Raouf Rasool

Lessons must be learnt from Nizamuddin incident

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COVID-19: Just stay home; it’s better for you, and others too

Today Late Maulana Elyas will be a worried man, and more than that, a very sad man. Reason being that the movement he started in early 1920s and which has by now grown into one of the biggest proselytization movements in the world — doubtlessly the biggest among the Muslims — has come under the shadow of suspicion, and popular disdain because of the ignorance and ham-handedness of a few people in it.

Maulana Elyas will be sad because it is sheer ignorance (Jahalat) and callousness of his followers, which despite being against the basic tenets of Islam (remember Islam is antithetical to ignorance) was taken to fatal heights by the Tablighi Jamaat at Banglay Wali Jasjid in Nizamuddin area of Delhi this mid-March. They congregated there in large numbers for several days when scientific/medical experts and governments across the world were insisting on and stressing voluntary social distancing as the only effective way of thwarting the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

The results of this madness are today staring everybody in the face. Hundreds of people who had participated in the congregation are facing a sort of social ostracisation throughout the country as scores have tested positive for corona infection, while a few of them have died thus far. In Kashmir too, the first life claimed by the coronavirus reportedly owes itself to the group’s Delhi congregation. Several villages in Valley’s north and south have been declared red zones for coronavirus infection for the simple reason that people from these areas were part of the congregation.

Given the fact that Tablighi Jamaat commands a substantial following in the Valley, the authorities will have to remain extra-vigilant and careful and may be sanitize a few mosques and other places as well, which are frequented by the young and old followers of this group. Their contact-tracing should be relatively easy because all the pro-right religious groups world-over, irrespective of the faith traditions they follow, have one thing in common: they are highly structured and operate as well-knit and disciplined organizations, maintaining records of their activities at certain levels in the organizational set-up. As far a Tablighi Jamaat goes, they do not generally meddle in politics, directly or indirectly; and in the current situation should be more than willing to cooperate with the authorities.

The question that is being, and must be asked is why did Tablighi Jamaat not heed the scientific advice on social distancing which has been circulating globally for months now. Why did it throw all caution and wisdom to winds when the very faith it claims to profess and aims to spread has consistently and unwaveringly preached the primacy of common sense, reason, logic, and scientific knowledge?

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) encouraged people to seek guidance in their religion, but he hoped they take basic precautionary measures for the stability, safety and well-being of all – use their common sense.

A story, widely being circulated these days, and related by ninth-century Persian scholar Al-Tirmidhi goes like this: One day, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) noticed a Bedouin man leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in God.” The Prophet (SAW) then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in God.”

By no means a “traditional” expert on matters of deadly diseases, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) nonetheless had sound advice to prevent and combat epidemics diseases like COVID-19. “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks 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.” He encouraged human beings to adhere to hygienic practices that would keep people safe from infection — “Cleanliness is part of faith”; “Wash your hands after you wake up; you do not know where your hands have moved while you sleep.” He would also encourage people to always seek medical treatment and medication: “Make use of medical treatment,” he said, “for God has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease—old age.”

Islam’ second Caliph Umar ibn-al-Khatab (RA) was once travelling with a group of companions during his reign.  They approached a town which was said to be infested with a contagious/infectious disease. Caliph asked his companions whether they should proceed or return to Madinah. Majority of companions said they should go back but some said they should proceed ahead. Then one companion said he knew a Hadith where the Prophet (SAW) said “if you hear that this disease exists in a country, do not travel to that country.” So Umar decided that they should go back. The simple inference is that a Muslim should take necessary precautions in the face of harm or its potential danger.

Umar is also reported to have told a leprous woman who he saw performing ‘Tawaaf’ (ritual circumambulation of the Ka’aba at Makkah) that she should remain at home as the Prophet (SAW) mandated that Muslim refrains from exposing one another to illness or harm. Notably, Umar did not have the leprous woman removed from the sacred precincts of Ka’aba by force, rather he gently urged her to return to her house by saying that this would be better for her.

While Prophet of Islam (SAW) has taught people to balance faith with reason, those who claim to be his followers have long back given up on reason. And they do it with such pomp and pride as if they are doing some great serve to Islam and humankind, while in reality they are not. Those who still head to mosques and temples (churches, gurudwaras, synagogues, gompas or other such places) and claim or believe that prayer alone would be better at saving them from the coronavirus than adhering to basic rules of social distancing and quarantine are actually doing great disservice not only to their faith but are actually putting entire humankind to grave risks. How could God forgive those whose foolish behavior, even if acted in good faith, puts His people to risks, which could be easily avoided?

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