Islamic way of dealing with the outbreak of disease

Dr. Bilal A. Bhat, Intizar Ahmad

Dr. Bilal A. Bhat, Intizar Ahmad
In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of mercy. Praise be to Allah. O Allah, we praise you, beseech you for help and forgiveness. Whomever Allah guides no one can misguide. Respected brothers and Sisters, have tawqa (fear) in Allah, and remember that life on this earth is a fleeting and temporary journey, and it is life in the hereafter that is perennial and everlasting. So let us strive diligently to prepare for the Day of Judgment. Islam is a holistic belief system and it takes into account the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of individuals and societies. Although care of the individual is important, safeguarding communities, including its weakest members, is of paramount importance. The teaching and principles of Islam are designed to benefit all of humankind. Rules and recommendations for personal hygiene and cleanliness promote the well-being of individuals and communities. Infection control is inherent in Islamic hygiene behaviour. Washing the hands, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, voluntary isolation, when one is feeling unwell, and restricted travel is an effective and comprehensive public health strategy. More than 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, was teaching his followers hygiene practices that are still applicable in the 21st century. From the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), we find evidence that clearly indicates Islam’s stance on coughing and sneezing openly. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) instructed the believers to cover their faces when sneezing. The most obvious effect of sneezing and coughing without covering the mouth is the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses, in addition, droplets invisible to the naked eye, may fall onto surfaces or other people. Islam is referred to as the religion of cleanliness. “Truly, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222) In the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) cleanliness is mentioned as half of faith, therefore, it is important to keep the body fresh and clean and Islam insists on several practices to facilitate this.
O Servants of Allah fear and obey Allah in observance of his Divine Revelation: “O mankind! Be dutiful to your guardian – Lord, who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his mate (Eve or Hauwa), and from them both scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; and fear Allah through whom you demand your mutual rights, and do not cut the relations of the wombs (kinship). Surely Allah is Ever an All-watcher over you.” (Al-Nisa’i:1). O my respected people know that: Health is from the most precious of blessings. Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim stated: “Health is one of the most precious favours Allah has bestowed upon His servants, the most generous of gifts, and the most plentiful of His bounties. Al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih from ibn Abbas that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: ‘‘There are two blessings which many of the people lose out on: good health and free time.” (Zaad al-Ma’aad, 4/196) Imaam Adh-Dhahabee stated: “It is compulsory upon every Muslim to seek nearness to Allah, the Most High, by way of every means he is able to muster. He must exert himself in fulfilling the commands and the acts of obedience to Allah. And after the affair of fulfilling the commands and keeping away from the forbidden matters, the most beneficial means and most successful path of nearness to Allah for a person is to maintain good health and treat his illnesses. That is because good health is something that one seeks in the legislated supplications and acts of worship.” (At-Tibb an-Nabawiyy, p.18) Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) said: “The foundations of the medicine of the body are three: (i) Preservation of health. (ii) A diet that avoids those things which may cause harm. (iii) Removing harmful matter from the body.” (At-Tibb, p.9) He then mentions that, illnesses “are caused by consuming more food before the previous meal has been digested, by eating in excess of the amount needed by the body, by consuming food that is of little nutritional value and slow to digest, and by indulging in different foods which are complex in their composition.” He further states, “When a human being fills his belly with these foods and it becomes a habit, they cause him various diseases, some of which come to an end slowly and some more swiftly. When he is moderate in his eating and takes only so much of it as he needs, keeping a balance of quantity and quality, the body benefits more from this than it does from large amount of foods.” (The Prophetic Medicine, At-Tibb an-Nabawiyy, p.13). ‘Abdurrahman As-sa’dee (died 1375 AH rahimahullah) said: “Al-Bukhari reports from Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Allah did not send down a disease except that He sent for it a cure.” This narration encompasses all illnesses, whether hidden or apparent.
There is a medicine that combats them, either by way of prevention or by curing the sickness completely or by reducing its effect. So in this [narration] there is an encouragement to learn the cures of the body just as one learns the cures of the heart [and soul]”. He then elaborates just like the great scholars before him, saying, “The foundations of medicine [or good health] are: Controlling and managing one’s nourishment, so that a person does not eat unless he has the appetite for it, that he completely digests the food he has previously eaten, that he researches, investigates and finds the most nutritious foods – and this is in accordance with the state of lands, their people and their climate or conditions…” (Bahjatu Quluubil-Abraar, no. 64). In the light of this, it is not surprising that we now live in times where obesity, diabetes and other diet related diseases have reached epidemic proportions, yet those afflicted are also malnourished. How is that possible? Because they have becomes obese upon a low quality, non-nutritious and harmful food. Additionally the food we consume quiet often contains complex ingredients that are known to be harmful to the body and brain functions. So a Muslim is encouraged to research and investigate what he is consuming, so he or she only eats the most nutritious, and least complex food. The fact is that in the mid 1960’s the boom in processed and refined food manufacturing emerged. As people began eating these refined, processed and nutritionally deficient “foods”, we began to see a significant rise in mood disorders, depression, diabetes, cancers, and heart disease and so on. So instead of changing our attitude to health, and following the advice of our predecessors, we continued harming our bodies, and the drug industry developed for us drugs that would suppress the outward symptoms and dull the pain without us having to make any health or dietary changes. This was the birth of the anti-depressants, pain-killers, chemotherapy and the “cut, burn and poison” generation. Poor diet, little exercise and reliance on drugs resulted in the present-day poor health and painful existence that many people find themselves in. We have come to believe that there is no alternative to drugs and they have become the first port of call for every ailment. All of this shows that it is upon a person to maintain good health and eat good nutritious food, and if he is struck with illness, he does not race towards prescription drugs as Imam ‘Abdurrahman as-Sa’dee stated, “…and all of this is without immediate recourse to drugs, this is better and more beneficial.” (Bahjatu Quluubil-Abraar, no. 64) .
“Truly, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222)
That is not to say that there is no place for modern medicine, rather that drugs should not be the first port of call and certainly not the only available avenue. One should be fully informed of what he is introducing into his body, its purported benefits and side effects, and whether there is an alternative to a drug that is known to cause harm to the body. There are many, many examples of Prophetic medicine from the Qur’an and Sunnah that bring about cure from even the most chronic of illnesses. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) would visit the sick, make supplications for them and make Ruqyah, which is to cure with the recitation of the Qur’an, which he would also perform upon himself during illness. ‘Aa’ishah (radiyallahu ‘anha) mentioned that during the final illness of the prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), he would recite Surah al–Falaq and Surah an-Naas and blow over his body. And when his illness became severe, she would recite them and blow over him, and make him rub his body with his own hands for the blessings.
The Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “The water of Zamzam is for whatever it is drunk for.” (Musnad of Imam Ahmad, 3/357) Ibn Abbas (radiyallahu ‘anhu) used to drink Zamzam water and say: “O Allah! I ask you for beneficial knowledge and plentiful sustenance and cure from every illness.” (Musannaf of Abdur-Razzaaq, no. 9112) The fresh milk of cows is a cure, as the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Indeed Allah, the most High, did not create a disease except that He created for it a cure. So upon you is the cow’s milk, for indeed it feeds from every herbage.” (Saheeh al-jaami’ of Al-albaaniy, no. 1808) Dear brothers and sisters, where does our food come from? The Sahaabah (i.e., the companions of our Prophet, SAW) used to take care and not eat meat from animals that had been feeding upon filth or impurities. Animals that feed from impurities were termed al-Jalaalah by the Prophet of Allah. Ibn ‘Umar reports said: “Allah’s messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) forbade the eating of al-jalaalah and drinking its milk.” (Abu Dawuud, no. 3785-6) So respected readers, Islam gives concern to good health, healthy food, a balanced diet, exercise and keeping away from that which harms. If a person is afflicted by any illness, then upon him is to be patient, because a cure may be delayed due to Allah’s divine Wisdom, and due to patience the afflicted is elevated in the sight of Allah, and his sins expiated. A Muslim should never despair, even if the illness is regarded as chronic or terminal. We should investigate and look for the best cures, and quite often we will find that the cure may not be in drugs and pills, but in dietary changes and that which Allah has placed in pure water, herbs, fruits, seeds and vegetables, or in changing our attitudes and behaviours. Nowadays we are surrounded by Franken-foods-stuff created in a lab and filled with chemicals. The effects of a diet laden with these types of foods are low energy, excess weight, weakened immune system, mental fog, skin issues and the list goes on…”
Dear readers, we have recently been hit with the news of an epidemic that is currently spreading in the world, and it is known that it could possibly lead to death. What I am referring to is the Coronavirus disease (CVID-19) which has been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), with more than 118, 000 cases in 114 countries and 4291 deaths. My respected and beloved people, know also that, what is Coronavirus. It is a novel virus named for the crown like spikes that protrude from its surface which can infect both animals and people and can cause range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to lung lesions and pneumonia. It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and confined places. The pathogen can travel through the air, enveloped in tiny respiratory droplets that are produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. The Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China. In the world history 16 countries closed schools because of spread of this disease. The common symptoms of Coronavirus include fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath. Milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, but people may be able to pass on the virus even before they develop symptoms. We can reduce the risk of this virus, if we follow the safety precautions mentioned in Quran and Sunnah.
Islam has a unique way of dealing with the outbreak of diseases in two stages; i.e., before and after the outbreak of the disease.
Before the Outbreak of the Disease. Islam calls its followers to protect themselves against diseases through the following guidelines:
1- One of the objectives of the Shariah is the preservation of the soul. Therefore, everyone must take all necessary measures to protect themselves against any harm.
2- Islam emphasizes the importance of cleanliness. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Purification is half of faith.” (Muslim) Islam made ablution a pre-requisite for the validity of prayer. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If there were a river at the door of one of you in which he takes a bath five times a day, would any soiling remain on him?” They replied, “No soiling would left on him.” The Prophet said, “That is the five obligatory prayer. Allah obliterates all sins as a result of performing them.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Purification includes washing the mouth. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Had I not thought it difficult for my Ummah, I would have commanded them to use the Miswak (tooth-stick) before every prayer.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Therefore, ablution and using tooth-stick are one of the means of protecting our bodies from diseases and viruses.
3- Islam urges Muslims to observe the characteristics of fitrah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Five practices are the inborn characteristics of man; circumcision, shaving the pubes, plucking out hair under the armpit, paring the nails and clipping the moustaches. (Abu Dawud) A close look at these rituals would reveal that they play a great role in protecting the body from diseases.
4- Islam made lawful for Muslims all the good foods and drinks and made unlawful to them all what causes harm to them and their bodies. We read in the Quran what means: “Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful.” (Al-Araf 7:157) Researches have proved that consuming unlawful meat causes serious diseases.
5- Islam urges Muslims to be moderate in consuming lawful food and drinks. Prophet Muhammad said: “A human being has never filled any vessel which is worse than his own belly.” (At-Tirmidhi) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) commands Muslims to cover their food and drinks. He said: “Cover up the (kitchen) containers (i.e., pots, pans, etc.), tie up the mouth of the water-skin, lock up the doors and extinguish the lamps, because Satan can neither untie the water-skin nor open the door nor uncover the containers. If one can cover the cooking pot even by placing a piece of wood across it, and pronounce the Name of Allah on it, let him do it. A mouse can sometimes cause a house to burn along its dwellers.” (Muslim)
6- Islam has put rules and regulations on interactions with the opposite gender. Islam prohibited adultery and homosexuality which are the causes of many diseases.
After the Outbreak of the Disease. Islam calls its followers to protect themselves against diseases through the following guidelines:
1- When a Muslim is afflicted with a certain disease, he has to look at it as a test from Allah the Almighty. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” (Muslim) When you face trials and difficulties with patience, you feel inner peace and a state of psychological health that will help you defeat the disease.
2- Islam orders Muslims to seek medication. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age.” (Abu Dawud)
3- When there is an outbreak of a disease, Islam commands Muslims to practice quarantine. Prophet Muhammad said: If you get wind of the outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; and if it breaks out in a land in which you are, do not leave it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
4- It is an act of sunnah to say these duaas (supplications) to protect yourself from coronavirus and other infectious diseases: Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to say: “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from leprosy, madness, elephantiasis, and evil diseases.” (Abu Dawud) When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) visited any ailing member of his family, he would touch the sick person with his right hand and would supplicate: [O Allah! the Lord of mankind! Remove this disease and cure (him or her)! You are the Great Curer. There is no cure but through You, which leaves behind no disease].” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) ‘O Allah, make me healthy in my body. O Allah, make me healthy in my hearing. O Allah, make me healthy in my sight. It is sunnah to read these chapters of the Quran on the sick person: Surat Al-Fatihah, Surat Al-Falaq, Surat An-Nas, Ayat al-Kursi, the last two verses from Surat al-Baqarah, and Al-Anbiya 21:83.
The world is currently monitoring the situation and they have taken the necessary precautionary measures. My dear brothers and sisters, now let us take the precautionary measures together and protect the citizens of the world. One important step is to be responsible members of the public. If someone is down with high fever, cough, flu or things like that, he/she should seek treatment and ensure that he/she have minimal direct interactions with other people, and to stay away from public areas that could potentially cause others to be infected, or to even aggravate his own condition. We should also observe good personal hygiene and the cleanliness of our own homes. Let us all take care of our health and continue to lead a healthy lifestyle. We should also monitor the latest updates through the media and follow the guidelines that have been released by the Ministry of Health, so that we can prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of this dreaded killer disease. May Allah bless us with overall wellbeing, health and safety and preserve world from this epidemic and other deadly diseases. (Ameen!).
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)

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