Islam: Coronavirus and the environment

An aerial view shows people gathered inside painted circles on the grass encouraging social distancing at Dolores Park in San Francisco on May 22, 2020 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. – AFP

By Fauzi Alrumaih

Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) timeless advice, “Wash your hands frequently, don’t leave infected areas and don’t visit infected areas,” has now been reinforced by political leaders and doctors worldwide. We are in a pandemic and most of us never saw it coming.

No doubt each and every one of you reading this has experienced some sort of anxiety towards the uncertainty of our world while the pandemic sweeps through our nations, robbing us of the normality of our daily lives which we grew so accustomed to; stealing the lives of our loved ones and forcing us into a solitude that many of us were simply not ready for. While we impatiently wait indoors for the plague to pass, praying each and every day for Allah to protect our loved ones, many of us sit and ponder: How did we get here?

The answer at first glance doesn’t seem so simple. Whilst news agencies and governments investigate and dispute the origins of the novel coronavirus, we need only to take a hard look around us: The very place we cannot wander – the outside world. While we can hide behind walls of brick and glass, the truth of our own demise is around us: Our polluted beaches, our burning rainforests and our insatiable hunger for the flesh of other species are amongst many of the ecological crimes humans have committed willingly since the Industrial Revolution.

The fact is, the world is full of viruses, and from what we know, it almost always has been. Viruses live within rainforests, species, algae and more. We have paved the way for this novel virus to enter our homes by destroying theirs. The answers are in front of us, and for Muslims, we need to look no further than the Holy Quran.

The Quran urges us to “Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (2:60). We have, indeed, corrupted the home Allah gave us with our human wants and needs. But, Allah has warned us of this: “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned, so let them taste part of (the consequences of) what they have done that perhaps they will return to righteousness.” (30:41) But as it seems, we have not been listening. Our corruption has led to consequences and could very well lead to our own demise if we do not take action now.

We must work in harmony with nature, not against it. Working with nature shows our unity with Allah’s creation, therefore mirroring our devotion to Allah.

It is mentioned that “There is not a moving (living) creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings, but are communities like you. We have neglected nothing in the Book, then unto their Lord they (all) shall be gathered” (6:38). This is to remind us that we have similarities to all animals: We live in communities just as they do, we parent our young and we rely on our environments. We should reflect upon this and consider the horrific reality that many animals endure.

Animal rights are constantly violated and their very existence threatened as they are hunted for their furs, tusks and flesh. Whilst it is our duty as servants to Allah to protect all animals and species, most of us are guilty for turning a blind eye to the atrocities. We need to wake up to the inhumanity and immorality of wet and live markets and how the poor treatment of animals globally has led again to our dissonance with nature.

While we do not know the exact origins of the coronavirus, it is clear that these viruses have come from an imbalance between humans and the natural world. So, instead of asking “how did we get here?” perhaps we should be asking “where do we go from here?” How can each of us take a stand, in our Muslim communities and worldwide, to protect the home Allah gave us? Remember the words of Allah and carry them in your heart. As a doctor would say who treats a sick patient: Do no harm.

Take this opportunity as a time to give thanks for what Allah has given us, and to see it as an opportunity to let our planet heal from the corruption we have inflicted upon it. Perhaps we should try to adopt the perspective that the pandemic is here to awaken us; the Earth needs to heal and humans need to slow down. After all, we are the guardians of our planet and we are reminded that “the servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk gently upon the earth…” (25:63)

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