Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus called Covid-19, doctors & experts around the world including the World Health Organization (WHO) are putting special emphasis on hygiene such as thoroughly washing hands with soap, rinsing mouth and nose, avoid touching face, rubbing eyes or nose with your hands unnecessarily and covering one’s mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. They are also advising strict food safety measures such as washing your vegetables before cooking and covering your cooked food or refrigerating it if not eating. The experts suggest to religiously adopt these measures on a daily basis to prevent the spread of this covid-19 menace. In fact such measures not only help against covid-19 but in fact practicing them in normal times would also be highly beneficial for ourselves and our societies. They reduce the health risks and prevent the potential spread of diseases. With many other things, the covid-19 crises also reminded humans that cleanliness is the most beneficial part of our lifestyle and important for our human nature and existence….but wait, how does Islam help here and what can we learn from Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)?
Islam is a Deen (way of life) whose teachings are in conformance to the human nature referred to as Fitrah in Arabic. It is said in the Quran: "(Al Quran 30:30) — the natural Way of Allah (Fitrah) which He has instilled in ˹all˺ humans. Let there be no change in this creation of Allah. That is the Straight Way, but most people do not know." - This teaches the fact that Allah ﷻ created humankind and provided teachings that are according to our nature and best for us. He revealed those teachings to His chosen ones called Prophets who became examples for others to follow. It in this regard Quran teaches that the best example and teachings for all humankind can be found in the lifestyle of His final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad(Peace Be Upon Him): (Al Quran 33:21) “…The Messenger of God (i.e. Prophet Muhammadﷺ) is an excellent model for those of you who put your hope in God and the Last Day and remember Him often.” Very importantly Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught: “…cleanliness is half of faith…”, as faith in a Creator exists within our nature and cleanliness is a major part of it. In Islam remaining physically and spiritually clean helps us gain proximity towards our Creator. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ mentioned ten best practices for overall body hygiene that are important for our nature and also in our fight against Covid-19 and other potential diseases: “Ten are from the Fitrah (Nature): Paring the mustache, leaving the beard to grow, Siwak (tooth stick), cleaning the nose with water, paring the fingernails, washing the knuckles, plucking the underarm hair, shaving the pubic hairs…."
The following are some of the best hygiene guidelines to prevent Covid-19 spread suggested by World Health Organization (WHO) and global experts. Many are also found in authentically recorded traditions from Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ life:
New York City-based celebrity dermatologist Dr. Doris Day, says “one of the most reliable areas for harboring hundreds of thousands of bacteria — and most likely some viruses as well — is the under surface of your nails,”. Nails have impurities built up under them as they grow and naturally are harmful to ourselves and/or others around us. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: "To shave the pubic hair, to clip the nails and to cut the moustaches short, are characteristics of the Fitrah (nature)." Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states that Covid-19 is an “enveloped virus,” meaning it is covered in an oily membrane, hence soap is effective in killing it and those that remain, the water is effective at removing and rinsing them away. The most common guideline being advised nowadays is to ‘wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds’ and if there is no soap then thoroughly with water. Hand hygiene is the very best weapon in any fight between human and contagious disease, hence we notice that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “When anyone amongst you wakes up from sleep at night, he should not put his hand in the utensil (to eat) until he has washed his hand three times, for he does’ not know where his hand was during the night.”
As a prevention against Covid-19, dental specialists are encouraging people to brush and floss teeth, clean tongue, swish and spit and gargle with a mouth rinse containing hydrogen peroxide. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, "The Miswak (tooth-stick) cleanses and purifies the mouth and pleases the Rubb (Lord)." In fact his companion Abu Musa (r.a) said “when he (Prophetﷺ) was using the Siwak, and the end of the Siwak was on his toungue, and he was saying, "'A','a'." i.e. he would clean all the way till the back end of his tongue. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ put special emphasis on cleaning one’s mouth often and throughout the day: "I stress upon you to use Miswak (tooth- stick)." Miswak is a stick from branch of a tree still used by many Muslims to help cleanse the mouth. Nowadays a tooth brush, pretty much, does the same job.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) medical experts say the average person touches their face 23 times an hour, and about half of the time, they’re touching their mouth, eyes, or nose — the mucosal surfaces that COVID-19 infects. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said “Making wudu (ablution) before and after the meal (i.e. washing the hands and the mouth) increases one’s sustenance and keeps Satan away.” (Kanz-ul- Ummal, vol. 15, pp. 106, Ḥadis 40755) Ablution is washing 3 times, ones hands and wrist up to the elbows along with face including nose and mouth and washing one’s feet. This is obligatory for each Muslim before each prayer (5 times prayer). The Prophet ﷺ encouraged Muslims to remain in ablution as much as possible throughout the day.
A very common and highly important guideline promoted by experts to counter spread of Covid-19 is to cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing. American Lung Association claims cough can travel as fast as 50 mph and expel almost 3,000 droplets in just one go. Sneezes can travel up to 100 mph and create upwards of 100,000 droplets. It is very interesting to note that Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ companion Abu Huraira (r.a) said “When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ sneezed, he placed his hand or a garment on his mouth, and lessened the noise.” Despite the fact that covering one’s mouth does indeed suppress the noise during sneezing yet it seems that the Prophet ﷺ was also teaching us on how to prevent the spread of microscopic germs or viruses that may spread everywhere around us at an instance of cough or sneeze.
Airborne spread has not been reported for COVID-19 and it is not believed to be a major driver of transmission based on available evidence; however, it can be envisaged if certain aerosol-generating procedures are conducted in health care facilities, as per WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The World Health Organization is considering “airborne precautions” for medical staff after a new study showed the coronavirus can survive in the air in some settings. Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, told reporters during a virtual news conference: “When you do an aerosol-generating procedure like in a medical care facility, you have the possibility to what we call aerosolize these particles, which means they can stay in the air a little bit longer.” Additionally, contamination prevention guidelines by many health departments suggest to keep food items covered such as sauce bottles, pickle and jam jars, flour, sugar and even cooked food since germs or viruses could also be transported through air. Knowing this we should also understand the importance when Prophet Muhammad ﷺ told us: "When you intend going to bed at night, put out the lights, close the doors, tie the mouths of the water skins, and cover your food and drinks….even with piece of wood across the utensil.” i.e. its covering is absolutely necessary.
All hadith taken from Sunnah.com - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) except for one (Ref: Kanz-ul- Ummal, vol. 15, pp. 106, Ḥadis 40755)
Quran Verses taken from Al-Qur'an al-Kareem - القرآن الكريم
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