By Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
It is with a heavy heart that I write this message to the Tabligh group. I am pleading that they cancel or postpone all gatherings in order for us to deal effectively with the number one enemy of man presently in the world; the COVID-19 virus.
I was once part of the Tabligh group in my student days in the USA and had even attended the Detroit Ijtimak or Gathering of 20,000 brothers from around the world in 1985. I remember we slept on corrugated cardboards in a huge warehouse huddled with each other to warm ourselves from the harsh minus 5 degree weather then. We ate from one 'talam' or tray with our fingers and drank from a single cup of tea. We were Islamic Brothers. Our saliva and blood must flow in unison to seal the faith at all time and in all places. We wept together in the night, prayed in congregation and relished in listening to the heart rending Bayan or speeches by the senior Brothers. Some of us were grocers, labourers and some were architects, doctors, lawyers and also former ambassadors seeking peace and enlightenment through a sacrifice of time, money and effort to rejuvenate Islam among the Muslims who had strayed by a non-political partisan approach of 'Gash' or visits to houses and sleeping at mosques. I learned to perform 'khidmat' by cooking, making drinks, serving food and eating at one time nothing but white rice with margarine. It was delicious. Plain white rice with plain water. Eating with your brothers of faith. Praying, joking making friends for life and weeping for our souls.
The Tabligh approach does not recognize Mercedes loving politicians or title loving muftis. It is a simple act of faith where a labourer can be a pious leader over mere lawyers, architects or doctors. My lecturer friends who were committed would frequently 'go out' for 40 days on the road travelling, cooking, praying, lecturing, visiting and inviting others to join. Tabligh was a beautiful way of life to be an innocent Muslim unhindered by the constructs of wealth, false dignity and fake piety of notaries and 'educated' clerics. At any one time more than a thousand strong would be at the Sri Petaling Mosque that has become famous as the new epicenter for the COVID-19 outbreak.
When asked to cancel, the organisers quote words of the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad in trusting Allah and accepting His will over life and death. This is the license quoted not only by the organisers but by the visitors themselves. Both are wrong and I will personally bear witness against these organisers and visitors and hold them accountable to Allah in the Hereafter.
Allah clearly says in the Qur'an that God will not change the fate of a people unless they change themselves. The Prophet has always advised people to tie their camels and then leave things to faith. In Islam faith is the LAST weapon after human ingenuity, resourcefulness and spirit handle any and all situations. To place faith blindly before actions and planning that can be humanly taken is sheer nonsense and in complete violation of the spirit of Islam. A Malay Ustaz disagreed with the closing of the mosque for congregational prayers and activities citing that Allah and prayers will protect the worshippers. For my money, if the Tabligh visitors and mosque congregation wants to die from Corvid-19 and 'fly to heaven', they are most welcomed! What I do not want happen is that these 'ignorant warriors of Islam' are willing to expose themselves to the infections and in turn infect their wives, children, fathers and mothers and worse other people's children, parents, daughters and sons. You nak mati you punya pasal-lah! Jangan akibatkan orang lain mati!
On the 16th of March last Sunday, my world came crashing down. I received a text message from my friend Jerald who had chaired my panel on Crisis on Education on the 3rd of March that he had tested positive for the COVID-19. It was the longest four days before I paid RM600 to be tested and the result came back negative. For that long four days, the thought of dying was not the worse part because at 58 years old, I had lived a full life. The worse part was the thought that I might have infected my five children and my three precious grandchildren that I had interacted with after the 3rd of March. The thought of infecting my wife of 37 years of marriage who has a sinus and asthma problem almost made me cry at night. Before 16th of March the COVID-19 issue was not a priority in my life. They were just numbers and seem far away from me. I had planned to cancel all my 7 talks and public appearance and that was going to be my last event. As fate would have it, that event was almost not only my death sentence but the fate of my children, grandchildren, wife, sister, brother and my students and co-workers. I had only shook the moderator's hand and held the microphone. That was all. And it could have been a tragic thing. I did not know nor expected as the warning of a national crisis was not forthcoming. What was coming was the backdoor government initiated by traitor MPs to the rakyat. That traitorous deed was more fearful than the virus. But all of that petty politicking now pales in the light of a new lockdown order.
As Allah is my witness, the Tabligh event in Malaysia has now become the epicenter of the outbrake. The Tabligh organizer gave the excuse that there was no government decree. They trusted religious faith than scientific facts. Now, the Indonesian Ijtimak is going to make the same mistake. I accuse the organisers of pure vanity, stubbornness and stupidity in resisting the request to cancel or postpone. Mecca has suspended the Umrah and possibly the Hajj in the future. What else can the organisers base their ludicrous decision on to continue?
Finally, in the hereafter when Allah calls these organisers of Tabligh why they continued with the Ijtimak against the plea to cancel, they will answer that it was their faith and love of Allah that made them continue knowing that Allah loves those who glorify Him. I would love to be there when Allah might say that their deed was for vanity of being leaders of a religious movement and for economic benefits and their sins of causing harm to others Muslims or non-Muslims will earn them the fires of Hell.
(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)