When should we isolate and when should we socialize according to Islamic teachings?

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SHAFAQNA | by Sheikh Moadel Ebrahimi*: In this article I will focus on the different approaches taken towards the Corona virus and how it relates to the Islamic principles and the holy Quran.

One of the respected sisters asked me a question regarding the topic of quarantine and social distancing, and the idea of avoiding large gatherings. Her question was, “Is there any verses in the holy Quran or any Hadith (holy tradition/narration) narrated about this topic which motivates the person to avoid engaging in social gatherings and social distancing?” The answer is of course there are verses that speak about this topic.

We actually have many verses and traditions in regards to this topic. However, what is principal to this theme is to be an individual that is active in the society, and to leave the lifestyle of the monks. This is what we seek to discuss in this article which is to know when it is that we should isolate and when it is that we should socialize according to the divine teachings of Allah (SWT).

The idea being that the purpose of creation is to worship Allah (SWT). The scholars mention that the reason why it is that Allah (SWT) made the purpose for the human being to worship God was to know ourselves and only through God’s worship we would understand the purpose of our life and then come to appreciate our creator and begin to worship God with more energy and understanding. For this reason Allah (SWT) in the holy Quran speaks about those who hide themselves from society and object to the command of Allah (SWT) and practice the idea of isolation at the wrong time.

Allah (SWT) says:

وَرَهْبَانِيَّةً ابْتَدَعُوهَا مَا كَتَبْنَاهَا عَلَيْهِمْ

“And monasticism, which they innovated; We did not prescribe it for them” [57:27]

The original principal of Islam when it comes towards our responsibility towards society which is to become an individual that is active in society. There are many lectures about the negative effects of distancing oneself from society, this is not what I want to focus on right now, because such cases apply only in certain conditions or situations that require one to seclude himself socially. There is also proof in regards to the holy verses in the holy book of Quran in this regard.

Since the world has been afflicted with this Corona virus, most of the religious scholars became students that began to learn from the medical doctors what information would be beneficial in this field that could also benefit the experts in faith to better guide the people from both a scientific and spiritual aspect. One of the pieces of information that I have learned in these days from the scientific experts, that the virus differs from bacteria in a specific and distinct manner, and that is the virus grows and increases in proportion when it occurs in a living cell, however when it is independent and outside that kind of state it is non-living.

It has the ability of growth, and increasing in proportions, however it does not increase by itself, it is in comparison to a seed completely. If it does not find fertile ground, and the reasonable environment then it is not possible to grow and increase and give any results. Likewise, the virus is in need of a live cell that will enable it to grow, and increase in proportion. However , the bacteria by itself is able to live or die. This is what I have learned from the scientists and experts in this field.

According to that information we can say to distance oneself from society is a beneficial suggestion and foundational in regards to the safety and protection of society. Moreover a sick person, is the one who would be responsible for developing the virus, also he is the one who is responsible for dispersing this virus onto society. Therefore, it is these viruses that exit from their mouths and for this reason secluding and social distancing oneself is a very important action, and an effective action as well, and we find that there is a general consensus a universal one about the act of isolation.

However what we see today from spraying of the anti-bacterial chemicals, the result of these chemicals actually do not kill the viruses, however is might kill the bacteria that may be beneficial to the body, these chemicals do not kill the viruses because the viruses are not alive or moving or active when they are outside the body, however when it enters the body the way to fight this virus is from inside the body because there is no medicine to cure this virus so the best way that is beneficial is isolation, and the act of quarantine as it is mentioned.

There is a Hadith from Imam Ali (A.S) in Nahjul-Balagha, he said:

“الدواء للجسد كالصابون للثوب ، ينقيه ولكن يخلقه.”

Some of the chemical sprays that are used in the streets may be harmful and not at all useful. Therefore one of the best strategies is to exclude yourself away from the people.

There is also another tradition from Imam Al-Ridha (A.S):

.“اثنان عليلاني ابدا صحيح محتم وعليل مخلط”

With some of the dangers in life we find that it is vital to seek refuge in the home. In the holy Quran:

ادْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَكُمْ

“Enter your dwellings” [27:18]

While there are dangers that exist, you must only exit your home for necessary things.

In the chapter of the cave: when they felt like they were in danger:

قَالَ قَائِلٌ مِّنْهُمْ كَمْ لَبِثْتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا لَبِثْنَا يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ ۚ قَالُوا رَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا لَبِثْتُمْ فَابْعَثُوا أَحَدَكُم بِوَرِقِكُمْ هَـٰذِهِ إِلَى الْمَدِينَةِ فَلْيَنظُرْ أَيُّهَا أَزْكَىٰ طَعَامًا فَلْيَأْتِكُم بِرِزْقٍ مِّنْهُ

“Said a speaker from among them, “How long have you remained [here]?” They said, “We have remained a day or part of a day.” They said, “Your Lord is most knowing of how long you remained. So send one of you with this silver coin of yours to the city and let him look to which is the best of food and bring you provision from it” [18:19]

Therefore one should only leave the house for necessary things such as medicine and food and other essentials.

In another verse of the holy Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ بُيُوتِكُمْ

“O you who have believed, do not enter houses other than your own houses” [24:27]

In another verse of the holy Quran:

وَحِجْرًا مَّحْجُورًا

“A barrier and prohibiting partition” [25:53]

Not entering into social gatherings, and sitting with others. Allah (SWT) says in the holy Quran:

فَلَا تَقْعُدُوا مَعَهُمْ

“So do not sit with them” [4:140]

In another holy verse:

فَتُصِيبَكُم مِّنْهُم مَّعَرَّةٌ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ

“And there would befall you because of them harm without [your] knowledge” [48:25]

Harm (مَّعَرَّةٌ) here means more than a tragedy, it could also mean something that is harmful that may come from a contagious disease without any intention to harm and without you knowing. It may not only harm your physical body, moreover it have harmful social affects in which you would have to cut ties with the people. This is what is meant by: (مَّعَرَّةٌ) Which is more harmful than a tragedy which may only harm the physical body. However the (مَّعَرَّةٌ) contains other social provisions.

Here to become completely secluded is the best cure and solution. For this reason we find, in the religious texts, many holy verses from the holy Quran, and traditions, that encourage isolation, and only in certain necessary situations one must do otherwise. Sometimes as a result of one being in isolation you find that they are out of work or if they work online then there is no problem in that individual being isolated from society. However, for example if one is in a situation in which he is out of a job and in isolation he will begin to think of his spending, expenses, and financial responsibilities. His loans; who he owes money to, and how that person would take care of these things.

Allah (SWT) he says in the holy Quran:

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ عَيْلَةً فَسَوْفَ يُغْنِيكُمُ اللَّـهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ

And if you fear privation, Allah (SWT) will enrich you from Divine Bounty [9:28]

Therefore Allah (SWT) is giving a divine promise to that individual that he will take care of him during hardship and while he is in isolation. However, still that does not mean that money will come down raining from the sky. That individual must find a way to work from his home and provide for the family. It also should become the responsibility of the Islamic government to pay the recommended amount to society that they may be able to live and survive as a result of no work just like in other countries this has been the case. Furthermore, other institutions may take the initiative to help the needy in this regards, mosques, community centers, etc.

Of course when we say that one should stay at home it doesn’t mean that we should waste our time. There are many programs that one can place for himself that he may benefit from in these kinds of situations in which he is forced to be at home.  They should avoid laziness, and drowsiness, and should be clean and sharp, and nice to others, also they should plan for this time and use it in a way that they can become productive to have better relations with the spouse, and the children, play games that are educational and beneficial while avoiding jeapordy that have no meaning, and avoiding talks that have no results. There are some meaningful acts such as teaching your kids how to pray, recitation of Quran, Ahkam, Islamic rulings, reading, over viewing of your past educational notes, and even watching the useful shows on TV and raising the level of education about this virus and other viruses.

How to stay clean? How to clean? Watching the Islamic video series of the stories of the Quran, the Prophets, the Ahlul-Bayt (A.S) and scholars etc. Other activities such as sewing, weaving, drawing, art work, cooking, how to make sweets, and other activates that one may take use of in situations in which there are large blocks of free time.

As for those who don’t believe in using their time wisely Allah (SWT) says:

وَلَقَدْ كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْحِجْرِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

“And certainly did the companions of Thamud deny the messengers” [15:80]

Those people of the الْحِجْرِ meaning that some may interpret that the ones that claim to be in isolation for the sake of a sickness, and their denial of such necessary precautions. Therefore they disobeyed and they went outside.

Also in another holy verse:

ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْقِلُونَ

“That is because they are a people who do not use reason” [5:58]

The holy Quran looks at work at the time of leisure, the time of vacation, the time of rest, it is a type of aggression.

Allah says in the holy Quran:

وَاسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَةَ الْبَحْرِ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ

“And ask them about the town that was by the sea – when they transgressed in [the matter of] the Sabbath” [7:163]

Here Sabbath was not known on a day like one of the days of the week, like what is known as the first, last, or as the day off, Sabbath is from subatt which means a day in which it is incumbent to rest in it, however they what they did was disobey and go to work, and this is type of aggression is on the self (Nafs), maybe on the family, and maybe on the society as a whole. When there is an emergency situation, for example the situation that we live in today with the Corona virus, it may be a type of aggression in the life of those who infect others they may be considered as transgressors in which it becomes incumbent upon them to pay the (Diya) which is the full cost of curing that person.

They are the transgressors because they are the ones who infected that person with that sickness, and were the cause of that infected persons pain; physically, financially, and maybe even the soul if it caused that infected person to die, and what is similar to that situation. In that kind of situation it becomes obligatory to pay the costs of that persons medical expenses, etc. With this summary I hope it has become beneficial to the sister that had asked this question and to our beloved readers. May the peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his holy household, and bless all of our readers during these holy months and the coming month of Ramadan. I would like to thank Shafaqna for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and that knowledge of Allah (SWT) through the holy Quran and the holy progeny of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

*Sheikh Moadel Ebrahimi is a professor of Quranic studies at the university of Baqir-ul-uloom in the holy city of Qom, Iran. He has  been teaching for more than 20 years in the holy city of Qom, Iran. He is an expert in the holy Quran since he has completed his Islamic studies in Iran up to the PhD level.

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