The coronavirus pandemic has caused a huge uproar and sent shivers across nations that have been on the verge of a systematic collapse. Not only have we seen governments going against their principles in order to bailout economies, the pandemic has shown the rusty values that seek to protect these systems and revealed their priorities. Cracks have continuously been exposed in these states and Covid-19 has most certainly enlarged them.
On 26th March 2020 the British people shared in a national applause to celebrate the sacrifices of the front-line NHS workers putting themselves at risk by treating patients affected by Covid-19. The applause was shared by the general public, politicians, celebrities and all strata of society. At the surface of such a gesture it seems like they are appreciated, but they have been failed by a crippling system which has failed humanity. Over the last few decades successive governments have stripped the NHS of its vital resources and have ensured that bankers, big businesses and corporations have hugely profited from the capitalistic model of governance. In times like this, those who have always been given precedence and protected by the capitalist system shines through . An NHS frontline doctor commented:
‘Since 2016, nearly 5,500 patients have died in England alone as a direct result of having waited too long to be admitted to hospital. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly twice the number of people killed in terror attacks in the UK since 1970. We should be outraged.’
‘England is short of 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors, A&E waiting times are the absolute worst in NHS history, our cancer patients are waiting longer than ever to be seen, you have shut down too many district hospitals, you have left us with too few hospital beds, social care is a mess, mental health care is inaccessible, and you have destroyed our capacity to provide a multitude of services in the community to keep people healthy and out of hospital. And now nearly 5,500 people have died as a direct result of your policies.’
On other hand the EBA’s latest report on high earners shows 3,567 UK-based bankers collected more than €1m in 2017. Their average pay, skewed by huge pay-outs at the top, was €2m, and together they took home nearly €10bn. Almost one in five of Britain’s biggest companies paid not a penny of corporation tax in the UK in 2017. The amount dodged globally each year by big corporations is more than three times the NHS budget or roughly equivalent to the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of Belgium.
The applauding of politicians for the NHS workers are token gestures, empty rhetoric at best. They are the very same clapping politicians who work and protect the systems which devalue the courageous work of health workers. The UK government in February of this year announced that foreign workers earning less than £25k per year would not be allowed into the UK through its new immigration laws. The same government starts nurses at lower than £25k per year! The irony is that the UK government just a few weeks ago extended the visas of foreign NHS workers so that they can fight the coronavirus! It is very clear that during this pandemic we learned that frontline workers are critical when people are in need and at their most vulnerable, but values in Western societies emanating from the secular liberal ideology adore entertainers and artists more than those who are actually saving lives. This is due to the fact that secular life is about living the moment and without entertainment and material pleasure, life is worthless. Furthermore, we see the value of the entertainment and media market in the UK has been increasing since 2013, reaching over £62.8b in 2017. By 2023, the UK’s entertainment and media market worth are projected to reach £80.5b.
We can see that capitalism has failed people and the world is in need for an alternate system. A system which prioritises people over money, values the life of human beings and not just looks at them as mere numbers. It needs an alternative system where healthcare is a right and not a luxury, where such industries are heavily invested in due to the care for human life. It needs a system where its values don’t push entertainers and jesters, but people who care for the states of people both physically and spiritually. Allah (swt) states:
وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
‘Whoever saves a life it is as though he has saved the whole of humanity’ [Al-Maaidah: 32]
The value for human beings and ensuring they are looked after is a given under Islam and having a capable healthcare system stems from the key principles of the deen of protecting life. Islam doesn’t choose when it comes to protect the vulnerable over those who maximise benefit to the economy -Islam has and will always protect those who are in need the most. When Abu Bakr (ra) took office of the post of Khalifah, in his opening speech we learn the deen is on the side of the weak and needy and not of those who merely seek utility.
“The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs, insha Allah. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me, until I take from them what is rightfully due insha Allah” (Al Bidayah Wa Al Nihayah – narrated by Anas ibn Malik).
Furthermore, we see an example during the Ottoman period, after the Ottomans united the Muslim world, the healthcare facilities shifted from local therapeutic centres to more state centred and local health centres were established. The aim of this state-sponsored health clinic was to eliminate disease. This is in accordance with what the Prophet (saw) said:
“ إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَنْزَلَ الدَّاءَ وَالدَّوَاءَ وَجَعَلَ لِكُلِّ دَاءٍ دَوَاءً فَتَدَاوَوْا وَلاَ تَدَاوَوْا بِحَرَامٍ ”
“Verily, Allah sent down the disease and the cure, and for every disease he made a cure. Seek treatment, but do not seek treatment by the unlawful” (Sunan Abu Dawud 3874).
Indeed, Islam makes the welfare of people an obligation from the Almighty Allah (swt). Some of the fuqaha have commented and said that treatment is recommended due to the above hadith and other evidences, to seek cures. Some have said when it comes to not knowing for certain if a treatment will be beneficial to the patient, then the ruling is that it is allowed and recommended. However, if it will bring about the desired benefit then it becomes incumbent and becomes an obligation. *
Islam also encourages people to spend their time in fruitful activities enjoining people to do what is good and refraining from evil. A contrast to secular liberal societies where entertainment and pleasure is as sacred as monetary profit and where the individual is valued over the collective good. On the contrary Allah (swt) states:
وَالْعَصْر إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
“By time, mankind is at loss except for those who believe do good deeds and enjoin one another to the truth and patience” [Al Asr: 1-3]
These are the sublime values that are needed to restore humanity from the abysmal state it faces. People need a state which cares for their interests and prioritises that which is necessary for human welfare and not celebrating those who just maximise pleasure and utility.
Juned Abu Yusuf
*(See Haashiyat Ibn ‘Aabideen, 5/215, 249; al-Hidaayah Takmilat Fath al-Qadeer, 8/134; al-Fawaakih al-Dawaani, 2/440; Rawdah al-Taalibeen, 2/96; Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’, 2/76; al-Insaaf, 2/463; al-Aadaab al-Shar’iyyah, 2/359ff, Haashiyat al-Jumal, 2/134)