On the Coronavirus Outbreak
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
With the recent spread of the Coronavirus internationally and the declaration that it has now turned into a worldwide pandemic, many are considering the optimal way to deal with its outbreak. There have been many discussions in the Muslim community regarding this. We acknowledge the complexity of the situation. There are some important points that must be addressed regarding it.
Firstly, it is imperative that we, as Muslims, firmly believe that Allāh is sovereign over His kingdom. The entire universe, the heavens, the earth, and all that it contains are under His control. What He wills shall come to pass, and what He does not will shall never be. Our lifespans, afflictions that we face, and illnesses are in His control. Believing in this is necessary. And it is a reality in our lives.
مَا أَصَابَ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنْفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَبْرَأَهَا إِنَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ
“No affliction happens on the earth or in you all except that it was decreed before We made it come to pass. Verily, that is easy for Allāh.”
This is a fundamental part of our faith. Islām teaches us that there is no harm nor benefit that happens to us except for that it is through Allāh’s decree. One is unable to avoid something if Allāh decrees that he must face it. Our faith and conviction in our Lord should not flinch at all during these times. Rather, in times such as these, we should reflect on a certainty that is undisputable; we will return to Him and death is a reality that every single human shall experience. This world is only a transitory waystation for those traversing into the next. Our faith in Allāh is required to successfully make that transition. And only Allāh knows the exact moment when that will be. If the Coronavirus is the means by which we die, nothing can stop that from happening.
If an affliction befalls one, he must exercise patience and remain calm. Islām imparts this teaching to us in various ways. One of them is how we deal with plagues and pandemics. The Prophet Muḥammad (upon him be peace) prohibited people from entering lands that are afflicted. As well, he prohibited people from fleeing from such lands. Remaining patient and remembering Him are the best actions that one can do at this time. Being patient and forbearing while facing the difficulties that are arising around us on account of the Coronavirus may earn us reward with our Lord. During these times, we should turn to Him with penitent hearts that acknowledge His greatness and majesty.
With realizing this, it should be noted that what He has decreed for us is unknown. One does not know if he may become infected by the Coronavirus. Furthermore, one does not know if he will die from it, become sick and recover, have a loved one become infected, or remain healthy. For most of us, this is unknown. Allāh is the only being in the entire universe who knows what will happen to us. He is the one who gave us life, and He is the one who causes us to die. In this, our conviction is certain.
Our faith in Him does not mean that we should not take precautions. In fact, it is advised that we do so. We should not disregard caution and act in a way that exposes us to risk. As the famous adage goes, one should “tie their camel.” I will address a few points related to this later in the writing, inshāʾAllāh.
This is not the first time that the ummah has faced an infectious, transmittable disease as a community. Coronavirus is still relatively new; scientists are in the process of assessing it and the scholars are actively reviewing its details. In mentioning the plagues and pandemics that historically afflicted man, I am not attempting to draw a cross-extending analogy involving juristic precedents on what we are facing now and some of the illnesses that are discussed in both the primary textual evidence and the secondary sources. The purpose of this writing is to try and put some things into perspective.
Historically, in early Islām, there were plagues that the Muslims faced. When Imām Nawawī mentioned them, he said that the purpose in doing so is to provide one with some perspective. Exercising patience in difficult situations is necessary. And the tribulations that man faces may even be less than what afflicted those who came before us. Some of the ummah’s pious luminaries went through these kinds of difficulties. Some made it through them and others did not. Some of the major ones are:
– Ṭāʿūn Shīraway
During the Prophet’s lifetime, in AH 6, there was a disease that spread in Madāʾin. The Persian king, Shīraway, died during its outbreak. This had a significant impact on the future course of the Persian Empire.
– Ṭāʿūn ʿAmawās
During ʿUmar’s caliphate, in AH 18, a disease started in the village of ʿAwamās, which is located between Ramallah and Jerusalem. It is referred to by this name because of the village from which it originated. Between one hundred and twenty-five and three hundred thousand people are reported to have died from it. Ḥārith b. Hishām is reported to have died from it. He was one of the Prophet’s companions who embraced Islām on the day Makkah was conquered. Suhayl b. ʿAmr embraced Islām on the same day, and he also died from it. After Abū ʿUbaydah b. al-Jarrāḥ, who is one of the ten promised Paradise, became sick, then he appointed Muʿādh b. Jabal as his successor. Abū ʿUbaydah b. al-Jarrāḥ died from it. And thereafter, Muʿādh’s two wives died from it, then his children, and then he also died from it.
– Ṭāʿūn al-Jārif
During ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr’s caliphate, in the year AH 69, a plague swept the city of Baṣrah. It is mentioned that, in only three days, over two-hundred thousand people died. Many of Anas b. Mālik’s family died from it. Likewise, much of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Abī Bakrah’s family died. It is mentioned that during this time the khaṭīb went to perform the Friday prayer. There were only seven men and one woman in attendance. He asked them what had happened to all the people, to which the woman replied:
“They are in the ground (meaning, they are dead).”
– Ṭāʿūn al-Fatayāt
In AH 87, a disease swept through the Levant, Wāsiṭ, and Baṣrah. It was named “Fatayāt” because when it started, it primarily affected women. Some also called it “Ṭāʿūn al-Ashrāf” because of how many nobles died during it. ʿAbd al-Malik b. Mawrān and Umayyat b. Khālid died during this time.
– The Ṭāʿūn of AH 131
In AH 131, a disease swept the land. It is mentioned that the severity of it increased significantly in Ramaḍān. Every day, near to one thousand funeral prayers were performed.
I will suffice with mentioning these five. Other similar events happened throughout the course of history. From the Prophet’s time until now, illnesses spreading has been recurrent. In such trying times, Allāh wants us to turn to Him. In such trying times, we must be patient and steadfast.
In recent days, many preventative measures have been prescribed by the medical community to limit the Coronavirus’s spread. Various lists containing advices on what one can do in order to prevent its spreading have been circulated and the medical community is admirably staying on top of these recommendations. In trying to deal with the pandemics of their times, some early scholars also listed prescriptive medical advices. Some of these have been documented in their fatāwā literature. This shows the extent to which our scholars take matters such as these seriously. Some measures that they expressed may apply now, and it is possible that some of them do not specifically apply to the current virus that we are facing.
The World Health Organization is currently emphasizing specific preventative measures. Some of them are:
– Washing one’s hands frequently. Using soap and water, one should wash their hands to make sure they kill any viruses that may be on them.
– Maintaining social distancing. Maintaining three feet or more between one’s self and anyone who appears to be sick is recommended.
– Avoiding touching one’s face, mouth, and nose.
– Practicing good respiratory hygiene. One should cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze.
– Seeking medical care if one begins displaying symptoms.
These are important for everyone to know. And we should try to do them. Along with following the prescribed medical guidelines, scholars suggested some specific etiquettes and recommendations that should be observed in such times. Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī wrote a book under the title Badhl al-Māʿūn fī Faḍl al-Ṭāʿūn in which he mentioned some of them.
(1) We should pray to Allāh for safety and health and seek His protection from sickness.
ادْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً
“Call upon your Lord in humility and privately.”
And the Prophet Muḥammad (upon him be peace) said:
«مَا سُئِلَ اللَّهُ شَيْئًا أَحَبَّ إِلَيْهِ مِنَ العَافِيَةِ»
“Allāh is not asked for anything more beloved to Him than (the servant’s) health and safety.”
(2) We should be patient with Allāh’s decree and be content with what He has destined for us.
Our beloved Prophet Muḥammad (upon him be peace) said:
«عَجَبًا لِأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ، إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ خَيْرٌ، وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لِأَحَدٍ إِلَّا لِلْمُؤْمِنِ، إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ، فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ، وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ، صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ»
“A believer’s matter is amazing. Everything about it is good. And that is something specific to the believer. In good times, he thanks Allāh. And that is good for him. And if a calamity befalls him, he is patient. And that is good for him”
(3) We should think of Allāh positively and maintain a connected relationship with Him.
This is very important for one who falls ill. Believers should realize that they are Allāh’s creation and that His loving compassion is vast. One should take account for his sins and shortcomings. He should believe that there is no one who is able to pardon or forgive him except for Allāh. The Qurʾān should be reflected on, the verses that speak of loving compassion (ar. raḥmah). The Prophet’s teachings should be studied, one should know the realities that they contain.
One should earnestly pray to His Lord that his final moments are spent fully recognizing Him as his Lord and that one passes away with complete faith.
Ibn Ḥajar mentioned that one of the best things related on this point is the “Sayyid al-Istighfār.”
اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لاَ إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ، خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ، وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ، أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ، أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ، وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي، فَإِنَّهُ لاَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ
“O Allah! You are my Lord. There is no god except You. You created me. I am Your slave. I am upon Your covenant and promise as much as I am able. I seek protection with You from the evil that I have done. I return to You with Your bounty upon me. I return to You with my sins. Please forgive me! There is no one who forgives sins except for You.”
The Prophet (upon him be peace) has promised that anyone who recites this in the morning and then dies that day, he will enter Paradise. And anyone who recites it at night and then dies that night, he will enter Paradise.
(4) We should check on those who are sick.
The Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
«مَنْ عَادَ مَرِيضًا نَادَاهُ مُنَادٍ أَنْ طِبْتَ وَطَابَ مَمْشَاكَ وَتَبَوَّأْتَ مِنَ الجَنَّةِ مَنْزِلاً»
“Whoever visits one who is sick, it will be called out from the heavens: “May your way be good and may you find your final abode as a house in Paradise.”
I will add that, considering the nature of the Coronavirus and the current health advisories, going and sitting with people who are sick may not be advisable. Still, one can check up on them or those with friends and loved ones who have been afflicted. We should pray for them. We should also console those around us who are affected and remind them that living in this world is only temporary and the Hereafter is our eternal adobe.
In conclusion, we ask Allāh the Creator of the Universe and all that it contains that He protects us. O Allāh! Bring safety, peace, ease, health, and wellness to these lands. O Allāh! Give us fortitude and faith in You during these times. O Allāh! Place firm faith in our hearts and the hearts of our loved ones. O Allāh! Forgive our sins. O Allāh! Send the choicest of prayers and salutations upon our Master, Muḥammad, his house, his family, and his Companions. Amīn, Yā Rabb al-ʿĀlamīn!
Compiled by Mln. Yaqub Abdurrahman, DarusSalam Seminary, March 13, 2020.
 Q 57:22.
 Saḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 4:51.
 Musnad Aḥmad, 41:74.
 Ibid., 23:159.
 Kitāb al-Adhkār, 275.
 Sharḥ Saḥīḥ Muslim, 1:106.
 Tārīkh Khalīfat b. Khayyāṭ, 79.
 Muʿjam al-Buldān, 2:179.
 al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, 7:107; Bahjat al-Maḥāfil, 67.
 Bahjat al-Maḥāfil, 126.
 al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, 7:109.
 Tārīkh al-Islām, 2:616.
 Ibid., 2:916.
 Maʿārif, 601.
 al-Nujūm al-Zāhirah, 1:313.
 One example of this may be found in Haytamī’s Fatāwā 4:28.
 World Health Organization. “Basic Preventative Measures Against the New Coronavirus.” https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public. March 13, 2020.
 See: pages 345-357.
 Q 7:55.
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 5:444.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 4:2259.
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 8:67.
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 3:433.