Every human life is precious and sacred and saving one is like saving the whole of humanity. (Al Quran 5:32/33)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
At the Western Wall plaza, tape was laid out to separate groups of worshipers. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Stone of the Anointing was sanitized and incense was spread. The gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were closed to worshipers, who prayed instead in the outdoor courts. The prohibitions imposed in an attempt to limit the coronavirus outbreak have been heard quite well in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Western Wall, where Jews have prayed for many centuries, daily worship has changed. Normally at this time of year, the plaza in front of the Western Wall is packed. The Jewish holiday of Passover starts in about three weeks. But now, the area is cordoned off into small sections with yellow tape; people are not allowed to congregate in groups larger than 10 within each subsection.
Governments have closed churches, mosques and synagogues in many Western countries and for good reasons, I believe.
But, many believers seem to have mixed reaction and are not clear in their thoughts. When USA declared social distancing of 6 feet many devout Muslims were trying to find rationalizations for standing shoulder to shoulder in congregational prayers, especially for the Friday prayers.
This is when I wrote: When Not Going to Jumma (Friday prayer) is a Huge Blessing.
The photo below, taken on Feb. 14, shows worshipers participating in Tawaf, a ritual that involves walking around the Kaaba, a sacred structure at the center of the mosque.
A similar image from March 3 shows a much thinner crowd:
The mosque closed on March 5 for sterilization, and reopened on March 7.
If experts in epidemics sincerely advise social distancing then rest assured that the contemporary religious leaders have no magical powers to suggest otherwise. But, some are in search of cheap publicity:
Nevertheless, many religious leaders have shown constraint and balance and few have not.
In these difficult times, let us all, religious or not, be guided by a profound quote from one of the greatest sons of Adam, Galileo Galilei when he said, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”:
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) January 22, 2017
In conclusion, every human life is precious and sacred and that is where we need to focus on rather than on the precise details of rituals and I know here I am supported by the scriptures of all the Abrahamic faiths, the Quran, the Bible and the Torah or the Old Testament.
What Every Muslim, Christian and Jew needs to know: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath