A Nepalese Muslim boy prays the Friday prayer in Kathmandu during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. (Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters)
In times of life or death crisis, believers turn to their religion to understand the situation they find themselves in. For this reason, in Muslim societies where the scourge of COVID-19 is rampant, we often hear the words of the Prophet Mohammed quoted: “If the plague breaks out in a region, don't go there, but if you are already there, do it doesn't come out. '
This prophetic tradition (hadith) is invoked by Muslims to answer the practical and urgent questions of the day: “What should I think? 'And' What is to be done?
I was in Senegal when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported. The alarm was sounded and initially there was fear of “religious” resistance to quarantine and stay-at-home measures. Do without Friday prayers in the mosque? Out of question. Cancel planned celebrations of the various Sufi brotherhoods (which include a majority of Senegalese Muslims) that lead to gatherings of hundreds of thousands in religious capitals such as Touba or Tivaouane? Impossible.
Fortunately, the state took the time to explain its actions and gain support from the country's spiritual leaders. Airport closures, bans on religious gatherings, and night curfews became the norm. Granted, the decisions were dictated by common sense and science to the secular Senegalese state. Yet they are a contemporary translation of the plague hadith.
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The hadith teaches first of all that to challenge God by tempting the devil, the negation of consideration for others, for those around whom the Qur'an calls 'the children of Adam'. This means that whoever goes to a religious gathering has decided not only that their faith dictates that they risk their own health and that of the other devotees they gather with, but also the of his fellow citizens who do not share the same belief or have no religious belief at all.
In other words, God's decree is not against common sense. Disregarding common sense and what science dictates is neither a manifestation of the intensity of one's faith nor the self-conscious surrender to God that true faith requires.
When science has conquered the plague, the teaching of the plague hadith must continue to remind us that religion makes sense when it is the religion of mankind.
Souleymane Bachir Diagne, an Islamic scholar, is the chairman of the French and Romance Philology Department at Columbia University. His research area includes Boolean algebra of logic, history of philosophy, Islamic philosophy, African philosophy, and literature. This column is editorially independent of Colombia News .Tags Religion International Coronavirus