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COVID-19: More Islamic than Prophet Muhammad?

COVID-19: More Islamic than Prophet Muhammad?
March 24
00:21 2020

BY BASHIR MUNDI

Thousands of people are dying in many countries around the world. Corona virus is killing people of different faiths, the rich, the poor, and even doctors and nurses caring for corona patients have died so far. In light of this global public health crisis, some (not most) Muslim scholars and leaders, in Nigeria for example, who are displaying misguided religious bravado by treating this pandemic as a hoax or an exaggeration are endangering human lives by advising their followers to defy public health advice from competent government authorities and public health agencies. By God, these religious leaders will answer to God on the day of judgment. And the government should not tolerate this brazen and audacious threat to the lives of thousands of Nigerians. These irresponsible Sheikhs and Mallams, and even Bishops and Pastors, should be held accountable. Their potentially massively lethal actions should not be taken lightly by a government whose most important responsibility is to protect the lives of citizens. That said, the Nigerian government on her part must display a more assertive response to this pandemic.

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When the Prophet Muhammad (peace by upon him) ordered the Muazzin (caller to prayer) to announce, “pray in your homes, pray in your homes”, he decided so in order to protect them from getting soaked in rain and mud. This valid excuse was rather mild compared to what we’re dealing with right now. Corona virus is lethal. Medical experts say that this is a rapidly infectious disease that a person can be spreading for ten to fourteen days without showing any symptoms. And everyone that this person infected during this time would also have been infecting others without them showing symptoms either for up to ten days. And how many other unsuspecting people would those infected keep on infecting innocently? Just imagine how the virus would have been geometrically spreading silently because some people are waiting till they show symptoms before they socially isolate. Meanwhile religious leaders who have no medical competency are misguiding their followers, that this is a hoax.

As a practicing Muslim, it is extremely disheartening and saddening to see images of empty mosques around the world. It is a surreal and subnormal feeling to have to miss attending congregational prayers in the mosque due to the scourge of this corona pandemic. On Friday the 13th of March, I was forced to cancel my planned sermon at an Atlanta area mosque due to the corona crisis. It is a very abnormal experience for me. This is such an unprecedented historical calamity that one is still struggling to fathom.

However, the Muhammadan way is the way of reasonable caution in times like these. Describing our beloved Prophet, Allah says in the Qur’an, “And We have not sent you except as a loving mercy to the worlds”. In the historical instance mentioned earlier, the Prophet, peace be upon him, had asked people to pray in their homes for their own safety and out of caution against potential harm from the rain. Potential harm! Not even proven harm! We must appreciate the Prophetic and Islamic Principle of the Priority of Removing Harm or evil (Dar’ al Mafasid). He even instructed people who had eaten garlic not to come to the mosque so that they don’t offend other worshippers with foul odor.

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Are we more Islamic than the Prophet? Can we say that the Prophet was disobeying Allah by instructing the people to pray at home? God forbid, No! Prayer to Allah is indeed our greatest weapon against this, or any, affliction. A bedouin Arab once left his camel untied outside the mosque, and the Prophet asked him why he had not tied his camel. The man said he was relying on Allah to take care of the camel. Then the Prophet told him “Tie your camel and rely on Allah”. Using the means that Allah has provided, such as competent medical advice and common sense, is part of trusting in Allah. One of the top two objectives of Islam is the preservation life (Hifz al-Nafs).

God bless the many other religious leaders that are leading courageously by advising their followers to heed instructions and public health advice from the relevant authorities. The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and other leading Islamic bodies, organizations, and mosques, have issued statements to this effect. Now that government authorities at different levels are showing more resolve by announcing total ban on large (including religious) gatherings, this is a welcome, even if unfortunate, precautionary measure. With our chronically poor medical preparedness for such a massive public health crisis, our greatest hope in Nigeria is to turn to God to save us. But we must tie our camel! Else we may risk invoking the wrath of God by failing to use the means that He has provided.

If, at the end of the day, we discover that we had unnecessarily exercised an abundance of caution after all, then that would have still been the right thing to do. And that would have been the Islamically Correct course of action. May God recompense us for our patience and reward us with the full reward of the congregational prayers we miss on account of this pandemic. Meanwhile, adhere to government advice to keep social distance, wash your hands with soap regularly, drink warm water regularly, and keep a clean environment with disinfectants. If you notice symptoms, quarantine yourself and alert health officials immediately. That is how you tie your camel. May God forgive us our sins, lift this affliction from us, bless the souls of those that have died, protect us, fortify those caring for the sick, strengthen our resolve in the face of this tremendous trial, and heal the afflicted amongst us. HasbunAllah wa ni’mal Wakeel – Allah suffices for us, and He’s the best of protectors.

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Bashir Mundi
Department of Religion,
University of Georgia,
Athens, GA, USA
23rd March 2020

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