “TRUTH” AS IT IS
The second major sin committed by Muslim Ummah, in my analysis, is the failure of the Ummah to present the Truth as expounded by the Qur’an, which claims that it presents the Truth therein.
And We sent down to you clear Messages that elucidate the Truth, and which only the transgressors deny [2: 99].
What is that truth which has been presented by the Quran? The existence of all that which is beyond the reach of human perception [2:3], hidden from people’s senses. They are beyond the scope of people’s ordinary observation and experience; they even cannot be observed with the help of powerful technological instruments for instance the existence and attributes of God, the Creator, the Provider, the Source of Knowledge and Wisdom, the Almighty. In short, the truths of the supra-sensory realm are beyond the reach of thinkers, philosophers, scientists, saints and sages. The wholehearted submission of everyone to Him is the only sure way of development, cultural and civilizational. The Muslim Ummah under the psyche of inferiority complex accepted the so-called models of development which caused severe crises. The existing models of development are not challenged by them which are based on false view of man and the universe. The Muslims are duty-bound to present the whole truth, not the partial to the people of the world.
Referring to the phenomena of the Bani Israel in the past who did not share the whole truth Allah SWT reminds Muslims that they should not repeat the same mistakes as committed by them. They should rather take some lessons from them. But it seems to me Muslims at present are not taking any lessons, rather repeating the same mistakes. Allah SWT asked the children of Israel not to sell His Signs for a trifling gain and conceal the truth deliberately [2:41-42].
The Children of Israel were asked that they should not accept [believe] in a part of the Book and reject the rest. If they do that then, there could be the retribution of them for hiding the truth. They would also be subjected to degradation in their present life, and on the Day of Judgment as well [2: 85]. The current phenomena of Muslims can be understood in the light of the following:
We shall certainly test you by afflicting fear, hunger, loss of properties and lives and fruits upon you…and when an affliction smites them, they say: ‘Verily to Allah do we belong, and it is to Him that we are destined to return’ [2:155-156]
Those who conceal anything of the clear teachings and true guidance which We have sent down even though We have made them clear in Our Book, Allah curses such people and so do all who curse; [2: 159]
The biggest failure of Muslims in today’s world is that they do not share the Truth contained in the Qur’an without fear, and keep it confined to themselves. Muslims are indeed assigned with the duty of sharing the Truth with the people of the entire world:
People of the Book! Why do you confound Truth with falsehood, and why do you conceal the Truth knowingly? [3: 71]
Believers! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and see that you do not die save in the state of submission to Allah. Hold fast together to the cable of Allah and be not divided… [3: 102-103]
As a whole this is the phenomena of Muslims and the phenomena of coronavirus. We are warned and reminded about our basic duty that we have to present Islam as the Din – source of life, culture, civilization and development and must stand with this collectively. And the Truth expounded by the Qur’an that Allah SWT controls everything of this world. If we want to get rid of the current CORONA CRUELTY, we should first correct our view of Islam and submit wholeheartedly to the total teachings of Islam. We are now in 2020s. If we are unable to reflect upon the guidance of the Quran as if it is revealed upon us now in the 2020s, we cannot practice it. There was a time when secularism and communism were emerging as new gods. But we are in a time when naked capitalism, greedy individualism and selfish character are dictating the course of most people’s lives. Muslims have found an ugly way to deal with this; they have sandwiched Islamic rituals between their desire to please God and follow their nafs[self].
The author teaches at Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. He can be reached at mail: email@example.com