Extraordinary Circumstances Require Extraordinary Morals
We all focus on health due to the circumstances we experience in this process. Protection measures as well as to-do-lists before, during and after the illness are everywhere. However, in this article we approach the matter from a different perspective.
Before expressing our viewpoint, we need to remember our stance in line with tawheed(unified) and answer two questions accordingly. Our first question concerns whether psychical health can be independent from mental and spiritual health. Secondly, we want you to think whether individuals can feel good independent of their environment. For instance, if I am depressed, how can I protect my physical condition and if there is breakdown all around the world, even in air and water, can I protect myself before it reaches me?
At present, we see that both are impossible. We need to take care of ourselves holistically as well as “taking good care” of the whole world for our own good. This is the viewpoint of a muvahhid (follower of tawheed) mind with faith in unity/wholeness.
Well then how can we “take good care” of the whole world with our limited power, resources and sphere of influence? Are we strong enough to “take good care” of the whole world? This is the most critical question because generally, we know “what” to do but when it comes to “how” to do it, we get a little confused.
When we face a social, and as we experience these days a global, crisis such as battle, famine, calamity or pandemic, we need to be self-conscious of our social position. What do we do? Are we doctors, firefighters, lifeguards, administrators, producers, religious scholars, researchers or ordinary citizens? What do we know about science or about biology? What do we know to compare the information we obtained to come to right conclusions?
If we do not have the slightest information about any of these, our first responsibility is not sharing information inconsiderately. We need to keep in mind that misinformation spreads like a virus, loses control and may hit us back like a boomerang. Actually, this responsibility is not specific to our current situation as clearly stated by our Prophet (pbuh): “It is enough of a lie for a man to narrate everything he hears” (Muslim, Muqaddimah, 5).
It is a great irresponsibility to ignore a need while we have the necessary expertise on that area. However, talking, writing, making suggestions about something we do not have solid information is deceiving people and is even a greater irresponsibility. In that case, while the experts are working on the field, us as ordinary citizens must remain silent and act according to the information provided by the experts because, every rule we disregard means losing a battle that we cannot even imagine. There is a proverb “for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the knight was lost, for want of a knight the battle was lost.” If we are a ‘nail’ in this battle, we have to be the best of ‘nail’, which means following the rules by the experts impeccably.
When we look at the matter as a religious responsibility, despite the fact that our fractioned minds consider religious responsibility to be praying and dealing with some social matters only, following the rules of our society, as long as they do not conflict with our religious principles, is a religious obligation as well. For instance, if we violate the traffic rules and cause damage, we will be judged for this mistake in afterlife or if we live in a compound, we will be judged in afterlife when we violate the rules of that structure because in our society, the orderly and peaceful life depends on a social contract. That social contract binds us all. The decisions and articles of that contract are not necessarily verses from Quran or hadith. It is enough for us that they do not conflict with a clear and valid religious order. We see this in our Prophet’s (pbuh) life several times under the shura principle. When we look at the example of shura before the Battle of Uhud, we see that our Prophet (pbuh) precisely applied shura decisions even on a situation he found strategically wrong.
Adapting this data to the problem that we experience these days depends on whether our piety is confined in some certain rituals or not. Piety is to obey the management when appropriate. Our Prophet(pbuh)’s command on the matter is crystal clear, “A Muslim has to listen to and obey (the order of his ruler) whether he likes it or not, as long as his orders involve not one in disobedience (to Allah), but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed one should not listen to it or obey it.” (Buhari, Ahkaam, 7144; Muslim, Al-Imara, 4533). The relationship with the ruler and the administration has a great place in the hadith and Islamic law sources. Here, we will mention a hadith and move on. People asked our Prophet (pbuh) about how to act with a ruler that does not rule according to the law and he said, “Listen to them and obey them, for on them shall be their burden and on you shall be your burden.” (Muslim, Al-Imara, 4551).
Ulema, when they explain the wisdom of Islamic rules, state that all the decretals are to protect five invaluable things. These five sacred things are faith, life, mind, family and property. If we cannot think straight, act straight and persevere by taking strength from our faith, these five sacred items will be damaged obviously. Now we can go back to our question on “how” to do it at the beginning. How can we “take good care” of our world? The answer to this question varies from person to person. To find our own answer, we need to comprehend position, responsibilities and ourselves accordingly; then act studiously to apply them. Therefore, as Muslims acting upon rational mind, knowledge and faith instead of impulses, we must obey the orders of experts and get over this process without harming anyone, violating others’ rights and for getting the best out of the situation.