ALL faiths have faced challenges because of covid19. Churches have closed. Temples have shut. And gatherings at mosques been discouraged. While this may be troublesome to believers, it’s actually a kind of a return to the moorings of all religious belief which place emphasis on sacrifice and the subordination of the individual in service of a greater community. What themes better unite all religions than the notion of adversity as a path to righteousness?
Today’s commemoration of Eid-ul-Fitr, amid these most unusual of circumstances, is an opportunity to reflect on all of this. Islam itself addresses the idea that the best way to live is modestly. Shows of wealth and power are not appropriate. Instead, there is great concern for the poor. The alms that are shared reflect this, as well as a historical development in which zakat, sadaqah, and waqf (tithes, alms, endowments) played roles in helping the less fortunate. Even fasting can, among other things, be regarded as an act of solidarity with the poor.
The Government’s granting of financial support to religious organisations, to the tune of a budgeted $30 million, reflects the fact that this pandemic has affected religious bodies across the board. Even as we call for accountability and appeal for good sense to prevail in the disbursal of these funds, it cannot be denied many religious organisations fulfil key roles and address basic needs throughout communities.
Ironically, whatever ideological differences separate us, the covid19 pandemic has been a great equalizer, in that it has underlined how all of us must yield to the frailty of our own body. This is the lesson that we, as a beacon of multi-culturalism, have learned through our ability to co-exist peacefully throughout the decades. In its way, today’s observance of Eid, as well as this week’s observance of Indian Arrival Day, paint a picture of a country that is indeed a real place, far from the failed State that we castigate at less optimistic moments.
The unusual circumstances, the lack of gatherings in mosques, the physical distancing encouraged even in spaces where gatherings are permitted, the new regime of how we live – all make this into a unique moment. It is a chance for us to show resilience, adaptability and togetherness in the face of adversity. There is no reason why we cannot still support one another but do so in a manner that makes such expressions safe.
Instead of sticking to our old ways doggedly, many have embraced the turn to the use of technology. That spirit demonstrates Eid’s undergirding is not something tied to a physical place, but rather a practice of belief. It is mindset that is the biggest component of any faith.
It is worth noting that while we must now make sacrifices, this fast will one day be broken, as it is for Muslims today.