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Coronavirus Is Spreading In Pakistan And We Are Busy with Absurd Debates

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The irony of all ironies is that a progressive religion like Islam finds its interpretation coming from the dullest of minds today. The shepherds are leading the sheep to the death well.

Till this day, the 13th-century Muslim scholars sitting in the court of Baghdad symbolise the maladies that are affecting the Muslim world today. While a destructive force that emerged from the Far East was besieging “the cradle of civilisations,” the so-called intelligentsia of Baghdad was busy debating absurdities. And while they were busy debating absurdities, the Mongol force cut the population into half. Historians maintain that Tigris ran black with scholars’ ink and red with the blood of martyrs for days. Today, once again, we can hear the echoes of history.

Again, a threat from the Far East has emerged. The coronavirus, devastating one country after another, has attacked the “fortress of Islam.” COVID-19 does not shy away from ignoring boundaries and artificial barriers. This threat has not only besieged the fortress, it has also affected more than two thousand people in the Land of the Pure so far.

But all the available evidence informs us that the COVID-19 is far more dangerous than the Mongol threat. Just like the scholars sitting in “the cradle of civilisations” failed to anticipate the scale of Mongol devastation, a significant number of our religious scholars are deaf. They shy away from all reason and scientific evidence that show the scale of destruction COVID-19 is bound to let loose. Instead of listening to and acting upon the experts’ opinions, they are debating absurdities just like their predecessors once did.

Far more disappointing is their sheer ignorance of the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. Allah Almighty says in Quran, “Do not put yourself in destruction,” (2:195). But our religious scholars rely on emotions and deep sensitivities of religious contours. Allah Almighty orders his followers to rely on consultation, deliberation and reason. But the men of religion are busy not letting their ego down. They are insisting on offering Friday prayers in congregation. In all this, they are not only ignoring the orders of Allah but also not listening to the pleadings of the government.

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Perhaps it was for an occasion like this that Khalil Gibran said, “Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years.”

Nevertheless, it is important to see where does the government stand in all this? One can say many a thing as far as the government’s performance is concerned. The government’s handling of the people coming from Iran and other countries was nothing but criminal negligence and a classic case of mismanagement.

Whereas the cliché runs that a burnt child dreads the fire, our government dreads all things but natural calamities in whatsoever form they be. After the 2005 earthquake, the then regime established disaster management authorities both at federal and provincial levels. But to this day, these bodies have failed miserably in building any protection walls against disasters. Just like our scholars show contempt for material preparedness against any calamity, our government took and is still taking coronavirus lightly. Instead of devising a coordinated plan of action, the centre and the federating units showed neither a uniform policy nor any coordinated efforts. While the provinces prefer lockdown, the centre is reluctant to accept its efficacy.

It goes without saying that had the centre and provinces showed unity and been on their toes against the virus, Pakistan would have succeeded in nipping the coronavirus in the bud. Ironically, the government was too busy appeasing the clerics who did not want to stop congregational Friday prayers. The government accepting the faults in its strategy when its too late leads to a national predicament.

What to speak of our “Westoxified intelligentsia?” Saying that it equally, or solely is responsible for the crises of all sorts the country is facing is an agreed statement among religious circles. The most blameworthy remains our intelligentsia, at least if religion’s interpretation and besiegement in the hands of dimwits is concerned. It may sound bitter but the truth is that the “Westoxified intelligentsia” of ours had tossed religion “to the dustbin of history” long ago. For this lot, religion is an outdated entity that has lost all its relevance in the twenty-first century.

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Besides, it is our intelligentsia’s disregard of and perhaps, arrogant attitude towards religion in general and Eurocentric conception of religion in particular that the clerics dictate our life choices. Today, when the intellectual elite of the country laments the dogmatic clerics for pushing the entire country to the death well, it needs to re-evaluate the role it has played in creating this mess. It will be hard for our intellectual elite to digest this bitter fact that it is their annoyance with religion that allows the dullest of our society’s minds to come up with the most truncated interpretations of religion.

Nonetheless, future historians while using Pakistani society a reference point to study the decline of a nation will not just hold clerics responsible. Their list will also mention the government’s ineptitude in managing the coronavirus crisis and appeasing the clergy. And perhaps our intelligentsia will find itself on the top of that list for its unforgivable crime of letting the dullest of the minds dictate to the people the commandments of religion.

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