Islam as we all know is a religion of peace. It may not be obvious to many but the brief research I carried out shows that religion, health, sickness and medical research are an integral part of each other. Sadly, a serious lack of education causes a weak understanding of good health.
Those living on poverty line or below, needs immediate assistance with their basic needs and in the same vein need to be regularly informed about how they can boost up their immune systems. So it is vital that timely knowledge needs to be sent out to them.
Further research also shows that Islam in particular has a tradition of following science. Muslim physicians and scientific contributions to biological science were the greatest between the 8th and the 13th centuries which is of course often referred to as the “Islamic Golden Age”.
Ibn Sina [Avicenna (980-1037)] and Al Razi (841-926) were the first to develop the field of Biological Sciences. Ibn Sina contributed to the development of the germ theory of disease and also discovered the contagious nature of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. He introduced quarantine as a means of limiting the spread of contagious diseases. Later in the 14th Century, Ibn Khatima (1369) expanded upon these findings and was the first to discover bacteria and microorganisms.
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Infection control in Islam includes isolation and quarantine. I got to find out that the Prophet instructed his followers not to travel to places known to be infected with a disease and advised those in contaminated areas or communities not to leave to avoid spreading it elsewhere. After the Emmaus epidemic, the Muslim leader at the time, Amr ibn al-Aas, warned the people that the disease would spread like wildfire and directed them to protect themselves by escaping to the highest mountains. Moreover, he urged people to avoid contact with people with serious infectious diseases; this warning included contact with animals.
To prevent human-to-human contamination, the 10th Century Islamic scholar of Medicine, Ibn Sina, used a method of isolating people for 40 days as a means of limiting the spread of contagious diseases. This translated to ‘Quarantine’.
It is customary in the Islamic faith to begin your day with purity rituals. A proper Muslim starts his or her day with ablution (which is more like a sin cleansing ritual), which of cause is an excellent practice for limiting the spread of germs. As stated in the Holy Qur’an (5:6), ablution includes washing all exposed parts of the body including hands, feet, face, mouth and nose. A practicing Muslim will do this, five times a day. I enquired from an Imam why this is necessary before prayer, he explained that, the act is meant to cleanse you away from the sin you committed with that part of the body. This act is in line with the first guideline recommended by the W.H.O. for all members of society: to wash hands regularly and completely with soap and warm water.
Hygiene is a general behavior that includes practices that promotes mental, emotional and physical health as well as the social wellbeing of individuals. Islam’s rules of personal hygiene include washing hands, bathing, avoiding harmful foods, brushing teeth and clipping nails, washing the finger joints, all of which are related to personal and public health. Enjoying the highest level of personal hygiene is referred to in the Holy Qur’an (2:222) in a multitude of verses and also by the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, who told his followers ‘purity is half of faith’.
Of special concern to Muslims is Umrah, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Many Muslims from many countries around the world including Nigeria visit Mecca. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia received 7.2 million pilgrims in 2019. The administration responsible for managing the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina took proactive measures before the epidemic turned into a global pandemic. The Kingdom issued unprecedented order to close the two holy mosques, temporarily suspend visits and completely emptied the squares of prayers and visitors. This temporarily stopped visitors from coming to the Kingdom to visit the holiest of Islamic sites through pilgrimages that can be taken at any time of the year.
This was a courageous and correct decision both from a public health and safely perspective but also from Islamic history. Similar steps were taken rapidly in Iran around the pilgrimage to Qom but at this stage Iran had already had significant community spread and the intervention was sadly too late.
The positive practices carried out by religious communities during this corona virus outbreak is highlighted by religious communities and clerics giving a positive response to support governments in the cancellation of many religious gatherings and activities, particularly from an Islamic perspective.
However the result of this outcome didn’t go down well with the various Muslim communities in some localities.
Speaking to Lagos Post Online Alfa Abdul-Rauf Aigoro the chief Imam of the central Mosque at 8b Stephen Toba close Beesam Mafoluku Oshodi said;
“Life generally has been difficult in the wake of covid19. This pandemic has affected our Muslim community by halting our gathering. We can no longer gather together to pray as one community, we are therefore forced to make our prayers in our individual homes.
Usually every morning I do the call for prayers but that has been put to a stop as well. We can’t even read the Qur’an here in the mosque, it’s so disheartening.” He noted.
When asked, what was the plan in place to commence activities in the mosque, taking cognizance of the fact that the Lagos state government has declared open all worship centers? He replied.
“In line with the safety measures and guidelines by the NCDC, we shall introduce the social distancing rules inside the mosque. Every Muslim faithful must wash their hands with soap and water before the ablution and finally each person must put on their face mask before entering the mosque.”
When asked how he has fared personally in the face of the pandemic? He replied.
“It’s been all loses upon loses since the coming of corona virus in Nigeria. I have not received my salary since March this year and even the members now seek financial assistance from me because they now go hungry and to crown it all the little money we realize from fisebililah (voluntary contributions) from members used in maintaining the mosque, does not come in anymore. How are we supposed to survive in the midst of this challenge?” He concluded.
Covid-19 was an unexpected event for all followers of different religions and affiliations. But it does not mean that they do not have the experience to deal with it. For instance, Muslims were faced with similar pandemic calamities in classical times and they have some specific rules managing such situations.
Quarantine as I noted earlier was the first act urged by religious leaders without any exception.
In Nigeria, particularly Kano state people complied with stay at home order, mosques were closed, but later, authorities eased the lock down and allowed people to attend markets twice a week for shopping, this development generated debate among religious leaders as the number of people who stormed markets outnumbered those attending mosques for prayer. So what was now the sense behind the lockdown?
The message of the Prophet (Muhammad) on medicine is so great and encompassing and Islam has already provided a lot of guidance on how to tackle plagues so we can learn from history. Presently a lot of scientists are also suggesting different types of food which will help to strengthen the human immune system and can put an end to our suffering. We need to put our heads together and think of suitable solutions for pulling through this challenging period and this is not impossible. We must have faith in Our Creator and remain strong, constant and confident that we will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
So far, this content has been able to explore and establish the link in religious and practical context of response to the new corona virus pandemic through the perspective of Islam and the steps that should be taken in response to the existing global outbreak.
Over a quarter of the world’s population (1.8 billion) subscribe to Islam. It is a religion that significantly impacts on (based on Qur’an and Sunnah texts) all aspects of a Muslim life, including daily habits and behaviors.
The biggest problem most religions face currently is the dilemma of burials being conducted. Burials are not allowed to be conducted if the patient has suffered from COVID-19. This has affected the Muslim community the most as they have to see their loved ones being cremated without being buried.
Every country should adhere to the WHO guidelines given for the purpose of curtailing this virus and adhere strictly to it. After this situation calms down, I think religious leaders need to interact and discuss to find a common solution that would prevent conflicts and issues when situations like this arise again.
In January 2020, China closed transit to and from Wuhan to contain the corona virus outbreak. Recent epidemiological and human mobility data revealed that this ban diminished the spread of the epidemic from Wuhan to other cities in China. This delay in transmission allowed time to establish and reinforce other control measures necessary to help mitigate the epidemic. Countries like Italy, Brazil, USA, South Africa that followed up late had themselves to blame till date. In as much as we need to resume worship again, let’s not forget that it is also important to stay alive to be able to do so. Having said this, I rest my case