The Islamic Standpoint on Epidemics: Coronavirus as an Example

The Islamic Standpoint on Epidemics: Coronavirus as an Example

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As witnessed on various social media platforms, most Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa do not take the ongoing spread of the Coronavirus seriously. Among all the posts shared vis-à-vis this scourge, we can see that all opinions converge into three distinct groups: A first one that resorts to conspiracy theories to explain the situation, stating that the virus is aimed at crippling down China, further noting that the one should no fear from the spread of the epidemic as it will indeed go beyond China’s borders, but it will not affect other countries. The second group, albeit close in its line of reasoning to the first group, deems the situation overexaggerated by the media, further noting that the aim here is to sell more medications and vaccines, including destabilizing the Chinese economy, deemed a threat to some countries. The third group, on the other hand, believes that Coronavirus is a test from God and that it is predestination.

Whatever the aforementioned opinions, it is important to note that they do all but reflect the reality of the scientific point of view on the matter. It is also important to stress that they go in the opposite direction with Islamic Jurisprudence.

Islamic sociology literacy discussing epidemics bears a rich set of information. Ibn Khaldoun discussed the case of people mocking and taunting at times of global epidemics as he personally witnessed the situation during the famous Black plague period that hit many parts of the world starting from 1347. At that time, he was only a 17-year-old but witnessed the death of his parents, many of his teachers, including one-third of the population of the Middle East, North Africa, And Europe. He said in his book that ‘if you see people talking sarcastically about epidemics when scourges and disasters abound them, you should know that poverty has engulfed them. These are negligent, enslaved, and humiliated people.’ To make his point clear, Ibn Khaldoun compares the aforementioned set of people to” a person who is driven to death while drunk,” or in other words a drunk man that is unconsciously digging his grave. The level of sarcasm and nonchalance witnessed on social media reflect the lower level of consciousness in society, something Ibn Khaldoune witnessed centuries before.

From the point of view of Islamic jurisprudence, such situations have been also discussed aboundingly, including providing preventive measures to cripple down scourges. Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) 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.” Muslims that pass away during such hard times are held in the ranks of martyrs. Here we can see that the Islamic perspective on epidemics aims to prevent traveling to halt their spread.

Islamic Law and Jurisprudence also address the situation when the demand for certain products, food, medicines rocket at times of epidemics. This, as witnessed nowadays, lead some unscrupulous traders to monopolize products and sell them at a high price in a bet to achieve great profit in a short time. This commercial behavior is prohibited Islamically. In Islamic law, a Prophetic Hadith declares that whoever hoarded food would be expelled from God’s mercy.

Unfortunately, monopoly has become nowadays a hallmark of the modern capitalist system, and a feature of economic dealings in most companies, even though it has negative impacts on the freedom of trade and industry.