Let’s Get Our Priority Right
In the field of principles of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) there are a few maxims that talk about the principles related to measures in dealing with harmful matters. Among others is that which says “harm should be eliminated”. Another maxim goes, “no harm shall be inflicted or reciprocated.” The third one says, “the prevention of harm should be given priority than promoting the benefit.”
All the three maxims convey one similar pertinent message that is the importance of preventing of any kind of harmful things from taking place on individuals or society at large. The third maxim nevertheless has additional significance when it also emphasizes on the priority between two conflicting situations. When we are facing with two contradictory options on the same situation between preventing harm and gaining benefit, we have to prioritize the first one. Among the reasons is that the failure of preventing the harm may destroy even the benefit that we may gain, and not vice versa.
This is the most important lesson that we have to learn amid the worrying spike of cases of the dangerous pandemic Covid-19 in the country. We cannot tolerate few people who, out of their greed in gaining gain personal benefits plus their ignorance of the high risk of this pandemic, have caused harm to others. Due to lack of sensitivity toward others, a wrong action taken by one person, whoever he is, has given grave negative implication to the majority of people.
Every person must be properly reminded that in the situation where maximum level of vigilance is needed now, we have to put aside whatever benefit that we would have enjoyed. As the usul al-fiqh maxim reminds us, the top priority has to be the prevention of anything that lead to the spread of the disease, full stop.
We must now mean business. The following measures are some important priorities:
First, stricter punishment must be taken against any offender of rules and SOP set by the Health Ministry. Let the offenders learn their lesson in the hard way before worst scenarios take place. The implementation of the law should not also discriminate between the status of the offenders since everybody is equal before the law. Similarly, the ignorance of the rule cannot be an excuse for anybody not to be justly punished as the legal principle holds that “ignorantia juris non excusat.”
Second, there must be high level of self-discipline among individual member of the society in familiarizing themselves with the new normal concerning the prevention of the pandemic. A surge spike of cases taking place everyday as well as the increasing number of people who are being fined and reprimanded due to their heedlessness of SOP only proves that the new normal that we are promoting continues to be new and not yet normal for these offenders. Some people are still in need of external factor in the form of strict laws and punishment before they can really embrace the new normal. It is therefore very important that every individual take charge of their own self seriously.
Third, inculcate the value of concern for others. The country we are living is like the sailing ship that we share with many other people. Everybody has to take care not only for their own selves but also other people. There is a hadith of the Prophet which says that “None of you is a true believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” The proof of this love not only be realised through the fulfilment of the others’ needs but also through the prevention of others from doing something harmful to the society.
All the above measures must be taken seriously not only by the common people, but more importantly by the political leaders who, in some cases, also being caught in a dilemma between gaining the benefit and political mileage and compromising some rules in order to gain the former. They need to be kindly reminded that their strict following of the rules is also one of the mileage that they can gain from the rakyat especially in terms of their high respect and recognition.
There is a beautiful Malay proverb which says that ‘disebabkan nila setitik rosak susu sebelanga’ which conveys the same message of English ‘one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.’ If we don’t start now in taking vigilant and strict measures in prioritizing the prevention of harm over some personal benefit, we will pay high price and need to wait long time to rectify the whole situation. The failure to flatten the curve will ultimately lead to other greater harm such as economic downturn, social disharmony and ultimately political instability which will wipe out all potential benefits for the majority of the people.