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July 9, 2020
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Philosophy Uncategorized

Covid 19 and the Modern Tower of Babel

“So relate the story; perchance they may reflect” – (al-Qur’an 7:176)

According to the monotheistic traditions, after the great flood at the time of our father Hadhrat Nuh ﷺ, humanity was one family, one nation and spoke one and the same language. Then they became arrogant and started the construction of the great ziggurat out of pride according to the bible, at which God became angry and gave people different languages so that they could not communicate with each other. Therefore, they were unable to build the tower. Humanity then dispersed across the world.

Perhaps, through the vehicle of languages, values, customs and cultures are conveyed. It is accepted that cultural plurality is richer and better for humanity as a whole; that cultures change and evolve all the time to suit the needs of its time and its peoples. There is no ‘ideal culture’ that humanity must aim at, and there is no benchmark to measure how far a group of people or community is behind in achieving this standard.

In the tafsir al-Jalalyn of Qur’an 7:199, it is mentioned that “Indulge people with forgiveness accepting what issues spontaneously from people’s manners of behaviour and do not scrutinise them and enjoin kindness decency and turn away from the ignorant and do not counter their stupidity with the like.” The Prophet ﷺ said, ““Play your games, sons of Ethiopia, so that the Jews and Christians know that there is flexibility (fusḥa) in our religion” in reference to a display of dancing with drums and arrows during celebration at the Prophet’s ﷺ mosque in Medinah.

The Qur’an declares: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)” (49:13)

Tribes and nations have flourished since the time Nuh ﷺ until recently. The blessed ark that carried humanity, all its potentials, values, customs and culture that becomes manifest by the interaction with the environment has been delivered under God’s watchful eyes, “sailing under our eyes” according to the Qur’an (54:14). This cultural diversity is under attack from the encroaching globalisation and its increasing hegemony. In fact, the whole planet and all the creatures are struggling for survival. The balance and equilibrium have been disrupted; sustainability is a key issue in the world. Earth overshoot day for Year 2020 was calculated for 22nd of August by the Earth Overshoot Organisation. This means that what the earth generates in the whole year is consumed by this date and date is approaching earlier each year. High carbon emissions, pollution and deforestation is having a massive detrimental impact on the planet and the lives of people. Indigenous communities are finding it difficult to survive, species on land and the seas are dying, many have become extinct and many are on the verge of extinction.

The Qur’an says, “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness] – (30:42). Let us now take a look at the global weather events in the past year. During 2019 there have 7,860 instances of wildfires in the state of California alone. “More than 46 million acres (72,000 square miles) of land were burned – roughly the same area as the entire country of Syria. At least 3,500 homes and thousands of other buildings were lost and 34 people died in thousands of fires between June 2019 and March 2020” (Center for Disaster Philanthropy). In Russian “Temperatures in June and July were the hottest ever charted globally, with parts of Siberia where the fires are concentrated reaching 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) above the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. The resulting dry conditions fed fires that torched more than 7 million hectares (17 million acres) of Siberian wilderness in just two months. Since the beginning of the year, fires have consumed more than 13 million hectares—an area larger than Greece.” (https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-siberia-russia-wildfires/)

“Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surpassed 10,000 square kilometers in 2019, the according to revised data from Brazil’s national space research institute INPE. It’s the first time forest clearing in Earth’s largest rainforest has topped that mark since 2008.” (https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/brazil-revises-deforestation-data-amazon-rainforest-loss-topped-10000-sq-km-in-2019/#:~:text=deforestation%20alert%20system.-,Deforestation%20in%20the%20Brazilian%20Amazon%20surpassed%2010%2C000%20square%20kilometers%20in,topped%20that%20mark%20since%202008.)

We are seeing increasing numbers of earthquakes, tornadoes, cyclones and flooding across the world. These are becoming more severe in intensity and more frequent in numbers. Since the start of this year a new pandemic, Covid 19 has spread across the globe forcing the human activities to a holt in many parts of the world. As we write, there is currently around 10 million confirmed cases and around 500,000 deaths across the globe. In terms of global numbers it is on the rise as a whole; some countries that went into lock down earlier in the year are slowly and cautiously opening up. Others are trying to balance people’s health against their incomes and livelihoods, global supply chains have been disrupted, many businesses have folded up.

People are wary, distrustful and avoiding people, wearing of masks are mandatory in some places. Collective and community events have come to a halt. The coronavirus has had a psychological, social and economic impact on all people across the globe. Across the European Union, borders started to spring up, governments increasingly taking control of their borders and peoples.

Skies have cleared up from pollution and toxic air; the water in Venice is bluer, air travel, road use and rail travel has been reduced. It is estimated that a million people die each year in China alone due to air pollution in the country. More animals and wildlife are seen. Greta Thunberg, the environmental campaigner will be pleased with all this. There is a correlation between economic growth and environmental pollution over the decades. Especially with the adoption of neoliberal economic policies of the 90s national governments have delegated all means of productions to the private sector making the public reliant on the private sector. This became manifestly evident during the Covid 19 crises – shortage of PPE and shortage of vaccine research and testing facilities. Common sense would dictate that governments do have some assets to meet the needs of its populations in terms of food, medicine and other supplies. But no! It is left in the hands of private companies to meet almost all our needs on a free market basis!

What is globalisation? It is a process of hegemonizing the ideas, trade and culture of the world. Globalisation is a process where all the small fishes are swallowed up by the big fishes eventually leading to the extinction of smaller species. If the process of globalisation remains unchecked then the natural equilibrium will be damaged and disturbed. The forces and demands in the markets will not be free, fair and natural but ‘manufactured and manipulated’ leading the likes of people migration of the South Americas in 2019, and from Asia, Africa and the Middle East in the last few years. This will inevitably lead to food insecurity, starvation and wars. We have a time and chance to reflect. Work together to build a fairer, just, greener future.

“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]

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