A Man for All Seasons

Part 1 Infection Control

Introduction

This is the first in a series of five articles about Prophet Muhammad. Muslims all over the world are very familiar with our beloved Prophet’s life and there are very few aspects of his life that have not been examined thoroughly.

He is a role model for all people in all places and in all times. Prophet Muhammad’s advice about how to live in this world is fail proof. Follow his example and you will succeed. However in these articles we will approach Prophet Muhammad’s advice in a less familiar way.

Have you ever read an article about a scientific or medical breakthrough and thought to yourself, well that is exactly what Prophet Muhammad said, or did, or advised?

My particular favorites are the articles about the benefits of fasting as observed in rats and mice and how the findings could probably be replicated in humans. There are countless essays, articles and books about the subject and all cite numerous befits for humankind. However as Muslims we already know this and need only read one line in Quran before we are convinced. God says: {fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you.} (Quran 2: 183)

Although we obey God’s commandments because they are His commandments, it is nonetheless exciting to realize that all the wisdom acquired over the centuries has come to the same conclusion as the Quran and the traditions of His Prophet.

Thus in this and the following four articles we are going to examine some of advice Prophet Muhammad gave his followers from the perspective of secular information and knowledge. And in doing so we will see that Prophet Muhammad was indeed a man for all seasons. He was a person that was very successful in many different activities. Emulating him is probably the wisest piece of advice you or I will ever get.

Quarantine & Isolation

During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad advised his followers not to travel to places known to be afflicted by illness and told those who were ill to stay at home and not spread the disease further afield. He said:

“If you hear that there is a plague in a land, do not enter it; and if it (plague) visits a land while you are there, do not leave it.”[1]

Prophet Muhammad also advised sick people not to visit healthy people.[2] Across the globe, in the 21st century, health authorities take Prophet Muhammad’s wise advice every day.

Today public health authorities rely on two strategies to stop the spread of contagious diseases, quarantine and isolation. Isolation applies to persons who are known to have an illness, and quarantine applies to those who have been exposed to an illness but who may or may not become ill.

Notice that Prophet Muhammad did not preface his advice with “if you are sick”. People are able to spread a disease even if they are not showing any signs of disease. Thus quarantine and other public health control measures are essential. They reduce the contact between those with the disease and those susceptible to the disease. Such measures prevent the spread of the disease, contain the infection and avert untold damage to people and infrastructure.[3]

Mosquito Borne Diseases

One of the newest diseases the world is learning to deal with is the Zika virus. It is spread by infected mosquitos. Although the Zika virus can in some cases be relatively mild, it is responsible for severe birth defects if passed from a pregnant woman to her foetus. Aedes aegypti (the mosquito that spreads zika, dengue and chikungunya) is known as a “container-breeding mosquito” because it lays eggs in and around standing (stagnant) water.

Studies show that female mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs in water that collects in or is stored in manmade containers. The mosquito eggs stick to the walls of water containers like glue and remain attached until they are scrubbed off. When the eggs dry out, they can survive for up to 8 months. If it rains or water covers the eggs, they hatch and become adults in about a week. If water must be stored it should be in tightly covered containers that prevent mosquitos from getting inside and laying their eggs.[4]

Prophet Muhammad advised his followers to cover their eating utensils and to seal or cover water skins and water containers. In one of his recorded traditions Prophet Muhammad mentions that one night (perhaps the night on which people fail to cover their water containers) an epidemic will arise.[5] Prophet Muhammad was clearly aware that uncovered water can easily be contaminated and that stagnant water is a breeding ground for disease.

We can go a long way towards preventing mosquito borne diseases from sweeping through a community by following this simple practice of covering stored water and by preventing stagnant water from lying in and around areas populated by people or animals. In countries already affected by the zika virus people are being encouraged to take steps to rid their homes and communities of mosquito breeding grounds.

Contaminated Water

According to the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) when water is contaminated with organic matter (for example, human or animal waste, grasses, and leaves), the chances that mosquito larvae will survive may increase because contaminated matter provides food for larvae to eat. God’s commandments protect us from things we understand and know about but also from those we do not know about. While Prophet Muhammad may not have understood the life cycle of a mosquito he was alert to the fact that human waste was and still is a health hazard.

Prophet Muhammad is recorded to have warned against urinating in stagnant water or from urinating where people bathe.[6] He also warned against evacuating one’s bowels near a water source, by the side of the road or in the shade.[7] This prohibition can be extended to all water pollutants including industrial waste and dead animals.

The right to clean water and sanitation was recognized by the United Nations as a human right in 2010.

More than 14 centuries ago Prophet Muhammad warned us that there was a connection between water, hygiene and health. He also taught that cleanliness was half of faith.[8]

In part 2 we will discuss what Prophet Muhammad taught us about personal hygiene. And learn that today his wise advice forms the basis of public health policies all over the globe.

Read part 2.

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[1] Saheeh Muslim & Saheeh Bukhari

[2] Saheeh Muslim

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3559034/

[4] https://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2016/03/zikaandwater/

[5] Saheeh Muslim

[6] Ibn Majah & Abu Dawood

[7] Saheeh Muslim & Abu Dawood

[8] Saheeh Muslim

About Aisha Stacey
Aisha Stacey is the mother of three adult children. She embraced Islam in 2002 and spent the next five years in Doha, Qatar studying Islam and working at the Fanar Cultural Centre. In 2006 Aisha returned to university for a second time and completed at Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Certificate in Writing. Aisha is also a published writer in both internet and print media and in 2009 -10 she was the Queensland editor at a national Australian Islamic newspaper ~ Crescent Times.