“Something profound is going on in the world that will alter human consciousness forever”. Yes. The current COVID-19 pandemic is profound indeed. Or how else might we describe a global pandemic that has led to global pandemonium, infected close to 1,000,000 people all around the world, occasioned close to 50,000 deaths and led to large-scale disruptions in people’s life across the world.
How else might we explain what is unfolding before our very eyes- when the powerful has become powerless; when the rich has become a beggar, when the homeland has become unhomely?
How else do we make sense of the current situation where Europe and America have become epicentres of the current global pandemic; a situation where China is sending aids to Italy and Cuba is sending Medics to Spain?
To say that the current pandemic has altered global human consciousness of self and other, like the one which occurred in 1918 and led to the death of millions of people all around the world, would therefore amount to an understatement.
From the North to South America, from Europe to Asia and down to Africa, the outbreak of this pandemic has brought the reality down to humanity that there are wars that we can hardly prepare for; that there are entities out there whose potency are beyond our imagination.
In addition to other realities, COVID-19 has awakened our consciousness to the fact that humans can only perfect the art of war against enemies they can see; there is no way we can, like Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, predict the onslaught of the unknown or go into a war with forces whose forte and strength are beyond the most potent nuclear arsenals the West can boast of today.
If only one virus has occasioned these large-scale tragedies all around the world, Imagine if ten of such were to appear in our midst; in our world, the world would have imploded since the past couple of weeks.
In obeisance to instructions given by governments all around the world, Muslims and Christians have consequently had to observe social-distancing and avoid congregating in mosques and churches on Fridays and Sunday.
Whereas the avoidance of mosques in times like this and the imposition of restriction of movement or complete lockdowns on cities enjoy credence in Islamic jurisprudence, compliance with government’s instructions by the faithful (Muslim and Christian) has been read by some critics to mean the acceptance of “a breach in what is considered sacred… (that) humans are now forced to accept that self-preservation is higher than the worship of God and (that) the state is superior to any deity”.
A cursory reading of legal texts on notions of self and statehood particularly in Islamic traditions is instructive of the fact that restriction of movement and avoidance of congregation in mosques and churches in times such as this, even during the outbreak of pneumonic or bubonic plaques, has never and cannot in any way constitute the, in line with other atheistic postures, the “death” of God or, according to Sam Harris, “The End of Faith” (2004).
Thus, the argument that the need for ‘self-preservation’ has now become higher than the ‘worship of God’ neglects to take into account the fact that the former is a priori a product of the latter; that God profits not from the destruction of His own creatures.
Nor could or should the temporary avoidance of congregations in mosques or churches during this season of pandemic be taken to mean statehood “is superior to any deity”. This is because over a thousand four hundred and forty-one years ago (1441AH), preservation of life has and still remains the first objective of Islamic law.
The whole essence of governance/statehood in Islamic law therefore derives its legitimacy and relevance from the extent to which life of citizens is protected and their comforts enhanced. Besides, the law in Islam is precedent to statehood; the latter cannot therefore become superior to the instrument from which it derives validity. In other words, worship in Islam becomes obligatory only when all conditions that guarantees the security and safety of worshippers are met; it is the living that worships God, not the dead.
Thus contrary to the assertion that “we are seeing the fall of faith, the loss of control by religious institutions and perhaps the end of worship as we know it”, the on-going pandemic has served to remind humanity of their limited powers and has also functioned in reconnecting millions of people with their Creator. Yes. I concede that after the on-going pandemic, a “new world is going to emerge”: but that world shall be better one for all provided we seize the opportunity this crisis affords us all- the opportunity this pandemic affords us to discover the Almighty- the Real Super Power; to discover that no race is superior to the other; that no power is bigger that that of the Almighty, the Owner and Sustainer of this world.
He says: “Corruption (plaques and diseases) have appeared on land and in the sea because of what the hands of people have wrought (evil deeds); Thus Almighty causes them to taste the consequences of some of what they have done, so that they may (take heed, repent and reform, and so) return (to the right way) (Quran 30: 41).
▪︎Prof. Afis A. Oladosu is a Professor of Arabic from University of Ibadan (UI)
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