(Dealing with Pandemics and the Reward for Patience at the Times of Pandemics)
Ibn 'Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: 'Umar bin Al- Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) set out for Ash-Sham (the region comprising Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan). As he reached at Sargh (a town by the side of Hijaz) he came across the governor of Al-Ajnad, Abu 'Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (May Allah be pleased with him) and his companions. They informed him that an epidemic had broken out in Syria. Ibn 'Abbas relates: 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) said to me: "Call to me the earliest Muhajirun (Emigrants)." So, I called them. He sought their advice and told them that an epidemic had broken out in Ash-Sham. There was a difference of opinion whether they should proceed further or retreat to their homes in such a situation. Some of them said: "You have set forth to fight the enemy, and therefore you should not go back;" whereas some of them said: "As you have along with you many eminent Companions of Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), we would not advise you to set forth to the place of the plague (and thus expose them deliberately to a danger)." 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) said: "You can now go away." He said: "Call to me the Ansar (the Helpers)." So, I called them to him, and he consulted them and they differed in their opinions as well. He said: "Now, you may go." He again said: "Call the old (wise people) of the Quraish who had emigrated right before the conquest of Makkah." I called them. 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) consulted them in this issue and not even two persons among them differed in the opinions. They said: "We think that you should go back along with the people and do not take them to this scourge. 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) made an announcement to the people, saying: "In the morning I intend to go back, and I want you to do the same." Abu 'Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: "Are you going to run away from the Divine Decree?" Thereupon 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) said: "O Abu 'Ubaidah ! Had it been someone else to say this." ('Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) did not like to differ with him). He said: "Yes, we are running from the Divine Decree to the Divine Decree. What do you think if you have camels and you happen to get down a valley having two sides, one of them covered with foliage and the other being barren, will you not act according to the Divine Decree if you graze them in vegetative land? In case you graze them in the barren land, even then you will be doing so according to the Divine Decree. There happened to come 'Abdur-Rahman bin 'Auf who had been absent for some of his needs. He said: I have knowledge about it. I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, "If you get wind of the outbreak of plague in a land, you should not enter it; but if it spreads in the land where you are, you should not depart from it." Thereupon 'Umar bin Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) praised Allah and went back. .
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Narrated al-Bukhari form 'Aisha: I asked Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) about the plague. He said, "That was a means of torture which Allah used to send upon whom-so-ever He wished, but He made it a source of mercy for the believers, for anyone who is residing in a town in which this disease is present, and remains there and does not leave that town, but has patience and hopes for Allah's reward, and knows that nothing will befall him except what Allah has written for him, then he will get such reward as that of a martyr."
1. The Decree of Allah is of two types:
What Allah has ordained to occur in this life, whether good or evil, is predestined for a wisdom that we may or may not know, such as sickness and domination of the infidels, and this type is what Omar bin al-Khattab meant by saying, “We flee from Allah’s decree.”
What Allah has commanded or prohibited in the pure Sharia in the face of his predestination, which is what Omar meant by saying: “To Allah’s decree,” so we keep off a decree such as diseases by a decree such as medicine, and the decree of the domination of the infidels by the decree of jihad.
2. Belief in predestination is not a call to regression, but rather a call to strive and work hard in life, and to keep off a decree with another. Predestination is not a justification for failure, but in fact it is an incentive to strive and succeed.
3. The meaning of Allah’s saying: “Indeed, all things We created with predestination.” Everything that is found in this life is ordained by Allah, that's why Omar said (We flee from Allah's decree to Allah's decree).
4. The meaning of Allah’s Messenger dua before sleeping: “There is no refuge or sanctuary from You except in You,” is the same as “we flee from Allah’s decree to Allah’s decree.”
Some points about pandemics:
1. The lesson should be learnt from the epidemic, its rapid spread and the large number of deaths, so the same precautions should be applied to all diseases that take this form, not just the plague.
2. Entry and exit from the place of the epidemic is prohibited by Islamic law, if it is an escape from the disease.
3. It is permissible to leave and enter the infested places if it is not because of fleeing or panicking, provided that the health condition of those who leave is verified by conducting the necessary medical examinations so as not to spread it in other places.
4. Obtaining the reward of martyrdom for those who died in the epidemic depends on patience with the affliction, and intending to seek reward from Allah, and the reward of martyrdom is proven to him even if he got ill and then cured, and it is also proven if he did not die in the epidemic and died years after it, because the hadith linked the reward with patience and seeking the reward not with dying by the disease.
5. Following the hadith by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him: “O people, do not wish to meet the enemy, and ask Allah for well-being, but if you do meet them [the enemy], then be patient and steadfast.” A person should not enter a land where there is a plague, and if it outbreaks in his land he should be patient and submit to the decree of Allah.
6. The breadth of the Islamic legislation and its comprehensiveness of everything related to the worldly interests of creation. Islamic legislation has preceded modern medicine in the issue of quarantining the places of epidemics.
Values in Consultation and Sharia Policy:
1. The blessing of consultation and its impact on decision-making, and it is a major reason for attaining guidance and righteousness.
2. Consultation of the ruler with the decision makers – i.e., the scholars and people of virtue, status and experience at times of calamities.
3. The final say should be for the ruler after consulting the decision makers.
4. The scholars differed concerning whether consultation is obligatory on the ruler, the hadith does not imply its obligation.
5. The opinion of the majority is not taken into account in obligating the ruler, even if there are incidents in the Sunnah in which Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, followed the opinion of the majority, the most famous of which is consulting the Muslims on the Day of Uhud whether to fight the infidels inside or outside the city, it was not an obligating opinion though.
6. There are many situations in which the ruler disagreed with the opinion of the majority, and he was right doing so, the most famous of which was Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq’s opposition to the majority of the Companions and his insistence on fighting the people of apostasy.
7. Listening to the opinion of the seniors and people of experience and wisdom in making decisions, what favored the decision of going back is the opinion of the wise elders of Quraysh, and this is not because they increased the number of those who said this opinion from the early Muhajirin and Ansar, but rather because of their maturity and experiences in life, as the opinion of the majority is not always right or true.
8. Allah may guide the one with less knowledge or status to the correct opinion or advice, prior the ones with the greatest knowledge or status; the early Muhajirin and Ansar are better in faith and status than those who embraced Islam during the year of the Conquest of Makkah (right before opening Makkah), yet the opinion of the latter agrees with the religious ruling.
9. In the event that the right is not clear, even if the ruler or imam did his best and strived hard to reach the right decision, it should not prevent him from being firm and decisive while making his decision, this is reflected in 'Umar’s announcement: "In the morning I intend to go back, and I want you to do the same."
10. The imam should go out himself to follow up on the conditions of his people, and there is no doubt that this has the greatest impact in controlling the affairs of the state, suppressing the people of corruption and injustice, and establishing the rites of Islam.
11. The people in charge should receive the ruler upon his arrival, and inform him of what has happened in their country of good and evil, epidemic, cheapness, high prices, and other things.
'Umar’s Qualities and Virtues:
'Umar’s deep understanding of the purposes of Sharia, he took the decision not to enter the land of the Levant because of the plague that occurred in it, although he did not hear a hadith on this issue from Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him. When he was informed of a hadith in that regard, he praised Allah and thanked Him that his ijtihad in making the right decision agreed with the religious text.
2. The meaning of the hadith by Allah’s Messenger: "There were Muhaddithun (the recipients of Divine inspiration) among the nations before you. If there is any of such Muhaddith among my followers, he must be 'Umar." [Al- Bukhari]
3. Umar’s deep understanding of the belief in al-Qada' and al-Qadar (the Divine Decree and the Predestination) which so many individuals went astray because of this issue.
Virtues of the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet, Peace Be upon Him):
1. The early Muhajirin (immigrants) are the ones who prayed to the two Qiblahs and were present in this situation.
2. The need for the Sahabah, because they are the link between Allah’s Messenger, Peace Be upon Him, and those who came after Him and did not see Him. They are the ones who transferred to the Muslims the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This is why, the early Muhajirin and Ansar said, "As you have along with you many eminent Companions of Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), we would not advise you to set forth to the place of the plague (and thus expose them deliberately to a danger)."
3. The status and merit of Abu 'Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah, may Allah be pleased with him, is quite obvious in this hadith, as he was a man of perception and insight. It is also obvious that ‘Umar bin al-Khattab respected him and held him in high regard.
1. Confirming what Allah says in the Qur’an:
“and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction.”
(Qur’an: 195: 2)
2. Treating people according to their ranks, knowledge, virtues and good qualities.
3. Respecting people and holding them in high esteem is a sign of good manners, as 'Umar replied to Abu 'Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah’s comment: "O Abu 'Ubaidah! Had it been someone else to say this." ('Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) did not like to differ with him).
4. The meaning of the Divine saying:
“What would Allāh do with [i.e., gain from] your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allāh Appreciative and Knowing.” :
(Qur’an: 4: 147)
Almighty Allah used to send upon whom-so-ever He wished the plague as a punishment to disbelievers, but as for the people of faith and tawheed, who worship only Allah without any partners, the plague raises their ranks and wipes away sins, or it can be a warning to return back to Allah with repentance.
5. There are several kinds of martyrs according to Shariah, obtaining the rank of martyrdom is not exclusive to those martyred at the battle field fighting for Allah’s cause.
6. The person who has some knowledge should hasten to deliver this knowledge to people when needed, even if no one asks him, 'Abdur-Rahman bin 'Auf, hastened to inform them with the hadith of the Prophet, Peace be upon Him, because the people needed it in that situation in particular and he did not wait to be asked.
Values in Usul al-Fiqh (Principles of Jurisprudence):
1. Accepting a khabar (report) from a single trustworthy narrator, 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, accepted the report by only 'Abdur-Rahman bin 'Auf. He accepted such narration by Ibn 'Awf, and he did not ask anyone else from the Sahabah about the truthfulness of his narration.