Islam is a holistic belief system and it takes into account the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of individuals and societies. Although, care of the individual is important, safeguarding communities, including its weakest members, is of paramount importance in Islam. Some of the Islamic perspectives on human health can be categorized as scientific; sociological and spiritual.
SCIENTIFIC – More than 1400 year ago, Prophet Muhammed (SAW), narrated in hadith by Sahih al-Bukhari that “ There is no ailment for which God has not created a cure”. This laid a solid foundation for firm scientific enquiry and breakthrough and the need to push beyond any final scientific result. It is also stated in another narration by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, where Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said “” Who so ever treats people without knowledge of medicine becomes liable”. This hadith obviously proved the liability of salt solution propaganda in the treatment of Ebola.
SOCIOLOGICAL - Infection control in Islam includes isolation and quarantine. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) instituted strategies that are today implemented by public health authorities. He commanded his followers not to travel to places known to be afflicted with illness and he advised those in the contaminated areas or communities not to leave and spread the disease further afield. He said, “If you hear that there is a plague (epidemics/pandemics) in a land, do not enter it; and if it (epidemics/pandemics) visits a land while you are therein, do not go out of it” (cited in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim). He also counseled ill people not to visit healthy people (cited in Saheeh Muslim). It should be clear that obedience of the Prophet’s command would effectively quarantine the epidemic and eventually contain it and prevent its spread to other places.
Prophet Muhammad instructed the believers to cover their faces when sneezing (Mustadrak Haakim). The most obvious effect of sneezing and coughing without covering the mouth is the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses, in addition, droplets invisible to the naked eye, may fall onto surfaces or other people. From the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, we find evidence that clearly indicates Islam’s stance on coughing and sneezing openly. Prophet Muhammad insisted that the believers wash their hands, before praying, before and after eating and upon waking up in the morning (cited in Abu Dawood and Saheeh Al-Bukhari).
When trying to stop the spread of any type of influenza, including swine flu and bird flu, the first line of defence is frequent hand washing. Both the World Health Organisation and CDC recommend the following precautions: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue in the trash after use. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, germs spread that way. Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
During the worldwide outbreak of SARS, quarantine officials arranged for appropriate medical assistance, which sometimes included medical isolation and restricted travel movements. The CDC says isolation is necessary not only for the patient’s comfort but also to protect members of the public. Many levels of government around the world are legally able to compel sick, infectious people to remain in quarantine or in isolation in order to stop the spread of disease.
THEOLOGICAL - The teaching and principles of Islam are designed to benefit all of humankind. Rules and recommendations for personal hygiene and cleanliness promote the well-being of individuals and communities. Infection control is inherent in Islamic hygiene behaviour. Moreso, Islam is referred to as the religion of cleanliness. “Truly, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222) In the traditions of Prophet Muhammad cleanliness is mentioned as half of faith, therefore, it is important to keep the body fresh and clean and Islam insists on several practices to facilitate this. The private parts are washed after using the toilet and Muslims must pay particular attention to being clean before praying. They wash their hands, faces, (including rinsing the mouth and nose) arms and feet, a minimum of five times per day.
Measures taken in the 21st century to prevent the spread of infections and viruses conform almost exactly to the hygiene and infection control practices taught by Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Epidemics as a Sign of the Last Day
The Prophet also prophesied the occurrence of epidemics as a Sign of the Last Day:
"Count six signs that indicate the approach of the Hour: my death, the conquest of Jerusalem, an epidemic that will afflict you (and cause you to die in great numbers) as the plague that afflicts sheep, the increase of wealth to such an extent that even if one is given one hundred Dinārs, he will not be satisfied; then an affliction which no Arab house will escape . . .” (Sahīh Bukhāri).
This prophecy, when combined with others, clearly indicates that Dajjāl (false Messiah or Anti-Christ) will wage biological warfare in the form of epidemics that would substantially reduce the Arab population in and around Israel. That, in turn, would facilitate his quest to rule the world from Jerusalem.
Finally the Prophet prophesied that “neither Dajjāl (i.e., the false Messiah or Anti-Christ) nor epidemic would enter (the city of) Madina” (Sahīh Bukhāri). It would be a matter of more than passing interest to witness the fulfillment of this prophecy if and when the city of Makkah is stricken by an epidemic. The millions who travel annually to Makkah to perform the pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Temple built by Abraham (AS) will most certainly take an epidemic to Makkah. But most pilgrims also visit Madina. How then can Madina escape epidemics?