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Islam and Science in the Context of the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

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BY: Dr Tajali  Shora/ Dr Romaan Jallu

In this age of widespread media and limitless social connectivity, it is highly unlikely that anyone would be unaware of the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the entire world. The new disease has gripped multiple continents in its grasp, and does not seem to be relenting. Without a cure or a solid plan of prevention except for a complete lockdown, it has brought the entire country to a screeching halt. This lockdown has necessitated the closure of mosques and other religious institutions and has led to a flurry of intra-locality discussions and social media messages, mocking the moves and calling them “unnecessary” and “anti-religious”. Even after numerous advisories by the authorities, some religious heads are still holding congregational prayers, claiming that just trust in Allah is enough to save lives and souls. This viewpoint is however contradicted by this famous Hadith, wherein a Bedouin was asking the Prophet (ﷺ) about the safety of his camel:

Anas bin Malik (RA) narrated that a man said:

“O Messenger of Allah! (SAW) Shall I tie it (my camel) and rely (upon Allah), or leave it loose and rely (upon Allah)?” He (SAW) said: “Tie it and rely (upon Allah).”

(Sunan Tirmidhi2517)

Now the question is, how to ‘tie our camel’ or rather what measures can be taken to prevent as well as limit the spread of this catastrophic illness. Some would claim that five times daily ritual ablution (Wudhu) fulfils the requirement of maintaining hygiene, not needing to restrict travel or social interactions. It would be relevant here to quote the following Hadith:

Narrated Saud (RA):

The Prophet (SAW) said, “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari 5728)

Here the Prophet (SAW) has given clear instructions about the measures to prevent communicable illnesses; avoiding the places where it has broken out and limiting travel to prevent further spread. This measure has been partly enforced by the authorities by halting international and national travel, but some may still argue that it does not explain the reason behind local restrictions. This can be explained by referring to another Hadith:

Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA):

Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said: The cattle (sheep, cows, camels, etc.) suffering from a disease should not be mixed up with healthy cattle, (or said: “Do not put a patient with a healthy person).” (As a precaution).

(Sahih al-Bukhari 5771)

In an era when medical science was in its nascent stages, the Prophet (SAW) miraculously set up the framework for the modern day isolation and quarantine, words that have scared seemingly rational educated people into hiding travel history, using a VIP ticket to bypass airport checks and run away from quarantine centers. As has been already spoken of numerable times in the media, the coronavirus begins to show its symptoms between 1 to 14 days with an average of 5 days, but can be easily spread in the absence of symptoms. Mosques and religious congregations are potential hotbeds of infection by which a single infected person with no fever, cough or other symptoms can become ‘mixed’ with numerous healthy individuals, dooming them all. So Great is Allah’s wisdom that there is even a provision in the Hadith about a change in the Azaan content (and therefore the Salat) in situations of fear or disaster.

Narrated Muhammad bin Seereen (RA):

On a rainy day Ibn `Abbas said to his Mu’adh-dhin, “After saying, ‘Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah’ (I testify that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger (SAW)) , do not say ‘Haiya ‘Alas-Salat’ (come for the prayer) but say ‘Pray in your houses’.” (The man did so). But the people disliked it. Ibn `Abbas said,” It was done by one who was much better than I (i.e. the Prophet (SAW). No doubt, the Jumua prayer is compulsory but I dislike to put you to task by bringing you out walking in mud and slush.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari 901)

Allah, in His infinite mercy, has provided an alternative to fulfill the religious obligation of Salah at home in such dire situations. Therefore, large religious gatherings now not only deny this mercy from Allah, but also unfortunately serve as a source of defame for our beautiful religion. Furthermore, violating the lockdown orders of the authorities at this time and becoming a potential source of harm to others is in direct contradiction of this Hadith of the Prophet (SAW):

Narrated Abu Musa:

Some people asked Allah’s Messenger (SAW), “Whose Islam is the best? (Who is a very good Muslim?)” He (SAW) replied, “One who avoids harming the Muslims with his tongue and hands.”

(Sahih Bukhari 11)

Inadequate social distancing makes it easier for the virus to spread widely, cause more serious cases to develop and overburdening the already weak healthcare system. Carelessness and stubbornness at this time could lead to a catastrophe, the likes of which have already been seen in Italy and Spain. Moreover, the change has to come at an individual level, keeping in line with the Quranic verse:

*إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ – 13:11*

“Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”  (Qur’an 13.11)

A rigid attitude towards hard facts and scientific evidence at this critical juncture is equivalent to standing in front of a gunman and asking him to fire, believing that Allah will protect just on the basis of faith. Change can come by following the way of our Prophet (SAW) and his noble companions and strictly enforcing the lockdown, avoiding large social gatherings and practicing proper hygiene. Once everything possible on the ground level is done, the rest is left to Allah who is indeed the best of Helpers.


*فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا – 94:5*

For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. (94:5)

  • Dr Tajali Shora is Asst Professor GMC Anantnag & Dr Romaan Jallu, Jr Resident GMC Srinagar

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