[Q-ID0781] Is it possible that I can catch the Coronavirus [COVID-19] by having close contact with an inflicted person? Can we avoid shaking peoples hands? What does Islam say about contagion?
What do the scholars of the Dīn and muftīs of the Sacred Law state regarding the following issue: It’s being mentioned that a person can catch an illness from another person, and precautionary messages have now been issued in England that one should stop shaking hands with affected patients or to avoid approaching & meeting with them. What does Islām say regarding this?
Questioner: Brother from UK
[IF YOU HAVE ANY EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS, OR ARE SHOWING ANY SYMPTOMS FOR THE CORONAVIRUS, OR ARE ABOVE 60 YEARS OF AGE, OR ARE IN ANY OF THE HIGH RISK CATEGORIES THEN STAY AWAY FROM THE MOSQUE OR ANY PUBLIC PLACE AND FOLLOW THE GUIDANCE GIVEN BY THE MEDICAL EXPERTS AND THE UK GOVERNMENT – please see https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/]
بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم
الجواب بعون الملک الوھاب اللھم ھدایۃ الحق والصواب
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a disease which has spread nowadays in the same way the disease of leprosy & plague would spread in the past. Nevertheless, in accordance to the Hadīths, diseases & illnesses do not transfer i.e. an ill person cannot transfer over an illness to another ill person, and this idea has been negated, in the sense that the Noble Prophet ﷺ has stated with regards to this,
“No disease/illness is transferable.”
[Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Hadīth no 5707]
However, it is possible for the germs from the Coronavirus to spread to another person via intervention and then cause that person to become infected with the Coronavirus, and this notion does not contradict Hadīth.
This is because the word mentioned in Hadīth – اَلْعَدْوَی – means an illness transferring to another person in full i.e. the entire illness or disease of a person transferring over to another; this it totally incorrect and this has been negated in Hadīth.
However, it can be that the germs of this disease reach another person via the air or by some other means – with the Divine will of the Almighty Creator – and inflict that person with this very illness. This happening does not mean the illness has transferred over; rather, it has caused a new case of this illness due to these germs & bacteria. Therefore, the Hadīth is also correct, the understanding of modern medical science & research as to germs being the cause of spreading illness is also correct, and to act upon the precautionary measures which medical doctors have advised is also correct as well.
Just as ‘Allāmah Ibn Hajr writes in the commentary & explanation to this Hadīth in Fat’h al-Bārī that,
“بن قُتَيْبَةَ فَقَالَ الْمَجْذُومُ تَشْتَدُّ رَائِحَتُهُ حَتَّى يُسْقِمَ مَنْ أَطَالَ مُجَالَسَتَهُ وَمُحَادَثَتَهُ وَمُضَاجَعَتَهُ۔۔۔وَلِهَذَا يَأْمُرُ الْأَطِبَّاءَ بِتَرْكِ مُخَالَطَةِ الْمَجْذُومِ لَا عَلَى طَرِيقِ الْعَدْوَى بَلْ عَلَى طَرِيقِ التَّأَثُّرِ بِالرَّائِحَةِ لِأَنَّهَا تُسْقِمُ مَنْ وَاظَبَ اشْتِمَامَهَا”
“Ibn Qutaybah states that the aura of someone who has leprosy catches intensity, up to the extent that those who sit, talk and lie down with them for a while can become ill. This is the reason as to why the doctors prohibit meeting a person who has leprosy. This is why they do not prohibit, saying that illnesses & diseases transfer; rather, because another person can be inflicted with the effect of the illness via their aura or the air. This is why the air around him can make others ill which they would be constantly inhaling.”
[Fat’h al-Bārī, vol 10, pg 158]
The microscopes which allow one to see germs had not been invented at that time; this is why it has been said that the air around someone who has leprosy chooses to intensify and causes one to become ill. In today’s day & age, according to modern medical science, germs join alongside the air and cause the air surrounding a person inflicted with leprosy to become foul & strong. And it is possible that these germs reach those who are sat close by and affect them with the illness as well; therefore, the full illness itself does not transfer in its entirety. Rather, the germs of such disease transfer over [due to these being contagious], and the germs become a reason of this illness becoming a new case of the disease.
Muftī Ahmad Yār Khān Na’īmī states in Mir’āt al-Manājīh that the meaning of illnesses & diseases transferring is incorrect. However, it is entirely possible that the [particles of] air around an ill person be foul & strong, and a person be affected by the foulness of the cause [i.e. the germs] of this illness from the body of someone who already has it and become ill. It can be transferable in this meaning & context, on the basis that it has been mentioned & stated to run away from someone affected by leprosy. Therefore, this Hadīth is not in contradiction to those Hadīths. In short, [fully] transferring is one thing, and becoming ill by sitting next to another ill person is another thing.
[Mir’āt al-Manājīh, vol 6, pg 256]
One should definitely act upon the advisory precautionary measures issued by the NHS; therefore, there is no problem in not coming into contact with anyone with the Coronavirus or not shaking their hands, because staying away from someone with leprosy has also been mentioned in Hadīths as well. Just as it is actually stated in Sahīh al-Bukhārī,
“وَفِرَّ مِنَ المَجْذُومِ كَمَا تَفِرُّ مِنَ الأَسَدِ”
“Run away from a person with leprosy like you [would] run away from a lion.”
[Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Hadīth no 5707]
It has been mentioned in numerous Sahīh Hadīths [i.e. authentic Prophetic narrations] similar to this that people like us with weak belief are to stay away from such ill people inflicted with illness/disease.
واللہ تعالی اعلم ورسولہ اعلم صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم
کتبہ ابو الحسن محمد قاسم ضیاء قادری
Answered by Mufti Qasim Zia al-Qadri
Translated by Haider Ali
Read the original Urdu answer here: [Q-ID0781] Is it possible that I can catch the Coronavirus by having close contact with an inflicted person? Can we avoid shaking peoples hands? What does Islam say about contagion?