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COVID2019 – Fiqh of Epidemics

Dr Musa Mohd Nordin
Chairman, FIMA Advisory Council
19 April 2020

Brief history of epidemics

218 Hijrah/818 AD
Epidemic in Egypt
Virtually every home was infected
Many governors and leaders died

228 Hijrah/628 AD
The epidemic spread to Azerbaijan
Too many died that there was not enough white cloth to cover the jenazah

448 Hijrah/1048 AD
Epidemic in Andalusia, Egypt and other countries
Imam Zahabi: This is an epidemic that has never been witnessed before
It was so bad that all the masjids were closed and no one prayed in them

8th Century Hijrah/14th Century
The Black Death due to the Bubonic Plague
The whole world was infected
The epidemic epicenter was in Europe
200 million people died within 4 years
Then they did not know the cause of the plague
But they noted that it did not spread as much if they kept apart
They detained the sailors on the ship for 40 days (Quarantino) till they were well enough to come to shore. Thus the term Quarantine

749 Hijrah/1349 AD
Al-Maqrizi , a historian recorded a very severe epidemic
In the majority of districts the azan was stopped
most of the mosques were closed
therefore it is not all surprising if our Muslim scholars issue the fatwa to close all the mosques from all forms of congregational prayers and Friday prayers in the face of the Covid2019 pandemic
there has been a clear precedent in our glorious history

833 Hijrah/1433 AD
Ibn Hajar the celebrated commentator of Sahih al-Bukhari lost 3 of his daughters during the epidemic in Egypt
Despite the sadness of losing his children, he wrote a 400 page encyclopedia on various aspects of epidemics
a. the religious edicts on epidemics
b. the origin of epidemics
c. what one needs to do during epidemics
d. he discussed in great detail the famous hadith on taun (plague) narrated by Abu Ubaidah al Jarrah and Abdul Rahman bin Auf the al-Mubashirun (2 of the 10 companions of the prophet who were promised paradise whilst they were still alive)
This book is the masterpiece on the Fiqh of Epidemics

1918 AD
The influenza pandemic, also known as the Spanish Flu
1 out of 5 world citizens were infected
50 million people died
Even the children knew about and skipped rope singing:
I have a bird
It’s name is Enza
I opened the window
And In-Flu-Enza

2003 AD
SARS-CoV-1 epidemic
8 thousand cases in the world with 800 deaths (Case Fatality Rate 10%)

2009 AD
Influenza H1N1 pandemic
The presence of the pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine reduced the global deaths to 300 thousand.
There were 13,000 cases in Malaysia with 77 deaths

2013 AD
MERS-CoV epidemic
Case Fatality Rate was 35%

What will happen if the pandemic was
a. allowed to progress OR
b. we do not take measures to stop it OR
c. we do not abide by the fatwa given by our scholars to close the masjid, no prayers in the masjid OR
d. do not observe Ramadan at home, perform Terawih at home with our families OR
e. do not follow their fatwa on Eid celebrations ie no prayers in the masjid or in the open spaces

I have done a calculation of the DEADLY IMPACT of our misbehaviors on the lives of people in Malaysia. You can put the numbers for your country and calculate the deaths and very sick people as a consequence of our misplaced religiosity and not listening to the counsel of our scholars who have been soundly advised by specialist doctors in the respective Islamic Medical Associations (IMA) and their parent body FIMA
Population of Malaysia = 32 million
Numbers that will be infected by COVID2019 = 50% = 16 million
Numbers who are mild or asymptomatic = 80% = 12.8 million
Numbers who are very ill and require hospital admissions = 15% = 2.4 mil
Numbers who are critical and require ICU care = 5% = 800,000
Numbers who will die = 1% = 160,000

With these numbers of very sick people and deaths, the health care facilities will not be able to cope. It will be completely overwhelmed by the COVID pandemic.
We must not allow this situation to happen. In particular, the Muslims must follow very closely the fatwa of the scholars who will be advised by the experts in the IMA on the medical emergency that is now confronting us.
These are some of our guiding principles and best practices to overcome this COVID pandemic. This is our join effort to protect and preserve life (Hifzul Nas) as prioritized in the Maqasid as-Shari’ah (Objectives of the Islamic Jurisprudence)

The world has declared COVID2019 as a pandemic
The world has declared war against SARS-CoV-2
To win this war we must have a war strategy
The overarching objectives of our war strategy against COVID 2019 are:
1. to reduce the burden of COVID2019 disease
2. to minimize morbidity and mortality
3. to direct the Reproduction Number (Ro) to <1.0
4. to flatten the COVID2019 epidemic curve
5. it will buy time for us to increase our healthcare capacity and infrastructure to manage the epidemic more effectively ie not overwhelm our healthcare capacity
6. whilst awaiting for the availability of effective anti-viral agents and a vaccine

The principles of the war strategy against COVID2019 are:
1. Effective containment through:
a. Testing surveillance
b. Contact tracing
c. Quarantine
d. Social Distancing

2. Failing which we may have to go into mitigation mode which involves
a. Enhancing the activities in 1a-1c
b. Step up Social Distancing to partial or total Lockdown

Objectives of Social Distancing:
1. To contain the spread of COVID2019
2. To flatten the epidemic curve

Activities of Social Distancing:
1. Maintain self hygiene and cleanliness
2. Wash or sanitize hands regularly
3. Maintain correct cough and sneezing practices
4. Do not shake hands, kiss or hug each other
5. Replace with eyvallah hand at chest gesture or namaste in some cultures
6. Maintain a minimum distance of 1 metre from the next person
7. Keep away from crowded areas
8. Stay at home
9. Do not leave home unless there is something urgent to do
10. Always wear a mask when outside the home
11. If you are under self-isolationor quarantine, floow religiously the 10 instructions (attached) and the Health Assessment Tools (HAT)
12. If you are an employee, practice the 15 tips of social distancing at work
13. If you are a senior citizen, look after your elderly parents or run a home for the elderly please follow the attached guidelines for senor citizens
14. You must abide by the government rules to avoid mass gatherings, religious activities, sports, social and cultural activities
15. Organise activities for your children. Kindergartens, schools and higher learning institutions will be closed.

All of these activities, especially in relation to our religious obligations are highly unusual and unprecedented in our live times. But as our history has illustrated they are neither unusual nor unprecedented.

The closure of mosques, the disallowing of prayers in the mosques , the stopping of azan have all been observed during the plagues that befell the Muslim in earlier times.
In order for us to survive this pandemic with the least sickness and deaths we must follow the counsel of our scholars as advised by the team of medical experts from the IMAs.

As a painful example, the Jemaah Tabligh had their Ijtima’ (gathering) in Malaysia from 28 Feb – 1 March 2020. It triggered the second wave of COVID2019 in Malaysia. It became the South East Asia hotspot spreading to Brunei (50 cases), Cambodia (13 cases), Singapore (5 cases), Thailand (2 cases). 700 participants from Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia are being investigated.

The Tabligh cluster made up 40% of the total COVID 2019 cases in Malaysia. It contributed to 23% of deaths and it spawned 2 sub-cluster causing 121 cases. It has spread deep into the community with five generations of spread. Till today it continues to threaten the well being of our community and must be closely watched to prevent any further outbreaks.

All of these restrictions of social distancing and lockdown will test our patience and resilience. We must tame our ego, which only thinks about our very selves only. We have to sacrifice part of our personal freedom for the bigger good of the nation and to protect our elderly and those who suffer from multiple co-morbidities.

COVID2019 not only threatens our personal health but also our socio-cultural and national economy.

If we sacrifice our personal liberty today we will in the long run enjoy not only good health but also the preservation of our socio-cultural and economic prosperity.