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Imām Aḥmad (d. 241H) on Contagion

Posted by Abu Iyaad
Written February 2022
Filed under Tawḥīd

Shaykh Sulaymān bin ʿAbd Allāh (رحمه الله) (d. 1233H) wrote in “Taysīr al-ʿAzīz al-Ḥamīd”, his explanation of Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, of Shaykh al-Islām Muḥammad bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (رحمه الله), in the chapter on omens and the ḥadīth pertaining to contagion:[1]

And [Imām] Mālik said, when asked about the ḥadīth, “Flee from the leper…”, “I have not heard anything objectionable about it, and I do not consider what has come regarding that except due to the fear that something may occur in the soul of the believer [of corruption in creed].”[2]

And the meaning of this is that he negated contagion in principle [altogether], and he carried the command to avoid [the leper, the sick] from the angle of preserving the capital and closing the avenue, so that something of the [illness] does not occur in the one who mixes [with the leper, the sick] and he thinks it is because of the mixing, and thus affirms the contagion which the legislator negated.

And this [view] has been adopted by Abu ʿUbayd, Ibn Jarīr [al-Ṭabarī], al-Ṭaḥāwī, and it is mentioned by al-Qāḍī Abū Yaʿlā from Aḥmad.

Ibn Mufliḥ said:[3]

And Isḥāq bin Bahlūl had said:

I mentioned this ḥadīth to Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal, meaning the ḥadīth of Jābir that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) took the hand of a leper and placed it in the pot with his own and said: “In the name of Allāh, placing trust in Allāh.”[4] So he [Aḥmad] said: “I adopt that [as a course of conduct].” So it is likely that this is [the same] as what ʿUmar adopted and others from the Salaf of eating with him [the leper].

Imām Aḥmad (رحمه الله) was upon the view and action of ʿUmar bin al-Khaṭṭāb (رضي الله عنه) of deliberately eating with the leper so as to expel the notion of contagion from the mind.[5] This being out of submission to and belief in the judgement (قضاء) Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that there is no contagion and that a thing does not pass what it has (of it’s aʿrāḍ) to anything else, and that a sick person never “transmits” his instance of illness to another, rather, there is only ever the fresh creation of disease instance in each entity for whom it has been decreed through the sum of its causes and event-chains.

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Imām Aḥmad (d. 241H) on Contagion
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1. Taysīr al-ʿAzīz al-Ḥamīd (Dār al-Ṣumayʿī, 1428H), p. 753-754.
2. This is related by al-Qurṭubī in his tafsīr of al-Baqarah, (2:243).
3. Ibn Muflih in Ādāb al-Sharīʿah (Muʿassassat al-Risālah, 1419H), 3/360.
4. This ḥadīth is not authentic though these actions are related from the Companions.
5. As for what is related about ʿUmar (رضي الله عنه) that he ordered the leper to remain away from him the length of a spear, then these narrations are munqaṭiʿ (severed) and not authentic to ʿUmar, as explained by Ibn Ḥajar in al-Faṭh. Some people relied on these statements to justify “social distancing” between the healthy. Even if this report was authentic, it would not justify this superstition fabricated by the disbelievers and polytheists to instill baseless fear in the hearts and minds of people.

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