The year 2020 is not the year that many people would choose to remember. For many, the whole year passed as a blur. For the most part of the year, people all over the world confined themselves to their homes. And then for many of us, this has been the year that brought in pains of illness, death and calamity. We saw our dear ones suffering and we could not offer any help. Sometimes, we suffered and there was no one to offer words of consolation or shoulders to rest our heads on. The coronavirus pandemic forced us to stay separated.
What possible lessons could we glean from such an astoundingly tragic year? The answer, in fact, is not far to seek. Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) describes the most enduring aspect of human beings in his groundbreaking work thus:
“Life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable. And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation.” (Man’s Search for Meaning)
If we draw positive lessons from negative experiences, and if we chalk out a proper course of life after passing through a severe affliction, then it would be correct to say that we have made the best use of the situation. When coronavirus began spreading, the best minds were caught unawares. With all claims of subjugating nature to our needs, we had no answer to this new trick of nature. We came to realize just how formidable nature is! Thus, the first lesson for us, is to know our position vis-à-vis nature. When every country is fortifying its military strength to overpower other countries, it is more important that all nations band themselves together to work for the betterment of humankind.
This year also reminds us that all human beings are part of one family. No member can remain safe if other members of his family are in danger. In the face of unprecedented challenges, the whole human family must stand together to find a way out. The joint venture of the scientific community backed by corporate funds and political will, and prayers of billions of people to find a cure for the coronavirus infection are a testimony of this fact.
This pandemic signals a historic moment. Like every other aspect of our lives, religion too has been fundamentally affected by it. The religions promulgated by the priestly class as just a set of strict rituals and incantations has proven to be null and void. It was pure narrow-mindedness to differentiate between people as ‘us’ and ‘them’. Every religious community claims to be the chosen people of God. This pandemic proved that all are equal before God. The authors Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thampu made an excellent point in an article published in The Indian Express dated June 30, 2020:
‘It looks as though the COVID pandemic has come to emancipate us from this subhuman religiosity. (…).The virus has undermined every aspect of priest-driven religiosity. (…). 'Post'-COVID, religion must be God-centered and priest-free, unburdened with places of worship. Worship, free from rituals, dogmas, deception and priestly hypocrisy, must nourish life.’
The pandemic had brought to the fore the essential aspect of religion. Religion should be based on reason, spirituality, universal brotherhood and welfare of humankind. There is no favoritism in religions.
For humankind to survive and thrive on this planet, the most important need is ‘peace’. We need peace between human beings and peace between humans and nature. We need to treat with utmost care every object of the universe. Every aspect of nature plays an integral part in keeping this planet human-friendly. In our zeal for luxurious life and entertainment, we should not forget that our habits are harming the eco-system. It is time to live responsibly.
Through the magazine Spirit of Islam (SOI), we have been emphasizing on the necessity of peace and brotherhood. It is one of the integral aspects of SOI to present religion in its truest and unadulterated form. SOI highlights the spectacular achievements in the field of science and technology that widen the canvas of God-realization. SOI reminds us to be grateful for the amazing planet Earth with its life-support system. SOI leads one on the journey of the realization of God, our Supreme Benefactor
Prof. Farida Khanam