In the time of Covid-19, there is a dire need of differentiating between education and literacy. A well-established misconception in our society is that the two terms are synonymous and thus interchangeable. Literacy, though, is just the ability to read and write, whereas education is the systematic process of facilitating learning which caters to the overall development of an individual. It makes people think comprehensively and reason scientifically. Every literate Tom, Dick, and Harry cannot be called educated unless and until they resort to making use of what they have learnt. Educated people are socially groomed as social awareness is much more significant than just possessing a bunch of degrees. Education reminds us that the collective good is more important than the individual good.
The novel coronavirus after emerging from China has wreaked havoc everywhere, particularly in the US and European countries. Since it knows no boundaries, it has affected India as well. Kashmir, which has been under a lockdown since August 2019, is largely ill-equipped to cope with the pandemic. Fear and anxiety have gripped the population after the detection of several cases of the disease. The healthcare infrastructure of the valley is insufficient. Doctors in the valley fear disastrous consequences as the hospitals are understaffed and ill equipped. If timely precautions are not taken, devastation will follow and God forbid, people will start dying like cattle. The news that South Kashmir has just two ICU ventilators for over twenty-five lakh people is profoundly depressing and alarming. Reports reveal that even doctors have no protective gear.
Now coming to the main issue, the question is how the virus has entered the valley. Most of the uspected or positive cases have travel history to the worst Covid-hit countries. Maximum of them are students pursuing MBBS, Engineering, Research, etc, in and outside India or doing jobs and business outside the valley. Many have managed to reach their homes somehow (Alhamdulillah). Sadly and ironically, the major portion of them hid their travel history owing to the fear of quarantine. What a society we are! Do they understand and realise that by doing so, they are putting their own lives and those of their families at greater risk? Such people are inviting death for themselves and for the entire community. This class of people can be called ‘mass murderers.’ Apologies to those who have voluntarily come forward and reported to the authorities regarding their travel. But what is the use of such degrees that the students are pursuing when the students do not even realise the gravity of the situation. Are they educated? Or just literate hypocrites? Doesn’t education teach self discipline? And worse is when people start debating about religion and science. This is, in no way, a religion vs science debate. People are seen delivering sermons, coming up with artificial expertise, and labelling themselves as firm believers by avoiding isolation and quarantine. Are those who take the precautionary measures the lesser believers? There are enough references in Islam which justify that we must adjust with what the situation demands. When Prophet Mohammad (SAW) migrated from Mecca to Medina, He had to hide himself in a cave outside the city. It was a lesson for the whole humankind to learn how to protect oneself from calamities. When the whole world has announced a complete lockdown to combat the pandemic, is the sanctimony of doing “bhandaras” wise? Allah—the protector, the preserver, and the most beneficent—has gifted and blessed humans with a mind, let’s apply that! The PM’s call for a complete lockdown is a welcome step. The valley is habitual to such lockdowns. For the first time, this lockdown is in our favour, so why and what to worry about?
As the pandemic has engulfed the entire globe and rendered all powerful countries helpless, a number of questions arise in my mind. Where is the powerful weaponry of the powerful nations? Where are the missiles and tanks which could be used to fight the virus? Where are the nuclear bombs which they are proud of? What use is the artillery? Doesn’t it reflect the absurdity of borders? Who are more important—the on screen “bhakts” who leave no stone unturned in spreading venom and hatred among people, or the security forces, or the forces in the “white” (doctors/ nurses/ paramedical staff)? Instead of spending millions on defence, isn’t it better to spend on medical infrastructure? The pandemic is not racist; it treats everybody equally regardless of race, region, religion, ethnicity, community, culture, power, occupation, status, or fame. This is a time of reflection and introspection for those in power to learn from their mistakes.
Stop panicking, but yes, take precautions! Allah, in the Quran, says, “Verily with hardship comes ease” (Q. 94: 5). This, too, shall pass. As Faiz says, “Dil naaumeed tow nahi nakaam hi tow hai / Lambi hai gham ki sham magar sham hi tow hai.” Let’s join hands to fight this pandemic. Stop debating religion and science. It is high time to be real Muslims and follow Sunnah in letter and spirit, as all the precautionary measures suggested by the doctors were preached by our Prophet (SAW) fourteen-hundred years ago. Trust Allah, relax, and don’t lose hope. Remember Iqbal (RAH)’s verse, “Na ho naumaid naumaidi zawal-e-ilm-o-irfaa’n hai / Ummeed-e mard-i moomin hai Khuda kay raazdan’n mein.” Take good care of yourself. May Allah protect the whole humankind! Amen.
The writer is a PhD scholar at Central University of Kashmir