Contagious Diseases in Islam

Q: Can you advise me as to whether diseases can be contagious according to Islamic belief. Please provide a detailed explanation of the Ahaadith narrated in this regard especially:

لا عدوى ولا طيرة

فر من المجذوم كما تفر من الاسد

A: With regard to sicknesses and diseases being contagious, there are two views among the Ulama:

The first view is that no sickness is contagious. All sicknesses come from Allah Ta'aala directly. Just as the first person was afflicted with the disease from the side of Allah, so too was the second person afflicted with the same disease directly from Allah Ta’aala. These Ulama substantiate this from the generality of the Hadith لا عدوى ولا طيرة (there are no contagious sicknesses nor any bad omens (in Islam)). As for the Hadith that states فر من المجذوم كما تفر من الاسد (flee from a leper as you will flee from a lion), this was explained in order to safeguard the belief of people from becoming corrupt. As it is known that if a person associates with a sick person and is afflicted with the same sickness, he will attribute the sickness to his association with the sick person and not to Allah Ta'aala. Hence, Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam commanded us not to associate with a sick person so that our belief is not corrupted.

The second view is that associating with a sick person can be a cause for one being afflicted with the same sickness. Just as Allah Ta’aala has created other causes which bring about their effects similarly, associating with a sick person could be the cause for one getting sick. However, it should be borne in mind that all causes being effective or ineffective are subject to the will of Allah Ta’aala. At times a person associates with a sick person (e.g. one who has chickenpox, measles, flu etc.) and is afflicted with the same sickness. At times a person associates and does not become sick. Hence Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) had taught us to take precaution by saying فر من المجذوم كما تفر من الاسد (flee from a leper as you will flee from a lion). As for the Hadith لا عدوى ولا طيرة (there are no contagious sicknesses nor any bad omens (in Islam)), this Hadith was explained in order to refute a baseless belief prevalent amongst the Arabs. The Arabs in the pre-Islamic era believed that sicknesses and bad omens were some type of creation (like a monster) which possessed the ability in their very nature to move from person to person. Hence, they dreaded associating with a sick person as the sickness within him would move onto them. Hence, Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) refuted this baseless superstitious belief by saying لا عدوى ولا طيرة (there are no contagious sicknesses nor any bad omens (in Islam)).

Hadhrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi (Rahmatullah Alaihi) explained that both views are substantiated from the Hadith. Hence, whichever view one wishes to subscribe to one may do so.

شرح نخبة الفكر (ص69)

إمداد الفتاوى (4/289)

Answered by:

Mufti Zakaria Makada

Checked & Approved:

Mufti Ebrahim Salejee (Isipingo Beach)

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