By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
19 March 2020
Coronavirus is a contagious disease similar, in becoming pandemic, to the Plague of Taun taking place before and after Islam. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of novel coronavirus cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission”. Approximately similar precautionary measure was the guidance of the Prophet of Islam to deal with the Plague of Taun, with only difference that the Science had then not developed.
Pandemics have been a part of human history for centuries. Taun was the plague of the same contagious disease affecting the people in times of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This plague was then treated with precautionary isolation. It is reported by Sa’ad that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
عَنْ سَعْد عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّهُ قَالَ إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ بِالطَّاعُونِ بِأَرْضٍ فَلَا تَدْخُلُوهَا وَإِذَا وَقَعَ بِأَرْضٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِهَا فَلَا تَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَا
Translation: “If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.” (Source: Sahih al-Bukhari 5396, Sahih Muslim 2218)
'Amir b. Sa'd reported that a person asked Sa'd b. Abu Waqqas about the plague (Taun), whereupon Usama b. Zaid said: I would inform you about it. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: It is a calamity or a disease which Allah sent to a group of Bani Isra'il, or to the people who were before you; so when you hear of it in land, don't enter it and when it has broken out in your land, don't run away from it. (Sahih Muslim 5497)
In another hadith, the Prophet is reported to have said that it (the plague of Taun) is a God-sent punishment from the calamity or from the remnant of the calamity with which people were afflicted before you. So when it is in a land and you are there, don't get out of it, and if (this news reaches you) that it has broken out in a land, then don't enter therein….” (Sahih Muslim 5501)
The Prophet’s guidance on preventing contagious diseases and enforcing quarantine also becomes clear from the hadith that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, «لا يُوردَنَّ مُمرض على مصخ« which means “a healthy person should not be brought near a sick person” (Source: Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Al-Bayhaqi)
The traditional interpretation of these Ahadith includes several points; the people should not depart from the land afflicted by the plague, 1) as they can’t avoid Allah’s appointed destiny, and 2) if the afflicted people of one land go to another land, the people of other land might be afflicted with the plague. This was the precautionary isolation which, in today’s term, can be called quarantine.
Some people get confused with literal reading of a hadith which says, “There is no ‘adwa (transmission of infectious disease)” (Bukhari and Muslim). This hadith, in its context, actually means to guide the people that there is no contagion, no transmission of infectious disease without the permission of Allah Almighty, the Creator of the World. This does not mean that the contagion does not happen. Rather it means that the contagion does not have any effect without the permission God Almighty. As for the precautionary measure, on the part of human beings, it must be taken as guided in the ahadith mentioned above. In another hadith, the Prophet commanded the people, “Do not put a sick one with a healthy one”, that is, do not bring a sick camel to a healthy camel, lest the contagion be transmitted. Thus along with the faith that everything has its effect only after the God’s Will, the precautions must also be taken, because God Almighty says in the Quran, “Do not throw yourself into destruction” (2:195)
As the contagious coronavirus is spreading rapidly around the world, outpacing our ability for testing let alone treatment, the best way of prevention is the precautionary isolation until Allah Almighty eliminates this torment. The World Health Organization, in this regard, is suggesting the good precautionary ways, much in the same way as was commanded by the Prophet 1400 years ago, to deal with such pandemic virus.
Such contagious diseases have repeatedly occurred in the human history. The causes might be different as per the medical experts, but the spiritual guides narrate that they come as a result of escalating oppression, religious persecutions and waywardness from the path of God Almighty. Therefore they guide the people to seek repentance, forgiveness, faith and spiritual reformation and ask for mercy of Allah Almighty.
Facing the contagious corona-virus, we the human slaves of Allah Almighty must adopt both ways; the spiritual guidance as well as the medically suggested precautions supported by the afore-mentioned Ahadith. Let’s start it at once, before it is too late!
A regular Columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).
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