Science and Religion

Reflections on the Outbreak and Effects of Corona Virus

Salman Ahmed Shaikh

Corona Virus has now hit every country. More than 11 million people got infected and 500,000 people have died in just few weeks and experts think that the damage is still far from over. As expected, the reaction has come in the form of fear. People are stockpiling essential goods and are seeking advice from every source to follow in order to survive and be safe.

The crisis also invites us to take deeper lessons and engage in introspection about how reckless we have been with environment. How we left people in Gaza, Kashmir and Uyghur in unnecessary isolation and lockdown. The crisis also explains how Riba (Usury) can have disastrous effects as it gives lender who lends surplus resources a license to demand return on money lent irrespective of any crises and its negative economic and humanitarian impact.

We made progress in science, yet there are many diseases we can not cure. We cannot defy death. We became proud. We used military strength to annihilate our enemies. We divided one human race into 200 nation states and built pride about national identity which people are not born with. It created unnecessary distance and distinction of ‘us’ and ‘them’ among the same humans. We hurt other species and made life extinct for thousands of different types of life forms on planet earth. Since 1970, about half of all animals have become extinct. We kill our own race. In 20th century wars, 200 million people died. This was roughly the size of overall human population on earth at the time of Jesus (pbuh).

We have achieved exemplary economic growth, but economic growth, richness and military strength do not matter for our and other species survival if ecology and balance is disturbed in environment. We have more food per person every year since the last 50 years, yet 10 million people die of hunger every year. Our collective conscience remains silent on 10 million deaths from hunger, mainly in poorer countries. Yet, rich countries take Riba (Usury) on loans which often exceeds the amount of aid they give to poor countries.

It is also useful to reflect on why life and what it means to us even if we survive this pandemic. We may survive this crisis, but we are going to die someday. 150,000 people die everyday. Such calamities combine death in one place and event. They are signals and reminders to reflect on what is the purpose of life.

Neoclassical economics suggests that humans are driven by self interest. Andreoni gave the idea of ‘warm glow’ to explain altruism. People engage in altruism to have warm glow effect. Sometimes, they engage in pro social behaviour to satisfy ego, gain fame, get social appreciation and build good social rapport.

But, the doctors and nurses who have risked their lives to treat patients have defied these explanations and proved that altruism can be genuine. The idea of selfish self-interest needs revision. John Nash gave the idea that everybody does what’s best for him and the group. Referring to humans as a group, Dawkins think that Selfish Gene has no inherent morals and only has survival instincts. Morality is then just an instrument to achieve survival of the fittest.

However, conscience is there in all humans which has clear ideas of good and evil. Call to conscience brings sacrifice and selfless choices. But, the life ends for many people without them getting fair reward or punishment.

Oneness of God gives us an anchor to see us as part of a universal clan of creatures. All life forms do not create or control breath in themselves or others. We inhabit universe collectively and are equal in sharing it.

Consciousness is there in animal life. Beyond animal instincts, humans also have inherent recognition of good and evil in their conscience. We like to do good and like others to do good to us. Belief in deterministic justice and rewards in afterlife fulfils our aspiration to have true and fair reward to every tiny act of goodness and evil in afterlife. Every moment of a nurse and that of a cured or dead patient is not meaningless if one believes and prepare for afterlife by achieving excellence in morals.

Imam Ghazali wrote that wealth is useful till we die, relatives till we are put in grave and only good deeds will be the currency on judgement day. If we have good deeds to take in next life, then we can have everlasting happiness that is not infected and affected by any Corona Virus.

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