The Islamic position on contagion
May 29 2020 01:36 AM

Khutbah by Shaykh Saalih Aal Ash-Shaykh

O believers in Allah and His messenger! Fear Allah and glorify Him as He deserves to be. Know that this life is nothing except a very short period of time, so act righteously herein. He who does so will have a great and pleasant consequence by the mercy and favour of Allah and he who is neither conscious nor fearful of Allah will not have a way out of his hardships and will have an evil end. 
Servants of Allah! Abu Hurairah (radhiallah ‘anhu – May Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “No contagion, no pessimism, no Haammah and no Safar” (Bukhari).
The meaning of this Hadith is as follows: Haammah is a type of bird; the pre-Islamic Arabs used to think that whenever this bird landed on anyone’s house, somebody who lived in that house would definitely die. This is of course a type of superstition. As for Safar, this is another type of superstition; one group of Islamic scholars held the view that the pre-Islamic Arabs were highly superstitious regarding the month of Safar while another group held the view that Safar is in fact a worm which used to dwell in the bodies of some animals (as a disease) and that this disease was contagious. 
In this Hadith the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) negated and refuted the prevalent belief of the disbelievers at that time. These false beliefs would affect the hearts of the people so greatly that it would weaken their reliance on Allah and lead them to doubting Him and even attributing evil to Him. Also, these beliefs would lead people to attribute deficiencies to Allah, either by them claiming that He has incapabilities or by them ascribing partners to Him in acts of worship, or in controlling destiny. 
So the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) was addressing all those who truly believe in Allah and in His control over everything by saying: “No contagion, no pessimism, no Haammah and no Safar.”
The words “No contagion” mean that contagion is not independently effective, because the pre-Islamic Arabs used to believe that contagion was itself a characteristic of a disease and that it had no external control over it. They also believed that there was nothing that could prevent contagion from occurring and that nothing could eliminate it. 
When the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “No contagion.” He certainly did not mean that contagion itself does not exist, nor did he mean that diseases and sicknesses do not spread from one person to another due to them coming into close contact, rather, this is something that obviously occurs. However, what the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) was doing was refuting the belief that the disbelievers had which was that if a sick person happened to come close enough to a healthy person, then sickness would definitely be passed onto the healthy person. The disbelievers used to believe that this transfer was beyond the control and will of Allah and that it was bound to happen.
Therefore, what the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) was explaining was that sickness does not spread simply by mixing healthy people with sick ones, rather, it happens with the decree and command of Allah; contagion may or may not occur because it is not necessarily the case that every contagious disease will spread from a sick person to a healthy one unless and until Allah permits this to occur. If Allah does not permit it to happen then it cannot and will not ever occur, because that is by the decree and command of Allah. 
Contagion is nothing but a means that will only have an effect if Allah decrees for it to occur, it is not something that necessarily takes place. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “A sick one should not go into the presence of a healthy one, nor should a healthy one go into the presence of a sick one.” (Muslim). He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said this regarding camels because allowing them to mix is a means of spreading disease among them. Therefore, in this Hadith, the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) proves that contagion actually exists, but he (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) only proved its existence as a means and not as an end. 
This is exactly the same as saying, for example, that if a person were to do something that could result in his death, then by doing it, he would die – if Allah decreed that to happen. It is also the same as saying, for example, that if a person were to eat and drink then he would satisfy his hunger and quench his thirst. In reality, these actions are nothing but means to an end that will only occur if Allah has decreed it to do so. 
Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “Run away from a person with leprosy as you would run away from a lion.” (Ahmad and Bukhari). This is because mixing with such a person is a means of spreading the sickness from a person with leprosy to a healthy one. So this Hadith of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) explains that although these are nothing but means and that their effect will not take place without the decree of Allah, we still have to exert our utmost efforts in avoiding these means that may result in disease, destruction or tribulations. Moreover, we must rely on Allah in all cases. 
This is why on one occasion the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) sat next to a man who had leprosy and ate with him from the same plate, he (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) even put his hand in the same food that the man was eating from to prove to people that diseases spread only if Allah wills for them to do so. He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) also did this to show that it is not a must that contagious sicknesses will spread and that it is only Allah who gives the ability for these means to take effect. Then, after eating, he (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “No contagion and no pessimism.” 
He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “No pessimism” because during Jaahiliyyah, or the pre-Islamic period of ignorance, the disbelievers were extremely pessimistic about everything. Ibn Mas’ood, may Allah be pleased with him, said that “Each one of us had this (i.e., pessimism), but Allah replaced it with our reliance on Him.” (Abu Daawood and Tirmidhi). This saying means that at that time, the people’s hearts were full of pessimism. For example, people used to feel pessimism when they felt the wind blowing strongly, or if some of them intended to set out on a journey and subsequently saw something that they disliked, they would be sure that they would meet a calamity or even death during the forthcoming trip, so they would be overcome by pessimism. 
However, a believer must completely rely on Allah as Ibn Mas’ood, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “Allah replaces pessimism with reliance on Him.” Pessimism is a false and futile concept; it has no effect in determining events because they are all under the control and decree of Allah. This is why the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) used to hate pessimism and love optimism; for one who is always optimistic has a high opinion of his Lord, which the believer is commanded to have. As for pessimism, this leads a person into thinking evil of his Lord, which was the belief of the people during Jahiliyyah. Due to these reasons, the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) forbade us from being pessimistic by saying: “No pessimism.” 
Then, he (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said “No Haammah” which refers to the bird already mentioned which the disbelievers had false beliefs about. For example, they believed that a person who was murdered would have this bird in his grave screaming for revenge. They also thought that the Haammah bird contained the soul of a dead person and flew it between different neighbourhoods. There were countless other false beliefs which were prevalent at that time, so the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) had to refute and negate them because these beliefs were contrary to the sound creed that a Muslim is commanded to have. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) clarified the concept that everything occurs due to the decree and command of Allah and nothing else. 
Another falsehood which the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) wanted to eliminate from its roots was regarding the month of Safar. Many scholars are of the view that Safar was a month in which the pre-Islamic Arabs were particularly pessimistic. Therefore, when the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “No Safar”, this was an indication that he (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) wanted to refute and negate all the false beliefs that the disbelievers used to harbour regarding that month. The disbelievers used to think that during the month of Safar, all problems, disasters, calamities and other evils would occur. Therefore they would avoid getting married in this month as they thought that such a union would be doomed; nobody would trade during this month as they thought that it would be fruitless; they also thought that all other endeavours during that month would end in problems, hardships and even death. These are the types of beliefs that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) countered due to their falsity. 
Safar is just one of 12 months that Allah has given us; nothing happens in this month except what Allah has decreed to happen within it, Allah did not specify a certain month of the year where all difficulties, hardships and calamities would afflict people. In fact, if one looks at history, he will discover that many conquests and victories occurred during the month of Safar for the Muslims; it may be that some people are ignorant of this and therefore it becomes incumbent on us to pay attention to facts like these and convey them to the masses. By doing this we are going back to the fundamentals and bases of these false concepts and cutting them off from their roots. Therefore, in this particular case, we know that believing that Safar as an ‘unlucky’ month is a false and frivolous belief, both from the words of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and by practical experience of the fact that there has been a lot of goodness in this month throughout history. Therefore, all forms of pessimism regarding minutes, hours, days and months are negated by Islam – our faith must be sound and distinct from that of the disbelievers. 
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) exerted all possible efforts in explaining these concepts to us. He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) made it clear that we need to purify our hearts from thinking evil of our Lord or being pessimistic regarding places, times or dates. For example, we must refute and negate the belief that some have which is to think that Wednesday is a day on which all evil takes place, so they avoid doing certain things on that day.
Dear believers! We must pay close attention to such matters, our belief must be sound and correct, and we must not allow our hearts and minds to be invaded by such falsities. We must not be pessimistic regarding specific times and places because the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) forbade us from doing this. Also, it goes against the sound belief that we are required as Muslims to possess. I ask Allah to guide me and you all and to make us among those who always think highly of their Lord.
Also, we must know that favours and bounties cannot be attained except by being obedient to Allah and that hardship, calamities and problems can be reduced if not terminated by supplicating to Allah or by being obedient to Him. Therefore, whoever relies on Allah, He is sufficient for him. Allah says that which translates as: “...And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease.” (At-Talaaq: 4). Nothing can avert the decree and command of Allah except supplication. Destruction and calamities cannot be stopped except through obedience to Allah. I ask Allah to make me and you all among those whom He has mercy upon. Allah says that which translates as: “By time, Indeed mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (Al-Asr: 1-3).

Speak kindly to people
Among the verbal good deeds is speaking kind words that do not harm. It is known that the words uttered by man are recorded and preserved in a book; My Lord neither errs nor forgets. This fact was stated in the Qur’an in the context of many situations and verses so that man may take himself to account and be mindful of his tongue. Allah The Exalted Says (what means):
l {Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared [to record].} [Qur’an 50:18]
l {Or do they think that We hear not their secrets and their private conversations? Yes, [We do], and Our messengers are with them recording.} [Qur’an 43:80]
There are many verses in this respect and the purpose is to make the slave realise that all that he utters is recorded – either for or against him. If he adheres to good words in all his conditions, nothing will be recorded in his book except goodness that pleases him on the Day of Resurrection and vice versa.
This is in compliance with the order of Allah The Almighty, Who Orders His slaves to select the best expressions and the most beautiful words as He Says (what means): {And speak to people good [words]} [Qur’an 2: 83], i.e. when you speak to one another in order to spread affinity, affection and the spirit of brotherhood and to remove the reasons of abandonment, severance and enmity. Yahya ibn Mu‘aath Ar-Raazi, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “Treat the believer in the following three manners in order to become among the good-doers; if you do not benefit him, do not harm him, if you do not please him, do not depress him and if you do not praise him, do not dispraise him.”
Allah The Exalted Says (what means): {And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them. Indeed Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy.} [Qur’an 17:53] The prominent scholar ‘Abdul-Rahmaan ibn Naasir As-Sa‘di, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “It is from the Kindness of Allah to His slaves that He ordered them to adhere to the best morals, deeds and words that bring about happiness in the life of this world and in the Hereafter. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {tell My servants to say that which is best.} [Qur’an 17:53] This order encompasses all that may bring one closer to Allah The Almighty such as reciting the Qur’an, remembrance of Him, seeking and disseminating knowledge, enjoining good, forbidding evil and good gentle words to all creatures regardless of their different levels and ranks. If one is to choose between two matters, Allah The Almighty commands us to prefer the one that is the better of the two if it is difficult to combine both.
Good words call to good morals and righteous deeds. He who is able to control his tongue is able to control all his affairs.
{Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them} means that Satan endeavours among slaves to corrupt their religion and life. The only cure is not to obey him in speaking bad words that he calls them to and to soften their relations in order to suppress Satan, who induces dissension among them. He is their real enemy whom they should fight; he constantly calls on them {to be among the companions of the Blaze.} [Qur’an 35:6]
Regarding their fellow Muslims, even if Satan induces dissension and seeks to spread enmity among them, they should strictly and firmly combat their enemy and suppress their souls that persistently enjoin evil through which Satan enters. In this way, they obey their Lord, their lives become upright and they are guided to the straight path.” [Tafseer As-Sa‘di]
The people most worthy of being treated with kindness and noble morals are one’s parents, to whom Allah The Almighty enjoined dutifulness and kind treatment. This includes choosing good words when talking to them. Allah The Exalted Says (what means): {And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.} [Qur’an 17:23] Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that,
“A man came to the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention ) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Who is the most entitled to my good companionship?’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: ‘Your mother.’ The man said, ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: ‘Your mother.’ The man further said, ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: ‘Your mother.’ The man asked for the fourth time, ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: ‘Your father.’” [Al Bukhari and Muslim]
In addition, ’Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “I saw (in a dream) that I entered Paradise and heard in it a recitation (of Qur’an). I asked, ‘Who is this?’ And it was said, ‘It is Haarithah ibn An-Nu‘maan.’ I said, ‘This is (the reward of) kindness (toward parents); this is kindness.” [Al Haakim]
Many of our righteous predecessors were barely heard when talking to their mothers because they were keen to lower their voices out of politeness. How far removed were they from the young men and women nowadays, who treat their parents harshly, raise their voices at them, repel them and are unkind to them. They harm them with their ill logic to the extent that whoever sees them without knowing that these are their parents may imagine that they are servants working for the children because of the harshness and the cruel words used by the children with their parents. We ask Allah The Almighty to guide them and us!
There is no doubt that soft words are needed also between spouses; as the base upon which houses are established is mercy and affection. Allah The Exalted Says (what means): {And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.} [Qur’an 30:21]
Spouses must choose for the other the best words to communicate and express feelings of love and mercy towards each other. Consider this affectionate Hadith (narration) between the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and ’Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, the Mother of the Believers:
‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that the Messenger of Allah said to her: “‘I know when you are pleased with me or angry with me.’ I said, ‘How do you know that?’ He said: ‘When you are pleased with me, you say, “No, by the Lord of Muhammad,” but when you are angry with me, you say, “No, by the Lord of Ibraaheem.”’ Thereupon, I said, ‘Yes (you are right), but by Allah, O Messenger of Allah, I leave nothing but your name.’” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] What mercy is this and what great logic is this!
‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr said to ’Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, tell us about the most remarkable behaviour you saw from the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. She kept silent for a moment, then she said:
“One night the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: ‘O ’Aa’ishah, let me worship my Lord tonight.’ I said, ‘By Allah, I love being near you and I love what pleases you.’ He got up and purified himself. He stood up praying and he kept weeping till he wetted his lap, then he kept weeping till he wetted his beard and he kept weeping till he wetted the ground. Bilaal came to call for the prayer. When he saw him weeping, he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, why do you weep while Allah has forgiven you all that passed and all that is to come of your sins?’ He replied: ‘Should I not be a thankful slave? A verse was revealed to me tonight; woe to the one who reads it and does not reflect upon it, it is the verse (which means): {Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.}[Qur’an 3:190]’” [Ibn Hibbaan] [Al-Albaani: Saheeh]
Dear brother and sister, make your tongue used to good words and know that Allah The Almighty does not allow the public mention of evil except in specific situations such as a genuine grievance. He Says (what means): {Allah does not like the public mention of evil except by one who has been wronged. And ever is Allah hearing and knowing.} [Qur’an 4:148] The Muslim should treat all people kindly, whether relatives or strangers, and get his tongue used to uttering good words and avoiding bad ones.
We ask Allah The Almighty and Exalted to help us obey and please Him, to guide us in all our words and deeds, to inspire us to utter the right words and protect us from errors in words and deeds out of His bounty and generosity.
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