In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Bestower of Mercy, Dear brothers and sisters, in recent days, health professionals around the world have become increasingly concerned with the spread of dangerous infectious diseases.
Outbreaks of swine flu, avian (bird) flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and very recently coronavirus and lassa fever have meant that infectious diseases have taken on a global context and are now on the agenda of world leaders and health policy makers alike. In developed and developing countries, health officials are focusing on infectious disease research and linking it to policy-making and infrastructure.
The scope of infectious diseases is progressively more challenged by globalisation. Easy and frequent air travel allows diseases to spread rapidly between communities and countries. Infectious disease control will continue to be confronted by 21st century issues including global warming, conflict, famine, overpopulation, deforestation, and bio-terrorism.
Due to ongoing media attention, most of us are aware of the dangers associated with swine flu and bird flu and in 2003 -2004 the world held its collective breath when 8,098 people became sick with SARS, before the global outbreak was contained. These diseases have led to renewed interest in infectious diseases by the public; however, Gideon Informatics, the world’s leading global infectious disease database, has tracked and documented more than 20 major infectious diseases since 1972.
Some basic measures are appropriate when trying to control the spread of any or all infectious diseases. These include meticulous hand washing, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, proper disposal of tissues, staying at home and away from public places, and in extreme cases such as Coronavirus, Lassa fever and SARS, quarantine. In the series of my sermons entitled Health in Islam, I explained in some detail that Islam is a religion concerned with creating a community of healthy believers.
Islam is a holistic belief system and it takes into account the physical, mental, 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. More than 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was teaching his followers hygiene practices that are still applicable in the 21st century.
From the Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), we find evidence that clearly indicates Islam’s stance on coughing and sneezing openly. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) instructed the believers to cover their faces when sneezing. [See Mustadrak of Imam Hakim] 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.
According to the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, the virus that causes Coronavirus and SARS is thought to be transmitted most readily by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
What is known as droplet spread can happen when droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled a short distance (up to 3 feet) through the air and deposited on the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, or eyes of persons who are nearby. The virus also can spread when a person touches a surface or object contaminated with infectious droplets and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or eye. The Coronavirus or SARS viruses might spread more broadly through the air (airborne spread).
Islam is referred to as the religion of cleanliness. Allah the Almighty says:
“Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” [Qur’an, 2:222]
In the Hadiths of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), 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. The private parts are washed after using the toilet and Muslims must pay particular attention to being clean before praying. They wash their hands, faces, (including rinsing the mouth and nose) arms and feet, a minimum of five times per day. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) insisted that the believers wash their hands, before praying, before and after eating. [See Sunan of Imam Abu Dawud]; and upon waking up in the morning. [See Sahih of Imam Al-Bukhari]
When trying to stop the spread of any type of virus (coronavirus or Lassa) and influenza, including swine flu and bird flu, the first line of defence is frequent hand washing. Both the World Health Organisation and CDC recommend the following precautions: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue in the trash after use. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, germs spread that way.
Cover your food properly. Kill and drive away all rats from your home. Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Infection control in Islam includes isolation and quarantine. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) instituted strategies that are today implemented by public health authorities. He commanded his followers not to travel to places known to be afflicted with illness and he advised those in the contaminated areas or communities not to leave and spread the disease further afield.
“If you hear that there is a plague in a land, do not enter it; and if it (plague) visits a land while you are therein, do not go out of it.” [See Sahihs of Imams Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Imams Al-Bukhari and Muslim also narrated that Usamah Ibn Zaid (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: “The plague is a calamity (or a punishment) that was sent upon the Children of Israel, or upon those who came before you. If you hear of it in some land, do not go there, and if it breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave, fleeing from it.”
It was said that what is meant by the word ta‘un (translated here as plague) is a specific disease that is known to the scholars and doctors. It was also said that it refers to any widespread disease (epidemic) that leads to the death of many people.
He (Peace be upon him) also counseled ill people not to visit healthy people.
During the worldwide outbreak of diseases, quarantine officials arranged for appropriate medical assistance, which sometimes included medical isolation and restricted travel movements.
The CDC says isolation is necessary not only for the patient’s comfort but also to protect members of the public. Many levels of government around the world are legally able to compel sick, infectious people to remain in quarantine or in isolation in order to stop the spread of disease.
The teachings 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, restricted travel, covering the food and killing the dangerous animals is an effective and comprehensive public health strategy. Measures taken in the 21st century to prevent the spread of infections and viruses conform almost exactly to the hygiene and infection control practices taught by our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
Respected brothers and sisters, what is Lassa fever? Lassa fever is an animal-borne, or zoonotic, acute viral illness. It is endemic in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Neighbouring countries are also at risk, as the animal vector for Lassa virus, the “multimammate rat” (Mastomys natalensis) is distributed throughout the region.
The illness was discovered in 1969 and is named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases occurred.
An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 infections of Lassa fever occur annually, with approximately 5,000 deaths. Surveillance for Lassa fever is not standardised; therefore, these estimates are crude. In some areas of Sierra Leone and Liberia, it is known that 10-16% of people admitted to hospitals annually have Lassa fever, demonstrating the serious impact the disease has on the region.
Dear servants of Allah, what is coronavirus? Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people get infected with coronaviruses at one point in their lives, but symptoms are typically mild to moderate. In some cases, the viruses can cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
These viruses are common amongst animals worldwide, but only a handful of them are known to affect humans. Rarely, coronaviruses can evolve and spread from animals to humans. This is what happened with the coronaviruses known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov), both of which are known to cause more severe symptoms.
A newly identified coronavirus called 2019-nCoV has been today spreading in China, and has now reached several other countries.
The first cases of the pneumonia-like virus were reported in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019. Since then, the virus has spread to various other countries, including Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Australia, France, Taiwan, among others.
Dear brothers and sisters, below are some authentic Dua’s/Supplications/Prayers to protect you and your family from all kind of evil and disease.
As Muslims, we constantly worry about the unseen harm that we know exists through our faith and is a real part of everyday life. These harms include the evil eye, jealousy and destructive envy (hasad), devils, jinns, black magic, plagues and epidemics. As Muslims, we should trust our gut feeling when we feel something unexplainable happens and there is no medical answer, however many of us fail to ask Allah first for His protection and mercy.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) used to seek refuge with Allah for himself, and the greatest means of seeking protection is reading the Book of Allah (the Qur’an). The beautiful thing to know is that the entire Qur’an is Shifa’ (a cure), so read it often and strengthen your Iman In Shaa Allah. It is also important to know that no harm can affect us without the permission of Allah the Almighty, so we must bear in mind that the harm can also be a trial for us, to bring us closer to our creator In Shaa Allah.