by Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid

After reading Professor Abdulbassit Kassim’s articles on science versus religious approaches to understanding and tackling pandemics; I was inspired to read one of the key Arabic works which the professor cited, called: Badhlu al-Maa`uun Fee Fadli at-Taa`uun (The Generous Assistance Regarding the Bounties of Plagues) by the famous traditionists Imam Ahmad ibn Hajr al-Asqalani.

From the onset, the title of the book, gives the reader immediate insight into the proper attitude that a believer is supposed to have regarding plagues, epidemics and pandemics.

The initial attitude which a believer is supposed to have regarding global diseases is that they are a bounty (fadl) from God, by which He unleashes His decree upon those whom He wills in creation.

The author, Ibn Hajr divides the book into five major chapters with a conclusion.

The First Chapter: On the Origin of Pandemics. Ibn Hajr divides this first chapter into four sections.

In these sections Ibn Hajr discusses how:

[1] Plagues and pandemics in the past prior to Islam were considered an abomination (rijz);
[2] Pandemics were a means that GOD destroyed those who disbelieved among the communities before Islam
[3] Plagues when it afflicted those who believed was a form of mercy and the achievement of martyrdom

The Second Chapter: On Recognition of Pandemics. The author divides this second chapter into nine sections.

In these nine sections Ibn Hajr discusses that:

[1] there is a clear distinction from a plague (طاعون) and a pandemic (وباء)
[2] the prophetic traditions narrated establishing the origin of pandemics from djinn
[3] what has been narrated regarding that one of the key means in which the djinn control humanity is via plague, pestilence and pandemics
[4] on the methodologies of protecting oneself from the schemes of the djinn
[5] some of what Imam as-Shafi` narrated regarding effective cures and preventatives measures against plagues and pandemics

The Third Chapter: On the Reality that Pandemics are One of the Causative Factors of Martyrdom for Muslims and a Mercy. The author, Ibn Hajr divides the section into ten sections making it the most extensive part of the text.

In these ten sections Ibn Hajr discusses:

[1] that martyrdom does not only come as a result of dying in battle
[2] on the diverse kinds of martyrs
[3] on the meaning of martyrdom in Islam
[4] on the superiority of some martyrs over others
[5] on the equivalence of a martyr resulting from plague and pandemic to the martyr on the battlefield
[6] on the differences regarding dying by pandemic being a mercy or martydom

The Fourth Chapter: On the Legal Judgment of Leaving or Entering Lands in which Plague and Epidemics have Struck. Ibn Hajr divides this fourth chapter into four sections.

In these four sections Ibn Hajr discusses:

[1] on it being an abomination to leave a land afflicted by plague, pestilence or epidemic and going to another
[2] On Umar ibn al-Khataab refusing to enter a land in which plague, epidemics or pestilence as struck
[3] on the disagreement among the jurists on leaving a land afflicted by plague

The Fifth Chapter: On the Actions the Shari`a Has Prescribed to Been Done When a Pandemic Occurs. The author, Ibn Hajr divides this fifth chapter into five sections,

In these five sections Ibn Hajr discusses:

[1] on the lawfulness of supplicating for the removal of pestilence, plague and pandemics
[2] on the lawfulness of giving charity and making supplication for the warding off of plagues
[3] on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of be afraid when pandemic strikes a land
[4] on the correct courtesy of those stricken with plague or pandemics
[5] on the lawfulness of asking GOD for well-being (عافية) and seeking refuge with Him from all kinds of sicknesses
[6] on being patient with the decree of GOD, being content with what He predestines and having a good opinion of Him

The Conclusion: On the Plagues and Pandemics That Historically Afflicted the Muslim World. Ibn Hajr divides this conclusion into a discussion of the recollection of the historians who wrote about the impact of pandemics in particular periods and regions of the Muslim world.

In this conclusion, Ibn Hajr discusses five different historical narrators in Islam who gave a description of the different impacts that plagues, pestilence and pandemics had upon different regions and times of the Islamic world and how they responded.

The text is an excellent work in providing the BELIEVER with the correct attitude he/she is supposed to have regarding the occurrence of pandemics in society.

This work by Ibn Hajr is an antidote to the kind of paranoia and diminution of faith which naturally occurs when pandemics, pestilence and plagues ravage a Muslim society.


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