How Islam Can Bring Comfort In The Coronavirus EraApril 13, 2020 2023-10-29 18:13
How Islam Can Bring Comfort In The Coronavirus Era
How Islam Can Bring Comfort In The Coronavirus Era
As I write this from my basement-turned-home office, the world is a very different place to what it was at the beginning of this year. In fact, the world is a very different place to what it was at the beginning of March. In just a few weeks, COVID-19, commonly referred to as the “Coronavirus,” has ravaged the world. It has shut down entire continents, leaving their countries virtually unrecognizable. It has infected nearly 1.9 million people worldwide, with 115,000+ deaths (as of April 13, 2020). Tragically, these figures are only rising. In all likelihood, we will see a dramatic rise in the number of confirmed cases and COVID-19-related deaths before we return to any degree of normality. These are, indeed, frightening and uncertain times. Thankfully, we can always turn to the Quran when we are in need of comfort. In its words, we will find peace and serenity, as well as guidance to help us cope with the current global pandemic. Muslims can also derive peace of mind from the words of the prophet Muhammadﷺ, which are found in the hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ. In this article, we will be looking at extracts from both the Quran and the hadith which can bring comfort and guidance to Muslims – and even non-Muslims – in the Coronavirus era.
Illness Brings Rewards
As the saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” And although the cloud of COVID-19 is certainly an ominous, all-encompassing one, it is no exception to that old maxim. If you want to be secular about it, you could make the argument that the silver lining of the Coronavirus comes in the form of a renewed appreciation for the freedom of going to a concert or dining out with a few friends. Perhaps it comes in the form of some unexpected time away from work or the surprising comfort of working from home. For Muslims, however, the silver lining of the Coronavirus is far greater than any secular reward or creature comfort. According to the Prophet Muhammadﷺ, Allah does not bring illness upon a person without granting them copious spiritual rewards for their suffering. A hadith found in Sahih al-Bukhari recalls Muhammadﷺ making this declaration while he himself was suffering from a severe fever.
It reads as follows:
“Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud: I visited Allah’s Apostle while he was suffering from a high fever. I touched him with my hand and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! You have a high fever.’ Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Yes, I have as much fever as two men of you have.’ I said, ‘Is it because you will get a double reward?’ Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Yes, no Muslim is afflicted with harm because of sickness or some other inconvenience, but that Allah will remove his sins for him as a tree sheds its leaves.'”
- Sahih al-Bukhari
In the above hadith, Prophet Muhammad’sﷺ companions are shocked to see him suffering from a fever. This is likely owing to their erroneous belief that a prophet would not experience earthly afflictions. Like in so many other hadith, Prophet Muhammadﷺ is quick to dispel this myth of semi-divinity by reminding his followers that he, like all prophets before him, is very much susceptible to the same illnesses and life challenges as any average man. In fact, the Prophet Muhammadﷺ declares he is suffering from a fever that is double the typical fever. Here, a comparison could be drawn between Muhammad’sﷺ mega-fever and the Coronavirus, which has been informally compared to an extreme case of influenza. But although he is suffering from a serious illness, Muhammadﷺ is not fearful in the above hadith. Instead, he speaks optimistically about the rewards Allah bestows upon those who experience the trials and tribulations of sickness. He tells his followers that his rewards will be doubled owing to the doubly powerful fever he is battling. He goes on to remind them that no Muslim experiences any strain of illness without Allah ridding them of sin for their discomfort and/or suffering.
In a similar hadith, also found in Sahih al-Bukhari, we read:
“Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri and Abu Hurayrah: The Prophetﷺ said, ‘No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.'”
- Sahih al-Bukhari
According to some hadith, experiencing illness in this mortal realm can even expedite one’s entry into Paradise on the Day of Judgment. In Jami al-Tirmidhi, for example, we find the following hadith:
“Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: Allah’s Messenger said, ‘On the Day of Resurrection, when people who have suffered affliction are given their reward, those who are healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world.'”
- Jami al-Tirmidhi
Healing Comes Via Allah
At the time of this writing, a total of 156,602 people have entirely recovered from the Coronavirus. That is a critically significant number, especially when one considers the fact that it is a novel virus which no medical professional had any experience in treating less than a year ago. The frontline healthcare workers who have fought and continue to fight in the battle against COVID-19 are certainly worthy of our respect, admiration, and celebration. However, it is also important for us to remember Allah’s foremost will and mercy in the healing process. As the Quran reminds us on several occasions, no healing, be it of the body or of the soul, can come about without His will. The prophet Abraham عليه السلام recognizes this fact in Surah Ash-Shu’ara. Admonishing the idol worshippers of his time, he says:
“Indeed, they are enemies to me, except the Lord of the worlds, Who created me, and He [it is who] guides me. And it is He who feeds me and gives me drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me.”
- Quran, 26:77 – 80
Similar healing verses in the Quran include:
“And [God] shall heal the breast of the believers.”
- Quran, 9:14
“And We sent down in the Quran such things that have healing and mercy for the believers.”
- Quran, 17:82
“Mankind there has come to you a guidance from your Lord and a healing for (the diseases) in your hearts, and for those who believe a guidance and a mercy.”
- Quran, 10:57
The healing power of Allahسُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى is also referenced in a number of hadith. Many of these hadith declare that Allah does not introduce a new disease or infection to humanity without also introducing a cure. Take, for example, the following narrations:
“Jabir reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘Every disease has a cure. If a cure is applied to the disease, it is relieved by the permission of Allah Almighty.'”
- Sunan ibn Majah
“Abu Hurayrah reported: The Prophetﷺ said, ‘Allah did not send down any disease but that he also sent down the cure.'”
- Sahih al-Bukhari
“Usamah ibn Sharik reported: A bedouin said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, shall we not seek treatment?’ The Prophet said, ‘Yes, O servants of Allah, seek treatment. Verily, Allah did not place a disease but that he also placed its treatment or cure, except for one ailment.’ They said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is it?’ The Prophet said, ‘Old age.'”
- Jami al-Tirmidhi
The hadith mentioned above have always served as a source of comfort and reassurance to Muslims. However, they have never been more relevant than they are now, in the era of the Coronavirus. At the time of this writing, there is no known cure for COVID-19. Those who have beaten the virus did so largely through bed rest and whatever care can be given by medical professionals. We still await a means of swiftly defeating the virus, along with a vaccine to keep it at bay. The above hadith reassure us that we will indeed discover a cure for COVID-19. It may take some time, but it is most certainly out there.
Medical Treatment Must Be Pursued
There is a worrying trend among some religions – particularly those which fall under the Christian umbrella – of avoiding medical treatment for illnesses and instead putting one’s fate entirely in the hands of God. For a while, this way of thinking existed largely as something we read about on the internet, while laughing at the misguided believers who choose to take such a route. In the COVID-19 era, however, it is a very real problem which must be eradicated. When one chooses to refuse medical treatment for COVID-19 and instead visits their local church or mosque, they are not only putting themselves at risk. They are potentially exposing all of their fellow believers to the virus, many of whom may be older or high risk and, consequently, unlikely to survive infection. While it is true that all healing comes via Allah, He must have a vessel through which He can eradicate diseases and infections. Just as Allah used Prophet Muhammadﷺ as a vessel for the Quran, He is today using nurses, doctors, and other frontline healthcare professionals as vessels to combat the Coronavirus. As such, medical treatment absolutely must be pursued by those who are experiencing symptoms of the novel virus.
The command to pursue medical treatment for ailments was made perfectly clear in the final hadith of the above section. In it, Prophet Muhammadﷺ advised his followers to seek help, as “Allah did not place a disease but that he also placed its treatment or cure.” However, Prophet Muhammadﷺ reiterated this command in a number of additional hadith. In Sahih Muslim, for example, we find:
“Narrated Imam Muslim: The Prophet (saw) said, ‘Every illness has a cure, and when the proper cure is applied to the disease, it ends it, Allah willing.’
- Sahih Muslim
Meanwhile, in Sunan abi Dawud, we read the following:
“Narrated Abu al-Darda: The Prophet said: ‘Allah has sent down both the disease and the cure, and He has appointed a cure for every disease, so treat yourselves medically, but use nothing unlawful.'”
- Sunan abi Dawud
Hadith such as those mentioned above and the one which closed the previous section clearly permit and command seeking of medical treatment. Consequently, they inspired some of the greatest medical advancements in history. Most notably, they motivated Al-Zahrawi, a 10th-century physician who is largely considered to be the father of modern surgery. Many of the surgical techniques pioneered by Al-Zahrawi 1000 years ago exist in contemporary surgery in some form or another. Without the massive leaps forward he made in the field of medicine, it is likely that the current battle against COVID-19 would be markedly more difficult than it already is.
Combating The Spread Of COVID-19
Much of the past few weeks has been dedicated not to eradicating COVID-19, but rather to slowing the spread of the virus. Limiting the reach of the Coronavirus would allow medical professionals to care for those who are suffering the most, without the stress of attending to additional, low-risk patients. Meanwhile, it would grant scientists more time to work on developing a vaccine against the infection. This has been the approach of societies battling new diseases and infections for centuries. Even in the time of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ, people understood the importance of first slowing the spread of a virus before tackling it head-on. In Sahih al-Bukhari, the Prophet Muhammadﷺ tells followers how they can do that, even with the limited resources of the period:
“Sa’d reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.'”
- Sahih al-Bukhari
Interestingly, this is the exact tactic that is currently being employed by many countries in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Just as Prophet Muhammadﷺ advised, many governments are advising their citizens against traveling to countries which are known to have a particularly high number of Coronavirus cases. Some countries are even outright forbidding their citizens from doing so. Meanwhile, countries which have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 are locking down areas where confirmed cases exist in concentration. The most notable example of this is Wuhan, the Chinese city from which the Coronavirus originated. The country’s government – which has historically been unkind to Muslims – ironically followed the exact protocol laid out by the Prophetﷺ and placed Wuhan under strict lockdown for two months. This lockdown has only recently been lifted and early indications are that it was immensely successful in battling the spread of COVID-19 throughout China.
Obeying Government Restrictions
As mentioned above, governments across the globe have been introducing restrictions in an attempt to lessen the blow of the Coronavirus. China’s lockdown of Wuhan may be the most notable of these restrictions, but it is far from the only case. Right now, the United Kingdom is almost entirely shut down, with shops, restaurants, and all other non-essential services being temporarily suspended. Ireland has introduced similar restrictions, even going so far as to legally prohibit its citizens from traveling more than 2 kilometers from their homes. While these restrictions are certainly an inconvenience, it is important that we follow them to the letter. Only by obeying government restrictions can we hope to effectively combat COVID-19 in a swift and effective manner. Furthermore, Islam teaches that it is the duty of all Muslims to obey the laws of the land in which they live. We have touched on this already in this article, although you may not have noticed. In an earlier cited hadith from Sunan abi Dawud, The Prophet Muhammadﷺ encourages his followers to embrace available treatments for illness, though he forbids them from using that which is unlawful. In today’s world, this could be interpreted as a reference to medicinal marijuana, which is increasingly being utilized as treatment for a variety of conditions, though remains outlawed in many lands.
The command to obey the law of the land most notably appears in Surah An-Nisa, the fourth Surah of the Quran. Commonly referred to as the “Obedience Verse,” it reads:
“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.”
- Quran, 4:59
There are, of course, some exceptions to the Obedience Verse. Traditional Islamic thinking permits a Muslim to go against the law of the land if that law violates their religious freedom. Similarly, they may go against any law which incites them to sin. The social distancing and quarantine laws currently in place in so many countries do neither of these things. In fact, if anything, they conform to the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings on combating infectious diseases as outlined in Sahih al-Bukhari. As such, Muslims owe it to Allah, their land of residence, and their fellow citizens to obey government restrictions and remain indoors until the era of the Coronavirus has passed.
COVID-19 Is Not A Punishment
With the exception of the fact that medical treatment is permissible in Quran, the most important thing for you to take away from this article is that COVID-10 is not a punishment. It is crucial to remember this while overzealous preachers and misguided pseudo-scholars point the finger at any group that doesn’t conform to their values and blames them for the current global pandemic. Allah did not send COVID-19 to punish the human race. Nor does He infect specific individuals to teach them a lesson. In fact, in many cases, it seems as though Allah does just the opposite. There are several verses in the Quran and hadith which declare illness to be a test from Allah. Take, for example, the following hadith:
“Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophetﷺ said: ‘When Allah wants to be good to someone, He tries him with some hardship.'”
Among the many Quranic verses supporting this hadith are:
“Blessed is He in whose hand is dominion, and He is over all things competent. [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.”
- Quran, 67:1 – 2
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.”
- Quran, 2:155
“Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good (only) by way of trial: to Us must ye return.”
- Quran, 21:35
Finally, to those who would like to present the Coronavirus as a blanket punishment for sent by Allah in retaliation for the actions of any particular marginalised group, there is this passage from Surah Al-An’am:
“Say, ‘Is it other than Allah I should desire as a lord while He is the Lord of all things? And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself, and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord is your return, and He will inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.'”
- Quran, 6:164
COVID-19 has changed the world irreversibly. In just a few short months, it has gone from being fodder for a brief report on the news to the omnipresent story we just can’t get away from. It has altered virtually every aspect of life in virtually every country. Businesses are suffering, major international events are being cancelled, people are losing their jobs. Many world leaders who have been looked to for guidance have proven remarkably unprepared, with some seeming just as confused and frightened as the rest of us. Indeed, in these most uncertain times, we must turn to the only constant in our mortal world. That is, of course, the Holy Quran. Unchanged since it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammadﷺ more than 1000 years ago, the Quran is rich in eternal truths. It will bring comfort and guidance to Muslims throughout the Coronavirus era and beyond it. The COVID-19 pandemic will pass, but the Quran will remain Allah’s greatest and most glorious gift.