Indeed, in the Messenger of God (Prophet Muhammad), there is a striking pattern in conduct for anyone who has trust in the divine guidance, who believes in life after death, and who continuously focuses on the path God has shown to humanity. (Quran, 33:21.)
The Quran also describes Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a mercy to humanity. (Quran, 21:107.)
How might the Prophet of mercy, whose life is an excellent example for all of humanity, have handled the global Coronavirus Pandemic?
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not a physician. Nor was he a pharmacist. He was a Messenger whose primary responsibility was to convey divine guidance in all aspects of life through words and actions, to his community, and the people who would come after him.
Studying the patterns in the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) leadership in times of crisis, we can better understand how to face Covid-19.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always followed the divine guidance of consulting his companions on issues of public concern.
While some actions require mere common sense, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have formed a committee of experts and researchers to look into the pandemic to advise him and the people on precautions needed to deal with the situation.
…And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him. (Quran 3:159.)
Originally this message addressed those followers who had failed in their duty before and during the Battle of Uhud.
Although the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not have to face a pandemic, there are numerous examples of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him), quick response in managing inconvenient conditions:
1. On a rainy day, he advised the people to offer Friday prayers at home.
2. During a plague, he asked people to quarantine.
3. He told them to maintain social distancing by not visiting or leaving the area.
4. He ensured that during a time of social distancing, the community pooled its resources to take provide for basic needs.
5. He opened the state treasury for that purpose and appealed to the people to donate generously.
6. He also started a soup kitchen to feed those who were unable to care for themselves.
7. He appointed a team of volunteers to facilitate timely disbursement of life necessities.
8. He admonished traders and merchants not to hoard or price gouge during times of crisis.
9. He urged people to consult medical experts.
10. He also advised following hygienic rules, not limited to the washing of hands five times a day during wudu. He suggested total physical cleanliness.
11. He also advised against throwing garbage in public places, ordering that it be disposed of safely.
Sanctity of Life
The Quran demands dignity from believers toward all human beings.
Now, indeed, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam, and borne them over land and sea, and provided for them sustenance out of the good things of life, and favored them far above most of Our creation. (Quran, 17:70.)
The primary leadership concern is the sanctity and preservation of life, particularly in a time of crisis. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) relied on the opinions of his companions.
Believing in a cure for every disease, the Prophet (peace be upon him) sought experts in human anatomy, herbology, and climatic conditions in seeking a cure for the plague. He encouraged the experts to continue their research.
In the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), there were no labs or hospitals. But there were physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, and he advised people to visit them.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,
Allah has sent down both the disease and the cure, and He has appointed a cure for every disease, so [seek medical treatment], but use nothing unlawful. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
Based on expert advice, he encouraged regular exercise and to focus on preventive dietary measures to boost their immune systems, particularly in medical emergencies.
In the matter of severe illness or contagious diseases, to abate their spread, the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered such patients to be isolated.
Upon the death of an individual, he commanded immediate burial. If the deceased had an infectious disease, families were asked not to expose the body in places like mosques or public squares.
Deceased, in times of crises such as war, would be buried without a proper shroud and washing.
The Quran reminds us that remembering the Creator and His Majesty strengthens our resolve to face every situation.
Those who believe and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without a doubt, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction. (Quran 13:28.)
Allah the Almighty reminds us that life is a blessing of God for a certain period, as everyone would return to the Creator one day.
All that lives on earth or in the heavens is bound to pass away. (Quran 55:26.)
He assured that one day humans would rise again, and a new world would come into being. Everyone would learn about their ultimate destination, and the ones who lived a life based on divine guidance would enter paradise.
Verily, We shall indeed bring the dead back to life, and We shall record whatever [deeds] they have sent ahead, and the traces [of good and evil] which they have left behind: for of all things do We take account in a record clear. (Quran 36:12.)
While alive, it is urgent to focus on three main things:
a) Raising a responsible family that is a source of continuous good for all;
b) Contributing to existing knowledge for the benefit humanity; and,
c) Leaving a charity behind to help the poor and needy.
Confidence in Divine Laws
Through his words and actions, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) endeavored to strengthen the belief in God during trying times.
True holiness does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Truly pious is he who believes in God and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets. He spends his valuable resources upon his relatives, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, the beggars, and the freeing of human beings from bondage. And he is constant in prayer. And he renders the purifying dues. Truly pious are they who keep their promises whenever they make it and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves pure, and it is they who are conscious of God. (Quran 2:177.)
People need physical, social, and spiritual comfort during times of crisis. They want to know the reality, and they want to have the assurance that they can overcome it. The promise of their success depends on the accuracy and relevance of guidance and leadership style.
Throughout his life, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) offered an example in physical, social, and spiritual leadership based on divine guidance, common sense, and expert opinion.
Coronavirus was not the first pandemic, and it won’t be the last. Historically, however, humanity responded to affliction based on trust in divine laws and guidance, and their resolve to follow facts rather than mere whims and superstitions.