“Beware of a calamity that may afflict not only those who incurred it but also the innocent ones who had no hands in its cause and know that Allah’s retribution can be very severe”. Q. 8:25
Beyond sheer lamentations and horrific fear of the consequential affliction of an invisible but dreadful virus codenamed ‘COVID-19’ that is currently terrifying the entire world with little regard for technology and arrogance of power, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), held an emergency meeting of its General Purpose Committee (GPC), last Saturday, March 28, 2020. The purpose of the meeting was to answer, according to Islamic tenets, certain fundamental questions arising from the seeming catastrophe engendered by COVID-19, as a way of guiding the Nigerian Muslim Ummah aright at this precarious period.
As a bona fide member of NSCIA’s GPC, yours sincerely participated actively in that meeting and hence, the report here.
The main agenda of the meeting which was held online, through teleconference, was to deliberate mostly on the aftermath of affliction by that virus and the next line of action. Specifically, that GPC meeting raised some curious questions on what could become of the corpses of Muslims who might die as a result of the ongoing ravaging affliction of Coronavirus. Some of the questions raised and answered at that meeting, which were aimed at serving as guidelines for Nigerian Muslims will be highlighted shortly.
Generally, in Islam, one of the major duties of the living Muslims is not just to safeguard the welfares of fellow living Muslims but also to take proper care of the remains of the deceased ones among them in a proper way and at the appropriate time. The obligatory duty of handling the corpses of Muslims has a traditional timeframe and a conventional methodology as divinely ordained. Thus, with the sudden outbreak of a seemingly genocidal disease called Coronavirus which has now turned virtually the entire world into a mega quarantine camp with implacable plague, Nigeria’s apex body of the Muslim Ummah, NSCIA, had to urgently spearhead the task of facing that inevitable menace as a challenge to be quickly surmounted. And since the GPC of the NSCIA is a conglomerate of Muslim scholars and professionals in various fields of human endeavour, surmounting such a challenge could not have posed much problem to the Ummah.
While the rest of Nigerians and, indeed, the rest of the world, were busy wailing, moaning and running helter-skelter either to escape the scourge of COVID-19 death or to avoid its tragic impact on the living, the NSCIA quickly rose vertically to tackle the backlash of that scourge as a way of preventing a bigger calamity. Some of the questions raised and answered to avert a worse situation in that circumstance are as follows:
How can Muslims in Nigeria avert the affliction of COVID-19 calamity and escape its entailed termination of lives?
What will become of the corpses of Muslims who may fall victims of the foraging calamity called COVID-19?
How will such Muslim corpses be identified as Muslims in the midst of dead bodies?
Right now, who are those charged with the responsibility of handling those corpses according to Islamic norm?
How will Guslul Janazah be performed on the remains of those corpses without infection implications?
How will those corpses be shrouded according to Islamic law?
How will Salatul Janazah be observed on their bodies before burial?
Can such Salatul Janazah be observed congregationally as statutorily required at this period when congregations are forbidden?
How will Muslim corpses be buried in this critical situation without further spread of the viral disease that killed them?
Where, when and how will their burial take place without endangering the lives of their undertakers?
There were many other questions.
After a comprehensive deliberation on these and other questions relating to safety for the living and their possible economic survival under plague, the meeting resolved, as a matter of urgency, to first act promptly to ensure that Muslim corpses are buried as Muslims and according to Islamic regulation. This warranted an immediate contact with the Presidency through which a request for full involvement of understanding Muslim Medical Doctors in the process of handling this aspect of COVID-19.
And, the request was granted with automatic alacrity.
Thus, Muslim Medical Doctors with good Islamic understanding were immediately nominated to be part of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) at both the Federal and State levels. Now, all the 36 States of the federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory are duly represented in the COVID-19 Presidential Committee to take care of Muslims who may become victims of COVID-19 according to Islamic norm.
As a way of implementing the resolutions reached at the mentioned GPC meeting, the following steps were immediately taken:
A public statement was made to further counsel the Muslims in the country on how to abide by the rules and regulations issued by the Federal and State Governments as precautions to avoid falling victim of the dreaded virus.
Samples of the shroud to be used for COVID-19 Muslim corpses (male and female) were designed and presented to the Presidential Committee on that scourge for adoption at the Federal and State levels.
Muslim Doctors who are representing the Muslim Ummah in that Committee should ensure that every Muslim corpse is treated with befitting Muslim funeral.
Since congregations of any kind have become dangerous these days and Muslims cannot come together to observe Salatul Janazah on the deceased, those in the vicinity of the COVID-19 victims should arrange among themselves, possibly by telephone, to observe Salatul Gaib from time to time, inside their houses, for the Muslim corpses as the situation may arise.
The shrouding and burial of Muslim corpses should be arranged and supervised by the Muslim Doctors who represent the Muslim Ummah in the Presidential Committee.
As for survival of indigent living Muslims who are compulsorily restricted to their homes by COVID-19, NSCIA implored all Muslims with wherewithal in their neighborhood to be of great assistance to them in terms of food items, medicament (where necessary) and other required necessities. These steps are expected to serve as guidelines for all Nigerian Muslims who may find themselves in a dilemma or even confusion on what is next in the current circumstance. Now, we are particularly in a period of effective brotherhood in Islam when care for neighbours as a strong act of Ibadah should be most exhibited.
The current globally ravaging and genocidal disease called Coronavirus and codenamed COVID-19 is here with us as a matter of physical experience in its true, undeniable reality. Its arrival in the human world as a calamitous guest of the 21st century is neither new nor strange. Every century has its own peculiarity which, if chronicled into history for the coming generations to learn from, may be received with tokens of doubt. But here we are today, experiencing practically and not just witnessing or hearing of a catastrophe which constitutes itself into an overwhelming plague on the universe. We can see, clearly, how parents are dying in droves leaving their children behind as orphans, if not in our immediate vicinities, in other parts of the world. We can see how young and middle age children are frequently hooked like fish thereby leaving their parents behind like childless men and women.
We can see how the giants of December 2019 Christmas have become Lilliputians of Easter in April 2020. And we are witnesses to the swelling figures of widows and widowers even in the so-called advanced countries where all facilities are presumed to be available as a means of preventing this kind of disaster. But now, we suddenly wake up to find ourselves in a world where wealth cannot buy health and foods cannot build immunity even as Kings and Queens as well as Presidents and Prime Ministers are taking turns to address their subjects in languages of pacification but which cannot bring solution to the prevailing problem. Where is an escape route in all these without the WILL of the Almighty Allah?
The current pandemic disease has globally become like a basketball being tossed around among its alleged inventors who are also its principal players. The real repercussion of that game is nothing but death that waits for no prediction in terms of when or how. Some people may tag it a disease of power tussle. Some others may call it an ailment for the juggernauts. There are also those who may consider it an economic war by other means. But most people across the world today, tend to see it as a vivid sign of the end of time or an indication of a cataclysmic revolution in the making. Perhaps that is the reason why the authorities of some countries like Russia and Spain where God was never given any recognition of immortal entity are now resorting to the invocation of God’s mercy as a means of overcoming this implacable calamity that defies any technological bravado.
Parable of a Beehive
The similitude of human world is like that of a beehive in which a Queen is the ruler and commander-in-chief. All other bees in the hive have their duties and assignments in forms of separation of power and division of labour. But they all report back to the Queen either for better coordination or for further instructions. Whenever any of them faces a difficulty, the rescue lies with the Queen. But where it is the Queen that encounters difficulty, the entire occupants of the hive may be in trouble. Today, the Queen of England is in the dragnet of COVID-19 just as the Prime Minister of the once ‘Great Britain’ is caught in the same dragnet. Also, the Chancellor of the strongest economy in Europe (Germany), has been afflicted by the menace of the vicious virus called COVID-19. Scores of others are waiting for their turns. If these juggernauts are now the victims of the dreaded, invisible virus, who will then lead the rescue mission in their nations? And, now, the inlet and outlet gates of virtually all industrial nations in the world are closed willy-nilly, thereby causing an undreamt plummeting of the price of oil for OPEC countries.
In short, humanity, as a whole, is tacitly passing through a period in history when life has become so meaningless that Mosques and Churches are standing idle with no worshipers to keep them alive even as death is being frighteningly touted on a minute to minute basis. And, even here, in Nigeria, where some idiotic nonentities used to laugh sadistically at Muslims for performing ablution five times a day, the divine reality of life has compelled them also to perform ablution, without spiritual intention, innumerable times. And no miracle can change that.
If we had heeded a warning that was passed to us in form of prediction over a millennium ago, perhaps an invisible virus now called COVID-19 would not have come to hold us spellbound as it is currently doing globally. It took an Arab poet to remind us of that cogent warning some centuries ago in an axiomatic stanza that will remain valid for long. The poem goes thus:
“This is the period against which we had been warned in the words of Ubayy Bn Ka‘b and those of Ibn Abdullah Bn Mas‘ud; a period in which the truth becomes totally rejected while falsehood and evil machinations are duly acknowledged and deified; If this period is allowed to linger for long without change, humanity may zoom into a situation where there may be no mourning on the death of a beloved person and no rejoice on the birth of a new baby”.
Now, is this not the predicted period? Where can the world go from here without the grace of Allah?
Origin of Corona Virus
Going through the archives of history is a major way of recalling some pandemics that had rattled human population with mass deaths through the millennia. One of the earliest pandemics that wrapped mankind in an envelope of plague, according to the records of history, was the Justinian Pathogen that occurred in the 6th century AD during the reign of Emperor Justin I of Byzantine Empire. That unprecedented catastrophe reportedly wiped out about 50 million people, a figure which was said to be about half of human population at that time. It was followed by the Black Death of the 14th century that was said to have killed almost 200 million people across the world. And then came the 1918 Spanish Influenza that reportedly killed between 50million and 100 million people and changed the world in pattern and in style. History also revealed to us how over 200 million people were killed by Smallpox in the 20th century alone. How many of such tragic incidents can one recall here without frightening the readers?
Characteristics of Killer Viruses
One of the common characteristics of the viruses that often plague mankind from time to time with different names is the symptomatic exhibition of threat to life through such infectious pathogens like sneezing, coughing and sometimes, bleeding. Some of these symptoms are now vivid in the current ravaging surge of coronavirus. We pray the Almighty Allah to save us individually and collectively from calamity of this period.