Are Muslims Immune to Coronavirus?

The Islamic world is not suffering from COVID-19 the way non-Muslim nations are, because Islam naturally makes Muslims "cleaner" than infidels. 

Such is the contention Muslims around the world are triumphantly making.  Thus, the recent article, "Coronavirus – an Islamic Perspective," opens up as follows:

Allāh has blessed us with a religion that is complete and perfect for all times and places.  Allāh tells us in the Qur'ān:

"This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as your religion"

We also have in the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), the best of examples, as Allāh says in the Qur'ān:

"Surely there was a good example for you in the Messenger of Allāh"

Whatever problem or issue a Muslim is facing [the article goes on to talk about coronavirus], he returns back to Allāh and his Messenger for guidance; there is nothing that happens in the life of a Muslim except that his religion has a solution to it.

The idea is that those who follow Allah's commandments (as captured in the Koran) and the prophet's example (as captured in the hadith) have a much better chance of evading, say, diseases, than infidels do. 

Muslims everywhere are certainly boasting that this is the case, considering how little the coronavirus has spread among Islamic nations.  They attribute this boon to Islam's ritual washing (wudu); they are also quoting a hadith where Muhammad reportedly said, "Cleanliness is from belief," as proof that, the more a Muslim submits to the teachings of Islam, the "cleaner" — and therefore healthier — a Muslim becomes.

Certainly, any teaching or axiom that extolls cleanliness is beneficial.  However, mainstream Muslim scholars (ulema) have concluded that this particular hadith is weak (da'if), meaning that Muhammad most likely never said it.

This raises the question: what did Muhammad say about cleanliness, washing, or anything else that touches on the topic of avoiding diseases and viruses — in the authentic (or sahih) hadiths, particularly the two most canonical, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim?

For starters, we learn that the reason for ritual washing has nothing to do with hygiene.  According to Abu Hurreira, "[t]he Messenger of Islam said that 'Allah will not accept any of your prayers if you have an occurrence without performing wudu."'  When Hurreira was asked what constituted an "occurrence," he replied: "silent or loud farts" (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Wudu).

Flatulence has nothing to do with contracting or preventing diseases, though in Islam it clearly has theological significance — that of annulling prayers unless "washed" away.

What about washing simply for good hygiene?  Does Islam prescribe that?  According to another sahih hadith, apparently not: "We were with the prophet, and he went to defecate.  Food was presented to him upon his return, and he was asked, "O Messenger of Allah, will you not wash?"  He replied, "Why?  For prayer?"  In a slightly different — and more explicit — version, he responded, "I wash only for prayer." 

Both hadiths are contained in the authentic collection of Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Hayd, under a chapter (baab) the very title of which is transparent enough: "Permissibility for whoever has defecated or urinated to eat without performing wudu immediately."

In that same chapter appears this hadith: "The Prophet went to the bathroom.  Food was [then] presented to him, and he did eat, without [first] touching any water."

Then there are those authentic hadith that seem to extol practices that most certainly do spread disease.  "The prophet never hacked and spat out phlegm without it falling in the palm of one of them [his companions].  Whoever caught it would [then] rub his face and skin [with it]" (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Wudu).  His companions also used to "fight over the [dirty] water he had performed ablution with" — whether to rewash with or drink is unclear.

Here it seems safe to observe that if Muhammad had any virus — including the coronavirus — all of his companions would have contracted it from him.

In another authentic hadith, Muhammad had no problem if someone expectorated in a mosque — so long as it was not in "Allah's face," meaning while facing the qibla, and so long as the one spitting expelled his phlegm out to his left (never right) side.  If unable to do so, the prophet demonstrated what he should do by "spitting on his robe and rubbing one part against the other," apparently in an effort to smear the stain out (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Masajid).

So much for "cleanliness is from belief."

Then there's this: "Sneezing is from Allah, but yawning from Satan" (Sunan al-Tirmidhi), and "Allah loves sneezing but hates yawning."  The reason?  Because "Satan laughs at whoever yawns" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Adab).

Thus, and despite the fact that sneezing is a known germ-spreader, whereas yawning is innocuous — what comes out of, not goes in, a man more often leads to ill — here is Muhammad decreeing the opposite: that sneezing, which explodes germs in all directions, is a splendid thing — literally loved by Allah — and therefore certainly not something to avoid, whereas yawning, which has zero effects on health, is to be zealously guarded against.

It should be stressed that this exposition is less about shaming Muslims—many of whom are unaware of the aforementioned hadiths—and more about deflating ongoing Muslim boasts that, the more someone follows Islam (belief), the cleaner — and thus less prone to catching a disease — he becomes. 

That this is demonstrably false is obvious in other ways: in 2012, only Saudi Arabia — the home of Islam and its holy cities — was plagued by another form of the coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which spread from camels (whose urine Muhammad recommended drinking).  A whopping 40% of the more than one thousand Saudis who contracted it died. 

No, when it comes to diseases, it seems we are all more or less in the same boat, or, to quote a wise king, "time and chance comes to them all."

Note: All hadith translations in this article are my own and based on the original Arabic.  Special thanks go to Brother Rachid, a former Muslim well acquainted with Islam and author most recently of The Ideology behind Islamic Terrorism.

Raymond Ibrahim, author of Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

The Islamic world is not suffering from COVID-19 the way non-Muslim nations are, because Islam naturally makes Muslims "cleaner" than infidels. 

Such is the contention Muslims around the world are triumphantly making.  Thus, the recent article, "Coronavirus – an Islamic Perspective," opens up as follows:

Allāh has blessed us with a religion that is complete and perfect for all times and places.  Allāh tells us in the Qur'ān:

"This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as your religion"

We also have in the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), the best of examples, as Allāh says in the Qur'ān:

"Surely there was a good example for you in the Messenger of Allāh"

Whatever problem or issue a Muslim is facing [the article goes on to talk about coronavirus], he returns back to Allāh and his Messenger for guidance; there is nothing that happens in the life of a Muslim except that his religion has a solution to it.

The idea is that those who follow Allah's commandments (as captured in the Koran) and the prophet's example (as captured in the hadith) have a much better chance of evading, say, diseases, than infidels do. 

Muslims everywhere are certainly boasting that this is the case, considering how little the coronavirus has spread among Islamic nations.  They attribute this boon to Islam's ritual washing (wudu); they are also quoting a hadith where Muhammad reportedly said, "Cleanliness is from belief," as proof that, the more a Muslim submits to the teachings of Islam, the "cleaner" — and therefore healthier — a Muslim becomes.

Certainly, any teaching or axiom that extolls cleanliness is beneficial.  However, mainstream Muslim scholars (ulema) have concluded that this particular hadith is weak (da'if), meaning that Muhammad most likely never said it.

This raises the question: what did Muhammad say about cleanliness, washing, or anything else that touches on the topic of avoiding diseases and viruses — in the authentic (or sahih) hadiths, particularly the two most canonical, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim?

For starters, we learn that the reason for ritual washing has nothing to do with hygiene.  According to Abu Hurreira, "[t]he Messenger of Islam said that 'Allah will not accept any of your prayers if you have an occurrence without performing wudu."'  When Hurreira was asked what constituted an "occurrence," he replied: "silent or loud farts" (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Wudu).

Flatulence has nothing to do with contracting or preventing diseases, though in Islam it clearly has theological significance — that of annulling prayers unless "washed" away.

What about washing simply for good hygiene?  Does Islam prescribe that?  According to another sahih hadith, apparently not: "We were with the prophet, and he went to defecate.  Food was presented to him upon his return, and he was asked, "O Messenger of Allah, will you not wash?"  He replied, "Why?  For prayer?"  In a slightly different — and more explicit — version, he responded, "I wash only for prayer." 

Both hadiths are contained in the authentic collection of Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Hayd, under a chapter (baab) the very title of which is transparent enough: "Permissibility for whoever has defecated or urinated to eat without performing wudu immediately."

In that same chapter appears this hadith: "The Prophet went to the bathroom.  Food was [then] presented to him, and he did eat, without [first] touching any water."

Then there are those authentic hadith that seem to extol practices that most certainly do spread disease.  "The prophet never hacked and spat out phlegm without it falling in the palm of one of them [his companions].  Whoever caught it would [then] rub his face and skin [with it]" (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Wudu).  His companions also used to "fight over the [dirty] water he had performed ablution with" — whether to rewash with or drink is unclear.

Here it seems safe to observe that if Muhammad had any virus — including the coronavirus — all of his companions would have contracted it from him.

In another authentic hadith, Muhammad had no problem if someone expectorated in a mosque — so long as it was not in "Allah's face," meaning while facing the qibla, and so long as the one spitting expelled his phlegm out to his left (never right) side.  If unable to do so, the prophet demonstrated what he should do by "spitting on his robe and rubbing one part against the other," apparently in an effort to smear the stain out (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Masajid).

So much for "cleanliness is from belief."

Then there's this: "Sneezing is from Allah, but yawning from Satan" (Sunan al-Tirmidhi), and "Allah loves sneezing but hates yawning."  The reason?  Because "Satan laughs at whoever yawns" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Adab).

Thus, and despite the fact that sneezing is a known germ-spreader, whereas yawning is innocuous — what comes out of, not goes in, a man more often leads to ill — here is Muhammad decreeing the opposite: that sneezing, which explodes germs in all directions, is a splendid thing — literally loved by Allah — and therefore certainly not something to avoid, whereas yawning, which has zero effects on health, is to be zealously guarded against.

It should be stressed that this exposition is less about shaming Muslims—many of whom are unaware of the aforementioned hadiths—and more about deflating ongoing Muslim boasts that, the more someone follows Islam (belief), the cleaner — and thus less prone to catching a disease — he becomes. 

That this is demonstrably false is obvious in other ways: in 2012, only Saudi Arabia — the home of Islam and its holy cities — was plagued by another form of the coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which spread from camels (whose urine Muhammad recommended drinking).  A whopping 40% of the more than one thousand Saudis who contracted it died. 

No, when it comes to diseases, it seems we are all more or less in the same boat, or, to quote a wise king, "time and chance comes to them all."

Note: All hadith translations in this article are my own and based on the original Arabic.  Special thanks go to Brother Rachid, a former Muslim well acquainted with Islam and author most recently of The Ideology behind Islamic Terrorism.

Raymond Ibrahim, author of Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute.