‘And when I am ill, it is He who cures me.’
With the World Health Organisation now declaring another new virus – coronavirus – as a global health emergency, it makes us look into ourselves and our religion too for any guidance it can offer. Plagues and major health emergencies have occurred throughout human history and also in the early Muslim period. When you open the Quran, hadith and Sunnah collections, you will find ways we can help prevent and cure these health scares.
The latest Coronavirus follows a number of recent health emergencies including Ebola, SARS and MERS. It comes from a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS. These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and people. SARS was believed to have been transmitted from certain cats to humans while MERS travelled from a type of camel to humans. This latest discovered virus seems to have originated from bats although the place it was first discovered from – a market in China, was not selling bats, however other animals were being sold illegally.
At these times, it is important to keep a level head and ensure the validity of any news and make sure not to spread any unverified information thereby causing confusion and panic. As Allah says:
‘O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.’
A cure for every disease – coronavirus
A hadith of the Prophet (SAW):
‘Abu Darda (RA) narrates: ‘The Messenger of Allah said: ‘‘Allah has sent down both the disease and the cure, and He has appointed a cure for every disease, so treat yourselves medically, but use nothing unlawful.” (Abu Dawud)
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) emphasises that there is a legitimate and halal cure for every disease out there, discovered or not. We should not say, ‘There is no cure for this disease,’ as it is possible that mankind has not developed a method of treatment or found a cure for certain diseases just yet. However, our religion teaches that it is not an unchanging destiny. It is therefore essential to look for treatment; a cure for every disease will definitely be found.
Jabir (RA) is reported to have said: ‘Rasulullah (SAW) said: “There is a cure for every disease. If the cure for a disease is met, the person will be saved from that disease with the permission of Allah.” This statement also highlights that treatment is not based on the right medicine only; the permission of Allah is also required. So a believer will give thanks to Allah when he is cured, not to the medicine for it can be seen that sometimes the same medicine is a cure for one person while a poison for another.
Plagues in the early Muslim era
There was an occasion during the early Muslim period when a plague struck the area of as-Sham. This incident is in the collections of Imam Bukhari as follows:
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas (RA) ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab departed for Sham and when he reached Sargh, the commanders of the (Muslim) army, Abu ‘Ubaida bin Al-Jarrah (RA) and his companions met him and told him that an epidemic had broken out in Sham. Umar said, “Call for me the early emigrants.” So `Umar called them, consulted them and informed them that an epidemic had broken out in Sham. Those people differed in their opinions. Some of them said, “We have come out for a purpose and we do not think that it is proper to give it up,” while others said (to Umar), “You have come along with your other people and the companions of Allah’s Apostle so do not advise that we take them to this epidemic.” Umar said to them, “Leave me now.” Then he said, “Call the Ansar for me.” I called them and he consulted them and they followed the way of the emigrants and differed as they did. He then said to them, Leave me now,” and added, “Call for me the old people of Quraish who emigrated in the year of the Conquest of Mecca.” I called them and they gave a unanimous opinion saying, “We advise that you should return with the people and do not take them to that (place) of epidemic.” So Umar made an announcement, “I will ride back to Medina in the morning, so you should do the same.” Abu ‘Ubaida bin Al-Jarrah said (to Umar), “Are you running away from what Allah had ordained?” Umar said, “Would that someone else had said such a thing, O Abu ‘Ubaida! Yes, we are running from what Allah had ordained to what Allah has ordained. Don’t you agree that if you had camels that went down a valley having two places, one green and the other dry, you would graze them on the green one only if Allah had ordained that, and you would graze them on the dry one only if Allah had ordained that?”
At that time `Abdur-Rahman bin `Auf, who had been absent because of some job, came and said, “I have some knowledge about this. I have heard Allah’s Apostle saying, ‘If you hear about it (an outbreak of plague) in a land, do not go to it; but if plague breaks out in a country where you are staying, do not run away from it.’ Umar thanked Allah and returned to Medina.
What do we learn from this?
This incident brings up many points. Firstly, the Companions’ opinions are not divine, even though they were all great characters indeed, hence the differing opinions. Also, the mark of a great leader during any time is that he seeks counsel when dealing with matters. Another point to note is Umar (RA) then sought the wisdom and knowledge of the elders in the group as the young can be impetuous to do things in haste. All of this took place before the evidence arrived from Abdur-Rahman bin `Auf (RA).
Running from a plague
It is agreed that the one that leaves a plague-stricken town running away from the plague is sinful in the eyes of Allah. So if a plague infects your town and you leave because you’re scared of the plague, this is forbidden. Today, we can delegate this authority to the organisations and governments that rule and there is provision in the Shariah for crowd control in terms of quarantine and containment if it is done for the overall benefit of humanity at large. So it is justifiable for an authority to control the entries and exits of towns, cities, and countries even if not everyone is sick or showing signs of infection. Here, the preference is given to the lesser of two evils as the greater risk is everybody becoming ill.
A point to note, this ruling applies if it is a plague type sickness, not if it is a curable sickness or due to environment, etc where it is permissible to move.
Are viruses divine punishment?
Any calamity, especially a plague is a punishment to some and a mercy to others as a hadith of the Prophet (SAW) states. It is incorrect to gather from this that it is a punishment to everybody in that area for their sins. It may be that some individuals are being punished this way for their sins but to specify that it’s because of a particular sin that these people are facing the consequences of this virus or plague is incorrect. We as humans are in no position to speak on behalf of Allah without accurate knowledge.
There is a particular hadith in Bukhari which mentions plagues:
Narrated by Auf bin Malik (RA): I went to the Prophet (SAW) during the Ghazwa (battle) of Tabuk while he was sitting in a leather tent. He said, ‘Count six signs that indicate the approach of the Hour: my death, the conquest of Jerusalem, a plague that will afflict you (and kill you in great numbers) as the plague that afflicts sheep, the increase of wealth to such an extent that even if one is given one hundred Dinars, he will not be satisfied; then an affliction which no Arab house will escape, and then a truce between you and Bani Al-Asfar (the Byzantines) who will betray you and attack you under eighty flags, under each flag will be twelve thousand soldiers.
Prophet’s manner of hygiene
One of the first and most important guidance health authorities give when trying to prevent the spread of the lethal coronavirus is personal hygiene and the importance of washing your hands regularly.
As a complete religion, Islam has also provided instruction on cleanliness. The Prophet (SAW)’s actions and advice was that when you come home from outside, first give Salam to the household members then proceed to wash hands straight after coming home. Also keep your hands away from your face as much as possible, minimising the times they touch it. Further, before and after eating food, wash thoroughly your hands, rinse your mouth with water and wipe the outside areas of your mouth with water. This way, whatever uncleanliness there is in these parts will be wiped clean and not enter your body.
The Prophet (SAW) once forbade a sick individual from leaving his house. This prohibition was to prevent the spread of virus to other individuals and areas. We should follow the advice of healthcare professionals which includes putting ourselves in quarantine if necessary so that our family and society are protected.
Imam Nawawi has also mentioned if you are feeling particularly unwell, you have the flexibility of not attending even the Friday prayer in congregation, but instead offer the normal Zuhr prayers at home.
Duas and supplications when seeing or learning about an illness
There are a number of prayers and supplications from hadith and Sunnah that will prove beneficial to protect us from the coronairus and all illness and diseases insha’Allah:
The following supplication is made when you see someone in trial or tribulation
‘Praise is to Allah, who has spared me what He has afflicted you with, and preferred me greatly above much of what He has created.’ (Tirmidhi)
Dua when one is afflicted by a calamity -Coronavirus
‘We are from Allah and unto Him we return. O Allah take me out of my plight and bring me after it something better’ (Muslim)
Also, this dua has been taught:
‘In the Name of Allah with Whose Name there is protection against every kind of harm in the earth or in the heaven, and He is the All-Hearing and All-Knowing.’ (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)
May Allah protect us all from this coronavirus and cure us if any illnesses or diseases afflict us. And may He make these illnesses and diseases a means of expiation for our sins. Ameen.
Below is the link to the youtube video in which you can listen to 2 duas for protection against illnesses and diseases such as the coronavirus.