Islam's Prophet Muhammad's 'timeless' pandemic advice goes viral in 2020

Islam's Prophet Muhammad's 'timeless' pandemic advice goes viral in 2020
Advice given more than 1,400 years by Islam's Prophet Muhammad has gone viral in 2020, as the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.
6 min read
20 April, 2020
Prophet Muhammad's advice has been shared across the world [Twitter]
A billboard has been erected in Chicago to advise locals on how to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, using age-old advice from Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The advertisement, organised by Gain Peace in the United States, outlines how the Prophet of Islam historically dealt with pandemics during his time, all of which are guidelines set by world health organisations to deal with the current Covid-19 outbreak.

"Wash your hands frequently, don't leave infected areas and don’t visit infected areas," the billboard says, advise linked to Islam's final messenger.

The guidelines are based on historic hadith, or narration, of the Prophet which has been widely shared across social media platforms since the current coronavirus outbreak began to spread across the world last year.

"When you hear that a plague is in a land, do not enter it and if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place," Prophet Muhammad said, according to the narration.

"Do not place a sick patient with a healthy person," the Prophet adds in another narration.

The centuries-old advice has resonated with millions of people across the globe as Covid-19 infects more than 2,419,194 and killed 165,775 worldwide.

Governments across the world - from the US to Iran - have come under fire for not responding in time to stem the spread of the outbreak.

Their instructions now to stop the spread of coronavirus appears to mirror the advise of the Prophet, which appears relevant for the modern-day.

"Prophet Muhammad established a religion built upon revelation and intellect. The Quran is the revelation which gives us our way of life, and with every new age and civilisation the intellect is our guiding light and what he referred to as our 'inner prophet'," Lecturer Hussain Makke told The New Arab.

"With this pandemic, not only does the intellect emphasise taking all precautionary measures, as to avoid the virus, but revelation itself forbids the harming of others or self-harm. 

"Prophet Muhammad's advice on general cleanliness, prioritising community support in daily life and even specifically quarantining during a pandemic leaves us yearning for a leader like him in these times," he added.

As more than 1.7 billion Muslims gear up for the upcoming holy Muslim fasting month this Ramadan, governments across the Islamic world have taken unprecedented precautionary measures to stop a catastrophic spread of the virus.

Saudi Arabia has already banned pilgrims from entering the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, especially in Ramadan where millions traditionally flock to perform the Umrah pilgrimage.

The kingdom's grand mufti has also suspended all forms of congregation in public places of worship and instructed Muslims to pray at home during the holy month of Ramadan.

Read also: 'Forbidden': UAE declares congregational Ramadan prayers 'haram' amid coronavirus pandemic

Similar bans have been implemented in the United Arab Emirates which on Monday forbade gathering for the sake of worship.

"Congregating to perform the prayer could endanger lives, an act that is strictly forbidden in Islam," said a statement by an Emirati religious authority.

Meanwhile, top religious authorities across the Muslim world have also issued advice for Muslims observing fasts during the holy month.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Saturday issued a highly topical fatwa in which he addressed the all-important question of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan amid the coronavirus pandemic, local media reported.

"No one is permitted to abandon the fast during the blessed month unless they are certain, beyond reasonable doubt, that fasting will lead to illness, worsen pre-existing illness, prolong the period of illness or delay access to treatment," the religious edict said, according to state media.

The move was prompted by an enquiry on the issue of abstaining from food and drink during the Covid-19 crisis, which has gripped Iran. Officially, the death toll in Iran from Covid-19 is around 5,000, but there are fears that the true number could be far greater.

"Fasting is a divine obligation. It is Allah's blessing upon his worshippers which lies at the foundation of a human's spiritual nobility and perfection," the fatwa said.

Anyone suffering from coronavirus symptoms, or any illness which could be worsened by fasting, can make up the days lost once they have recovered, the fatwa added.

In the UAE, the Emirates Fatwa Council also added that medical workers treating Covid-19 patients are exempt from fasting during Ramadan "if they fear that fasting could lead to weakening their immunity or to losing their patients".

Similar action was taken in Egypt which earlier this month announced a ban any public religious gatherings, including mass iftars, or breaking of fasts, during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan 

The ministry of Islamic endowments said in a statement the ban would also apply to itikaf – a practice where Muslims spend the last 10 days of the fasting month in a mosque to pray and meditate.

Egypt's official Islamic institution Dar Al-Ifta also launched a campaign hashtag titled #Charity_First, which invites Egyptians to redirect funds meant for their Umrah pilgrimage during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan towards efforts to fight the spread of Covid-19.

Egyptian charities similarly launched an advertising campaign to encourage Ramadan donations this year to go directly to state hospitals treating patients suffering from Covid-19.

Traditionally, millions of Muslims worldwide use the spirit of the holy month to donate to charity.

In the UK, reports said the BBC will begin airing Muslim prayers from Friday morning on its local radio services, according to a journalist from the BBC Radio 4 station.

Quoting Chris Burns, head of BBC Local Radio, journalist Harry Farley added: "Many Muslims will feel a void in their lives where prayers used to be - a feeling the will be magnified as we approach Ramadan."

The move comes as mosques around the UK remain closed to the public following a government order for places of worship to close on 23 March.

The announcement was welcomed by some on Twitter, including from adherents of other faiths.

"Safeguarding all of our communities is paramount, and it’s reassuring so many mosques and prayer facilities have heeded this advice in trying their best to minimise the spread of the coronavirus," Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said last month.

"Crowds at mosques draw the elderly, vulnerable and those who are high risk. With the increasing rate of transmission and the number of deaths, for the safety of our families, our communities and society, we cannot afford to take any risks.

"We all have an Islamic and public duty to protect one another from harm, and I hope the remaining mosques, Islamic centres and prayer facilities across the UK take this extraordinary step in these unprecedented times and suspend all congregational activities."

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