IOS on-line Lecture on “Present Day Crisis and the Role of Faith” at Kolkata Chapter
An on-line lecture on ‘Present Day Crisis and the Role of Faith’ was organized by the Kolkata Chapter of the Objective Studies on October 8, 2020. At the outset, the co-ordinator of the chapter, Abdul Basit Ismail, introduced the topic and briefly highlighted the activities of the Institute. Referring to the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said that it had impacted every walk of life. Besides causing mental stress, it had adversely affected the country’s and world economy. In certain respects it was perhaps the worst period in human history because rarely such a scenario was witnessed in living memory or post-Ice Age history. He observed that places of worships were never before closed and people were forced to remain indoors for months together, except during the Spanish plague (that killed 40 lakh people in India) in the second decade of the last century, or during partition riots in 1947-48. As things stood today, fear among people had somewhat eased, but the forebodings about future still continued to haunt them. But as believers of Islamic faith, we must not entertain despondence. History shows us that whenever such a situation emerged in the past, it was our religion that came to our rescue and gave us enough strength and guidance to survive. When psychologically disturbed, we must turn to Islam for solace and peace of mind, he stressed.
Explaining the theme, the in-charge of Urdu section, IOS, Maulana Shah Ajmal Farooque Nadwi, pointed out that the importance of faith in life must be understood in proper perspective. Quoting a Hadith, he said that complete surrender to Allah was the only answer to the present crisis that had assumed alarming proportions. Allah asks every faithful to display maximum patience and courage while facing an unprecedented situation. In this connection, he referred to the IOS endearvour in the form of a project which was nearing completion. Under the project, about 22 topics from the holy Quran had been flagged on which small booklets were being prepared to cater to the needs of students of up to 12th standard. These booklets would be translated into 18 Indian languages and would focus on the burning issues affecting our lives, he insisted.
Delivering the lecture, head (officiating), department of Islamic Studies, Aliah University, Kolkata, Prof. Syed Abdur Rasheed, discussed the way out of the current impasse in the light of Quran and Hadith. He said that this was a difficult phase in the history of humankind with about 3.64 crore population of the world being affected by the Novel Corona Virus. About 10.61 lakh people had so far died due to the pandemic. In India about 80 lakh people were in the grip of the deadly virus. Quoting figures from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), he said that about 41 lakh young people had been rendered jobless in India alone. The pandemic had adversely affected India’s social life with rise in cases of suicide.
Citing the cases of NOIDA, he observed that 165 people committed suicide due to mental stress. Out of them, the number of people in the age group of 19-25 years stood at 69. Among other things, loneliness, in difference of acquaintances and general social unconcern attributed as the reason for these suicides. Long quarantine was also said to be a contributing factor for suicides. He said that such natural calamity was not new to the mankind. These calamities brought in their wake socio-economic problems that led to tension among the family members, he maintained.
Syed Rasheed held that there was some solace as the situation had eased a bit in October and was surmounted it to some extent. But the economic situation continued to be bleak and no respite from it appeared to be in sight. Covid-19 had also badly affected religious places all-around the world as they were closed to the people. Under the circumstances, it was obvious for the devout to think that this was Allah’s chastisement for our sins. That was the reason why the doors of the religious places were shut on us, because of which we could not go there to offer our daily prayers. He said that different religions had interpreted the pandemic in different ways.
He quoted several surahs, including Surah Baqarah and Surah Rum to buttress the point that the virus might have been created by humans, but it was beyond their capacity to control. He held that an individual must turn back to his natural instincts. Today’s conditions stemmed from the disorder created by humans due to digression from their natural instincts. He noted that in the past also, Muslim society had found ways out of such calamities. But as Muslims we must accept the epidemic as a gift from Allah to have some idea about His Fury and omnipotence. This was also a testing moment for us to remain fully obedient to the wishes of Allah. This also taught us to be wedded to purity of thought and action in our life.
He said that such epidemics broke out to strengthen our faith in the Greatness of Allah. Referring to plague, he said that in the Quran, it had been described as an epidemic that was ordained by God to chastise for the sins committed by His subjects on earth. It has been said that plague must be allowed to spread and human kind was asked to display patience during the period. Escaping from the area affected by an epidemic was treated like a sin deserving punishment equivalent to escape from battlefield, he pointed out.
Laying stress on cleanliness, Prof. Syed Abdur Rasheed said that in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), wazoo (ablution) had special importance. This included proper cleaning of limbs, both upper and lower. The Hadith asked the faithful to properly wash hands and always keep themselves clean. It had also been advised not to put hands into a pot after rising from sleep without washing them. In a situation like this, it had been commanded that those who possessed wealth or were financially sound must come forward to help the needy.
This must be without regard to caste, creed and religion. Food should be distributed among the meanless and food packets be provided to those who were in need. The Prophet’s (PBUH) companions used to collect food and equally distributed it among the hungry. He described the Ummah as a body. If a part of the body was suffering from pain, other parts would also feel it. Muslims should nurture in the sense of distributing sadqat (charity) to the poor, needy and the destitute. He concluded by laying emphasis on faith, cleanliness) and community or mutual cooperation.
The chairman, IOS, Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, described the present crisis as the worst as it had broken almost all social bonds. Thus the need of the hour was to uphold human dignity. He called for spreading this message far and wide and strive for restoring human dignity and human values. He said that the issues raised in the lecture should be published in book form with relevant data on Corona virus. In order to maintain the worthiness of Islam, we should extend help to others irrespective of their caste, community and faith. Everybody should be treated as a human being without regard to his/her colour and creed. Love should reign supreme, he stressed.
Presiding over the lecture, the Secretary General, IOS, Prof. Z M Khan observed that attack on Islam and Muslims had been intensified during the current crisis. Despondence is blasphemy in Islam. Emphasising the need for innovation and creative thinking, he said that the quality of self was of paramount importance today. He counselled the community to commit itself to the physical self, sentimental self, rational self and spiritual self. Quran laid great emphasis on man’s connect with Allah.
We must view corona virus also in the light of our spiritual self. He emphatically said that Islam was not an irrational religion. Hence, not only this, but also other crises could be faced. Muslims had a great numerical strength and their number was steadily rising. This had generated fear among certain people that by 2050 Muslims would outnumber other communities, he concluded.
Abdul Basit Ismail conducted the proceedings and proposed a vote of thanks. The on-line lecture was attended by about 100 scholars, researches and university professors from within and outside the country.