Coronavirus – an Islamic Perspective
Allāh has blessed us with a religion that is complete and perfect for all times and places. Allāh tells us in the Qur’ān:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as your religion”
We also have in the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), the best of examples, as Allāh says in the Qur’ān:
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ
“Surely there was a good example for you in the Messenger of Allāh”
Whatever problem or issue a Muslim is facing, he returns back to Allāh and his Messenger for guidance; there is nothing that happens in the life of a Muslim except that his religion has a solution to it.
We recently heard about the coronavirus which is spreading to a number of countries, affecting the lives of many people, causing death to others.
There are a number of thoughts that should cross the mind of a Muslim when they hear something like this. Below are some points that a person must remember and internalise when they see or hear of such incidents:
Trials and tribulations
Trials and tribulations are part of life, this is something that Allāh informs us of and warns us so that when we are afflicted, we remember that it is ultimately Allāh who controls of our affairs. It is He who will provide help and His knowledge of our affairs surpasses our restricted intellect. As He says in the Qur’ān:
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُمْ مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ مَسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّى يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَى نَصْرُ اللَّهِ أَلا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
“Do you think you that you will enter Paradise without such [trials] as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, ‘When [will] the Help of Allāh [come]?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allāh is near!”
Allāh sends us tests to see how we will react and handle them. How are we going to respond? When you hear the news that your umrah trip is cancelled because of this virus, how will you respond? When you hear your flights have been cancelled, your loved ones have fallen ill, how will you respond?
Allāh says in the Qur’ān:
وَلَنَبۡلُوَنَّكُم بِشَىۡءٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡخَوۡفِ وَٱلۡجُوعِ وَنَقۡصٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡأَمۡوَلِ وَٱلۡأَنفُسِ وَٱلثَّمَرتِۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ”
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient”
So how do we respond to a calamity? Allāh tells us immediately after the previous āyah:
ٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَصَـٰبَتۡهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ۬ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّآ إِلَيۡهِ رَجِعُونَ
“Who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allāh, and indeed to Him we will return.’”
A Muslim is patient in trials; he knows Allāh will never forsake him, nor will Allāh burden him with a trial that is more than what he can handle.
This is not something new
Illnesses and viruses such as the coronavirus are not something new, nor is the fact that people are afflicted with illnesses.
The companions once asked the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):
يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ , أَيُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاءً ؟ قَالَ : الأَنْبِيَاءُ , ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ
“Oh Messenger of Allāh, who from amongst the people were tested the most? The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) responded and said, the Prophets, then the next best and then the next best.”
We see the great Prophet of Allāh, Ayyūb (ʿalayhi al-Salām),اwas tested with a great illness. His story is synonymous with patience. He lost everything; his family, wealth, and health. Some narrations say he was bedridden for 18 years, tested with a great illness, yet we find he did not give up hope in Allāh and turned to him in this great trial. Some scholars have said that his illness was so severe that his flesh dropped from his body and nothing remained on him except his bones and muscles
Allāh tells us his story in the Qur’ān:
وَأَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
“And Ayyūb, when he called to his Lord, saying ‘Harm has inflicted me and You are the Most Merciful”
فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِ مِن ضُرٍّ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُم مَّعَهُمْ رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا وَذِكْرَىٰ لِلْعَابِدِينَ
“So We answered him and removed his affliction and We gave him his family and the like of them with them, as a mercy from Us and a reminder to Worshippers.”
The story of Prophet Ayyūb (ʿalayhi al-Salām) is one filled with lessons for us to ponder over. The virtue of patience is shown to us in the Prophet Ayyūb (ʿalayhi al-Salām) through some of the most dire situations that one can come across in life.
The concept of pre-destination is extremely important for a Muslim to understand. When incidents such as the coronavirus occur, a Muslim should know that this is what Allāh had decreed 50,000 years before the creation of the universe. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) explained:
“Allāh had written the ordained measures (and due proportions) of the creation, fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth…” 
All good and bad is from Allāh, as is mentioned in the Hadeeth of Jabir: ‘No slave of Allāh will truly believe until he believes in al-Qadr; its good and bad from Allāh, and until he knows that what has befallen him was not going to miss him and that what missed him was not going to befallen him.’ 
Allāh will never harm us nor does he want evil to befall us. We may think something is bad for us due to our restricted view of life, but there is always good in a situation. Allāh tells us that perhaps you hate a thing but it is in fact good for you, and perhaps you love a thing when in reality and it is bad for you, yet Allāh knows while you know not!
A believer has two positions when it comes to pre-destination: one is before the situation occurs, and one is after. Before the situation he seeks help from Allāh, makes dua to him, and relies upon him; he asks Allāh for good to come from it.
After the situation, if the result was positive and good the person thanks Allāh. If the event had a negative outcome the person is patient because he knows that Allāh will never forsake him even if it seems the result is negative, because indeed Allāh is the best of planners.
Taking necessary precautions
A Muslim should not overreact; at the same time he should not be oblivious about a situation and do nothing!
Taking the necessary means and then relying upon Allāh is something which is emphasised in Islam.
“One day Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, ‘Why don’t you tie down your camel?’ The Bedouin answered, ‘I put my trust in Allāh’ The Prophet then said, ‘Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allāh’ 
We also find in the incident of Umar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) taking necessary precautions is a must when you know of a harm or potential danger that could afflict you.
Umar ibn al-Khattab was traveling with a group of companions during his reign. They approached a town in which it was said had a contagious/infectious disease. Umar asked his group whether they should proceed or return (to Madinah). The majority of the companions said they should go back but some said they should proceed. Then one companion said he knew a hadith where the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “If you hear that this disease exists in a country, do not travel to that country.” So Umar decided that they should go back. Another companion asked him whether he was running away from qadar. Umar replied that they were moving away from one qadar to another qadar.
Whenever there is a problem, a challenge, or any hardship which we can remove, overcome, solve, or minimise, we must do so.
Many of the health guidelines given by the NHS are in fact normal practices for Muslims, some of which are as follows:
1. Washing hands: this is a part of ablution, a Muslim’s daily ritual of purity.
2. General cleanliness
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
الطَّهُورُ شَطْرُ الْإِيمَانِ
“Cleanliness is part of faith”
Keeping our surroundings tidy, cleaning up after ourselves, and wiping surfaces down are all aspects of cleanliness which must be adhered to in these situations.
3. Covering your mouth when sneezing
The Prophet would cover his mouth when he sneezed. This basic etiquette can take big part in the stopping of the spread of viruses
“Whenever the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) sneezed, he would cover his mouth with his hand or a piece of cloth.”
4. Quarantine in times of viruses which can spread.
The Prophet gave instructions on what to do if there is an outbreak. Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Awf (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) that he said:
“I heard the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) say: “If you hear that it (the plague) is in a land, do not go there, and if it breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave, fleeing from it.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) also taught us how to protect ourselves by maintaining our adhkar from the Sunnah. One such dua that he taught us was:
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي لَا يَضُرُّ مَعَ اسْمِهِ شَيْءٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
“In the name of Allāh with Whose name nothing can harm on earth or in heaven, and He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing”
Being positive and having an optimistic outlook
Always have a positive outlook regardless of the situation you’re in, this is what our Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) taught us, when he told us
Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him, he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him.”
He also said:
لَا طِيَرَةَ وَخَيْرُهَا الْفَأْلُ
“There are no omens, but the best of it is optimism”
When we look through the seerah we find many examples of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) being optimistic event though he was in a dire situation.
The Muslims in the battle of Ahzāb were surrounded by the enemy from every direction, they were in a state of loss, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) commanded them to build a trench around the city of Madinah to protect themselves, as they were digging the trench they came across a huge rock and struggled to break it.
The Prophet took the sledgehammer from Salman al-Farisi. He struck the rock saying, “Bismillah”. One third of the rock broke. He said, “Allahu Akbar! I was given the keys of Damascus”. He struck it again and more broke and he said “I was given the keys of Persia” and he did so the third time until he had broken it and said “I was given the keys of Yemen!”
At a time when morale was low, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) remained optimistic. The companions were astounded thinking that they under siege with no way out, yet the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was talking about conquering Damascus, Persia, and Yemen! How true was the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) when eventually these lands were conquered, optimism in the face of adversity, and optimism in the face of pessimism.
We should also not blame others or ridicule them because they are from a certain country or they have come from a part of the world that has been affected by the virus. Unfortunately, we have seen physical attacks on people, racist remarks made, and people making a joke and mocking the situation people are in.
The coronavirus is a reminder to us all of our weak state. Regardless of our social standing and our financial position, we are helpless. Allāh says:
وَخُلِقَ الْإِنْسَانُ ضَعِيفًا
“Mankind was created weak”
Situations like this remind us to turn back to Allāh. Allāh controls everything and he is the one that can relieve us from our difficulties, we must return to Allāh and seek refuge in him and ask his protection.