Contagious Diseases – Tibb-e-Nabawi

Contagious Diseases

رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا

Prophet’s Guidance on preventing Contagious Diseases and enforcing Quarantine

ثبت فى “صحيح مسلم” من حديث جابر بن عبد الله، أنه كان فى وَفْد ثَقِيف رجلٌ مجذومٌ، فأرسل إليه النبىُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم: “ارْجِعْ فَقَدْ بايَعْنَاكَ”.

Muslim narrated that Jabir bin Abdullah Radi Allaho Anh said: Thaqif’s delegation included a man with leprosy. Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam said to him, “Go back, for we have accepted your pledge of allegiance”.

وروى البخارى فى “صحيحه” تعليقاً مِن حديث أبى هريرة، عن النبىِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: “فِرَّ مِنَ الْمَجْذُومِ كَمَا تَفِرُّ مِنَ الأسَدِ

Bukhari narrated that Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam said: “Run away from a leprosy person, like you run away from a lion”.

وفى “سنن ابن ماجه” من حديث ابن عباس، أنَّ النبىَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: “لا تُدِيمُوا النَّظَرَ إلى الْمَجْذُومِين”.

Ibn Majah reported that Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam said: “Do not keep looking at the person afflicted by leprosy”.

وفى “الصحيحين” من حديث أبى هُريرة، قال: قال رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “لا يُورِدَنَّ مُمْرِضٌ عَلَى مُصِح

Further, in the Sahihain, it is narrated that Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam said “A healthy man should not be brought near a sick person”.

Leprosy is a harmful disease that occurs due to 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 diseases of the lion, for three reasons. First, this disease usually attacks lions (or wild beasts). Second, because 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 the person afflicted with leprosy will be bothered by the foul odor, just like those suffering from tuberculosis.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam, who was lull 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. For some people, their fear of the disease might actually help the disease attack their 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 by certain diseases, they in turn catch the same disease, if their body is susceptible to catch 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 to 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 mange. The doctors order that those suffering from tuberculosis and leprosy should be avoided, not because they fear that such diseases are contagious, but because the bad odor that emits from such people might affect the healthy persons when exposed to it for a long time. The doctors are the farthest people from believing to evil or good amour. The same argument is true in the case with the Nuqbah, which is a wet type of leprosy or mange that attacks camels. When the infected camel 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 Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam intended when he said:

“No sick person should be brought near a healthy person”.


Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam disliked that the sick people 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 in a land and the person thus seeks to flee that land for fear of catching the disease. Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam 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”.

Our beloved Prophet ordered the people not to depart the land afflicted by plague, as they might be thinking that by fleeing, they would be avoiding Allah’s Appointed destiny. In addition, Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam ordered the people not to enter a land afflicted by plague, for remaining in the healthy land brings calmness to their hearts and tranquility in their livelihood. Furthermore, 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. This is the type that Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam meant when he said, ‘There is neither contagion”.

Some other people said our beloved Prophet’s statement only recommends that leprosy patients should be avoided and that it is still allowed to eat with them, as Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam 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 a strong faith, so Prophet Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam commanded them to be cautious; our beloved 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 Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam (when he avoided leprous patients, for instance) to be careful. 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, Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam has used fire for medicinal purposes, i.e. cauterization. Yet, he praised whoever refrains from using cauterization and mentioned 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. Our beloved Prophet’s method is always very gentle, and those who comprehend it in the correct manner will get rid of many suspicions that the authentic Sunnah contradicts itself.

Some other people stated that ordering the 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 visits to such people for a good purpose, there is no harm in it and catching the disease will not be plausible during these brief contacts. Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam prohibited long exposures to sick people, to preserve health and allowed brief contacts 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 Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam sat and ate was suffering from mild leprosy. There are several types of leprosy that vary in 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 Will of Allah in the beginning and the end. Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam 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. Prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam prohibited 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.