ZAHOOR AHMAD SHAH
In Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the valley, there is no dearth of sermonisers and preachers stressing on having faith in God. Some have even restored to very irrational and idiotic conclusions and have declared that those having faith in Allah cannot get infected as they are the chosen ones. Such beliefs and dogmas often lead to mass ignorance and can cause endless and irreparable pain and disaster. There is nothing wrong in believing in God, as He is the Almighty, but leaving everything to God without doing anything precautionary is utter arrogance and sheer ignorance. Both are strictly disallowed and abhorred in Islam. The Prophet has warned us against fatalism and blind faith.
Relying on Allah and entrusting one’s affairs to Him must be accompanied by taking permissible measures by oneself, as is indicated in the Hadith: “Trust in Allah, but tie your Camel”. Anas Ibn Maalik reported that a man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie up my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave it loose and trust in Him?” The Prophet said: “Tie it up and Trust in Allah” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi 2517).
Undoubtedly, God is behind everything, be it death or a disaster. But there is a difference between death and suicide. By putting all faith in God and ignoring all precautionary measures is suicide, not death, and suicide is forbidden (Haram) in Islam.
It should be understood that truly relying on Allah does not mean not taking any measures by oneself. Allah has enjoined us to take measures, yet he has also enjoined us to rely on Him. So, to take measures by oneself is an act of obedience and relying on Him is an act of faith and both are of equal importance.
We know the richest and technologically advanced countries are losing the fight against Covid-19, but we can avert such disaster by adopting simple precautionary measures known to all of us. But hurdles and challenges being put up in the way of taking these precautionary measures, one of which is, “Having utter and blind faith in God and leaving everything to Him without doing anything”. Second is, “I am young, so I am safe”. Third is, “I have not travelled to any affected area or country, so I may not be infected”. All such assumptions and beliefs are making our fight against this deadly virus tough and frustrating. Our fight with Covid-19 is also different from other countries like Italy and China, as they have to fight only the deadly virus but here our fight is also with ignorance, arrogance, lack of awareness, lack of willingness, and blind faith. Our people are not willing to cooperate and are not yet in the mood to accept the measures necessary to avoid this disaster.
A lot of public movement and gatherings can be seen at shops, roadsides, and local parks all across the Valley, particularly in rural areas. Our history and collective psyche is witness to our late responses as we have always responded late to natural disasters. To be late is our collective identity. But here at this juncture, the slightest mistake and delayed response can be fatal.
I fear that if we do not understand and act timely, we may lose the chance to revise our decisions. The day will not be far when we will simply become a tragic chapter in the history of disasters. If we fail to act decisively now, we will follow Italy’s course or worse, that of Iran.
To be pragmatic, our healthcare system is not so good. Our hospitals are not well equipped and are understaffed as well. We are in no way capable of fighting this disaster. But we can contain this virus by remaining indoors, by social distancing, curtailing our contact with people, refraining from gatherings and parties. Our one sensible act can save millions of people and our one negligence can endanger the life of millions of people. By believing and boasting that our area or village is safe or has had no case so far can lead us to ignorance, as death keeps no calendar and the virus does not come by declaring a date.
It has become a collective responsibility of all citizens, civil society members and religious heads to persuade the general public to adopt precautionary measures like social distancing, avoiding unnecessary travelling, and refraining from rumour mongering. We have to make a choice: to survive or to perish.
–The writer is a PhD scholar, Department of History, University of Kashmir. [email protected]
ZAHOOR AHMAD SHAH