The Coronavirus is the writing on the wall. The monster has been unleashed and is everywhere. People are dying, livelihoods have been lost, and our society has come to a standstill under lockdown. Regrettably some in their religious zeal did not pay attention to the clarion call and have added to the misery by organizing get-togethers. The question therefore arises, that as Muslims, is there any guidance available to us to follow in such circumstances? Is it within the spirit of our faith to brave the virus as our fate? When we look into the Qur’an, the clear instruction in the event of any threat to life is to:
“Take your precautions.” (Nisa 4:71)
When performance of public prayers posed a threat to the lives of the Children of Israel in Egypt due to the persecution of the Pharaoh, God commanded:
“And We inspired to Moses and his brother, “Settle your people in Egypt in houses and make your houses [facing the] qiblah and establish prayer and give good tidings to the believers.” (Yunus 10:87)
So we clearly see that God gave the order to do the prayers at home because doing them in public would bring a risk to life. Thus the guidance for us is that if there is a threat to life in doing prayers in public places then we should instead pray privately in our homes. The Quran repeatedly cautions us that if there is a misfortune, in our life, then it is not due to our fate, but as we live in a world of cause and effect, our fortunes as well as our miseries are a result of our own handiwork. It is our action or inaction that brings about misery. So we shouldn’t blame the likes of ‘luck’ or ‘fate’ when faced with adversity and disaster but we need to take ownership of our actions.
“Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because of the things your hands have wrought, and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness.” (Shura 42:30)
If it is raining heavily and we don’t do anything about it, there will be flooding everywhere. But if we build dams and reservoirs, then our handiwork can harness the force of nature and prevent the misery caused by flooding. Same is the case with viruses, disease and sickness. If we do not take the precautionary measures, then the misery will befall us. So the important lesson for us is that our actions can prevent miseries. Notably important, a central theme of the Quran is that the entire creation has been subjected to human beings. We can harness the forces of nature. If they are not harnessed and are left to their own devices, they can create havoc. So as Muslims, we are also duty bound by the Quran to harness the forces of nature. The obligation upon Muslims is to study science, to develop their knowledge of science to that level, that the forces of nature don’t overpower them but they overpower the forces of nature.
“And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect.” (Jathiyah 45:13)
As Muslims we have to harness the forces of nature by studying science so that when there is an outbreak like the coronavirus our scientific knowledge is up to the level that we gain mastery over the phenomenon, instead of being at its mercy. This is what our religion teaches us. The Godly, according to the Quran, aren’t those who live a monastic and fatalistic life, but those who truly remember God are the one’s who are engaged in the study of the natural laws governing our physical environment.
“Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire:” (Aale Imran 3:191).
Thus Islam requires of Muslims to take precautionary measures when there is a threat to their lives, to perform prayers at home when there is a risk for doing so in public, to take ownership of their actions for misery is a consequence of human handiwork, to harness the forces of nature as the entire creation has been subjected to man and to reflect and ponder on the laws governing the heavens and the earth for this is the trait of the righteous. Events like the coronavirus outbreak draw our attention to Quranic guidance. Will we pay heed or continue with mindless religiosity becoming those about whom the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) will complain on the final day:
Then the Messenger will say: “O my Lord! Truly my people took this Qur’an for just foolish nonsense.” (Al Furqan 25:30)