Naila Altaf Kayani
Covid19 has undoubtedly jolted very foundations of human civilisation. It has exposed the fragility of our economic systems, has altered our long standing customary practices and has impacted religions in various ways.
This is not the first trial of mankind. Human history has seen pandemics like Plague of Athens, The black death, Antonine plague, Justinian plague, 3rd and 6th cholera pandemic, cocoliztli infection, The great plagues of London and Russia, Yellow fever of Philadelphia, Ebola pandemic, AIDS/HIV, Zika, SARS, and many other calamities since pre-historic times. Each calamity changed the course of nature for ever. The human costs of pandemics are almost always dreadful, so as the economic effects. The Black Death resulted in vanishing at least one-third of the population of Europe. Similarly the great plague left lasting scars.
History has testified that man has devised innovative ways to deal with any disaster and has learned some lessons from every calamity to remember them forever. And the present episode is no exception.
Conspiracy theorists claim Covid-19 to be a brain child of US, Israel and Britain trio, a biological weapon created to destroy China’s economy, a tool of Thucydides trap to hamper a competitive emerging power from disturbing the status quo. Another theory believes it is bioengineered by China herself to gulp multinational companies down. Regardless of the debate whether this ferocious virus is Bio-engineered or natural, the novel Corona virus has forever scarred the mankind. There is an atmosphere of fear. Significant and largest religious sites are shutting their doors for the first time. Million of worshippers can no longer visit their places of worship. Kaaba in Macca is closed, Al-Aqsa is closed, Vatican in Europe is closed, temples, churches, synagogues and gurdwaras are closed. Apparently it seems as if religions have failed to offer solace to its followers or a solution to this situation. Intellectuals are questioning harmony between Science and Faith, claiming the superiority of science. However, religions and especially Islam shows harmonious, complimentary and productive coexistence with science. Islam encourages seeking knowledge as an act of worship.
However, the way our society is reacting towards the issue is a hindrance in coping with the disaster. Muslims have adopted certain practices that are not the products of Islamic culture. The main reason to adhere to such practices is lack of knowledge about Islam. These are usually traditions and customs of earlier generations which either have no basis in Islam or have a distorted version of Islamic practices.
Pakistanis are passionate, warm and friendly people. They are fond of celebrations and large feasts. Pakistani society is led by collectivism where family, neighbours and other relationships stand strong. Joint family system, acute collectivism and interdependence makes the concept of social-distances difficult for them. Moreover, It has been observed that Pakistanis take pride in taking risks and breaking rules. self-care is considered being selfish. These behavioural problems need to be channelized.
When the government imposed ban on marriage halls, our people started weddings ceremonies at their houses despite possibilities of police raids. Death anniversaries and religious congregations continued. Even a series of collective prayers and collective sacrifices have started to deal with Corona scare . Raiwind congregation could not be stopped despite fears of virus spread.
Our common house holds have three to four generations where Grandparents, parents, and children live together. Visiting elderly to honour them and receive their blessings is part of the practice. Likewise, grand-children have usually have strong emotional bonds with their grand parents are both live in close proximity. In this situation, it is more difficult to restrict physical touch. Elderly are more prone to consider social distancing as social boycott.
Islamic principles can guide us a lot in this regard. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has a clear hadith “Do not bring sick camel near healthy camels”. Similarly, Saud RA narrated. The Prophet said, “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”(Sahih Al-Bukhari 5396). According to another hadith narrated by Ans bin Maalik clearly explains the meaning of reliance as a man asked whether he should tie a camel or should trust in Allah and leave her un-tie, Rasullullah (PBUH) replied “Tie her and trust in Allah”. (Tirmidhi 2517).
Coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic by WHO. Prime Minister Imran Khan summoned a special meeting of the National Security Council, a body comprising top civil and military leadership, to discuss strategy to curb the further spread of coronavirus. The government has already created an emergency in the country. Measures such as completely sealing of border with Afghanistan and Iran, restricting international flights (arrivals and departures both) can further help control the spread.
Government needs to initiate an urgent mass awareness campaign through electronic, print and social media in order to encourage public to exercise self-restraint, demonstrate responsibility and avoid public gatherings, thus managing growing panic and trauma. Celebrities, known personalities, national players and social media influencers should reach out to the public to create awareness among the people on how to control the spread of the virus.
Religious scholars should sensitize the public to pray at home. Sindh and AJK have temporarily suspended congregational Jumma Prayers in order to avoid mass gatherings. A general consensus should be developed in light of ruling of Al-Azhar to do the same through out the country.
Rigorous Testing and screening methods need to be adopted at airports and all points of entries. As the schools and universities are off till May 31st, they can be used as quarantine centers. Government should build effective national coordinated mechanism to ensure synergy to deal with the virus. Regional and global cooperative mechanisms should be adopted in order to remain actively vigilant to import best practices and learning lessons from other countries to deal with the pandemic. Through national solidarity, strong faith and commitment we can defeat Covid-19.
Naila Altaf Kayani is a Social Activist and Public Speaker From Azad Kashmir Can be reached at [email protected]