بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم 'In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful'
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Here are some important Islamic guidelines on dealing with Coronavirus:
1- A Muslim must avoid harming others if they are affected with a disease that has a likelihood of harming another person/people.
2- A Muslim must be careful not to get harmed, and must protect themselves appropriately.
3- It is fine to use medicine, and even encouraged, and this does not violate the concept of trusting in Allah.
4- The Messenger of Allah has encouraged the discovery of treatments for diseases.
Allah has blessed us with a religion that is complete and perfect for all times and places. Almighty Allah says in the Glorious Quran (Surat 5 Al-Maidah Ayat 3):
We also have in the Prophet Muhammad SAW, the best of examples, as Allah SWT says in the Quran (Surat 33 Al-Ahzab Ayat 21):
Whatever problem or issue a Muslim is facing, he returns back to Allah and his Messenger for guidance; there is nothing that happens in the life of a Muslim except that his religion has a solution to it.
We recently heard about the Coronavirus which is spreading to a number of countries, affecting the lives of many people, causing death to others.
There are a number of thoughts that should cross the mind of a Muslim when they hear something like this. Below are some points that a person must remember and internalize when they see or hear of such incidents:
Trials and tribulations
Trials and tribulations are part of life, this is something that Allah informs us of and warns us so that when we are afflicted, we remember that it is ultimately Allah who controls of our affairs. It is He who will provide help and His knowledge of our affairs surpasses our restricted intellect. As Allah SWT says in the Holy Quran (Surat 2 Al-Baqarah Ayat 214):
Allah sends us tests to see how we will react and handle them. How are we going to respond? When you hear the news that your umrah trip is cancelled because of this virus, how will you respond? When you hear your flights have been cancelled, your loved ones have fallen ill, how will you respond?
Allah SWT says in the Holy Quran (Surat 2 Al-Baqarah Ayat 155):
So how do we respond to a calamity? Allah SAW tells us immediately in the next ayah (Surat 2 Al-Baqarah Ayat 156):
A Muslim is patient in trials; he knows Allah will never forsake him, nor will Allah burden him with a trial that is more than what he can handle.
This is not something new
Illnesses and viruses such as the Coronavirus are not something new, nor is the fact that people are afflicted with illnesses.
The companions once asked the Prophet Muhammad SAW:
يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ , أَيُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاءً ؟ قَالَ : الأَنْبِيَاءُ , ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ
“Oh Messenger of Allah, who from amongst the people were tested the most? The Prophet Muhammad SAW responded and said, the Prophets, then the next best and then the next best.”
We see the great Prophet of Allah, Ayyūb (Job) AS, was tested with a great illness. His story is synonymous with patience. He lost everything; his family, wealth, and health. Some narrations say he was bedridden for 18 years, tested with a great illness, yet we find he did not give up hope in Allah and turned to him in this great trial. Some scholars have said that his illness was so severe that his flesh dropped from his body and nothing remained on him except his bones and muscles
Allah SWT tells us his story in the Quran (Surat 21 Al-Anbiya Ayat 83-84):
The story of Prophet Ayyūb (Job) AS is one filled with lessons for us to ponder over. The virtue of patience is shown to us in the Prophet Ayyūb AS through some of the most dire situations that one can come across in life.
The concept of pre-destination is extremely important for a Muslim to understand. When incidents such as the Coronavirus occur, a Muslim should know that this is what Allah had decreed 50,000 years before the creation of the universe. The Prophet Muhammad SAW explained:
“Allah had written the ordained measures (and due proportions) of the creation, fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth…”
All good and bad is from Allah, as is mentioned in the Hadeeth of Jabir: ‘No slave of Allah will truly believe until he believes in al-Qadr; its good and bad from Allah, and until he knows that what has befallen him was not going to miss him and that what missed him was not going to befallen him.’
Allah will never harm us nor does he want evil to befall us. We may think something is bad for us due to our restricted view of life, but there is always good in a situation. Allah tells us that perhaps you hate a thing but it is in fact good for you, and perhaps you love a thing when in reality and it is bad for you, yet Allah knows while you know not!
A believer has two positions when it comes to pre-destination: one is before the situation occurs, and one is after. Before the situation he seeks help from Allah, makes Dua to him, and relies upon him; he asks Allah for good to come from it.
After the situation, if the result was positive and good the person thanks Allah. If the event had a negative outcome the person is patient because he knows that Allah will never forsake him even if it seems the result is negative, because indeed Allah is the best of planners.
"Are you fleeing from the decree of Allah?"
To clarify the issue more, we can look to the story of Caliph Umar during the plague of ʿAmawas in Syria in 18 A.H. Umar was on his way to Syria for the second time when he got news of the outbreak in the region. He sought consultation from his advisors on whether to return to Madinah, the capital, or continue on. One of them said, “You left for the sake of Allah so this plague should not stop you.” Others advised the opposite.
Umar decided to return to Madinah. Abu Ubaydah rebuked him, “Are you fleeing from the decree of Allah?” He responded, “Yes, I am fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah. If you had camels and they entered a land with two sides, one fertile and the other barren, and you grazed them in the fertile area, wouldn’t you be doing that by the decree of Allah? And if you let them graze in the barren area, wouldn’t you be doing that also by the decree of Allah.” (Muhammad Al-KhuDarI BIk, The History of the Four Caliphs, p. 133.)
Do not cause harm, and don't get harmed
Islam has prescribed certain guidelines to deal with infectious disease outbreaks that affect a community, or even the entire world. The recent ‘2019 novel Coronavirus’ that originated in Wuhan, China is one such case in point.
Prophet Muhammad said, “Do not cause harm, and don’t get harmed [la darar wa la dirar].” (Malik)
This statement clarifies a general principle that is used in all aspects of life, and which appropriately applies in situations of outbreaks.
A Muslim must avoid harming others if they are affected with a disease that has a likelihood of harming another person/people.
Likewise, a Muslim must be careful not to get harmed, and must protect themselves appropriately.
Taking necessary precautions
A Muslim should not overreact; at the same time he should not be oblivious about a situation and do nothing!
Taking the necessary means and then relying upon Allah is something which is emphasised in Islam.
“One day Prophet Muhammad SAW, noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, ‘Why don’t you tie down your camel?’ The Bedouin answered, ‘I put my trust in Allah’ The Prophet then said, ‘Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah’
We also find in the incident of Umar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) taking necessary precautions is a must when you know of a harm or potential danger that could afflict you.
Umar ibn al-Khattab was traveling with a group of companions during his reign. They approached a town in which it was said had a contagious/infectious disease. Umar asked his group whether they should proceed or return (to Madinah). The majority of the companions said they should go back but some said they should proceed. Then one companion said he knew a hadith where the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “If you hear that this disease exists in a country, do not travel to that country.” So Umar decided that they should go back. Another companion asked him whether he was running away from qadar. Umar replied that they were moving away from one qadar to another qadar.
Whenever there is a problem, a challenge, or any hardship which we can remove, overcome, solve, or minimise, we must do so.
Many of the health guidelines given by the NHS are in fact normal practices for Muslims, some of which are as follows:
1. Washing hands: this is a part of ablution, a Muslim’s daily ritual of purity.
2. General cleanliness
The Prophet Muhammad SAW said:
الطَّهُورُ شَطْرُ الْإِيمَانِ
“Cleanliness is part of faith”
Keeping our surroundings tidy, cleaning up after ourselves, and wiping surfaces down are all aspects of cleanliness which must be adhered to in these situations.
Also, Islam’s emphasis on cleanliness in general, beyond just purifying the body for prayer, is quite well known. Also, the prescription to eat ‘pure’ food avoid the ‘impure’ is a theme mentioned throughout the Quran.
These Islamic guidelines on dealing with coronavirus will help to prevent harming oneself, or others.
3. Covering your mouth when sneezing
The Prophet would cover his mouth when he sneezed. This basic etiquette can take big part in the stopping of the spread of viruses
“Whenever the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) sneezed, he would cover his mouth with his hand or a piece of cloth.”
4. Quarantine in times of viruses which can spread.
The Prophet gave instructions on what to do if there is an outbreak. Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Awf (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) that he said:
“I heard the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) say: “If you hear that it (the plague) is in a land, do not go there, and if it breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave, fleeing from it.”
The Prophet Muhammad SAW also taught us how to protect ourselves by maintaining our adhkar from the Sunnah. One such dua that he taught us was:
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي لَا يَضُرُّ مَعَ اسْمِهِ شَيْءٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
“In the name of Allāh with Whose name nothing can harm on earth or in heaven, and He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing”
Usage of medicine and dealing with outbreaks
It is important to clarify some misconceptions that have arisen among Muslims regarding the usage of medicine and dealing with outbreaks.
Some people, during the lifetime of the Prophet, thought that using medicine might be against the concept of relying on Allah [tawakkul]. Those people asked, “Messenger of Allah, should we use medicine?” The Prophet replied, “Yes, you may use medicine. Allah has not created any disease without also creating its cure, except one: old age.” (Abu Dawud), graded ṣahiḥ by scholars]
The Prophet clarified that it is fine to use medicine, and even encouraged, and this does not violate the concept of trusting in Allah.
In fact, it can be derived that the Messenger of Allah has encouraged the discovery of treatments for diseases since he indicated that they exist, and were created by Allah to eventually be discovered.
Being positive and having an optimistic outlook
Always have a positive outlook regardless of the situation you’re in, this is what our Prophet Muhammad SAW taught us, when he told us
Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him, he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him.”
He also said:
لَا طِيَرَةَ وَخَيْرُهَا الْفَأْلُ
“There are no omens, but the best of it is optimism”
When we look through the seerah we find many examples of the Prophet Muhammad SAW being optimistic event though he was in a dire situation.
The Muslims in the battle of Ahzāb were surrounded by the enemy from every direction, they were in a state of loss, the Prophet Muhammad SAW commanded them to build a trench around the city of Madinah to protect themselves, as they were digging the trench they came across a huge rock and struggled to break it.
The Prophet took the sledgehammer from Salman al-Farisi. He struck the rock saying, “Bismillah”. One third of the rock broke. He said, “Allahu Akbar! I was given the keys of Damascus”. He struck it again and more broke and he said “I was given the keys of Persia” and he did so the third time until he had broken it and said “I was given the keys of Yemen!”
At a time when morale was low, the Prophet Muhammad SAW remained optimistic. The companions were astounded thinking that they under siege with no way out, yet the Prophet Muhammad SAW was talking about conquering Damascus, Persia, and Yemen! How true was the Prophet SAW when eventually these lands were conquered, optimism in the face of adversity, and optimism in the face of pessimism.
We should also not blame others or ridicule them because they are from a certain country or they have come from a part of the world that has been affected by the virus. Unfortunately, we have seen physical attacks on people, racist remarks made, and people making a joke and mocking the situation people are in.
Preservation of Life
This advice is perfectly in line with the underlying objective of the Shariah [Islamic Law] to preserve life. The five underlying objectives of the Shariah are explained by scholars to be the preservation of religion, life, intellect, wealth, and lineage.
Imam Al-Amidi [d. 631/1233] wrote: “The rules [in Islam] have only been prescribed for the benefit of His servants. The fact that they have underlying purposes and wisdom is grounded in both consensus and reason.”
The Coronavirus is a reminder to us all of our weak state. Regardless of our social standing and our financial position, we are helpless. Allah says in the Quran (Surat 4 Al-Nisa Ayat 28):
Situations like this remind us to turn back to Allah. Allah controls everything and he is the one that can relieve us from our difficulties, we must return to Allah and seek refuge in him and ask his protection.
Allah knows best الله اعلم