Corona, Religion and Theology: An Analysis of the Corona Crisis according to Islamic Theology and Teachings

Author: Dr. Muhammad Rassafi
Reviewed by: Babak Mashhadi

The Corona crisis involved many people, and many sought theological answers and solutions to this crisis. As a result, they turned to religion as a remedy for their spiritual anguish and intellectual turmoil. As such, an unexpected opportunity was created for those who were erudite in theological discussions to communicate their thoughts to the searching souls. Dr. Muhammad Rassafi is a Shiite scholar in theology who has benefitted from this platform, and elaborated on this issue from theological perspective. Dr. Muhammad Rassafi has PhD in Comparative Philosophy from Qom University. His PhD Thesis is entitled “Critique of the Theory of Nominalism”. He has studied at level four (PhD) in the field of Islamic studies in English at the International Institute of Islamic Studies. He has written several books and articles on theology and the Qur’an. His book, “Corona, Religion and Theology: An Analysis of the Corona Crisis according to Islamic Theology and Teachings” has been published recently during the outbreak of Corona crisis.

This book begins by examining the place of religion in human life and propounds the revival of the Islamic civilization as the solution to such crises as Corona. Then, it deals with the famous discussion about the problem of evil and talks about the role of prayer and spirituality in coping with human suffering. The book promotes the Islamic lifestyle as an appropriate means of dealing with crises and reducing human suffering. Then, it presents a selection of doubts, raised and answered, about the Corona crisis. Finally, the seminary strategies and actions in the Corona crisis is examined.

The first chapter examines the place of religion in human life. Many people thought and think that in crises like Corona, religion should help people and show them the ways to get rid of such conditions. In response to such an expectation, it is said that basically the main function of religion is not to solve worldly problems. However, if the conditions for the proper implementation of religion are prepared, it can lead to the formation of civilization. It is through the establishment of such a civilization that we can hope for appropriate management of worldly crises.

The second chapter is about the future of the world in the mirror of Corona. This chapter, which is in fact a review of previously produced literature on futuristic issues related to Corona, discusses topics such as the post-Corona world and the end-of-time realm. This chapter is mainly a report of works produced by others and of course in a different and concise style. At the end of this chapter, the new Islamic civilization is presented as a plan for a bright future. There is hope that by reviving the new Islamic civilization, inspired by the glorious Islamic civilization in the third and fourth centuries, a brighter and less difficult future can be predicted for Muslims and anyone under such a civilization. The main documents in this section are the speeches of Martyr Motahari and the Supreme Leader of Islamic republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.

The third chapter argues about the Corona crisis and the problem of evil. This chapter is a rereading of an old issue called the problem of evil, which in every age and period has been presented as a sign of God’s injustice or the absence of God. The solutions proposed are not new, but the author has tried to have a realistic, clear and concise view of this issue.

The fourth chapter is about the role of prayer and spirituality in dealing with human suffering. Like the previous chapter, this chapter is a rereading of an old issue with a new approach and appropriate to the needs of the day. In this chapter, the author has introduced Duā [supplication] and Tawassul [mediation] as one of the effective causes in the world. Nevertheless, these spiritual causes are firstly in a vertical [ṭūlī] order to other causes and not in a horizontal [ʿarḍī] order with other causes [that is, they are affected by other causes and are not independent causes], and secondly, their effect has its own conditions that are not always and everywhere fulfilled.

Chapter five examines the potential of Islamic lifestyle in reducing human suffering. In this chapter, the author has tried to introduce some of the Islamic ethics, duties and recommendations in the field of health, protection of body and soul, and social and economic issues. The author believes that if these recommendations are properly considered and implemented, even in the crises worse than Corona, the society can be better managed and some of its shortcomings and problems can be handled even better than non-religious and non-Islamic systems. For example, observing personal and social health, having a spirit of brotherhood, empathy and faithful help, charity and self-sacrifice, avoiding usury, and propagating Qarz al-Hasane [loan without interest] etc., can all minimize the problems of a crisis-stricken society.

Chapter six is actually a collection of various doubts about the Corona crisis that have been raised on a case-by-case basis and answered by the Center for Responding to Doubts. The author has categorized and selected a few doubts below each section as an example, and has briefly edited the material in order to summarize the content and clear up any possible ambiguities regarding the content.

In chapter seven, the seminary strategies and actions in the Corona crisis is examined. This chapter is not in fact consistent with other chapters and is merely a report of the seminary’s actions from the beginning of the outbreak of Corona epidemic to the time of writing, which has been done at various levels, including intellectual support and the tireless activities of the clerics. The content of this chapter was to be prepared in detail by another group and presented in another volume. But since that was not done, the author has attached this chapter as an analytical report. The author’s justification is that this chapter could be an objective and practical representation of some of the theoretical issues raised in previous chapters.

The author has attempted to have a comprehensive look at the Corona crisis and to provide his readers with the main issues and questions related to the topic. The introduction of Islamic civilization and lifestyle as the potential for dealing with such crises appears to be a plausible remedy for the present miseries. One of the best stages for the implementation of religion and its comprehensive teachings is the revival of the brilliant Islamic civilization which can help greatly in dealing with the present calamities. The problem of evil has been a controversial issue over the centuries, especially in the face of crises, and the author’s discussion about evil, its types and philosophy is informative. The role of prayer and spirituality as a means of communicating with God and relieving our distresses in disasters is undeniable; however, the author has attempted to underline the extent and conditions of the effectiveness of such spiritual means as Duā [supplication] and Tawassul [mediation]. This is a clever attempt to prevent readers from assuming unrealistic, unreasonable or false expectations about the fulfillment of their supplications. The selection of several doubts with proper theological responses to them is another fruitful step taken by the author, because many people are exposed to the same doubts about the Corona crisis, and can find their answers. On the whole, the book is an insightful attempt in a stressful period to enlighten those who look for theological responses to such crises and search for long-term solutions to such problems.