Reflection From The Prophetic Guidance on Plague

BY: Dr Zunaidah Mohd Marzuki

Allah has guided us in the Quran about life (i.e Ali-Imran:14, Al-Baqarah:212) and death (i.e Ali-Imran:185) and told us to strive and be patient while being tested (i.e  Muhammad:31, Al-Baqarah:133)  because at the end all will be returned to Him (Al-Anbiya:35).

As a matter of fact, tests, trials, and tribulations are among the signs of God’s will and power. It is of His omnipotent power and will that put us to be tested in various ways such as through Satan, lust, desire, and all creations including microscopic creatures like virus since He is able to do all things. Allah says in Surah Al-Mulk: 1-2 which means:

Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the dominion, and He is Able to do all things. Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.

Undeniably, the current Covid19 plague is one of the hardest tribulations that disrupted the life of many – be it physically, mentally, spiritually, economically, etc. It has changed many aspects of our life and abruptly made us undergo many new norms and phenomena, including the quarantine. It has taught us how to overcome the unexpected hardships with the right mindset and suitable adaptation.  

As a matter of fact, we must be reminded that this circumstance is not something new. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH had dedicated many hadith on plague. Scholars of the past and present have put their effort to compile and explain these sayings in incredibly significant works. Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani (773-852H) alone has compiled a separate hadith book on it which he entitled as “بذل الماعون في فضل الطاعون” (Bazlu Al-Mau’n Fi Fadhl Al-Ta’un). Two words which usually translated as “plague” in Arabic are الوباء   and الطاعون where the latter is more specific than the former according to him.

Among the hadiths, there is such a teaching that shows a preventive measure that is equivalent to the concept of ‘quarantine’, aimed at  avoiding the transmission of diseases. The Prophet PBUH said: “Plague is the sign of a calamity with which Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, affects people from His servants. So when you hear about it, don’t enter there (where it has broken out), and when it has broken out in a land and you are there, then don’t run away from it”. The Prophet also had said: “If you hear that it (plague) has broken out in a land, do not go to it; but if it breaks out in a land where you are present, do not go out escaping from it.”

There are many more hadiths about plague and its related issues which we may ponder and reflect upon not only for getting some tips on how we should legally and ethically conduct ourselves according to Prophetic guidance but also spiritually soothe us in facing tribulations. In his inspiring speech, the Prophet told us that various types of trials will expiates one’s sins: “Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Not only do diseases expiate sins, someone who is afflicted with disease, will be rewarded as if he performs good deeds as he usually does during his healthy times. The Prophet said: 

When a slave of Allah suffers from illness or sets on a journey, he is credited with the equal of whatever good works he used to do when he was healthy or at home.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Indeed, the plague is a blessing in disguise for God’s creations. For believers, a plague is considered as a mercy and would receive a reward of martyrdom on condition that patience should be preserved while remaining in town expecting the reward from Allah and believing firmly of the foreordained of Allah. The Prophet in his response to his wife, Aishah about pestilence (Ta’un); said:

It is a punishment which Allah sends upon whomsoever He wills, but Allah has made it as a mercy to the believers. Anyone who remains in a town which is plagued with pestilence maintaining patience expecting the reward from Allah, and knowing that nothing will befall him other than what Allah has foreordained for him, he would receive a reward of Shaheed.”  (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Dr. Zunaidah Mohd Marzuki is an assistant professor in Department of Qur’an and Sunnah Studies, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, IIUM

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