Fact Check: Are Muslims sneezing in unison to spread Corona?

Ever since Delhi’s Markaz Nizamuddin was identified as a coronavirus hotspot, several old and unrelated videos showing the Muslim community in poor light are being circulated on social media. In a deliberate pattern to delegitimize the community, a number of videos are shared on social media calling for a boycott of the community. This act of communalising a pandemic is disturbing as well as dangerous.

Amid the chaos surrounding the Nizamuddin event organised by Tablighi Jamaat which became the hotspot for coronavirus, another video of Muslim men sitting on their knees and praying is doing rounds on social media platforms. The video is shared with the claim that people praying at the Hazrat Nizamuddin mosque in Delhi were sneezing on purpose to spread the novel Coronavirus.

The video was also shared on March 31 2020 by a twitter user named Purushothaman pala with a comment: “Purposefully sneezing to spread Corona virus at Hazrat Nizamuddin mosque in Delhi.”

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According to The Logical Indian, the claim is misleading and the men seen in the viral video were performing a religious ritual and not sneezing in unison to spread the novel coronavirus. The video does not belong to Nizamuddin Markaz and the people engaged in the act are not doing so to spread any kind of virus but they are doing Zikr which is a traditional Sufi gathering in which the members of a Sufi silsila (order) together chant certain Names of Allah. Mosque in the viral video is neither Nizamuddin mosque nor the Nizamuddin Dargah.

Members of Sufi silsila mention Allah’s names in zikr, and each one is repeated several, usually hundreds of times in unison by the group.

Alt News quoted Dr Hamid Akbar, a professor of Urdu at KBN University in Karnataka’s Gulbarga as saying, “In the main four silsila (orders) of Sufism such zikr is performed but it’s more sophisticated than this [viral video]. The sound you hear, is saans ka zikr or zikr e-anfas which basically means taking Allah’s name with your breath. If you listen closely, you can hear that they are chanting ‘Allahu’ [in the video].”

Dr Akbar added that he has never seen any ritual, as witnessed in the viral video, practised in Tablighi Jamaat congregations which focus mainly on the importance of namaz (Islamic prayers) and roja (fasting).

Though Qawwalis (Sufi devotional music) are sung in the courtyard of Nizamuddin Dargah, which is about half a kilometre away from the mosque, the Dargah had earlier distanced itself from Tablighi Jamaat.  When Aaj Tak had falsely claimed that 33 people sent for quarantine attended a program at the Dargah, Nizamuddin Dargah clarified on Twitter saying: “A wrong new is being circulated on AajTak that 33 corona suspects sent for quarantine who attended a programme at Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin. It is clarified that the News is about Nizamuddin Tablighi Markaz and not of Dargah. Complaint has been made at ‘Aajtak’ in this regard.”

Watch people doing similar Zikr ritual in turkey:

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