Preventing contagious diseases and enforcing quarantine

Muslim narrated that Jabir bin Abdullah said:

There came a delegation including a man with leprosy. The Prophet sent to him, ‘Go back, for we have accepted your pledge of allegiance.” [Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Ibn Khuzaymah and Ibn Jarir}.

Al-Bokhary narrated that the Prophet said:

“Do not keep looking at the person afflicted by leprosy.”

Further, in the Sahihain it is narrated that the Prophets said:

“A healthy man should not be brought near a sick person.”

Leprosy is an especially harmful disease that occurs due to the accumulation of black bile in the entire body, altering the condition or temperament and shape of the organs. In the final stages, leprosy might cause such bad corrosion that the affected limbs would start to fall off and disintegrate. Leprosy is called the disease of the lion, for three reasons. First, this disease usually attacks lions (or wild beasts). Second, this disease causes the face to frown, like the lion’s face. The third, leprosy is contagious and will devour its victim just as the lion devours its prey.

Leprosy is a contagious disease, and those who come near a person afflicted with leprosy will be bothered by the foul odor, just like those suffering from tuberculosis.

The Prophet, who was full of mercy and pity for his nation, commanded them not to expose themselves to what might bring harm to their bodies and hearts. There is no doubt that certain bodies are disease-prone and are easily affected by the surrounding environment, and as we have stated, leprosy is a contagious disease. Sometimes, someone’s fear of the disease might actually help the disease attack the body, because fear prepares the organs of the body for the possibility of catching the disease.

Sometimes, when one even smells the foul odor emitted by persons inflicted with certain diseases, they, in turn, catch the same disease, if their body is susceptible to catching the disease.

There are two types of contagion, one of them is leprosy-like contagion. For instance, when the odor of the person afflicted with leprosy is felt by those who talk and sit near the leper for a long time, they might fall victim to the same disease.

Such is the case with the wife of the person with leprosy who remains under the same roof with him and thus catches the disease. In addition, the children of the person afflicted with leprosy might catch the disease later on in their life (hereditary). Such is the case with those suffering from tuberculosis, hectic fever, and manage. The doctor ordered that those suffering from tuberculosis and leprosy should be avoided, not because they fear that such cases are contagious, but because the bad odor that emits by such people might affect healthy persons when exposed to it for a long time. The doctors are the farthest people from believing in evil or good omens. The same argument is true in the case of the Nugbah, which is a wet type of leprosy or manage that attacks camels. When the infected came mixes or mingles with other healthy camels, the infection will be transferred through the water [open sores] or the mucus that the camel produces. This is the meaning that the Prophet intended when he said:

‘No sick person should be brought near a healthy person.’

He disliked that sick people are associated with healthy people so that the healthy are not exposed to any substances or rashes that the body of the sick person produces. The second type of contagion, is the plague, for instance, that appears on land and the person thus seeks to flee that land for fear of catching the disease. The Prophet said,

‘If it (the Plague) appears in a land where you are residing, do not depart that land. If it appears in a land, do not enter it,’

The Prophet ordered the people not to depart the land afflicted by the plague, as they might be thinking that by fleeing they would be avoiding Allah’s appointed destiny. The prophet ordered the people not to enter a land afflicted by the plague, for remaining in the healthy land brings calmness to their hearts and tranquility in their livelihood. In addition, this type includes the husband who suffers an affliction and attributes it to the bad omen of his wife or the house as is common.

Some other people said the Prophet only recommended that leprosy patients be avoided and that it is still allowed to eat with them, as the Prophet himself did. Some other people said that these Ahadeeth contain specific commands for different types of people.

For instance, some people have such a strong faith and reliance on Allah that the strength of their faith would save them from contagious diseases, just as the natural powers that exist in the body sometimes fend off the harm of the disease. Some people, on the other hand, do not have strong faith, so the Prophet * commanded them to be cautious, The Prophet implemented his own commands in both cases, so that the strong imitate his acts, depending on their trust in Allah. On the other hand, the weak would imitate the Prophet (when he avoided leprous patients, for instance) to be cautious. Both ways are correct, but one is suitable for those who have strong faith while the other is suitable for those who have weak faith. Consequently, both groups of believers will have their own method that is suitable for their own situation. As another example, the Prophet has used fire for medicinal purposes, cauterization. Yet, he praised whoever refrains from using cauterization avoiding it with the good deeds of shunning the bad omen and having total dependence on Allah. There are many other examples on this subject. The Prophet’s method is always very gentle, and those who comprehend it in the correct manner will get rid of any suspicions that the authentic Sunnah contradicts itself. Some other people stated that ordering people to run away from the one with leprosy prevents the transfer of the disease by mingling with the sick or by smelling their odor when such mingling and associations are extensive. As for short visitations with such people for a good purpose, there is no harm in it, and catching the disease will not be plausible during these brief contacts. The Prophet prohibited long exposures to sick people to preserve health and allowed brief contact that would not cause harm. Therefore, where is the contradiction here? Another group of people said it is plausible that the person who suffered from leprosy with whom the Prophet sat and ate was suffering from mild leprosy. There are several types of leprosy that vary in their seriousness and the degree of their contagion. In such cases, it is possible to mingle with some people suffering from mild leprosy that has not progressed and avoid catching the disease. When the illness is unable to progress in the sick person’s body, it will be even less able to attack another person’s body.

Another group of people said that the people before Islam believed that diseases themselves are contagious, without referring this matter to the power and the will of Allah at the beginning and the end. The Prophet refuted their belief and ate with a person with leprosy to prove that Allah is the One Who causes the disease to come and Who brings about the cure. The Prophet prohibited the Muslims from mingling with the sick to teach them that sickness and diseases are made by Allah to have a certain effect on people. The prohibition affirms these effects while his action teaches us that such effects are totally controlled by Allah and that if He wills, these effects will not have any power. In addition, if He wills, these effects will cause the harm that He has decided and willed.


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