One fate, one humanity: Lessons from the coronavirus

Sketch by Wong Soak Koon

If one virus can destroy us and our powerful economies, then why are we divided? Muhammad Mumtaz Ali  writes. 

The coronavirus pandemic has spread to over 210 countries and disrupted social and economic life across the globe.

It has changed our working, playing and learning style: schools are closed, online homework is given and parents are asked to supervise their kids, offices are shut down, sports leagues have been cancelled, and many people have been asked to work from home.

Governments have imposed lockdowns affecting over 3.5 billion people around the world.

Faith groups have been invited to present their points of view. Medical experts are busy day and night all over the world to identify effective treatment. Financial advisors are busy suggesting several measures to overcome the economic crisis sparked by the pandemic.

Various heads of government have suggested the need to work collectively. The mass media is a powerful force shaping our views.

Religious leaders have offered prayers and words of support regularly to the people of the world. Many have doubled down on prayers in recent weeks to ease worries over the coronavirus.

We have been observing the interactions between religious and scientific communities. While some of us may regard religion and science to be at odds in our culture, the fact is many communities look to their religious leaders to guide their attitudes about scientific findings. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and civic leaders from all over the world are doing whatever they can do to save humanity from a common enemy.

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This enemy does not see any division in humanity. Instead, it is destroying humanity without discrimination.

Some people think one of the best things religious leaders can do is to align themselves with scientists and physicians or to have other expertise on how viruses can be controlled. For them, religious leaders and scientific communities should join hands in pursuing wholeness and healing of the world.

The pandemic has affected religious and non-religious communities in various ways such as the cancellation of worship services, pilgrimages and festivals. Churches, mosques, and temples have been locked. The general secretary of the World Council of Churches announced: “This situation calls on our solidarity and accountability, mindfulness, care and wisdom… [as well as] for our signs of faith, hope and love.”

Muslims are advised to return to their Allah for guidance and forgiveness. We are told that the coronavirus is a reminder to us for all of our sins.

Regardless of social and financial positions, we are subject to the coronavirus. No boundary line of any country can stop it. Apparently, we are helpless.

Allah controls everything; He alone can relieve us from the  coronavirus and other difficulties caused by it. We must return to Him and seek His protection.

We are a thinking creature and contemplate continually. But, in the process, we miss one important basic thing. We are thinking based on our various perspectives. We have developed several methods and modes of thinking. We have several theories of knowledge, religions, ideologies and isms. We always think based on our own perspectives and frameworks and think we are moving in the right direction.

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I watch the news and videos and realise that, all over the world, roads and various localities have fallen silent. Busy city centres, shopping malls, offices in high-rise buildings are closed. Everywhere there is only one sound – the sound of silence.

I wonder, if our fate is the same, why then did we create so many faiths – religions, ideologies or isms. Can all these be right at the same time?

We benefit from water, sunlight, air, fruit, rice, wheat, vegetables – all of which are the same. Then why do we have different perspectives on life?

Why did we divide humanity into nations and put restrictions on the movement of people whereas humanity seems to be one? Why did we produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction?

If one virus can destroy us and our powerful economies, then why are we divided? Why are our technologies, at some point, unable to protect us? Why did the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, initially ban a medicine for export, and why did his American counterpart Donald Trump “threaten” him?

Sooner or later, we will able to control the coronavirus, like what China has done. We humans are capable of doing it.

But are we able to control our various perspectives, differences, enmities, divisions, greed and lust for power?

Will we be able to protect people around the world with the same spirit that we used to collectively fight the pandemic? Or will our sense of nation and pride stop us?

Will we be able to treat every nation – weak or powerful – equally and bury our sense of pride at being a major or superpower? Is the notion of national interest above and higher than the interest of humanity? Can humanity be divided permanently into nations?

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Are not the nations and tribes for the sake of introduction and cooperation? Don’t we need to think collectively about every thing especially?

The major lesson from the coronavirus seems to be the problem of our perception of own selves. Are we really free from any control from outside? Is the truth and reality of life one or various? Don’t we need to rethink our mode of thinking and understanding?

Let us come forward – at a time when we are locked downed in our homes – and ponder over our mode of thinking, epistemologies and methodologies. And let us share with one another and make sure with certainty and authenticity that we are able to think ethically and scientifically so that we can save humanity from self-destruction and allow all of us to live in peace, free from disease, weapons and war.

Dr Muhammad Mumtaz Ali works in the Faculty of Islamic-Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia

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