On Ebola and Religious Extremism By Abubakar Evuti
That ebola is now in Nigeria is no longer news. People are mightily afraid. The heart of the nation beats just like when terrorists attack it. Maybe it beats even harder. Even faster. The fear is real!
Before our doctors and scientists make any break-through, we must make their jobs easier and our chances of survival higher by cautioning the religious extremists who think, Jesus-like, they can stand up against a ranging sea and, because they are ‘believers, command the sea to be calm and that will do.
People like to say, ‘prayer is the answer’ without making any effort whatever to understand the question. You may blindly follow your faith if you choose. You have a right to but when your blindness endangers the entire community, your right to blindly follow your faith becomes another matter.
On the morning of August 8, 2014, a man in my area, after Subhi prayers, spoke almost angrily that people have no or little faith in Allah. That people now fear ebola more than they do Allah. What provoked this was the messages and calls he got over night to bath with salted water. He explained that this was unnecessary. He recited a verse from the Qur’an to show how Allah sometimes test his subjects. He went further to say that if one mutters some prays after subhi and magrib Allah will protect the person from all harm including, he implied, ebola. The issue, to him, was not even the authenticity of the salted-water story. He just felt there was no need whatever to start worrying over ebola outbreak when we could just pray and seek protection.
I have never spoken in the masjid before because my knowledge of Islam is not deep. But the situation was dire. I had to speak because this man is my neigbour! What will happen if with such beliefs in his heart he goes about his business without taking any precautionary measures? No.
Islam has always been a practical religion. It is possible that the man did not know that it was Islam that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s renaissance and enlightenment. Perhaps he did not know too that it was innovation (not only prayers) in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra, magnetic compass and tools of navigation, mastery of pens and printing and understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islam is a practical religion. It is true.
I forgot to tell —or remind— him of the story of how once a man went to visit Prophet Muhammad (S.W.A). This man, we were told, came off his camel and asked the Prophet (pbuh) whether he should tie his camel or leave it to Allah. The Prophet (pbuh) told the man to tie his camel first then trust in Allah.
But I did however mention to the man that it was Islam that taught us to not fan our hot food with air from our mouth because unharmful bacteria can come out of our mouth, land on our food and will become harmful when they go into our stomach. I mentioned to the man that it was Islam that said we should not eat whatever food that we remove from our teeth. I also told him it was Islam that explained to us that a wing of a fly is poison and another is its cure. That when a fly perches on your food, you should push it wholly into the food to neutralize the poison. These things discovered about 14hundred years ago have been proved true today by scientists.
I ended by further explaining that ebola is real so we must understand the nature of the virus. That what we should do and must do is teach people the precautionary measures to take to prevent the spread of ebola. Of course we will pray but let us take precautionary measures for prayer alone is not enough. Tie your camel first then trust in Allah.
(Please Plant a Tree Today)
The writer is on twitter @ngugievuti
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