No one would have expected events such as the COVID-19 phenomenon to impact every nation worldwide hugely. The initial few weeks, now turned into months, of Movement Control Order (MCO) were considered crucial in bringing down the number of cases each day. What we knew coming was a health crisis also turned into an economic one as businesses had to cease operations in the early MCO period.
Starting May 4, 2020, however, the MCO was eased to enable businesses to begin operating due to the worsening condition of employees who needed to earn a living, following certain SOPs set by the government. As the MCO is slowly being lifted now in June, inter-state travel has been permitted, and most businesses have resumed.
On the bright side, we are pleased to see the significant progress of Malaysia in battling COVID-19 and the introduction of the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) that will last until Aug 31, 2020.
However, the economic impact might extend post-MCO as people fear what is to come next. Consumer spending might be on the low for a few months with the lifting of the MCO. Some things, as unexpected as this event, have made people realise the need to stay at home and reduce the need to spend on unnecessary items or services. People have become more concerned about fulfilling only the basic needs rather than items beyond necessity.
In line with Maqasid al-Syariah
This is consistent with the Maqasid al-Syariah, where we should only spend money on things that are considered as basic and additional necessities, but not so much on those regarded as luxury items, what more on those beyond luxury. While the impact is especially seen among those whose incomes are severely impacted, part of the population's incomes are still given in full and the people are able to save more since spending may have reduced tremendously, following the implementation of the MCO.
Following the Maqasid al-Syariah, this group of people who have extra on their plates should be willing to share their part in giving out more to charity and sadaqah to those who are less fortunate. As we know, some employees are forced to take no-pay leave and, to a further extent, be even retrenched. For this group of people, they may still have some funds they have saved over the years. However, there are also those in the severe category even before this event took place, with only daily incomes to survive.
This is the time where everyone should deeply appreciate the purpose of Maqasid al-Syariah, where a person’s action should aim at protecting the five essential attributes, which are life, religion, family, intellect, and wealth. A deep understanding of the matter will lift the spirit of helping one another who are in need. Therefore, the fortunate ones will give more help to the needy, while those who need more will be thankful for what he or she receives. It becomes a win-win situation as both groups feel grateful for having less than having nothing.
The basic concept of Maqasid al-Syariah is focused on fulfilling the basic necessities without having anyone left out of their basic items. If a macro scale of those with higher incomes is willing to give up spending on items considered as luxury or beyond luxury, it certainly will give more room for those in need to at least attain their basic needs. In this situation, items in the ‘beyond luxury’ category are given up for something that is in the ‘basic necessity’ category for the poor and needy. If a line is put in between the two groups, some sort of equilibrium will occur since both now have access to the necessities.
COVID-19 spreading humanity and kindness
With events such as the COVID-19 experience, which in turn led to the extended MCO period, people are more aware of the concept of humanity and how we can help lift one another’s spirit of brotherhood despite race and religion in this tough time. The testing period is genuinely unexpected, where no risk measures to curb its impacts have really been prepared beforehand. Still, with such realisation of the maqasid, people are willing to give and contribute more to those in need.
With the help from renowned individuals or groups, millions of ringgit were collected for the sake of humanity, be it in giving out to frontliners or those in dire need for essential requirements to survive. This is the spirit that we should all practise even if COVID-19 has passed to ensure that community well-being is preserved as more kindness is spread throughout society.
Various charity programmes and fundraisers have been verified to help the whole nation transfer their part of wealth through the channels in order to provide relief for the COVID-19 effect. These not only include aid in the form of food, medical and monetary supplies but also emphasis on helping the elderly and refugees to get through this pandemic in every possible way. Such an example of this is ‘Refuge for the Refugees’, where it is estimated that an amount of RM60 would be enough to support a family for one whole week. For those earning an income of at least RM6,000, this mere one per cent contribution could be a life-changing amount for those in need.
With the MCO extended further into the blessed months of Ramadan and Syawal, the more it gets to the meaning of Maqasid al-Syariah. Despite the hardship, many are still focused on giving charity and reaching out to the poor and needy. In a study related to COVID-19 and Ramadan, which involved 554 respondents, around 62 per cent still agree to give out charity despite the instability of their income during this period. While most believe that the experience of not spending their money on bazaars this time around is a whole new experience, where 92 per cent of the same respondents believe that the cancellation of such bazaars reduces waste of money and food.
This whole new experience as a result of COVID-19 would be one that we will all look back to tell our offspring in the future. Despite the hardship and financial distress that we may currently face, there will be a turning point where we get back up as we adapt to the new norm in this era. What’s crucial now is we are in this together to achieve a more sustainable future and the belief that after every hardship, there comes ease. This is in line with the proverbial saying that there is always a beautiful rainbow after the rain.
Dr Sharifah Fairuz Syed Mohamad and Dr Shahrina Ismail are senior lecturers with the Faculty of Science and Technology at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM).
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