Last week, I was asked by Prasar Bharati to send a one-minute clip asking my co-religionists to desist from congregational prayers, since these were still being held in many villages and smaller towns. I duly obliged. This is in the context of the Nizamuddin Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Banglewali masjid — which can accommodate up to 12,000 devotees — that is feared to have infected many across several states. This is deeply disappointing.
The organisation, established by Maulana Ilyas of Mewat in 1926 for “puritanical” Islam, is under the scanner for something that is un-Islamic. Islam is a religion of caring and for sharing the blessings of Allah, not spreading disease. It is an irresponsible act on the part of the Tablighi Jamaat’s authorities. A social media clip, allegedly of Maulana Saad, who hosted the Jamaat, claimed that the government has tried to lock mosques and was trying to divide the community by not letting Muslims sit together to pray. Now, a community that is constantly under the scanner could be further sidelined and socially distanced by their non-Muslim brethren. The Maulana, meanwhile, is reportedly absconding.
What is more shocking is that this has come after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation. He, like a concerned member of a family, requested everyone with folded hands to stay at home and maintain social distance to break this deadly COVID-19 chain of transmission.
The spate of infections of coronavirus also highlights how the Muslim community has been woefully misled by their so-called representatives.
More often than not, community leaders are interested in feathering their own nests while the poor are pushed towards ignorance because of the obscurantist attitude of their “netas” who think they are accountable to no one. In this case, the residents of Zakir Nagar West area were sensible enough to complain to the police about the residents in this mosque from Nizamuddin Markaz.
Despite three major imams of India — Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Imam Mufti Mukarram Ahmed and Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi — and a decree from the Darul Uloom Deoband, and many other mosques announcing that congregations may cause the spread of COVID-19, several gatherings continued. The argument was, our sahabas had prayed in the mosques even under the threat of the enemy’s swords. Why are they getting scared of this petty enemy, coronavirus?
These people don’t remember that Allah has also said that “He helps those who help themselves”.
The Muslim community, not only in India but across the world, must know that the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed the community to stay at home in case of emergencies such as this. In the case of epidemics and pandemics, the Prophet (PBUH) clearly stated that nobody should either go to somebody else’s house or invite anyone.
One day, when it was raining heavily, and it was the time of azaan, the Prophet (PBUH) had said, as-salatu-fi-buyutikum (pray in your homes). Not only this, once when a deadly and contagious disease broke out among the camels, he instructed that the healthy camels should not be allowed to mix with the affected ones.
But there is always a backlash against such an opinion. Through social media, when I urged people to maintain social distancing and pray at home, I was targeted with abuse. PM Modi has rightly said: Jaan hai, to jahan hai!” Only when we survive, will we be able to do anything else in the world.
I faced brickbats for pointing this out in a time of crisis, by those who have perhaps missed the point that PM Modi was not delivering this lifesaving dose only for the BJP, RSS or non-Muslims, but for all. He was hoping that the lockdown may break the COVID-19 chain of transmission and, in the process, save millions of lives.
The tragedy of the already beleaguered Indian Muslim community has been the way they have been taken for a ride — treated as a vote-bank by their leaders, the Congress and the so-called secular parties. This has resulted in the state of affairs they find themselves in today. They are far from the mainstream, with the begging bowl of the Sachar Committee and some other commissions that have proved futile in addressing their social, economic and educational needs.
It is time for us, Muslims, to cooperate with the government to fight the deadly coronavirus and follow Islam in letter and spirit.
This article first appeared in print edition on April 3 under the title “Pandemic and the community”. The writer is chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.
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