SARTAJ AHMAD SOFI
The times we live in are called “post-modern”. It is undoubtedly the age of science and ultra-rationality, the end result of which is estrangement from religion. Religion considers “faith” and science considers “rationality” as the sole means for explaining all events in the world. The manifestation of this shift from religion to science is the rapid expansion of “atheism”. Within the religions, too, classifications of “traditional”, “conservative” and “liberal” attest to the growing sense of detachment among the adherents. During this age of ultra-rationality, it is believed that whatever happens is due to anthropomorphic and ecological causes and has hardly anything to do with morality and religious disobedience. The “conservatives” always blame people’s “religious disobedience and moral degeneration” as the sole cause of catastrophes on the earth while the “liberals” blame people’s ignorance and the mismanagement of resources. The demarcation line between “conservatives” and “liberals” is deeply etched in the minds of the educated classes of society.
The ongoing pandemic, i.e., Covid-19, has manifested many mysteries which otherwise were considered as prodigal and irrational. This pandemic is reshaping human thinking. The sense of “super power” has been transformed reduced to dust. Both developed and developing countries are sailing in the same boat and both believe that the rescue lies in natural powers rather than human endeavors. Indeed, the occurrences of epidemics are being considered as a result of moral degeneration and religious disobedience. Prior to that, religion in any way was not taken into consideration. One of the positives of Covid-19 is that necessity of religion is being accepted worldwide. Generally, now the world is looking to God to save it from the pandemic. The followers of every religion are truning more and more to prayers.
The concern of religions with rituals is being discussed extensively now. The question of suspension of religious rituals during the pandemic is being hotly debated. It has divided the world into three categories: one group believes that religious rituals cannot be suspended in any situation, while another group considers total suspension of rituals as valid, and a third group adopts the middle path and talks of changing circumstances and modifications to be made accordingly. Thanks to Islam, Muslims have a tool called ijtihad, under which a learned qualified scholar (Mujtahid) exercises the power of intellect and deducts regulations and guidelines within the sha’riah. Throughout the course of history, Muslims have done ijtihad in two ways; individual opinion called “Qiyas” and collective opinion called “Ijma”. Regarding the current issue of suspending Friday congregations and other religious gatherings, Muslim scholars have almost agreed that during such circumstances, these practices can be suspended in view of the dignity and life of people. To save life is superior to anything else, even superior to religious rituals. Some scholars, of course, hold another view as well.
The pandemic has brought even atheists close to religion, evident in their curiosity regarding issues and concerns of religion. These young and estranged people can be now observed everywhere on the globe. Therefore, it can be argued that the pandemic has brought much devastation but it has also brought some positive changes. It has created a sense of morality and social well-being which is a good foundation for universal brotherhood based purely on humanitarian grounds.
The writer is a research scholar at Shah-i-Hamadani Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir