The coronavirus pandemic has spread in more than 210 countries and disrupted social and economic life across the globe. It has changed our working, playing and learning style: schools are closed, online homework is given and parents are asked to supervise their kids. Offices are shutdown, sports leagues have been cancelled, and many people have been asked to work from home. Lockdown is imposed on more than 3.5 billion people around the world. Faith groups are invited to present their points of view; medical experts are busy day and night all over the world to identify the effective treatment. Financial advisers are busy suggesting several measures to overcome the economic crisis caused by Covid-19. There is a need to work collectively, suggested by various heads of governments. Mass media is a powerful force shaping our views.
Prayers are being offered by religious leaders regularly and words of support offered to the people of the world; everyone has doubled down on prayers in recent weeks to ease worries over the virus. We have been observing the interactions between religious and scientific communities. While some of us may regard religion and science as at odds in our culture, the fact is that many communities rely on their religious leaders to guide their attitudes about scientific findings. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and civic leaders from all over the world are doing whatever they can do, to save humanity from a common enemy. This particular enemy does not see any division in humanity. It is destroying humanity without any discrimination.
Some people think one of the best things religious leaders can do is to align with scientists, physicians, or have other expertise on how viruses can be controlled. For them religious leaders and scientific communities should join together in pursuing wholeness and healing of the world. Covid-19 pandemic has impacted religious and non-religious communities in various ways. For example, it has caused the cancellation of worship services as well as the cancellation of pilgrimages and festivals. Churches, mosques, and temples have been locked. General Secretary of the World Council of Churches announced that, "This situation calls on our solidarity and accountability, mindfulness, care, and wisdom... [as well as] for our signs of faith, hope, and love".
Muslims are advised to return back to Allah for guidance and forgiveness. We are told coronavirus is a reminder to us for all of our sins. Regardless of social and financial positions, we are subject to coronavirus. No boundary line of any country can stop it. Apparently, we are helpless. Allah controls everything; He alone can relieve us from coronavirus and other difficulties caused by it. We must return to Him and seek His protection.
We are a thinking creature and contemplate continuously. But in this process, we miss one important and basic thing. We are thinking based on our various perspectives. We have developed several methods and modes of thinking. We have several theories of knowledge, religions, ideologies and isms. We always think based on our own perspectives and frameworks and think we are moving in the right direction. I am watching news and videos and realizing that all over the world roads and localities are totally silent. Busy city centres, shopping malls, offices in high rising buildings are closed. Everywhere there is only one scene, the scene of silence. I am thinking if our fate is the same then why did we create so many faiths be they religion, ideologies or isms. Can all these be right at the same time? We benefit from water, sunlight, air, fruits, rice, wheat, vegetables which are same then why do we have different perspectives on life? Why did we divide humanity into nations and put restrictions on the movement of people whereas humanity seems to be one? Why did we produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction? If one virus can destroy us and our powerful economies, then why are we divided? Why are our technologies, at some point, unable to protect us?
I am sure we would be able to control sooner or later coronavirus like China has done. We humans are capable of doing it. But can we be able to control our various perspectives, differences, enmities, divisions, greed and lust for power? Would we be able to protect people around the world with the same spirit of collective fighting against Covid-19 or will our sense of nation and pride will stop us? Would we be able to treat every nation, weak or powerful, equally and bury our sense of pride of being super or major powers against others? Is the notion of national interest above and higher than the interest of humanity? Can humanity be divided permanently into nations? Are not the nations and tribes for the sake of introduction and cooperation? Don’t we need to think collectively about everything especially? The major lesson from coronavirus seems to be the problem of our perception about our own selves. Are we really free from any control from outside? Is the truth and reality of life one or various? Don’t we need to rethink our mode of thinking and understanding?
Let us come forward at a time when we are lock downed in our houses about our mode of thinking, epistemologies and methodologies and share with one another and make sure with certainty and authenticity that we are able to think ethically and scientifically and also capable to save humanity from self destruction and allow it to live in peace, free from diseases, weapons and wars.
Dr. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali earned his PhD in Islamic Studies from Aligarh Muslim University, India. He started his career as an Assistant Professor in International Islamic University, Malaysia in 1987. He is still serving in the same University. Currently he is in the Department of Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences.