CORONAVIRUS AND HOW TO TACKLE IT FROM AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE?
Imam Dr. Zijad Delic
Imam Dr. Mohsen Al-Nadi
Introduction to Coronavirus
The global spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first reported in China at the end of December 2019, has spread into more than 80 countries as of today, March 5th, 2020 (3:30 pm Eastern Standard Time, Ottawa, Canada) and is taken much of the social media time and space.
97,971 people are affected and as of today 3,354 deaths are recorded. The virus spreads from one person to another more easily than in the case of SARS, some studies suggest. The coronavirus is the type of viruses that cause symptoms similar to the common cold. Its intensity could vary from mild to moderate but could also cause severe illness and even lead to death, as current death numbers suggest. Good news is that large number of the people affected by coronavirus recovered/discharged from it. As of today their number is 54,124.
There are currently no confirmed or presumptive positive cases of novel coronavirus in Ottawa. In Canada, there are 37 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of today – 20 in Ontario, 13 in BC and 1 in Quebec (3 new cases not yet associated with any province). Of total 37 cases 29 are active, 8 recovered and 1 in a serious critical condition.
Al Hamdulillah! No death related to coronavirus was reported in Canada!
At the greatest risk with the coronavirus are elderly people and people with health conditions such as diabetes.
Coronavirus, according to the current information available, is less deadly than SARS.
As Muslims, we share with the rest of the nation and the world the feelings of fear and hope in times as coronavirus is spreading globally. We all are standing together in this state of emergency and are obliged to work together for the common good of all. Our faith Islam commands us to do exactly so! And we Canadian Muslims are ready for that, if and when needed!
Health in Islam
Islam obliges Muslims to take care of themselves both spiritually and physically. Islam thus stresses that our health and well-being, as well as health and well-being of other human brothers and sisters, are each and everyone’s responsibility. Contributions to saving life of a person is greatly acknowledged by the Creator who said: “And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (Qur’an, 5:32)
One of the objectives of Islam and its laws is preservation of life because life is a sacred gift of God and Muslims are commanded to preserve it. Harming it in any way, physically or symbolically, is prohibited (Haram).
Health is a necessary condition for the preservation of life. It is only healthy humans that could establish healthy societies and implement ethical and just system for all.
Al Ghazali points out: “A proper understanding and implementation of religion, from the standpoint of knowledge and worship, can only be arrived at through physical health and life preservation.”
Health is indeed important in human life as we were taught by our Messenger Muhammad (S):
“Second to faith, no one has been ever given a greater blessing than health.” (Tirmizi)
“To God-fearing (people), health is better than wealth.” (Ibn Majah, Al Hakim, Ahmed)
“Whoever of you gets up in the morning feeling physically healthy, enjoying security and having his/her food for the day, is like one who has the world under his/her fingerprints.” (Ibn Majah)
As Muslims, we are all responsible for our health and will be questioned “How did we spend our lives and in what pursuit we used our health?” (Tirmizi)
Why? Because health is a blessing of God bestowed upon us and we are asked to “seize it before we become sick.” (Al Bayhaqi) But unfortunately, “many of us become careless about it” (Bukhari), as stated by Messenger Muhammad (S).
From an Islamic standpoint, the responsibility to take care of health and its protection is a duty on each one of us by:
a) caring about our bodies (“Your body has right on you,” as our Messenger Muhammad (S), taught us) and
b) protecting ourselves and others from infectious viruses and diseases in the present and the future [la darada wa la dirar].
So, Islam gave us set of instructions regarding health and our well- being by first appreciating the gift of health, taking care of it and protecting it from any harm.
Caring about the Weak and the Sick People
Infectious diseases like coronavirus reminds us of our collective responsibility to each other.
We are reminded that our health is tied directly to the health of the weakest among us. If we ignore the most vulnerable people, leave them without care and support, then the disease only becomes more widespread and vicious. Our strength is only in the strength of others.
When the Messenger Muhammad (S) would meet a new tribe, instead of asking to meet the nobles and the chieftains, he would say “bring me the weak among you”. The Messenger (S) would wisely judge the true nature of a society based on how they treated the weak, sick and vulnerable in their society.
The Messenger (S) would then say: “Truly you are only aided and provided for (i.e. by God) because of your weak”. Meaning that God’s aid, strength and support is lent to those who are in the aid and support of the most vulnerable people.
It might seem strange to think of the positives when dealing with infectious diseases, but the believer should see positives in all matters of life. The truth is that we often forget the root of much of our strength and prosperity when we ignore the poor, the weak and the sick.
Infection Control in Islam – preventative measures and general guidelines
Infection control in Islam includes prevention measures and a treatment. Following the rules and recommendations, with regards to personal hygiene and cleanliness, is a part and parcel of our faith and Allah loves people of such attitude “Cleanliness is a half the faith.” (Muslim) “Allah loves those who purify themselves.” (Qur’an, 2:222)
Thus, infection control, through preventatives measures, is inherent in hygiene behavior in Islam. Measures taken in the 21st century to prevent the spread of infections and viruses conform almost exactly to the hygiene and health practices taught by Messenger Muhammad (S) such as washing hands on regular bases (before and after food, after using washroom, etc), during the wudu (ablution before the prayer) during which we are to wash the hands, face, rinse the mouth, nose, etc.
As we do these religious rituals, we take care of our health and curb the spread of infectious diseases. Simply put, if we would perform five daily prayers regularly, as commanded, one of the prerequisites is the wudu. Imagine, how much we would reduce the risk of infections by the wudu without even trying!
Islam encourages proactive preventative measures if there is any risk of harm of the diseases to us or anyone else. Such an approach has been an essential component of Muslims’ tradition, their behavior and attitude towards health.
The Islamic primary sources – The Qur’an and the Sunnah – contain numerous teachings that promote personal and environmental hygiene and preventative measures in that regard as a religious obligation technically known as jurisprudence of cleanliness (Fiqh ul Taharah). Some of these are mentioned below.
- As Muslims, we must be careful not to get harmed, and must protect ourselves appropriately.
- As Muslims, we must avoid harming others if we are affected with a disease that has a likelihood of harming another person/people. Muhammad (S) said, “Do not cause harm, and don’t get harmed [la darar wa la dirar].” (Malik)
- As Muslims, we are encouraged to use medicine, and this does not violate the concept of trusting in Allah. Muhammad (S) said: “O people! Treat yourselves medically! For, there is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.” (Abu Dawud)
- The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (S) has encouraged the discovery of treatments for diseases. He (S) said: “For every disease there is a cure,” (Abu Dawid, Tirmizi) suggesting to us to look for it.
Protecting Yourself and Others by
- Regularly washing hands. Messenger Muhammad (S) encouraged Muslims to wash hands: “Whoever would like Allah to increase the goodness or blessings of his/her family, should wash hands when his/her meal is brought to him/her and when it is taken away.” (Ibn Majah) Certainly, one of the blessings for such a person and all those around him/her (his/her family particularly) is related to health.
- Covering your mouth and nose (face) when coughing or sneezing (Narrated Abu Hurairah: “that when Messenger Muhammad (S) would sneeze, he would cover his face with his hand or with his garment.” (Tirmizi)
- Not mixing with healthy people if we are sick. Messenger Muhammad (S) said: “A sick person should not be taken to a healthy person.” (Muslim)
- Isolation and quarantine. Messenger Muhammad (S) commanded his followers not to travel to places known to be afflicted with infectious diseases and he also advised those in the contaminated regions/communities not to leave and spread illness further afield. He said: “If you hear that there is a plague in a land, do not enter it; and if it (plague) visits a land while you are therein, do not leave it.” (Bukhari)
Attending the Mosque: People with symptoms of the disease (like flu)
Individuals with symptoms of the disease should avoid coming to the mosques if they suspect that they may be infected until they check with their health providers and ensure that they are not.
This is because the harm of spreading this virus is much greater than the bothering the people with the odor of garlic, about which Messenger Muhammad (S) stated the following: “He/she who eats of this plant (garlic) should not come near our mosque and should not bother us with the odor of garlic.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Subhanallah! If eating food with offensive odor is a reason for not engaging with the congregational prayers for the fear of people being offended, then imagine… how we should look at the issues related to infectious and dangerous diseases such as coronavirus!
If, in the event of spread of the virus, the local public health authorities advise the suspension of the services in the places of worship and avoidance of large public gatherings, the SNMC Masjid/Center management (and other Muslim institutions) should comply with such instructions. This would be a sufficient excuse to pray Jumu’a prayer at home (as Zuhr prayer) until the restriction is removed. (AJMA Resident Fatwa Committee – Declaration Regarding Coronavirus Disease)
In conclusion, let us share several action items regarding Muslims’ attitude towards the infectious coronavirus.
First of all, our faith Islam gave us guidelines regarding our health and told us that it is one of the greatest blessings bestowed upon us. As a blessing, we have to acknowledge it, take care of it and protect it from any harm.
Secondly, SNMC and all Canadian Muslim institutions should follow the updates that are regularly updated by the Public Health Agencies (the city of Ottawa, the Province of Ontario and Public Health Canada) and comply with their instructions.
Thirdly, all Muslim Medical doctors, researchers and others in the service of this noble profession, are encouraged by our faith and the community leaders to contribute as much as humanly possible they can to assist with safety of all Canadians and people beyond Canada.
Lastly, as people of prayer, we should not allow panic to spread; but be sober citizens and Muslims, put trust in God and pray to the Creator to bring safety and well-being to us and all of our human brothers and sisters in Canada and across the globe! Ameen!