‘Islam Is Rational, Realistic’

Dr Hamidullah Marazi, who heads the department of Religious Studies at the Central University of Kashmir, talks in detail with Umar Mukhtaar on the pandemic and the issues of faith

Dr Hamidullah Marazi

KASHMIR LIFE (KL): A general impression peddled by the media is that Islam is inflexible. Is it?

Dr HAMIDULLAH MARAZI (DHM): Islam is a natural way of things as it is called as Din-al-Fitrat that means, the religion conforming to the primordial nature of humans and the universe. To call Islam flexible is purely contextual. This statement may lead people to think that Islam has no permanent stand about the eternal problems people may face. Because Islamic principles regarding the creed and doctrinal matters are eternal and unshakable like Tawhid (monotheism), Risālah (belief in the prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad) and Akhirah (the life hereafter) or the commandments about the prayers, Halal (sacred) and Haram (profane).

However, I can say that Islam is a universal religion and according to the belief of Muslims it is valid to all times and the temporal and spatial conditions and situations which may emerge from time to time.

Islam presents solutions to all such exigencies and emergencies through the institution of Ijtihad as it caters to the needs and exigencies of the times to come until the day of judgement. Islam is not a rigid religion or a denomination which adopts a superstitious approach to the emerging situations and problems of the people, and in that sense, it is very flexible, indeed.

KL: A pandemic has hit the world. As an Islamic scholar, how do you see the emergence of the new disease?

DHM: The outbreak has both scientific as well as religious interpretations though the issue is not religion specific. It has spread throughout irrespective of any distinction. It is definitely a reminder to do better and shun all the wrongdoings. At the same time, however, we must excel in scientific and medical advancements.

KL: How Islam guides during the course of pandemics?

DHM: Islam is a realistic and rational faith and always keeps the welfare and wellbeing of people in view. As a student of Islam, I would say that taking the necessary means and then relying upon Allāh is something which is emphasized in Islam.

“One-day Prophet Muhammad (SAW), noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, ‘Why don’t you tie down your camel?’ The Bedouin answered, ‘I put my trust in Allāh’ The Prophet then said, ‘Tie your camel first and then put your trust in Allāh’.

Khalifah Umar ibn al-Khattab(RA) has explained that necessary precautions must be taken in situations where harm or potential danger could afflict you. The Khalifahwas travelling with a group of companions towards a town, which, it was said was afflicted with some contagious or an infectious disease. He asked his companions whether they should proceed ahead or return to Medina, the centre of the Caliphate. The majority of the companions said they should go back, but some objected. Then one companion said he knew a hadith where the Prophet (SAW) has said: “If you hear that this disease exists in a country, do not travel to that country.” So the Caliph decided that they should return home. Upon this, a companion asked him whether he was running away from qadar (destiny). The Caliph replied that they were moving away from one qadar to another qadar.

The prophet (SAW) has said that a diseased camel should not be kept with the herd. He has also said that “one should flee from a person suffering from leprosy as one flees from a lion.” (Leprosy then was untreatable.)

KL: How advisable is that some people are going for repentance congregations (Majlis-e-Touba)that compromises social distancing?

DHM: The ulema from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries have advised that we should avoid big gatherings. Some advisories suggest that the prayers should be offered in small groups and other social gatherings should be avoided.

Muslims in a south Kashmir shrine outwitting each other to get Tehri, food prepared in community kitchen on a day they participated in Salat-ut-Touba, prayers for repentance, to ward off Coronavirus. organised on March 15, 2020. KL Image

For every disease, Allah has created the cure and treatment. Therefore, apart from doing all pious works, we need to go by the advice of the doctors and avoid getting exposed to health hazards by neglecting the advisories coming from the specialists and authentic erudite Islamic scholars. The guidelines issued by the experts’ world over are actually part of the routine in Muslims.  Washing hands is a part of ablution, and Muslims do it five times a day. The

Prophet (SAW) has said: “Cleanliness is part of faith”. Covering the mouth when sneezing is Sunnat: “Whenever the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) sneezed, he would cover his mouth with his hand or a piece of cloth.”

There is a clear direction for the times of plague. Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (RA) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) say: “If you hear that (the plague) is in a land, do not go there, and if it breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave, fleeing from it.”

Being positive and having an optimistic outlook is also being advised. The Prophet (SAW) has said: “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is not for no one except the believer if something of good/happiness befalls him, he is grateful and that is good for him, if something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him”.

Does Islam Guide In Situations Like Coronavirus Pandemic?

KL: The clergy is divided over whether or not the prayers are held in a congregation in a pandemic?

DHM: I saw a detailed fatwa from Saudi Arabia by Hafiz Alimuddin Yusuf of Islamic University, Medina, in which the views of both the parties supporting and opposing the suspension of obligatory prayers, Friday included, has been discussed. Finally, the view has been expressed that it is better to avoid big congregations in the wake of the epidemic nature of the disease and its contagious tendencies especially with respect of the elderly and sick people. Such fatawa have come from scholars like Yusuf al Qardawi and from al-Azhar in Cairo as well.

KL: What is the role of Muslim preachers in such trying times?

DHM: The role of the religious preachers is very crucial and they need to preach the life-giving teachings of religion so that their lives are not endangered. The lengthy speeches and sermons can be shortened and necessary religious instructions regarding such situations should be made available to people through social media rather than by making people to arrange big gatherings and assemblies. Now the advice and fatwa is in favour of offering all the prayers at homes, even during Ramadan.

KL: In such circumstances, some people resort to hoarding. How Islam describes them?

DHM: It is inhumane and un-Islamic even in normal conditions to do hoarding of the essential commodities. Because the Prophet (SAW) said that a person who deceives or deludes people is not amongst us. It is a great crime to take advantage of the situations and trouble people by selling the essential commodities at high prices or hide the commodities under one or the other pretext. A person who does not have mercy on the people on earth should never expect mercy from the One on Heaves, is the Hadith of the Prophet (SAW).

In such circumstances, our businessmen and shopkeepers should be imbued with the philanthropic spirit and even should sell commodities with less or no profit.

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