Religion And Science Should Come Together In Facing The Pandemic
Those who are familiar with the creative, unputdownable writings of Dan Brown such as Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and Origin will perhaps see the rivalry between two most important institutions in human life, namely religion and science.
By portraying the conflict between the two in a dramatic way through his thriller novels, Dan Brown is very effective in highlighting rather the hostility between the religion and science, hence echoing strong criticism of some modern proponents of science against religion such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, hence widening the gap between the two institutions.
Despite the exaggerated conflict between the two, one obvious fact is that both religion and science have left great positive effects in the life of human beings. While science has facilitated their physical life in many ways in this world, religion has contributed immensely towards the betterment of human spiritual and ethical realm.
There were also many instances in history where both religion and science had co-existed harmoniously in creating great civilization. In the golden age of Islam, great physicians and scientists like Avicenna, al-Razi, and Ibn Haytham were among the stars who represent both realms at the same time. There is no doubt that human beings can be both scientific and religious at the same time.
Even during the current pandemic wave of Covid-19, both institutions have a lot to offer especially in finding holistic ways to save human beings from this infectious disease.
This is despite the fact that there are still tendencies among some parties to portray both religion and science as giving conflicting message concerning the pandemic. The narrative is that as science is at the forefront in finding solutions to prevent the virus from spreading through various medical initiatives, religion is said to project a fatalistic position on the pandemic through the view that the virus is a given fate and test by God that we have to willingly embrace. The increase of the number of religious clusters is mentioned as a proof of this claim.
Even if there is such an increase in the religious clusters, this will not justify the view that religion is fatalistic in dealing and treating a pandemic. Rather, the view has emerged out of misconception of religious principles due to unbalanced way of looking at the spirit and objective of religion.
On the contrary, as extensively discussed and concluded by the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia (MKI) which is one the most authoritative Islamic body in this country, it is fundamentally imperative according to religion for everyone to follow all procedures and restrictions including those concerning religious gathering.
This is based on many strong grounds. Among others, the Islamic legal maxim that says “one should not harm himself or harm others.” In one hadith narrated by Bukhari, the Prophet says, “Run from a spreading disease as one runs away from a lion.” By running, the hadith also implies that one must work hard in preventing the disease from spreading. In another hadith, the Prophet mentions, “Whoever hears there is outbreak of plaque in some land, he should not go to the land and if the plaque breaks out in the land where one is already present, one should not run a way from that land escaping from the plaque.”
Based on the above hadiths, it is obvious that all the SOPs that help in preventing the disease are in line with the spirit of Syariah which among others aiming at preserving human life.
As to the view that the pandemic is given fate and test from God, this view has to be understood within the theological framework of Divine Unity that everything good and bad is determined by the God. But since fate and decree is a divine affairs and human are not granted a pre-knowledge of it, it should not be of human concern to delve into the matter.
On the other hand, the responsibility of human beings, according to religion, is to follow the divine command concerning their life in this world, which is to strive for goodness and to prevent any harm from occuring. The Quran says “And spend your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to your destruction for Allah loves those who do good.” (al-Baqarah, 2:195)
This kind of ikhtiyar (striving for the good), followed by putting all the trust in God (tawakkal) is pertinent in preparing one’s mind in facing whatever will happen afterward. This firmed psycho-religious principle is strongly needed today amid the increasing number of suicide rates due to stress and depression.
This is one of the meeting points where science and religion can together contribute towards the betterment of human being during this devastating crisis.