PANDEMIC AND CIVILIZATION
Our world has undergone profound disruptions and change in a matter of just days and weeks. A pandemic, a deadly corona virus, was spreading rapidly, accelerating exponentially and killing the human species at an incredible rate. Initially, it was China, and the world did not pay much attention as China has had epidemics before and dealt with it.
THE NEW PARADIGM SHIFT IN OUR WORLD
Nonetheless, as other countries began experiencing a spike in cases, from Korea to Iran, still the world did not react.
After all, the virus was – according to the Western governments specially the United States of America- already in troubled countries. Some of them were and are still under the so-called civilized West’s barbaric sanctions.
As a matter of fact, The Islamic Republic of Iran as the head of the Axis of Resistance in the Twenty First Century World was and still is the crown of nations being placed cruelly under those inhumane and severe sanctions. However, no one cared! Instead, wild rivals such as the Israeli occupying regime and Saudi Arabia were blaming Iran for being the source of the Corona virus disease (COVID-19). Wolves were attacking and biting her. What a pity!
As cases shot up in Italy, it was apparent that this virus was not stopping with just the four, China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. Simultaneously, many other nations reported cases in their populations, spread by travelers coming from the four centers of the epidemic. Until then, people in other countries felt safe as their governments moved to block and quarantine travelers from the “four countries.” The epidemic was soon declared a pandemic. On March 8, the United States reported its first 500 cases of the virus as the world reported 100,000 cases and 3,500 deaths, the majority in China. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak as officially a pandemic, now on a global scale.
After the WHO’s declaration, the virus appeared everywhere. Spain, France and Germany closed its borders. By April the United States had over 200,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths. Global cases now more than a million with deaths surpassed 50,000. Americans were ordered to stay home. Almost half of the world’s population was living under lockdown by early April. All of humanity suffered the same crisis.
Millions of people were suddenly unemployed. Daily life became a struggle as the world entered the worst economic catastrophe since The Great Depression which began with the stock market crash of 1929 and lasted for more than two decades. Once again, the world economy was shattered, and global markets took three significant dives in March. By the third market crash, it became evident that the richest institutions in the world and this System of finance would not survive the pandemic without trillions in support. Yet, it took weeks for governments to support tens of millions of people struggling with unemployment, loss of wages, and inability to pay rents, mortgages, credit card debt and many other consumer shortages affecting their daily lives. Then again, what of the countries, all over the world, still suffering under inhumane sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies? Perhaps now The Westerners particularly the United States of America can see a true reflection of their humanity and overcome the cruel separation of power and privilege in the world.
Coronavirus as a Mirror
In an eminent verse part of chapter 1, story 10 of the Persian Literature magnum opus, The Gulistan, by Abu-Muhammad Muslih al-Din bin Abdullah Shirazi Sa’di we read that
“The sons of Adam are limbs of each other
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a man”.
Retrospectively, since the virus, we see our interconnectedness as human beings. Regardless of our countries separated by walls, political systems and ideologies, we know we all suffer the same. Nevertheless, it is not until we see the reflection of our own people suffering a common enemy that the world recognize the cruelty the USA has imposed not only to many of its own minority communities but to the people of the world suffering unconscionably under the savagery of sanctions and war.
At last, we see the importance of our working class, the migrant workers who pick our food off the fields, keep us well fed and supply all our needs. We see the importance of our doctors and nurses who risk their lives each day taking care of the sick. We recognize how truly simple it is for governments to provide for the people. We see countries rallying behind the new reality to provide guaranteed basic incomes to all. We see the need for a better healthcare system accessible to everyone.
Yet this vision of truth and the good in humanity is dimmed by another reality reflected in this mirror of life in the new paradigm shift taking place before our eyes. The only reason civilization has not fully collapsed is that the humans of the working class, those who maintain our food supplies, our transportation and our medical facilities have not abandoned us. They have persisted relentlessly in the frontlines since the beginning of the pandemic. On the other hand, even this is not possible to those who suffer under cruel sanctions as the basic elements need for life are being deprived by the United States and its western allies. Their civilizations survive due to the strength of their rich cultures and determination not to succumb to the pressures placed upon them. One distinguishing element in those nations, such as the Iranian nation, is that they are bound by faith and the belief that God will bring relief and an end to injustice through The Promised Savior _ Imam Al Mahdi (peace be upon him).
Compare this to America and its secular, educational, and political systems where the rich are favored. In the United States, the first to see the trillions of dollars once the pandemic was declared were the super-rich. State and federal institutions began flooding trillions into the financial sector. As the virus ravaged human society, the financial sector of the economic global system crashed and was provided immediate and massive support, more than any other segment of human society.
From the other hand, the working class and service providers continued to work with low wages, placing themselves at great risk to keep the common people safe.
Civilization is what makes humanity different. It provides all the requirements needed for survival of our species. As a result of this crisis, humanity can now reflect on what makes our society good or bad, weak or strong, just or unjust. To sustain life on Earth, we need a shift in priorities and in consciousness, one that will provide sustainability to the environment and to the people. Humanity’s potential to survive requires taking measures to avoid the collapse of civilization. We must determine to place priorities in the common values of our humanity and not in profit incentives as has been the norm. This virus truly reflects the virus of global economic and political systems which perpetuate growth and expansion at all costs. Even at the cost of human lives. As the virus perpetuates destruction in search of new hosts, so does the global economy perpetuate destruction in search of new hosts in order to consume, destroy and propagate. Like the virus, it is consumed in search of growth and expansion to spread, mutate and destroy.
Even then, any virus is limited in its potential as is the destructive pandemic global economic system. There are two possibilities. The first, in the destruction of the host, the virus is victorious. Second, if the virus does not spread, it also dies with the host. A brutal but deserved end to a brutal infectious enemy of life, peace and justice.
Regardless if one personally believes in the fundamental values, beliefs, and doctrines that certain religions present, one does not have to look very far to recognize the significance that religion has in a variety of different social aspects around the world (Dawson & Thiessen, 2014).
Definitely, another infectious enemy of life is false religion. A universal infectious enemy specific to humans. False religion has been the downfall and destruction of world powers and resulted in the death of millions, sacrificed to the hypocrisy and blatant falsehoods uniting people on the path of darkness, under the power of Shaitan.
Islam is the true path of light which unites all of Allah’s (God’s) servants drawn by truth without doubt for “there is no compulsion in religion” that offers truth instead of falsehoods, right instead of error, light instead of the darkness that engulfs the world of humanity, especially Americans in the United States. For the nation was founded on false assumptions based on Christendom’s lies, error and darkness. Let’s compare this to Islam, servants of the true God (Allah) based on the worship of the only true God, truths without doubts, and Light instead of Darkness. These three elements form the basis for worship of the only true God and does not compromise His worship with lies and deceit.
Religion is Universal to Humans
A peculiar nature of human evolution is the dual influence of genetics and culture intertwined with the universality of religion. In all societies and cultures, religion influences how we deal with our own duality of good and evil and the choice between right and wrong. Religion is a species-specific human universal. It is both the product of genetic and cultural evolution, a dual inheritance that characterizes the peculiar nature of human evolution (Richerson and Boyd 2005).
There is universality of belief in supernatural agents who relieve existential anxieties such as death and deception but demand a passionate and self- sacrificing commitment that is validated through emotional ritual. A rich array of culture-specific beliefs and practices has supplemented and influenced these features, leading to the vast and complex religious traditions that exist today (Henrik Hogh-Olesen, 2009).
What are universal things? In metaphysics, a universal is what particular things have in common, namely characteristics or qualities. In other words, universals are repeatable or recurrent entities that can be exemplified by many particular things (Price and Loux 20). Religions take culturally distinct but convergent paths that are constrained by a complex evolutionary landscape reflecting cognitive, emotional, and material conditions for social life (Henrik Hogh-Olesen, 2009).
In point of fact, cultures by ethnicity or ethnic spheres, such as, Persian, Islamic, Arab and Tibetan cultures differ from Western culture due to their rich and ancient history associated with years of social constructs, religious concepts and patterns of behavioral norms. By contrast, Anglo America – Latin America – African America – English-speaking world has one of the most complex cultural identities in the world. This is due to its immense size and diverse heritage formed by millions of immigrants who journeyed to the new nation to colonize the land in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Certainly, western culture in America has been plagued by many counterculture movements since its inception. One of the most significant was the subculture movement of the ‘hippies’ in the 60s. The hippie subculture began its development as a youth movement in the United States during the early 1960s and then developed around the world. Its origins may be traced to European social movements in the 19th and early 20th century such as Bohemians, and the influence of Eastern religion and spirituality. The hippies of the 1960s descended from an earlier American counterculture: The Beat Generation. This group of young bohemians, most famously including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, made a name for themselves in the 1940s and ‘50s with their rejection of prevailing social norms, including capitalism, consumerism and materialism. Their followers became known by the diminutive term “beatniks” (Sarah Pruitt).
Most hippies were young, white, middle-class men and women who felt alienated from mainstream middle-class society and resented the pressure to conform to the “normal” standards of appearance, employment or lifestyle. By wearing their hair long and growing beards (for the men) and exploring spirituality outside of the confines of the Judeo-Christian tradition, hippies sought to find more meaning in life (Sarah Pruitt).
Actually, in this quest for God, they were also misled by false religion, lies, and deceptions forming the basis of the new nation they were a part of. For the United States is only a newly formed nation, no older than 240 years, based on false premises of religion, politics and greed. So, the ‘hippies’ failed in their quest for the true God (Allah).
For once again, let me remind you that the Holy Quran says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejected false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower” (2:256). It continues that “Allah is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light And (as to) those who disbelieve, their guardians are Shaitans who take them out of the light into the darkness They are the Inmates of the Fire In it, they shall abide” (2:257).
On a spiritual quest for God, truth, peace, love and unity, noble but misguided Americans have continually advocated non-violence and love. Many hippies rejected mainstream organized religion in favor of a more personal spiritual experience. In opposition, their sight was limited to their own personal experiences of a euphoric nature as a result of ungodly practices, such as, psychedelic drug use and immoral sexual freedoms as an expression of worship (Identity Politics in a Fractured Society). They lost all morality, gave in to sin, and were conquered by the darkness, falling deeper into desperation. Today this is reflected in all American and Western societies.
The people will not find Allah unless they are willing to listen and accept His truth and mercy. In consequence, their misguided quest for God and truth continues. May good triumph over evil, justice over injustice, and peace over war. For it is Allah’s wills an end to all oppression of His children on earth. In one of its chapters (Al-Qasas), The Holy Quran pronounces, “And We desired to show favor unto those who were oppressed in the earth, and to make them examples and to make them the inheritors” (28:5). “And to establish them in the earth, and to show Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts that which they feared from them” (28:6).
As an ordinary Muslim, I recommend that all truth seekers not give up the quest for truth as they will find it in the most enlightened path for humanity, Islam. The Quran tells us “So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do now know” (30:30).
Islam into the Light
The Noble Quran as the central religious text of Islam is, indeed, the book of Divine guidance and direction for mankind. As a matter of truth, its original Arabic text is considered as the final revelation of Allah (God). As stated by words of Allah the Almighty in the 49th chapter (surah) of the Qur’an, Al-Hujurat, we read that “O mankind, we have created you from a male and female, and set you up as nations and tribes so you may recognize [and cooperate with] one another. The noblest among you with God is that one of you who best performs his duty; God is Aware, Informed” (49:13). Actually, to act in accordance with Allah’s will is our duty as His servants. At all times, even during distress and suffering, our duty is to observe the will of Allah as declared. In chapter Ghafir Allah indicates that “we have created you in pairs (78: 8) and granted your sleeping for repose” (78: 9).
In another chapter it is stated that “whereby Allah guides him who seek His good pleasure unto paths of peace. He binges them out of darkness unto light by His decree and guides them unto a straight path” (5:16). There is nobility in serving the only True God (Allah) for His servants know Him as such. The second chapter of Quran, Al-Baqarah stipulates that “God there is no god but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His Leave? He knows what lies before them and what is after them and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne comprises the heavens and earth. The preserving of them oppresses Him not. He is the All! High, the All! Glorious” (2:255). Hence, we rely on such a grand glorious God and ask Him for help and forgiveness.
In the same chapter we recite that “surely, we will try you with something of fear and hunger, and diminution of goods and lives and fruits yet give thou good tidings unto the patient” (2:155). The Holy Quran says that all things are from Allah. Both good and seemingly bad finalities, such as hunger, disease and death are in His hands. Along with His will come blessings of good tidings to those who fear Him and return to Him. In chapter Ash_shura we read that “He has ordained for you of religion what He enjoined upon Noah and that which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what We enjoined upon Abraham and Moses and Jesus – to establish the religion and not be divided therein. Difficult for those who associate others with Allah is that to which you invite them. Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (42:13). In consequence, it is Allah who determines who will return to Him. “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds” (21:107). “Say: It is revealed unto me only that your God is One God do you then surrender?”(21:108). The Messenger [Prophet Muhammad] was sent as a merciful display of Allah’s love for the world of humanity. Allah chooses who returns to Him as He knows all the actions and the hearts of His servants. Indeed, Allah’s mercy for mankind is great.
In chapter Al-Nur Allah addresses the holy Prophet that “We have sent you down clarifying signs and an example in those who have passed on before you, as well as instruction for the heedful” (24:34). On the other hand to receive His mercy, one must heed His call to light and surrender to His will. All the signs are made clear for those who will listen and surrender. Without a doubt, Allah is merciful.
Regarding the significance of Justice and Righteousness in chapter Al-Ma’idah, Allah asserts that “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do” (5:8). In the same chapter, Allah declares that “and do not let the hatred of a people for having obstructed you from al-Masjid al-Haram lead you to transgress. And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty” (5:2). Truthfully, Allah’s servants know of their blindness and stand fast against their aggressions and acts of hatred towards them. They desist from sin in obedience to Allah and in faith place their trust in Him.
In another chapter, Saba, we read that “and We have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind as a bringer of good tidings and a warner. But most of the people do not know” (34:28). Those who hear but do not believe are the ones that will be filled with the fear, hatred and injustice. It is for a warning that Allah’s message has been revealed to humans, for He is merciful.
In chapter Al-Mumtahanah The Almighty states that “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly” (60:8). Allah’s servants are righteous, just toward those who show favor to His servants for He is merciful. In chapter Al-Isra He emphasizes that Allah’s mercy and healing are for the believers, not for the wrongdoers. “And We send down of the Qur’an which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss” (17:82).
As a matter of truth, Allah determines at will who lives and who dies, who destroys and renews. No one can oppose Him. He measures times
different than mankind. He is eternal and is over all things in heaven and on earth. Allah is the Greatest! This can be traced in the second chapter of The Holy Quran, Al-Baqarah, where it states that “or [consider such an example] as the one who passed by a township which had fallen into ruin. He said, “How will Allah bring this to life after its death?” So, Allah caused him to die for a hundred years; then He revived him. He said, “How long have you remained?” The man said, “I have remained a day or part of a day.” He said, “Rather, you have remained one hundred years. Look at your food and your drink; it has not changed with time. And look at your donkey; and We will make you a sign for the people. And look at the bones [of this donkey] – how We raise them and then We cover them with flesh.” And when it became clear to him, he said, “I know that Allah is over all things competent” (2:259).
Somewhere else in chapter Al-Rum we recite that “and of His signs is that He created you from dust; then, suddenly you were human beings dispersing [throughout the earth]” (30:20). “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between your affection and mercy. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who give thought” (30:21). Therefore, we do not know the true power of creation and glory Allah possesses. We are only able to grasp the signs that He shows us of His true greatness and knowledge. He is over all things to those who acknowledge Him and chose to see His signs. They are not evident to unbelievers, but only to those who are shown mercy.
Once more in the fifth chapter (Al-Ma’idah), regarding Adam’s children’s sacrifice to Him, Allah affirms that “And recite to them the story of
Adam’s two sons, in truth, when they both offered a sacrifice [to Allah], and it was accepted from one of them but was not accepted from the other. Said [the latter], “I will surely kill you.” Said [the former], “Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him]” (5:27). “If you should raise your hand against me to kill me – I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, I fear Allah, Lord of the worlds” (5:28). As in the Biblical case of Cain and Abel, Adam’s two sons, only Abel feared God. He refused to give in to sin even in the face of death from his brother Cain. He declared his fear only for Allah as Lord of the worlds (Genesis, 4:1–16). However, in the same chapter we read that “for that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth” (5:32). “To take another human’s life, even just one, is the same as killing all mankind”, says Allah. “who saves a life is the same as saving all of mankind.” This is the word of Allah! Manslaughter is chosen by those who are astray as lost, prodigal sons.
In chapter Al-Kahf it is asserted that human beings will return back to Allah to be judged upon and receive what they deserve after death. Indeed, “They will be marshalled in ranks before your Lord: “You have come to Us just as We created you in the first place even though you claimed We would never make any appointment for you” (18:48). The chapter Az-Zalzalah announces that “so, whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it,” (99:7) “and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it” (99:8). Hence, one act of goodness conquers all evil. Each act has its retribution as Allah wills. Allah says, “So do good.”
In the chapter called Taha, Allah orders mankind to “eat and pasture your livestock [on it]; in that are signs for men of accomplishment” (20:54). “Thereof We created you, and thereunto We return you, and thence We bring you forth a second time” (20:55).
Referring to the man’s ignorance and lack of knowledge, in chapter Al-Haj we read that “some men argue about God without having any knowledge, and they follow every wilful Satan” (22:3). “For him it is decreed that whoso takes him for friend, he verily will mislead him and will guide him to the punishment of the Flame” (22:4). “O men, if you are in doubt as to the Uprising, surely We created you of dust then of a sperm drop, then of a blood clot, then of a lump of flesh, formed and unformed that We may make clear to you And We establish in the wombs what We will, till a stated term, then We deliver you as infants, then that you may come of age and some of you die, and some of you are kept back unto the vile state of life, that after knowing somewhat, they may know nothing And thou behold the earth blackened, then, when We send down water upon it, it quivers, and swells, and puts forth herbs of every joyous kind” (22:5). In point of fact, in their ignorance, men chose to defy Allah and proclaim unto themselves false gods. Satan surely misguides them into a certain destiny of death and defilement. They proclaimed their lack of faith in the true God after being given the blessing of life. They chose darkness instead of God’s light, for their souls and for the world.
Somewhere else in Quran we read that “thus, Luqman told his son as he was instructing him: “My dear son, do not associate anything [in your worship] of God [Alone]. Association is such a serious wrong” (31:13). (We have commissioned (every)man to [look after] his parents: his mother bears him with one fainting spell after another fainting spell, while his wearing takes two years. Thank Me as well as your parents; towards Me lies the Goal!” (31:14). Accordingly, Allah designed the human family, the tribes and the nations as a means of unity among mankind. He purposed that our duties to each would lead us to Him as our eternal goal. Therefore, fulfilling our duty to family, tribe and nation, makes one noble to Allah.
In chapter Al-Anbya we find out Allah demonstrating that “this community of yours [forms] one nation, while I am your Lord, so worship Me” (21:92) in which Allah preaches us all to worship Him as our creator. It continues that “for We have written in the Psalms, after the Remembrance, the earth shall be the inheritance of My righteous servants” (21:105). “Surely in this is a Message delivered unto a people who serve (Us)” (21:106). Clearly, Allah’s plan for the earth is as an inheritance to His loyal servants. It is here on earth that they would learn to serve and worship Allah. This verse is a proof of the coming of The promised Savior who will fill the world with justice and light. All of us are waiting for him to come and save us from tyrants and wrongdoers who are dominating our destiny and robbing us from our rights as free human beings.
In chapter Al-Nur Allah The Compassionate and The Merciful refers to Himself as “the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guides unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaks to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things” (24:35). Allah’s light shines in the hearts of those whom He wills. It is as if the heavens and the earth shed His light upon them to illuminate the hearts of His servants. His light shines brightly as He imparts truth and knowledge to mankind. All praise be to Allah for His great mercy! May we be among those whom He chooses to see His Light. We Hope this time human beings do not go astray and follow false religions. We hope they only follow true Islam and the Almighty Allah! Amen! Everybody is invited into the light of Islam.
Dr. Hossein Omidi, PhD.