Coronavirus coded Covid-19 has yet again exposed the fragility of the human beings, while emphasising the fact that global challenges require global approaches to dealing with them. It has also shown that regardless of diverse ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds of humanity, an opportunity can be created for people to come together to have a unified strategy to tackle this global world menace. Being one of the world religions and in fact the fastest growing religion in the world according to many, Islam can offer an insight as part of a global solution in the sense that it looks at the individual from a holistic perspective. Indeed, its approach is one that is anchored on an ethical and spiritual perspective that sees the human as part of the cosmos of the divine creation and not as the conqueror of the world.
Islam is a way of life that provides a holistic, ethical approach to the human being. It goes beyond the anthropocentric and bio-centric perspectives on life and existence .It helps to shape our attitudes towards nature and other human beings. Islamic religious values and ethical beliefs form behaviour toward others, including our relationship with all creatures like plant and animal life. ومَا مِن دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا طَائِرٍ يَطِيرُ بِجَنَاحَيْهِ إِلَّا أُمَمٌ أَمْثَالُكُم ۚ مَّا فَرَّطْنَا فِي الْكِتَابِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يُحْشَرُونَ –
There is not an animal (that lives) on Earth. Nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms a part) of a community (ummah) like you (Qur’an, Al-An’am 6:38).
The above verse emphasises that:
all creation reflects God’s sacredness, glory, and power. It stresses that humans are not the only creatures that are worthy of protection and recognition in Islam. The key Islamic teachings concerning nature and the environment are also linked with Islamic understanding of humanity. Thus, the eco-ethical principles are in fact concepts related to the Islamic worldview on the nature, meaning and value of life, particularly humankind’s relationship with the Creator and its interaction with the rest of humanity, the world and its creatures.
Any discussion of ethics in Islam must, of necessity, start with an exposition of the concept of Tawhid that exemplifies the oneness and unity of Allah. It is the guiding principle of religion and ethics, politics and social behaviour, epistemology, and science and at the centre of Muslim curiosity regarding nature. The principle of trusteeship (khilafah) relates to human viceregency or ‘Khilafah’ on earth. The Islamic worldview is that God created humankind and bestowed upon it a position of a steward or trustee on Earth, referred to as a Khalifa. In the context of the concept of Khalifa, a related term is amana/responsibility or trust.
In addition to medical health and precautions that Islam encourages all to adhere to, it also offers the spiritual approach to mental health and stability. In fact it has been acknowledged by many scholars that faith in one way or the other is the greatest effective cure for eliminating mental illness and its serious consequences. Psychiatrists recognize that strong faith and adherence to religion can overcome anxiety and stress and help heal diseases.
Like any other religion, Islam encourages all to comply with guidelines of authorities in terms of self-isolation, social distancing among other precautions. This is coupled with purification in its physical and spiritual senses.
In these unpreceded circumstances, there are grounding principles to be observed: Compassion and empathy, Care for the elderly, children and the vulnerable, Communal solidarity, Cooperation and not conflict . This I refer to as the Islamic theology of compassion.
Implications of Coronavirus
It is a human tragedy with economic, political, and social implications. It is a human tragedy affecting thousands of people. Many have lost their lives and others are been hospitalised, while some are suffering from the mental trauma and stress. I am sure rebuilding economies will be one of the preoccupations of policy makers, but the biggest challenge will be how to help the vulnerable groups of society and the small-sized businesses which form a big part of the so-called informal economy of many societies. The fallout from this pandemic regarding society and politics will be immense. It will create new alliances and cleavages nationally and internationally. On the global scene, I believe that more collaborative efforts are needed to respond to global challenges. The pandemic challenge has shaken all the countries big or small. It has defied national boundaries.
As we witness Ramadan, I hope it should be a source of solace for the devotees and inspiration to reflect and reform. The rationale behind it is to get consciousness of God-that is to reach Him and be conscious of His majesty and Grandeur in this cosmos. This God-consciousness/taqwa can and should be reflected in our social relations at personal and societal levels. It should therefore kindle in one sympathy and empathy towards the needy and the vulnerable in all the senses.
I believe that the Coronavirus will allow for change of attitudes at different levels .As much as this pandemic obliges one to reform and reflect on oneself critically, it has forced societies and communities as well the need to work together. I believe this terrible crisis has once again brought to fore the need for collective and concerted efforts to respond to global challenges. It has shown the vulnerability of all. Africa stands in a vintage position to make a great transformation. There are good signs of mature leadership and good governance in many parts of the continent. However, more is needed. There is a need for an alliance between the intelligentsia, political leaders, and the economic elite.
No country can do it alone. No country can be an island on its own. Truly, I think we are witnessing a new manifestation of the so-called “global village”. I believe that this pandemic will inevitably create new dynamics in geopolitics. Some are talking about a new world order. Maybe paradigms shifts?