DR MUZZAMMIL ISMAIL, a public health medicine registrar in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town, calls for extra vigilance and caution in the community as the government relaxes the lockdown restrictions.
THE past six months have been defined by COVID-19 and its impact on almost every part of society. It highlighted social ills, tested our resilience and challenged our way of being.
As a Muslim community, we struggled through an isolated Ramadaan, two socially distant Eids and a lack of spiritual connection to salaah in jamaah, and Jumuah.
Islam teaches us that the regard for human life should always be held at the highest level and, aligned to this principle, we temporarily sacrificed much of our normal duties to protect the lives of our mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts.
As we come down from the peak of the epidemic, it is a good time to reflect on the impact COVID-19 has had on the Muslim community in South Africa.
On August 31, 2020, Muslim Stats SA reported that 5,87 per cent of the total national COVID-19 deaths were of Muslim individuals. This contrasts with the fact that, according to the national census, Muslims account for only 1,9 per cent of the South African population.
If we look at the Western Cape, where the greatest number of excess deaths were attributed to COVID-19, we see that Muslim COVID-19 deaths account for 7,55 per cent of the total COVID-19 deaths, in comparison to the Muslim population, which represents 5,3 per cent of the Western Cape population.
We mourn the passing of many of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and make duah that they be granted the highest place in Jannah, Insha Allah.
This disproportion can, in part, be explained by the age structure of the population as well as the increased risk of life-threatening comorbidities that are present.
Similar findings are being seen in the United Kingdom in terms of Muslim COVID-19 cases and similar attributable risk factors are being noted.
It is for this reason that we should consider extra vigilance and caution in terms of our behaviour so that we do not further contribute to this disproportion.
Muslims are inherently social beings with deep roots in community support and interaction. As we return to normality, we should try our best not to allow our spiritual woundedness to result in complacency and lack of enforcement of strict COVID-19 protocols to protect our fellow musallees.
We must resist the temptation to physically shake hands, to pull our masks below our mouths and noses when we speak to each other and dismiss the impact that our individual actions have on the health of those around us.
Instead, we should realise that Allah SWT is continuously testing our character through our actions, and one of the biggest tests is trying to put the health and well-being of our fellow Muslims ahead of our wants, needs and desires to reconnect with those around us.
Dr Muzzammil Ismail is a public health medicine registrar in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town. (Photo supplied)
This post has been updated, correcting our error of placing the incorrect photograph in our initial posting. We apologise for the error.