Competent handling of the crisis will enhance the country’s stature.

The title is inspired by a phrase attributed to Abraham Lincoln before he became the 16th President of the United States.
It derives from a Persian adage that reflects on the temporary nature of the human condition and is believed to have originated in the writings of medieval poets like Jalal ad-Din Muhammed Rumi (1207-73), a Sufi mystic born in Balkh in present-day Afghanistan. Over the centuries, Rumi has been much appreciated in India for his spiritual legacy.
I saw a relevance in it for the current situation when the country faces multiple difficulties. After the ongoing public health catastrophe begins to ebb and a return to normalcy is imminent, that would be an opportune moment to convert—through massively energetic action—the many challenges into meaningful opportunities.
Calm determination is the need of the hour to repair the “social fabric”, arrest the deterioration in inter-community relations and revive an enfeebled economy; the unemployment rate is said to have nearly tripled on account of the nationwide lockdown and has resulted in the exodus of lakhs of migrant workers from the cities.
The issues surrounding the Tablighi Jamaat can be expected to warrant a period of time in order to be effectively addressed. Large numbers of Covid-19 cases continue to be detected in the backdrop of the congregation (ijtema) organised at the Nizamuddin Markaz in March 2020. The attitude and behaviour of many of the attendees has been reprehensible, to say the least, following vacation of the premises.
A Sunni Muslim missionary offshoot of the Deoband movement, the Jamaat came into being around 1926 and focuses on urging a return to the religious practices of the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. It has been viewed by some as a breeding ground for radical militancy; however, its growth as an influential entity in 20th century Islam can no longer be contested.
At the same time, there is no community—big, small or minuscule—all of whose adherents could be painted with the same brush.
The Hindu-Muslim question (as it has long been termed in the subcontinent) is one of exceptional complexity and has defied resolution. A short-lived “political unity” was attained during the Khilafat Movement in the early 1920s when the Ali Brothers—Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Shauket Ali—joined hands with other Muslim leaders and with Mahatma Gandhi against the colonial rule. This did not happen again. The parting of the ways—when it came—was taken bitterly by the Ali Brothers, who turned against the Congress.
The later phase of the British Raj and the post-Independence years witnessed more than one “missed” opportunity to come to terms and prevent loss of lives and material assets. Large-scale communal violence has occurred with frightening regularity. The conflict lingers.
In the current situation, a positive lead has lately come from a group of Muslim IAS-IPS-IFS officers (retired and serving and reported to be about 80 in number) who have appealed to members of the minority community to afford no reason for blame to be apportioned to them for the spread of the corona epidemic. The signatories have invoked Islamic teachings to explain that contracting the virus through negligence is a “sinful act…courting danger and disease by rash and negligent acts is haram… The Holy Quran says if one kills an innocent human being, it is as if he had killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it is as if he had saved the lives of all mankind.”
These are steps in the right direction. Competent handling of the ongoing crisis will enhance the country’s stature abroad, alongside measures to reach succour and justice to the destitute and underprivileged. While social distancing is imperative as a means to control the virus’ spread, its pursuit needs to be accompanied by policies (and a package) to reduce the suffering of millions of poor people.
India’s democratic and liberal record since 1947 has been a source of strength in the West and the Muslim world. No government should risk losing this capital.
Arun Bhatnagar is a former civil servant.