Dissecting the debate: The virus takes life, not opinion

Syed Wajahat Ali

Across the globe, the mosques are closed through religious and official decrees. The congregational worship has not been allowed in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Fatih Mosque in Istambul, Sheikh Zayed’s Grand Mosque in UAE, Mousawi Grand Mosque in Basra, and National Mosque of Malaysia in compliance with the social distancing policy against the COVID-19 spread.

The issue remains the most talked about topic in Pakistan during the last three weeks with contrasting opinions. A large majority of the clerics opposed the ban on congregations in mosques. They consider the finality of human death a determinant of destiny and argue that the pandemic is a divine warning to re-connect with God’s will. Furthermore, they put the incapacity of medical research as an argument to prove the limitedness of human faculty and its dependence on divine help.

Many representatives from the academia also share the voice. An online article titled “Coronavirus: A Challenge for Liberalism” unveiled a new horizon in the debate. The writer used globally advised strategy of controlled mobility to establish the inaptness of the slogan “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” (My body, My control). Furthermore, the author used this fact to infer the ‘underlying inadequacies’ in the theory of liberalism under his own conception about the theory. Interes-tingly, the author is a Pro-fessor of Law in a renown-ed federal university.

Some extreme proponents of the same mindset suspect a conspiracy behind the pandemic designed to undermine the centrality of mosques. However, they are still working hard to nominate the conspirators due to the unpredictable spread of the disease leaving no exception for them to fix the blame. The moderate scholars are of the view that the sanctity of human life is the top priority in the Islamic legal discourse. The pandemics were there at the times of prophets.

There are numerous citations from the basic sources of Islamic Law categorizing religious obligation based on its importance in imparting safety and prosperity in human life. Putting congregational prayer above the safety of human life is a violation of the conceptual framework devised by the classical jurists to derive legal injunctions with reference to ‘Maqasad- e-Sharia’( The Primary Objectives of Islamic Law), in which preservation of human life stands at the top.

Like many modern constitutions, these scholars argue that the Islamic Law delegates special powers to the Government to pass a decree to ensure the security of its citizens during a state of emergency. The wisdom is to maintain the social order at the time of panic.

The COVID-19 outbreak is a state of emergency when thousands of human lives are at stake. They assert that any attempt at corroborating its spread is against the law both in letters and spirit. Pakistan remained religiously sensitized on many important occasions of dec-ision-making.

The consolidation of a national narrative to fight Coronavirus n-eeds the same unanimity of the cause as emerged after the attack on Army Public School back in 20-16.- a h-orrific incident and the em-otional impact it had also changed the religious discourse on the war on terror.

Despite the difference in response to this deadly pandemic, however, there is a consensus that Coronavirus takes interest in the life of the victim without paying much heed to his opinion. Pakistan holds a fractured health system as compared to the US, UK, Germany, and France-the countries facing devastating human casualties every day.

The federal government’s decision to eased lockdown in some sectors avoiding its economic fallout for the poverty-stricken masses gave impetus to the clerics denouncing the social isolation. While opposing the policy of a ‘class-conscious’ lockdown by the federation, the Sindh government insists to follow the prescribed standards of social isolation to the mosques as well.

The governments are meant to craft a skillful trade-off. The resources for solidarity, the harmony of narrative and policy are as important as medical logistics. No matter what it believes, the continuity of the human race is the baseline for religion and politics. Any confusion or deviation from rationality can lead to catastrophic results.