Containing spread of COVID-19 pandemic: An Islamic perspective

By Faiswal Kasirye

As Muslims, the Almighty Allah has preferred to us with a religion that is complete and ideal for all occasions. Allah says in the Qur’ān: “This day I have perfected for you your deen and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as your religion”. 

Additionally, we have a good example in the Prophet (SAW), as Allah says in the Qur’ān: “Surely there was a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah”. Whatever issues a Muslim is confronted with, he returns back to Allah and his Messenger for direction; there is nothing that occurs in the life of a Muslim with the exception of that his religion has an answer for it. 

Recently, we have been attacked by a pandemic called COVID-19 that is spreading to various nations, affecting thousands of people to a point of death. There are various contemplations that should cross our minds when we hear something like this.

The following are a few focuses that we must recall and internalise when we see or hear about such pandemics- 

Trials and tribulations are part of our lives: This is something that Allāh informs and cautions us with the goal that when we are harrowed, we remember that it is ultimately Him that controls our undertakings. “It is He who will give assistance and that His knowledge of our undertakings or affairs surpasses our limited mind.”

As He says in the Qur’ān: “Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such [trials] as came to those who died before you? They were beset with extreme poverty and afflictions and were shaken to the point that even the Messenger and the individuals who believed him said, ‘When [will] the Help of Allāh [come]?’ Yes! certainly, the help of Allāh is close!.”

Allāh sends us tests to see how we will respond and deal with them. How are we going to react? When you hear the news that your Umrah or Haji trip is canceled due to this deadly virus and ultimately, how will you react to it? 

When you hear your flights have been cancelled, your friends and family have become sick, how will you respond to such news? Allāh says in the Qur’ān: “And We will without a doubt test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.”

So how would we respond to a calamity like COVID-19? Allāh lets us know following the previous ayat: “Who, when a calamity strikes them, say, verily we belong to Allah, and undoubtedly to Him we will return.'” A Muslim shows patience in trials like these; he knows Allāh will never forsake him, nor will He trouble him with a problem that is beyond what they can handle. 

Viruses such as COVID-19 are not new, and neither is the fact people are being afflicted with such sickness and illnesses. The prophet’s companions once asked him: ” Oh Messenger of Allāh, who from amongst the people were tested the most? The Prophet (SAW) replied and said, the Prophets, then the next best and then the next best.”

We see the great Prophet of Allāh, Ayyūb (AS), was tried with an incredible ailment. His story is synonymous with persistence and patience. He lost everything; his family, riches, and health. A few narrations say that he was incapacitated for about 18 years, tried with an incredible sickness, yet we discover that he never gave up hope in Allāh and instead, he turned to Him during those trying moments of his time. A few scholars have said that his sickness was extreme to the point that his flesh dropped from his body and nothing stayed on to him with the exception of his bones and muscles. 

Allah tells us his story in the Qur’an: “And Ayyūb, when he called to his Lord, saying “Mischief has dispensed me and You are the Most Merciful”, “So We addressed him and removed his tribulation and We gave him his family and the like of them, as a mercy from Us and a reminder to worshippers.”

This version of Prophet Ayyūb is one filled with lessons for us to contemplate over. The virtue of patience is shown to us in Prophet Ayyūb through some of the direst situations that one can come across our everyday life.

Pre-determination (Qadr): This concept is extremely important for a Muslim to understand.  When incidents such as the COVID-19 occur, a Muslim should know that this is what Allāh had decreed 50,000 years before the creation of the universe. The Prophet (SAW) explained: “Allāh has written the ordained measures of the creation, fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth.”

All good and bad is from Allāh, as is mentioned in the Hadeeth of Jabir: ‘No slave of Allāh will truly believe until he believes in al-Qadr; its good and bad from Allāh, and until he knows that what has befallen him was not going to miss him and that what missed him was not going to befall him.’

Allāh will never hurt us nor does He need evil to befall us. We may think something is awful for us because of our limited perspective on life, but there is always good in a situation. Allāh reveals to us that “maybe you detest a thing yet it is in actuality good for you, and maybe you love a thing when truly it is terrible for you, yet He knows while you know not”. 

A believer has two positions when it comes to pre-determination: one is before the circumstance happens, and the other is after. Before the circumstance, he looks for help from Allāh, make du’a to Him, and depend upon Him; he approaches Allāh for good to come from it. 

After the circumstance, if the outcome was certain and acceptable, the person expresses gratitude toward Allāh. On the off chance that the event had a negative outcome, the person is patient since he realises that Allāh will never spurn him regardless of whether the outcome is negative because indeed, Allāh is the best of planners. 

Playing it safe: A Muslim ought not overreact; simultaneously he ought not to neglect a situation and do nothing! Taking the vital means and relying upon Allāh is something which is emphasised in Islam. “One-day Prophet Muhammad (SAW), noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, ‘Why don’t you tie down your camel?’ The Bedouin answered, ‘I put my trust in Allāh’ The Prophet then said, ‘Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allāh’. We likewise find in the occurrence of Khalifa Umar ibn al-Khattab that taking necessary precautions is an unquestionable requirement when you are aware of harm or potential threat that could burden you. 

Umar ibn al-Khattab was traveling with a group of companions during his reign. They approached a town in which it was said had a contagious/infectious disease. Umar asked his group whether they should proceed or return to Madinah. Majority of the companions said they should go back but some said they should proceed. Then one companion said he knew a hadith where the Prophet (SAW) said, “If you hear that this disease exists in a country, do not travel to that country.” So Umar decided that they should go back. Another companion asked him whether he was running away from qadar. Umar replied that they were moving away from one qadar to another qadar.

Whenever there is a problem, a challenge, or any hardship which we can remove, overcome, solve, or minimise, we must do so. Many of the health guidelines given by the Ministry of Health, Malaysia and the world over are in fact normal practices for Muslims. Some of those guidelines speak to the core things a normal practicing Muslim has to do in their daily life in order to maintain cleanness upon them. These include: –

Washing hands: this is a part of ablution, a Muslim’s daily ritual of purity for the five mandatory prayers they are obliged to preserve daily. This alone aims to make a practicing Muslim clean all the time.

General cleanliness: The Prophet (SAW) said: “Cleanliness is part of faith.” Keeping our surroundings tidy, cleaning up after ourselves, and wiping surfaces down are all aspects of cleanliness which must be adhered to in these situations. This also tells us that in dire situations such as the one before us today, we ought to observe cleanliness to our utmost best for the betterment of ourselves and the people surrounding us.

Covering your mouth when sneezing; The Prophet would cover his mouth when he sneezed. This basic etiquette can take big part in the stopping of the spread of viruses. “Whenever the Messenger of Allāh (PBUH) sneezed, he would cover his mouth with his hand or a piece of cloth.” This is similarly what is happening now as we are guided to do the same in a bid to avoid the spreading of the deadly pandemic virus (COVID-19). It is essential that we do cover our mouth while moving in and around people for fear of infecting or otherwise be affected by the deadly virus.

Quarantine in times of deadly viruses; The Prophet gave instructions on what to do if there is an outbreak like COVID-19. In one hadeeth, Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Awf said: “I heard the Messenger of Allāh (PBUH) say: “If you hear that the plague is in a land, do not go there, and if it breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave or flee from it.”

And hence the recommendation by our health institutions and governments to quarantine ourselves in places where we may be able to avoid the contact and contraction of the deadly virus. This practice is self-administered for purposes of one’s health and the people surrounding them. 

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also taught us how to protect ourselves by maintaining our du’a from the Sunnah. One such du’a that he taught us was: “In the name of Allāh with Whose name nothing can harm on earth or in heaven, and He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”

Indeed, if one is a true believer and they believe in the divine guidance of Allah and His beloved prophet, there is no doubt that they can rip big in this du’a because if truly one recites it, they can surely be assured of the blessings and protection of Allah from such deadly and harmful illnesses because Allah cannot break his promise to the son of Adam.

Being positive and having an optimistic outlook: Always have a positive outlook regardless of the situation you’re in, this is what our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught us, when he told us, “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is not for no one except the believer, if something of good/happiness befalls him, he is grateful and that is good for him, if something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him.” 

Again, on contemplating upon this prophetic hadith, we come to a conclusion that it is with in our benefit to be optimistic and positive and prayerful to Allah to always be on our side in as far as changing situations that befall us is concerned. Verily, He is the only one who can undo what he has done and no one else.

We should also not blame others or ridicule them because they are from a certain country or they have come from a part of the world that has been affected by this deadly virus. Unfortunately, we have seen physical attacks on people, racist remarks made on to them, and people making a joke and mocking the situation people are in.

The prophet (SAW) also warns us on the spread of fake news in such circumstances where people are eagerly consuming all types of messages ad information that come their way. Indeed, this is very harmful to a true believer. He advises us to seek knowledge of what we don’t know before we speak to them.

In conclusion, COVID-19 is a reminder to all of us of our weak state. Regardless of our social standing and financial position, we are helpless. Allāh says: “Mankind was created weak.” Situations like these remind us to turn back to Allāh for guidance and restraint ourselves from doing contrary to what Allah has created us to do. Indeed, such calamities used to happen to regimes that Allah has annoyance to. As Muslims, we have a good chance to change as well as avoid such calamities to befall us in future by continuing to say du’a to Allah to change our course of life so that such diseases are extended far away from us as human beings.  

Remember, Allah controls everything and He is the only one that can soothe us from our troubles, we should come back to Allah and look for shelter in Him as we ask for His protection amidst such trying moments. ***

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