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Precautions in epidemics

Mahad’ad-Dawa Institute (MDI)

Traditional Herbal Medicine (طب یوناني)

April 17th, 2020

Precautions in epidemics

Currently, the world is in the grip of a pandemic – a worldwide epidemic. Such an pandemic has not been seen for a hundred years when, at the end of the First World War, what became known as Spanish Flu killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

In former times, there was no coming and going on a global scale and epidemics – better known as plagues – were localised. For example, on one occasion the second Caliph of Islam was on his way to Sham – Syria:

 عن عبد الله بن عامر أن عمر خرج إلى الشأم فلما كان بسرغ بلغه أن الوباء قد وقع بالشأم فأخبره عبد الرحمن بن عوف أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال إذا سمعتم به بأرض فلا تقدموا عليه وإذا وقع بأرض وأنتم بها فلا تخرجوا فرارا منه.

Abdullah bin Aamir reports how, when Umar left for Damascus, he had reached a place called Saragh when he received news of a plague in Damascus. Abdullah bin Auf informed him that he had heard the Holy Prophet say that when you hear about a plague in a certain country, then do not proceed to that country, and when plague occurs in a country where you are already located, then do not flee from that country.

(Bukhari)

The logic behind not proceeding to a plague-infested country is pretty obvious: one is exposing oneself to infection and, if one leaves the plague-infested place, then one is in danger of spreading the disease further afield.

This instruction of the Holy Prophet tallies exactly with the current travel-ban that has been imposed in the wake of the current pandemic. 

     The Canon of Medicine of Ibn Sina, known in the Western                                                          world as Avicenna                                             

Another Bukhari Hadith casts light on another key facet of the modern approach to countering the current pandemic: self-isolation and quarantine:

وَعَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ ، سَمِعَ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ بَعْدُ يَقُولُ : قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ :  لَا

يُورِدَنَّ مُمْرِضٌ عَلَى مُصِحٍّ

Abu Salma says that he heard Abu Huraira recount that he had heard the Holy Prophet say: The owner of a sick camel should not bring that camel to a healthy one.

(Bukhari)

This Hadith has been rather mistranslated recently, in the wake of the corona crisis, for example here:

https://www.facebook.com/speakingtree1996/posts/2696753233889353

The Hadith in referring to camels, not humans.

Nevertheless, micro-organisms that are transferred in camels can obviously be transferred between humans also. Certainly, the great medieval physician of Islam and the author of the great Canon of Medicine (Kitab’al-Qanun’at-Tibb), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) has mentioned this Hadith in connection with his introduction of the notion and practice of quarantine and self-isolation for humans, widely practised to control the corona virus.

So all the practices introduced to control the coronavirus, physical distancing, self-isolation, travel bans, quarantine, are quite apt in the light of Islamic teachings. Another question, how can a Muslim put these curbs to his own advantage, from a spiritual point of view, needs to be addressed. We will do so in a subsequent lesson, Inshallah.

-J.M.Butt

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