Quarantine: A Prophetic Advice

Islamic rules over epidemics to protect people from death and sickness go back to the very early stages of the emergence of the monotheistic religion.
On many occasions, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) advised his companions to value their lives as the utmost importance over death in his numerous sayings (hadiths), urging people to stay away from places where there were epidemics. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke about the concept of quarantine fourteen hundred years ago. Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised his companions: “When you hear that (a plague) is in a land, do not go to it and if it occurs in a land that you are already in, then do not leave it, fleeing from it”. This saying exactly refers to the principle of modern quarantine. What it has been currently practiced (concerning the COVID19 outbreak) is the same principle as the advice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). As the Covid-19 outbreak continues to kill tens of thousands of people across the world, the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings be upon him) advice on how to respond to a pandemic offers a motivation to people to stay put in their homes and protect themselves from the deadly virus.
Islam and epidemics: Many centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) urged his people to eliminate the element of contact to save lives. It shows how much Islam values protection of life and health. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also strictly observed what he advised his companions about the epidemics as he had done in other issues. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gives utmost importance to his own health and public health. When he (peace and blessings be upon him) was in Medina and was about to make an agreement with one of the delegations, he refused to shake hands with one of the people (from the delegation), who had a contagious disease, sending him back (to where he came from). During the rule of Caliph Umar (May Allah be pleased with him), who was one of the four righteous caliphs after the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) according to Islamic teachings, Muslims also tried to practice what the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged them to do in the time of an epidemic.
Islamic guidelines on epidemics, going back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), can help people cope with Covid-19.
Islam’s priorities: In different instances, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) demonstrated his dislike of wishing for death under any circumstances. “None of you should wish for death due to a calamity that has afflicted him,” Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said in one of his famous hadiths, urging Muslims to find legitimate and protective ways to survive. Even under the direst developments, he urged his companions to pray for a good fate and wellbeing. Islam has priorities about life, urging Muslims to protect five main things during their lifetimes. They are to protect life, to protect intelligence, to protect faith, to protect (financial) belongings and lastly to protect offspring. An epidemic obviously threatens both personal and public health. As a result, a Muslim should strictly follow instructions of pandemic experts to protect his/her personal life as well as public health. If we damage someone else’s health or financial belongings directly or indirectly, we violate their rightful due. If someone infects the virus to someone else as a result of our ignorance or deliberate action, he/she violates the infected person’s rightful due. If the infected person dies because of the virus-related disease, ― May Allah protect ―, it means the person, who infected the other person, also led his/her death in a sense, (becoming responsible for the death). More than 1400 years ago Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) had recognized and preached the importance of travel bans and quarantine in places contaminated with disease in order to contain the spread of disease. He said, “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; and if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Social distancing and isolation: The practice of social distancing during Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) time is evident with this incident: “It is reported that a leprous man once wished to pledge his allegiance to him, an act that would require him to touch or hold the Holy Prophet’s hand. Keeping his distance, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) kindly sent word to him that his pledge had already been accepted and that he should return home.” (Sunan Ibn Majah) . Teaching isolation, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The cattle suffering from a disease should not be mixed with healthy cattle.” (Sahih al-Bukhari). Hazrat Umar, the rightly guided Caliph (May Allah be pleased with him), once encouraged a leprous woman who was circling the Holy Ka‘bah in Makkah to go back to her home as it would be better for her (and others). After Hazrat Umar’s demise, a man told her that the one who forbade her had passed away so she could go and circle the Ka‘bah as she pleased. She replied, “I am not going to obey him when he is alive and disobey him when he has passed away.” Indeed, this is a beautiful example that reflects the spiritual power and impact of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his rightly guided Caliph.
Hygiene: Cleanliness and hygienic practices are the hallmark of Islam. A hadeeth says “Cleanliness is half of the faith.” Muslims perform ablution (ritual cleaning from head to toe with clean water) before each of the five daily prayers.
According to a hadith, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would cover his face and muffle the sneeze, effectively containing the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses. (Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi)
Seeking medical treatment: The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) encouraged people to seek medical assistance alongside relying on the power of prayer. He said: “Seek (medical) treatment, O Slaves of Allah, for Allah does not create any disease but He also creates with it the cure, except for old age.” (Sunan Ibn Majah) . On another occasion he said, “Every disease has a cure. If a cure is applied to the disease, it is relieved by the permission of Allah the Almighty”. (Sahih Muslim). Experts say Islamic guidelines on epidemics, going back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), can help people cope with Covid-19.
( The author is a teacher at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)
bhat.hilalahmad32@gmail.com

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