This piece is about the notorious Corona virus, not from the natural-science point of view- since its experts have said enough about it. This is about it from the social science perspective. Apart from maintaining proper hygiene, and knowing about its symptoms from the doctors, there is much more that we as a society need to do.
On March 18th, our local clergy under the banner of Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema met to discuss the way forward, specifically about the prayers in Masaajid. Surprisingly, they decided to go ahead with 5 joint obligatory prayers in Masjid. This essentially meant they did not advise people to stay home. Interestingly, they asked people to do Sunnah & Nafawil prayers at home, thereby shortening their stay in Masjid. How does that help? The Fardh prayer is to be done shoulder-to-shoulder, with your feet touching the other person’s. Sunnah is done separately. If you have done your Fardh in congregation, it hardly matters if you also do your Sunnah before you leave. Rasoolullah (SAW)’s teachings are evident as people faced the threat of plague those days. Indeed, we must put our trust in Allah, but only after tying our camels. On the same day, Kashmir’s first positive case of Corona surfaced in Khanyar. It’s true that we do not experience Pandemic quite often in out lives. This is why there’s a big section of people who are unable to take it seriously until someone near them is actually afflicted. However, this would mean a reaction, not caution. Corona’s viciousness & our preparedness is only one step away from each other. If it leaps forward, we can not handle it. MMU’s decision clearly means to wait for Corona to actually hit us before a concrete call is taken. It was disappointing, to say the least.
On the other hand, there are some other Ulema who are calling for a congregation, specially to make supplication (Dua) for this virus to go. I may take the liberty to call it ‘throwing a corona party’. This is not the way of Islam, as said earlier that epidemics/pandemics are not unprecedented in Islamic history. Allah has established laws to govern this universe. This is what we call ‘Science’. Science is not to be compared with Islam. Its creator is God. This is where some people take science as enemy, and perceive listening to scientists as surrendering their faith. Anyway, He can indeed break these laws when He wishes, and that’s what we call a miracle (Mojiza). However, we have not been asked to rely upon miracles, as they don’t happen often.
Fortunately, God gave this critical training to Kashmiris for 7 months, just before the outbreak. Normally, it’s not human to be able to stay home for long, all of a sudden. There’s no cure/vaccine yet available for Corona. Self-isolation, as much as possible, is the only key. This is the only one positive of the Aug-5th. What’s been shocking though is that the 4G Internet is still banned while I’m writing this. For God’s sake, most of the Kashmiris don’t even go to the mosques, & avoid funerals, why would they go out to protest? What’s the logic of disallowing 4G? It’s not the TV, Radio or even Newspapers, but Internet is in everybody’s hands. Disease’s knowledge is the only power. Forget morality, have these people sitting on the top posts divorced common sense ? This is a global emergency.
Well, this was the responsibility of our ulema and administration. However, what we have been doing individually has been beyond pathetic.
Commoners are stacking up cash & filling up their car tanks in lieu of being a possible carrier of this virus for their kids & elderly. A carrier may well not be affected by this infection if s/he’s healthy, but he could transport it to those whose immune system is weak. On the other hand, elites who claim to be educated are ‘saving’ their kids from the Airport screening by using a VIP exit, as was reported by some media outlets. If they love privilege so much, shouldn’t they be using it to screen their children? This shows we are a messed-up society that is just not ready for this pandemic, if it breaks out in real sense.
Therefore, Curfew seems to be a way forward. Curfew is an administrative tool that is ought to be used for the greater good of the people. Most of us, who don’t know anthropology, and have only understood curfew in Kashmiri context, have its limited understanding. In Kashmir, curfew has been (mis)used against the people. This is the first time, partial curfew must be imposed. We pay taxes. So, police should be used for this. Germany, United States (New Jersey, Florida, Puerto Rico), Columbia, Tunisia & many more places are using curfew to stop its spread. In the past, curfew has been used against the people of Kashmir on the diktats of Delhi. For once it can be used in the greater interest of people.