While the Coronavirus makes social distancing a priority worldwide, there are people who break with any government restrictions. On March 16th, religious men assaulted the holy shrines of Qom and Mashhad in Iran. In normal conditions, the shrines are visited daily by many people to worship. Part of the practice of worshipping is the touching and kissing of the tombs. It’s no surprise the shrines are closed for the public at the moment, as Iran is facing one of the major outbreaks of Corona in the world.
At first glance, it’s shocking that despite Iran’s critical situation people actively ignored the restrictions to cope with the current pandemic. How could this happen? Do people not care enough to prevent the spreading of the virus? Isn’t the government strict enough? Or is there something else?
Corona in Iran
Water and fire
A clear answer why these men forced to get in the shrines -despite restrictions- can only be given by them personally. However, the current Corona crisis reveals a struggle at the background that could frame this incident.
The Corona crisis in Iran shows the difficulty between science and religion. I’m not talking about Islam in specific at this point. Science and religion have always been in conflicting terms. They are not the yin and the yang balancing each other. In fact, they are like water and fire. The first one will destroy the second one. In reality, both have a hard time existing next to each other.
As a rule of thumb, the hardcore scientist will reject any religious assumptions. And vice versa. A well-known example is the existence of the earth. A scientist will firmly present evidence the earth was created by the big bang. Any religion will claim the world was created by God (Allah). Scientist deal with the world from careful investigations about the best-proven scenario. Similarly, religion deals with the world from the holy books and its related scripts.
Dealing with healthcare issues will be handled significantly different from a scientific or religious standpoint. To start with an example outside the Corona box: vaccinating. Worldwide many religious people are not vaccinated to diseases like measles, rubella and polio to name a few. These people do not believe they will not get the disease.
However, they do believe that when they will get measles it will be Gods will. Hence, when they are sick, they accept their destiny. They will not do anything to interfere with Gods will. Scientific interventions like vaccinations do interfere with Gods will. As a consequence, they will be rejected because only God can make a decision between life and death.
The vaccination-issue is not far from the current Corona reality. As any religion could interpret the ongoing crisis as Gods will. In a strict way, religious people will accept their destiny of getting Corona as Gods will. Likewise, they will not let scientific interventions come between Gods will and their destiny.
In Iran, worshipping in the shrines of Qom and Mashad will be for many people an important part of their lives. They will not let this important religious part of their life be interfered by any scientific restriction like social distancing.
As the past months haven’t been difficult enough for the Iranian people, the current Coronavirus is the next crisis they have to take. In fact, Iran has to deal with many challenges when it comes to the Coronavirus. Science versus religion will be one of them. Read more: Corona in Iran: trust vs distrust.
Iran is a religious Islamic republic where Shiism is implemented in every aspect of politics and society. Still, there’s a high standard of healthcare development and investigations. And although international sanctions have dropped the availability of medicins dramatically, Iran has excellent specialists and health care network.
The challenge for Iran is not the now-how, but is the mindset of parts of the religious population -among others- that will be crucial in dealing with Corona. The incident of March the 16th could be an example of that.