Coronavirus: Why Should We Avoid Believing Rumours?

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by Ikhlaq Qadri

It happened in the dead of night, dark and daunting. Rumours flew across the Kashmir that Thursday, March 26, could be the end of the world, Qayamat, the Doomsday.

Scared, people moved out of their homes and rushed towards respective mosques and started calling the Azaan, the call for Namaz. This became an instance unheard in the Islamic world, or in Muslim history. Back home, women managed to get on rooftops and synced their shrieks. Children too had their share of cries.

With scare scavenging people across the globe, the rumour out in Kashmir was churning at full speed and a lot of panics were created everywhere. It was made to believe that people had seen Dajaal, the Doomsday Trumpeter, in the sky. This was in response to some news reports that on March 26, asteroids would pass close to the earth. People in the valley construed it as the end of the world.

The asteroid has to pass, very close to earth, and will come again in 2027. But its trajectory is completely different from what the doomsayers claimed.

Jumping out of their beds to go out in groups, the social distancing took the backseat while stopping the Dajaal became the priority. Notwithstanding the advisories to remain home, the emotions led people to fight invisible while making themselves prone to the disease in existence.

Rumour Republic

At certain places, the law enforcement agencies had to tighten the grip and even use the force to dispel the crowd. The unusual incident caught us in complete confusion. Frightened, my parents came to my room and did not leave for the whole night. Awake, we went back to the memory lanes of our home in the old city of Srinagar. Our neighbourhood mosque had a signature rhythmic song going on for the full night, Jaago Jaago subah huvi.

Rumours have their credibility in Kashmir and superstitions are the special feature of our society. If we go down the decades, rumours have had a free flow, always. The main launchpad being the baker’s and barber’s shop. Off late when Kashmir was shut in the 1990s, the shop fronts emerged new zones for rumours.

Khabr-e-Zaina Kadal is famous in Kashmir. It is said that when a scholar had come from outside, he wanted to understand the psychological attributes of inhabitants of this place. To test, he floated a rumour that “it has happened” at Zaina Kadal. The entire city is said to have rushed towards Zaina Kadal and waited for the scholar to disclose what had happened. When all had gathered, he announced in the evening “a spit had been thrown in the River”, locally known as “Gae ha gae ha Zaina kadil.”

In different periods, Kashmir had its specific rumours. From doubling of bread in a box to the sighting of hair in the holy book, Kashmir has heard even the jumping Zilli Bidh, poison in the water reservoirs, cure in Burzahama spring or the milk emanating in Fateh Kadal. In the recent past, the death due to polio drops invited state intervention to manage the streets.

Nurturing certain beliefs and superstitions have remained an intrinsic part of Kashmir society. Itchy palms, eye twitching, a hooting owl, a cat crossing your path, breaking a mirror, and many other things keep us haunting as they are all considered as a bad omen. Having originated mainly in folklore, it has nothing to do with religion.

Deconstructing SARS-CoV-2

But we should understand the current crisis. It is just not a disease and even nit an epidemic – it is a pandemic, a different ball game. It has its costs. Given the sources of spread, it becomes imperative to involve the practice that prevents the spread. As experts advise that distance is the key, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has said in his lifetime that, “if you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague outbreaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”

Taking a cue from both religion and science, security lies in surrendering to the guidelines and adhering to hygienic practices that would keep people safe, as is the saying of Prophet (SAW), “cleanliness is part of faith.”

Ikhlaq Qadri

The solution doesn’t lie in spreading panic, be it from anywhere. It lies in exercising restraint on everything, which further facilitates the illness. It is also important to understand the balance of faith and reason as taught by the Holy Prophet (SAW). What happened during the night of March 26, was an attempt to invite the infection, religiously.

I believe faithfulness doesn’t demand to pitch high and straining our vocal cords, even a silent prayer of a sincere heart would be heard in the heavens.

Repentance in no case is a ritual; it is a condition of the heart. It is to confront our reluctance to unveil in God’s presence, silently, sincerely, and completely.

(Author is a banker. Ideas expressed are the author’s personal views)

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