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Religious Perspectives on the Origin of the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Analysis of a Sharia-based Community

Abdul Manan, Kamarullah , Cut Intan Salasiyah and Ibrahim Champion


Published: 2023/03/01


Catastrophes such as natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics bring difficulties and misfortunes, but people also retain hope. The recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has tested people on what they feel and are reliant on, particularly their beliefs. It is intriguing to examine the perspectives of a community with strong religious beliefs during this pandemic. In this article, we explore the religious perspectives of Sharia-based communities in Aceh Province, Indonesia, on the origin and meaning of the pandemic, which might affect their belief systems. We limited our critical assessment to philosophical theodicies and the shift in rationalizing the outbreak. Our study revealed how the virus triggered people to integrate logic with spiritual thoughts. Data were retrieved from twenty informants with various backgrounds to sample a cross-section of perspectives. During the difficult days of the epidemic, people pondered ‘who’ and ‘why’, which led them to think about theodicy, which we used as the basis for our research. By utilizing a narrative inquiry, three premises were classified: COVID-19 is God’s doing, COVID-19 is not an intervention of God, and COVID-19 is still controlled by God, not other factors. The first premise turned out to be the dominant one, being based on the locals’ strong belief in the omnipotence of God. This reveals a widespread understanding of the origin of the pandemic that can be compared with other systems of meaning in different religions. Keywords: Aceh, Islam, Ethnography, COVID-19, Religion, Theodicy.

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