Harmonising between the hadīth, “There is no contagious disease” and, “Flee from the leper as you would from the lion.” ―Imām Al-Albāni and Imām Ibn Bāz

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A question to Shaikh Al-Albāni: How do we harmonise between the following two hadeeth of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam): “There is no contagious disease and no evil omens” and the hadeeth wherein he stated, “Flee from the leper as you would from the lion.”

The great scholar, Shaikh Al-Albāni (rahimahullāh) replied: “If we have a good understanding of the first hadeeth, then the difficulties surrounding the second hadeeth are removed and therefore there is no need to harmonise between them. If we understand the intent of the saying of the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) is that there is no spread of contagious disease by itself, then we understand that the contagious disease occurs by the permission of its Lord (i.e. Allah). So the hadeeth clarifies the belief of the people of pre-Islamic ignorance before Prophethood which resembles completely the belief of the non-Muslim doctors of today as well as some of the Muslims ―and that is that they imagine that the disease spreads by itself. So the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) wanted to falsify this belief connected to contagious diseases ―and to change the view of those Arabs whom Allah had guided at the hands of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) towards the fact that these contagious diseases are true, however, they only occur by the will of Allah ― and it is for Allah to disconnect the result that arises from the cause, meaning that He (the Most High) nullifies the cause so the result (i.e. the disease) does not become manifest and does not actualise…”

Shaikh Al-Albāni (rahimahullāh) also said: “The people of pre-Islamic ignorance used to believe that the disease spreads by itself purely on the basis of mixing the afflicted mangy camel with a healthy camel ―they believed that the healthy will certainly be afflicted. So the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) negated this belief of pre-Islamic ignorance. And we can say that this belief has returned in these times, a jahiliyyah of the twentieth century. That is because the doctors, and I do not say the non-Muslim doctors only, rather even some Muslim doctors who do not have the correct Islamic understanding of these matters ―it is settled in their minds that the nature of diseases is that they spread (or infect) by themselves by their nature. And that is not true.

There is here a huge difference between contagious diseases and between other causes that Allah has made as means that are constant (unchanging) except in rare situations that oppose the norm such as is the case with miracles or miraculous signs. For example, a man is hungry, so he eats and he is satiated. It is not possible for us to say that he is not satiated because that is the sunnah (i.e. way) of Allah in his creation. A person is thirsty, he drinks water and he is quenched and that is an end to the matter. But that is not the case with respect to the healthy person who mixes with a person who has an illness that is contagious ―it is not the case that the disease will necessarily spread from the sick person to the healthy person ―it may or it may not…

(See Kitāb Al-Mawsū’ah Al-Albāni fil-‘Aqeedah 1/139-142, taken from Al-Hudā wan-Nūr, 696:35)

Shaikh Ibn Bāz (rahimhullāh): “As for the saying of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam): “Flee from the leper as you would from the lion.” (Bukhari, no. 5707) ―and in another hadeeth where he (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) stated: “The sick one should not be brought to the healthy one.” (Bukhāri 5771), then the answer to this is that it is not permissible to believe in contagious diseases, however, it is legislated in Islam to take protective measures from falling into harm. And that is achieved by keeping one’s distance from the one who is afflicted with disease out of fear that it may pass from him to a healthy person with Allah’s permission, the Mighty and Majestic, such as with scabies and leprosy. Likewise, this applies to a healthy camel brought close to a diseased or mangy camel and so on as a protection from the causes of harm ―and as a precaution from the whisperings of Shaytān who may put the idea in his mind that he was afflicted or his camel was afflicted because of the disease, transmitting itself (al-‘adwā).

(See Majmū’ Fatāwa Ibn Bāz, 6/27)

And Shaikh Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) stated regarding the hadeeth, “One should flee from the leper as one flees from a lion.” (Bukhari, no. 5707): “That is because mixing with the afflicted may be a means of transmitting the disease from one person to another―and it has been established from the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) that the transmission of leprosy from a sick person to a healthy person only occurs by the Will of Allah and His Permission―and it is not something that will definitely happen.

‘Ubādah bin Sāmit (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) said to his son: “O my son! You will never find the taste of true Imān until you have acknowledged that whatever afflicted you was never going to miss you ―and whatever missed you was never going to come to you.” (Abu Dawūd, no. 4700, declared sahīh by Shaikh Al-Albāni cited by Shaikhul-Islām Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhāb in his Kitāb at-Tawhīd.)

So, one should not go to extremes such that you are filled with terror and fear of other people and what potential hidden threats they may pose to you ―rather trust in Allah, and take the precautions outlined in the Sunnah ―and don’t get depressed and feel helpless and imagine that an affliction may strike you at every turn ―and don’t become suspicious and afraid of normal healthy people. Alhamdulillāh, our ‘aqeedah (and belief) teaches us to trust in Allah, to fear Him, to take the means to protect ourselves and to safeguard the vulnerable. Do not forget the saying of Shaikh Ibn Bāz and Shaikh Al-Albāni (rahimahumallāh) that the transmission of disease from a sick person to a healthy person is not something that will definitely occur. And believe with certainty that “whatever afflicted you was never going to miss you ―and whatever missed you was never going to come to you.” This our belief in the Qadā and Qadr of Allah.

Also, please take time out to read this: How to gather between the Prophet’s negation of contagious diseases and his forbiddance of entering a land which has a contagious disease, and mixing with afflicted people ― Shaikh Ibn Bāz

Read this too: The Plague (Tā’ūn) and Contagious Diseases (Wabā’) ―The sayings of the Prophet, the Sahābah, Ibn Al-Qayyim and An-Nawawi ―What should a person do when it afflicts a land?

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