A Reflection on the Coronavirus and Women March in a Religious Context

June 2, 2020

By Fazal Amin Beg

When the Coronavirus had raised its head in the Wuhan (Wukhan) city of China in November 2019, there was no high level of comments from different segments of the societies to assume the causes. When the Virus began flying to different countries across the globe, surpassing the scientific community, other specialized or general people from various places started expressing their assumptions to relate it with various and amazing types of factors. Pakistan also didn’t remain behind in such catastrophe and assumptions on the subject to express their minds.
Interestingly, parallel to this pandemic disaster, in March when there was the Women March at global scale, serious care was not taken on the coronavirus disease despite the fact it had already devoured a huge number of humans. Consequently, Italy exceeded the death toll on top and Spain stood to be second in the graph, while China itself and Iran remained behind. This phenomenon gave an impetus to the conservative groups who unfortunately tried to link the COVID-19 with women and immodesty.
Well, look at the amazing and ironic dramas ahead. The mainstream media and social media on the one hand and the print media and other groups on the other stood to be so active that the anchorpersons and commentators appeared to be the virologists of Corona and the actual scientists were sided to the walls in many instances. some people would term it as a curse of God, some would refer it because of eating unlawful flesh of animals, some would link it with international politics and embed the conspiracy theories, some linked it with the technological advancement, some would join it with the climate change issue and role of scientists to give rest to the planet Earth and the atmosphere, and anymore. Whatsoever the factors may be, it’s so lucid before the whole human communities that COVID-19 cannot spare anyone and has to infect him or her, particularly of the certain age groups, already patients of heart, diabetes, and the like. It was for such harsh and intolerable fact and atrocity of the monstrous Coronavirus that took lives of hundreds of thousands and infected millions of humans across the globe.
Keeping in view such global and national situations before him, Abdul Karim Karimi, one of the scholars of Northern Pakistan, has tried to look at the two main events from March onward in Pakistan such as the Women March and the Coronavirus pandemic. Practically specialized in political science, religious studies, Quranic studies, history, literatures and journalism, Abdul Karim Karimi is a wonderful and moderate scholar from the Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan Region. He is not only a scholar but rather at the same time he is a renowned Urdu poet and author of over ten published books. By now, he has contributed over 500 articles/essays in Urdu and the like. Being a genius orator and soft speaker, he has delivered so far more than a thousand lectures and speeches on various topics and themes including interfaith harmony, peace and the modern challenges, Seerat Conference (conduct of the Holy Prophet), Hussain belongs to all, and many more.Karimi knows and has studied couples of languages including Urdu, Arabic, Persian, English, Wakhi, Khowar, Burushaski and Shina.
Connected to the above theme, one of his articles in Urdu translated in English as “Women March, Coronavirus and Islamic Teaching is an impressive piece. Looking at the content, I thought to translate it in English and internationalize his beautiful and logical thoughts to all those who understands English. Not only, this but rather I requested him to read his article in his own soft voice so to publish it on the Eagles World channel with the intention to expand the horizon of the audience.
Karimi has attempted to look at the situations from a rationalistic context and emphasizes how intellect was crucial in human life and how intellectual development after the golden age of Islam was restricted that led towards many types of decimations with different segments of the society (also including women) for the last many centuries. He highlights the injustice made with the scientists and even with the elevated Imams such as Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifa who thought to keep the intellect above all and keep it free to develop and must not be suppressed.
Those who would like to listen to his Urdu written lecture in his own voice; they can click on the following link of Eagles World Channel and get access to it:

Without going more in detail, I’d like and invite the readers to read the excited article of Abdul Karim Karimi (translated in English by me) as presented below.

Women March, Coronavirus and Islamic Teaching
By Abdul Karim Karimi
I have always been indebted to the affection of my readers. They feel miss me and wait for my write ups. When their waiting gets intensified, they then ask with a love: “Sir, where are you disappeared? You didn’t write on the Women March.” When I keep frequent silence, their tone becomes a bit bitter. “Sir, at least dare to write something on the Coronavirus. The Mosques, Imam Bargahs, meditation houses, even the House of God (Khana-e Ka’bah) was closed down. What are the teachings of Islam? Your silence is beyond our thoughts.” In such manner, many more questions they raise (or comment). The interesting messengers are those who like me. Their concern is valid.
For a long time, the mind is disturbed. The Women March passed on and I couldn’t contribute anything, despite the fact I wanted to write. Coronavirus is on its peak. Everywhere is fear and terror. But I couldn’t venture to pick my pen by thinking that it was the domain of medical science. “So, what I could write about it? To perform like a nim hakim (half-healer) is not a good approach to be taken”, I would criticize myself.
Well, someone commented very beautifully that in Pakistan the patients of Corona are less but more experts on the subject. But please, wait for a while! Enough is enough when I heard news yesterday. All the world community is striving to safeguard themselves from the pandemic but from a television channel (in Pakistan) a news jolted me internally. It was disseminated on the TV as a woman was naively telling: Look at the miracle of Khana-e Ka’ba. When Ka’bah was closed down for the humans, Allah opted to ask the birds to encircle around it.
On the other, one of the competing commentators on the disseminated news interestingly said: “Yesterday, in our temple, some birds were also encircling around it. I’m thus so astonished that whether the devoted birds around the Ka’ba are on the right track or those they encircle around the temple?
Let me dare to ask now. For how long, we will depend on or keep up with such superficial miracles to survive? For how long we would depend on eating the date’s fruit in an Islamic way? For how long we would stimulate ourselves to write books on how to kill the lizards according to Islam and compete with the modern issues and challenges hampering over us? For how long we would continue to term our opposite schools of thought as infidels or pagans and sooth our hearts?
Those who disagree with my perspectives need to come up with a simple debated speech on the YouTube. You’ll evidence the rival groups. Get aside the entire Muslim communities as a whole; even those who follow the elevated Imams also suspect each other for being Muslims. For how long we would oppose the Women March? For how long we would cry over the Islamic dresses? For how long, we would perceive the superficial things as the food of the journey? At last, for how long (it’ll continue)?
Dear listeners! Keeping in view the increase of Coronavirus patients in the Gulf countries like Kuwait, where temporary restriction has been imposed on offering prayers in the mosques, there has also been brought change in the Adhan/azan (prayer call). The published videos on social media could be watched or listened that instead of “Haya Ala Salah” (come towards prayer in the mosque), the Mu’adhin/Mu’azin (caller of prayer) calls “Asalatu fi buyutikum” (means, offer your prayers at your homes).
Where would then go the reward of our collective prayers? Here is an important message to those who maintain that there is no chance of bringing change in the Shari’a. If it’s true, we then have to take part in our collective prayers/meditation, but what to do? The virus has frightened us and we are compelled to bring change even in the Azan, but why? Behind the question “why” are series of logic. At the moment, I’d like to offer you just one among them.
Islam is a religion of the Nature and getting changes in it is the symbol of life. If we go behind the definition of Shari’a, an extraordinary definition emerges out of the box. Shari’a is that particular path which takes its direction towards the flowing water. Look at our misfortunate action! Get aside the path itself, we have been struggling to stop or block the flowing water itself.
And we have included the teachings of a thousand years earlier in our present syllabus. And a thousand years ago, our religious scholars (whose name I won’t mention here because those who are attached to the history know it very well) imposed sanction on the intellect they argued that those utilize their intellect are infidels. Consequently those who brought in used their intellect; they were beaten onto their heads. They put science and intellect under their shoes.
Such approaches intensified to such an extreme level that Ib-e Rushd (an astrologist and great scientist) was tied to a pillar of a mosque and the people around for prayers are asked to spit on him on the way to and from the mosque.
Yaqub al-Kindi was the father of philosophy and a great thinker. He was beaten with the whip in Iraq by the then ruler of the time. With each strike of whipping, the public would unfortunately enjoy and clap.
The story doesn’t end here. Al-Razi who did contributed to clearly distinguish between small pox and measles, was crushed by the ruler of the time who ordered that the books he himself had written should be beaten onto his head to such a degree that either his book or his head should torn out. The history informs us that due to such brutalities, a prominent scientist like Razi was made blind.
Moreover, Imam Malik and Imam Hanifa could also be found so clear examples. When Khalifa Mansur, who was school-mate of Imam Malik, requests the Imam to write a book on Fiq so the people should follow it and spend their life accordingly, the Imam refuses to do so. He says: “It’s not a good approach. Let the people think freely, otherwise, they will be enslaved behind the written thoughts.”
The same request was then made from Imam Hanifa but he also refuses to do so. Observing such situations of refusal of the Imams, Khalifa Mansur offers the position of Chief Justice to Imam Hanifa. The Imam thus describes: “I’m not capable for the offered position.” Khalifa Mansur enrages and bursts on him: “You are telling a lie.” Imam Hanifa replies: “If I tell a lie, how could you then appoint a liar as the Chief Justice?” In such a tussle, Imam Abu Hanifa prefers the prison over the position of Chief Justice and also doesn’t opt to write the book on fiq because he was a religious scholar with a long vision. His telescope (deep vision) didn’t want the Muslims to become slaves. The books written with reference to Imam Hanifa was by one of his students Qazi Yusuf in the later phase.
A question arises, why didn’t the elevated religious scholars like Imam Malik and Imam Hanifa like to write a book on Fiq? They knew that in such manner, they would be restricting the thoughts of the Muslims.
Just focus for a while upon the logical knowledge conquest of the Muslims Between eighth to fourteenth centuries. You’ll find Imam Jaffar Sadiq, Tufel Ibn-e Kindil, Ibn-e Rush, Azawari, Yaqub al-Kindi, ar-Razi, Nasiriuddin TusiIbn al-Hatham, Ibn-e Sina, and other great scientists such as the name of Maryam al-Astalabi is a great precedence for the Muslim women like a beacon of light.
Well, for a while, when you’d revert to the period of the Prophet Muhammad, your eyes will get opened. For the purpose of acquiring knowledge each men and women need to go to China could be find as an obligation. More importantly again, Hazrat Khadija (the Prophet’s life partner) are seen doing her trade from Madina to Syria. Furthermore, it’s Hazrat Khadija herself who sends the offer of marriage with the Prophet Muhammad. Imagine, how a woman had freedom in decision for her life!
In the Masjid-e Nabawi (Prophetic Mosque in Hijaz of today’s Saudi Arabia), the front lines were filled by the men and the back lines with women. Thus, both men and women would offer prayers together. What happened in the later phases? We said: “No, when the women go to the mosques, the Satan entraps us. Therefore, the women should be restricted within their scarves and limited to their home boundaries where they should offer their prayers.
The conservative mindset of keeping the women away from the men intensified to such a degree that even we restricted them not to clap (and express their joy) and began killing such a situation, mosque is so far away, a woman got deprived of her right of enfranchisement. The lava cooked to such an extent within the limits of scarves and boundary wall of the house that we had to witness the day when the voice of women vociferously who said: “My body and my will” and the women of our houses commenced their women march.
The women are not guilty for such phenomenon (we need to understand). It’s our patriarchal society, in which a respected woman who are evidenced had become a scientist within the teaching of Islam in the name of Maryam al-Asturlabi who wondered the world, and in the form of Hazrat Khadija Kubra who was so dominant in trade and business from Madina to Syria, the same woman is compelled to pronounce: “My body and my will.” The only reason lies here that we haven’t accepted her to be a human and we have kept them away from the human rights.
God forbid, think for a while, we are those people when Halaku Khan destroyed the huge asset of knowledge of the Muslims in Egypt, two of the clergies a mosque were in great debate arguing with each other by saying: “Whether the rabbit was lawful (halal)or unlawful (haram)” (to be eaten).
The divide between the terms like halal and haram, dozakh (hell) and janat (heaven)also started from that time onward when we imposed sanction on the development of intellect and termed the knowledge of science as unlawful. When Europe was on its journey towards the light from its dark age, it was that time when the printing press machine was Europe, the books were printed on the machines, while before us, and the religious scholars would pass on their verdicts that the machine doesn’t take ablution. Therefore, printing the Islamic books on the machines is haram.
When the loudspeakers came in the markets, the invention was also targeted by the verdicts of such negatively religious clergies. But you could then evidence that those who termed the loudspeakers as the voice of the devil, they themselves are seen beginning its excessive usage.
Why is it so? It’s so, because before the flow of development, no barriers could be constructed. It has been our misfortune that we have been like the ostrich hiding our head in the sand and maintained that the storm would cease. The storm of science and technology would never cease but rather we need to bring flexibility in our religion. Coming out of the superficial thoughts, we need to explore and think in the truth of Islam and the depth of the Holy Qura’n, which emphasizes us for 756 times on development of the intellect. If done so, we will not look towards the West for the treatment of Coronavirus and there won’t be women march and there won’t be any fear or anxiety for us from the women march. Otherwise, our superficial thought will prove itself more dangerous than the Coronavirus. God, the Almighty, bless us with the comprehension of the Truth. Amen.
For the purpose of looking at the world with a new sight, some books are given in reference to be studied and understood. And with honesty, you and I need to declare where are we standing in the contemporary context?
1. “The Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam” by Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
2. “Pakistan under Seige” by Madiha Afzal.
3. “Sapiens” Dr. Yuval Noah Harari.
4. “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari.
5. “The Fatimids and their Educational Tradition” by Han Sam.
6. “Khilafat u Mulukiyat” by Allama Syed Abdul Ala Modudi.

My special thanks to Abdul Karim Karimi for sharing his article in his own voice that enabled me to translate it in English and make it part of this website; and his voice as part of the Eagles World Channel. I’m also grateful to my nephew Mazdak Jibran Beg for his technical support and overseeing the typos of this article as well as editing the voice file.

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