Dr S Shafiq Ahme
Divergence in strategies and thoughts about any public issue is natural and welcome. However, the harmful strategies and thoughts need necessary reform, correction, or rejection. Muslim educators complain that conventional thinking or fixed mindset is commonly prevalent among Muslims. And that it has caused tremendous harm to Muslims in particular and to humankind in general in the last 4-5 centuries. To justify this complaint, they highlight the passive tendency of Muslims towards research, discoveries, and inventions in matters of sciences and technology during these past centuries. The continued backwardness of Muslims is also attributed to it. The question is, what is the reason for this conventional thinking or fixed mindset of Muslims? Is the religion of Islam responsible for it or is it a wrong understanding of Islamic teachings that has led to backwardness?
The above questions have come to the fore again due to the stand taken by Muslims in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Both medical researchers and leaderships in the Muslim world have restricted themselves to emphasize preventive or precautionary measures. Muslims have been purely defensive, both in theory and practice. The general perception about this pandemic is to stay away from it by following precautions religiously. Medical institutions and researchers in the Muslim world seem satisfied with these preventive measures. Truly, what is expected from this fraternity and their institutions is the enthusiasm (they lack) in working out some comprehensive treatment or cure to this disease for which the whole humankind is waiting impatiently. As against this, 35 different organisations and research institutions in US, Canada and Europe are busy in developing a vaccine. Four such organizations even have a candidate vaccine and one of them is going to start human trials very soon.
During the past one week, the COVID-19 pandemic made common masses very much inquisitive about the latest situation and the guidelines issued by public health experts. Experts of other fields are also expressing their views on the subject. Most of the views are welcome, but some unhealthy views may cause tremendous harm to society. One such view was expressed briefly by a learned person who gave a negative notion of Islamic teachings, consciously or unconsciously. Let me reproduce the comment here:
He writes, “There is nothing in the world to stop Allah’s will. All we have to do is to follow Hadith: take precaution. It (COVID-19 pandemic) will affect only those whom Allah wills. The so-called advanced country in the world is USA. What happened to its advanced science (that has been) abandoning Allah. Let’s say they invent a vaccine, then what is stopping Coronavirus to mutate into another strain? This is Allah’s will, so follow instructions of our Prophet (PBUH) and don’t fight against Allah.”
The above comment is indicative of the conventional thinking or fixed mindset which is prevalent among Muslim masses and even among most of the learned amongst us. Actually, any pro-active step by a faithful medical researcher to invent a treatment drug or a vaccine to save human lives is a service to mankind. Service to mankind (Khadmat-e-Khalaq) is akin to Islamic Ibadah which forms the core of the teachings of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). Our beloved Prophet (PBUH) also encouraged medicinal treatment of a disease. Saving one human life in Islam is saving whole humankind. So, how a research for inventing a drug or vaccine which may save many human lives can be construed as a fight against Almighty Allah? Lastly, life is a challenge, with its ups and downs, including these epidemics and calamities which need to be tackled with wisdom.
Interestingly, Almighty Allah described the moon as one of the signs of His Majesty and Creativity. The scientific outlook encouraged some to land on the moon successfully while as philosophical/ aesthetic outlook helped others to expound its beauty in diverse words of poetry. Both the scientific and poetic outlook/s are creative and full of wisdom. They help in human growth and do not cause any harm, unless misused. Certainly, wisdom is lacked when we say, “Moon is Allah’s sign for calendar and other (routine) purposes, so, if we do research to land on moon for any other good purpose, it goes against Almighty’s Will. If a poet expounds the beauty of moon in his poetic verses, it goes against Allah Almighty.” Conclusively, a faithful researcher/scientist or a poet does possess wisdom and we Muslims are in dire need of that wisdom.