The holy book of Islam, Al-Qur’an, tells us of individuals and nations who, despite all pieces of core evidence, strong-headedly fail to believe everything that ought to be accepted as truth. One of such nations as told by the Qur’an was the Israelites to whom was sent Prophet Musa, Alayhi s-Salam (AS). While Qur’an 2:67-71 informs us about the reaction of the Israelites when Prophet Musa (AS) and his brother Harun (AS) ordered them to sacrifice a red heifer that had no spot or blemish. This would be the peg of our discourse this week.
The Israelites treated Prophet Musa (AS)’s directive with jest. When Musa (AS) continued to ask them for the sacrifice, they kept asking several questions, one after the other, which they could have answered themselves if they had listened to his instructions. Their questions were outright criticisms rather than a desire for information.
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At first, they asked Musa (AS) to pray to his Lord to describe the heifer to be sacrificed because all heifers, to them, look alike. Prophet Musa (AS) told them that his Lord had said the heifer should neither be too old nor too young but of middling age. After that, they further told Musa (AS) to ask his Lord for the colour of the heifer. Musa replied the Israelites “He says a fawn-coloured heifer, pure and rich in tone, (to the) admiration of beholders”. Yet, the Israelites again told Prophet Musa (AS) to seek clarification of other details about the heifer from his Lord. Musa (AS) revealed to them: “He says a heifer not trained to till the soil or water the fields; sound and without blemish”. It was when they were driven to a corner by Musa (AS)’s doggedness who exhaustively provided answers to their unnecessary interrogations that they reluctantly offered the sacrifice.
With over 1,200 deaths in Nigeria and over 1.73 million mortalities worldwide arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the general attitude of many Nigerians to this deadly novel virus is hard to believe. Simple protective measures are fragrantly being ignored in public places as if all the stories people hear of the catastrophe caused by coronavirus in Europe and America are mere fictions. One wonders whether there is something or anything at all to lose by adhering to the outlined safety protocols. Daily reports of how the second wave of the pandemic is, again, overwhelming countries that have state-of-art capacity to manage health emergencies have failed to move a large population of Nigerians to do what is required of them in terms of observing non-pharmaceutical measures. It is equally mind boggling that while countries in Europe and America are closing their borders and imposing travel restrictions to forestall cross-border transmission of COVID-19, while Nigeria is yet to think of that as if that is not a challenge.
In many instances, the few Nigerians who wear nose masks or refuse to shake other people’s hands are either mocked or avoided by violators of COVID-19 safety protocols even though the latter should have been the ones to be shunned. When I recently responded with my elbow to a colleague who offered to shake my hand, he said: “For us, we have faith (Iman in Arabic)”. Giving it back to him as if I knew he was going to say what he said, I replied “Meaning I do not have faith.” I’m sure you have seen me praying and you’ve not heard that I’ve denounced Islam”. I’ve heard of many people, including those you presume are well educated, saying “Coronavirus is not for Africans. It is not a tropical disease. It cannot kill a black man”. Like those who kept confronting Prophet Musa (AS) with needless questions, this is how those who do not believe that COVID-19 exists seek to dissuade persons who observe safety protocols from sustaining their convictions. Now, the argument has shifted to the chemical contents of COVID-19 vaccine.
Given the resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America in the past few weeks, there’s no gainsaying that we saw the virus ahead of its second coming. Measures already taken by the federal government include the announcement by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for schools not to re-open until January 19, 2021; workers from GL 12 to work from home; restaurants and hotels to be close to public; public transport to carry only 50 percent of its normal passenger-carrying capacity.
Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said the new epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country including Lagos, Kaduna, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), accounted for over 70 percent of all confirmed cases in the country. To avert any possible lockdown by federal or state governments, which they are seemingly not willing to enforce; our response to the safety protocols as individuals and as institutions matters. As pointed out by the National Coordinator of the PTF on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, Nigeria’s fragile health system “might not withstand the effect of a major outbreak of COVID-19 or other infections”.
The issue nonetheless, in the opinion of this writer, is not all about believing whether or not COVID-19 is real but about staying safe by protecting ourselves and others (including those dear to us) from the fatal clutches of coronavirus. Since, like courtesy, it costs us nothing to observe the safety measures and protocols against the spread of COVID-91, it pays to wear a nose mask, sanitize our hands (or wash them as frequently as may be required by our movements or activities), or observe social distancing especially when in the public space.
Let us not be like those who insisted (as described in Qur’an 2:55) and said to Prophet Musa (AS) that they wanted to see God face-to-face before they could believe God actually exists. Let us not also behave like the captains of the titanic who failed to heed all signs and warnings that pointed to a looming disaster. May Allah (SWT) protect us against the cold hands of not only COVID-19 but also of all diseases; viruses as well as bacteria, amin.
Demise of Dr Sheikh Ahmed Lemu:
This column joins the people and Government of Niger State in mourning the death of the renowned scholar. This page will be dedicated to paying him a tribute next week insha Allah. May Allah grant him eternal rest. mercy, amin.