Ebrahim Moosa – Opinion| 13 March 2014/11 Jumadal Ula 1435
“There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing.”
These sentiments of Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief expressed on the discovery of yet another false lead in the Malaysian Airlines disappearance investigation, accurately captures the bleakness felt in many quarters nearly a week after the mysterious air incident occurred midway between Malaysia’s east coast and Vietnam.
The disappearance of the Malaysian jetliner is an “unprecedented aviation mystery”, Azharuddin said Monday, as the mostly Chinese families of passengers appeared to be getting increasingly agitated about a purported lack of information about the airlines whereabouts.
Currently, a total of 42 ships and 39 aircraft from an array of countries including Malaysia’s neighbours, China and the US are involved in the massive hunt for any clues.
Satellites have joined the search for MH370, with China deploying 10 from its side alone.
The Asian giant has also requested activation of the so-called International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, an agreement under which 15 space agencies or institutes can help emergency or relief efforts by passing on satellite images.
In addition, a Colorado-based satellite imaging company, DigitalGlobe has launched an effort to crowdsource the search, asking the public for help to scan and tag high-resolution images for any sign of the missing airline.
After repeated expansions, the sea and air search for the missing plane now includes two distinct areas of Malaysia covering a staggering 50,000 square kilometres.
A Wake Up Call
After all, he asks, don’t we live in the age of surveillance, of interconnectedness, of cloud computing, of GPS satellites, of smartphones that track our actions discreetly, intelligence agencies that can monitor individuals from space or call in a drone strike from a control console on the other side of the world?
As we have been repeatedly reminded, moreso in the wake on successive revelations on the NSA eavesdropping programme: Big Brother is Watching Us. Daily, the intelligence agencies amass metadata on some 200 million of our text messages as well as billions of our phone calls. Government and private snoopers unashamedly admit that they read the content of our emails, file transfers, and live chats from the social media we use.
Yet, in spite of all this self-proclaimed ‘brilliance’, the “technological eyes and ears of the world” have as yet failed to find a trace of the missing plane.
“We like to think that we’re in control. That’s our culture,” Aviation Consultant Hans Weber told the Washington Post. “Not knowing means you’re not in control. That’s hard for us to take.”
For the Chinese, it has evidently been the most bitter to swallow.
“All Malaysians are liars!” one relative shouted at Malaysian Airlines officials at a briefing held in Beijing. “Do you know what ‘liars’ means?” he added.
“Why don’t you give us some answers?” a middle-aged woman screamed at one point, interrupting the speaker as her friend tried to comfort her. “Do you know how much pain we’re in? Those are our children!”
And when the answers of the officials were deemed to be unsatisfactory, at least three people threw bottles and some even lunged towards the speakers.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center of Global Religious Landscape as of 2010, 21.9% of the population in China are folk religionists, 18.2% are Buddhist, 5.1% are and Christians.
Comparatively, in Malaysia(which has a 61% Muslims population), the response to the aircraft’s disappearance has been much more composed.
Hamid Ramlan, a 56-year-old policeman living in the capital Kuala Lumpur, told AFP that his daughter, 34, and son-in-law, 24, were on the flight. “My wife is crying. Everyone is sad. My house has become a place of mourning. This is Allah’s will. We have to accept it. But we will from tonight hold special prayers for Allah’s help. I want to see my daughter and her husband who were on the flight to Beijing for a holiday.”
On Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appealed for patience in the search for the jet.
Razak urged Malaysians to support the government and pray for some information that could finally lead to the quick discovery of the aircraft.
“We must face this great challenge from Allah calmly,” the prime minister said in a television interview. “The government is doing everything to increase assets, aircraft and ships with sophisticated equipment. I am certain we will eventually find it.”
“The question is when,” he said. “Under the present situation, we must have patience and pray.”
Taking a cue from Razak’s approach, the crisis presents a moment ripe for reflection for a world confounded by the failure of its co-ordinated efforts to locate the missing aircraft even after the expiry of so many days.
The episode provides an apt demonstration of our human impotence in spite of our technological prowess.
From the mist surrounding MH370, we are seeing a manifestation of the All Encompassing Power of Al Baseer – Allah SWT, the All Seeing.
Unlike our deficient satellites and the short-sighted technological eyes of the world, everything in existence is under Al Baseer’s Divine purview.
His sight not only compasses the visible, but also every state of existence and every circumstance. Whenever Allah SWT creates something, grants something, brings something to life, causes death, guides someone, or allows someone to stray, it is in accordance with His wisdom, His perfect knowledge, and complete vision that nothing can escape.
In the words of Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah RA, “His Sight encompasses all that which there is. He sees the movement of a black ant on a barren rock during a dark night. To Him, the Unseen is uncovered end the secret is secret no more.”
Allah SWT says: “In whatever business you may be, and whatever portion you may be reciting from the Qur’an, and whatever deed you may be doing, We are witness to what you are engaged in. Not the weight of an atom on Earth or in heaven is hidden from your Lord, nor anything lesser or greater but it is recorded in a clear Book.” [Sūrah Yūnus: 61]
Episodes such as MH370 compel us to realise that Allah sees and hears everything we do. In turn, this encourages us to be more devoted in our worship, more righteous in our deeds, and kinder to others. This is why Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Excellence in faith is to worship your Lord as if you see Him, and though You do not see Him, know that He sees you.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (50, 4777) and Sahīh Muslim (8, 9)]
The more aware we are that Allah sees us, the greater our efforts will be in our worship. An employee will work harder, more productively, and more conscientiously under a manager’s watchful eye. How much greater is the effect when we know we are being watched by our Creator who sees and hears everything that we do? This consciousness will help us in our humility and our devotion in every act of worship that we perform and inspire us to do righteous deeds so we can please our Lord.
(With excerpts from Al-Basīr – Allah is All-Seeing by Sheikh Salman al-Oadah on http://en.islamtoday.net).