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Tue. Jan 19th, 2021

The Rulings On Covid-19 Vaccine And Shari’ah’s Views If Muslims Are Doubtful Or Suspicious About It

By Imam Murtadha Gusau

Saturday, January 02, 2021

In The name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing be upon whom Allah sent as a mercy to the Worlds, upon his Family, his Companions and his Brothers till the Day of Resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters, know that, Covid-19 (Coronavirus) vaccination is classified under preventive medicines for individuals, as recommended by the Islamic faith, particularly in times of pandemic diseases when the healthy happen to be prone to infections due to the high risk of contracting the disease, therefore posing risk to the entire society.

And vaccines that contain ingredients that are considered “haram” or forbidden in Islam are not prohibited, but if there are no alternatives.

Since COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a highly contagious disease that puts thousands of lives at risk, the use of the vaccines are acceptable.

Respected brothers and sisters, before addressing the particulars of this matter, it is warranted to mention some of the universals and maxims that govern it, as follows:

1. The preservation of life is of the highest objectives of Islamic Shari’ah; for it, Allah has permitted, for someone who is compelled, the consumption of carcasses and even the utterance of words of disbelief.

2. Trivial things are excused, and we have been forbidden from being overly technical.

3. Allah wants ease for His servants, not hardship, and He loves that His servants avail themselves of His concessions; sometimes, using them is preferable or even obligatory. Disease (or fear of it) warrants the making of concessions.

4. Using a forbidden substance, other than pure alcoholic beverage, as medicine, is permissible according to the majority, if it is the sole effective treatment. The vast majority of contemporary scholars adopt this position because of the clear benefits in modern medicines that approach certainty at times.

5. What is likelier is treated like what is certain, and what is imminent is treated like what is present. This means that that which is likely to happen is given some of the rulings and concessions of that which is present.

6. The basis of judgment in the matters of medicine is probability, not certainty, which is unattainable in most cases. There is no blame on physicians and researchers when they base their judgments on the greater likelihood. Imam Al-Mardawi (Allah bestow mercy on him) said:

“Where we accept the judgment of the physician, then [acting on] the greater likelihood is sufficient, according to the correct position in the mazhab.”

In general, when conflicting benefits and harms are intermixed, what is warranted is to procure the greater good and repel the greater harm. If some limited side effects are encountered with a particular medicine, they should be overlooked, if the medicine’s benefits outweigh the harms.

Concerning the particular issue of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) vaccine, it is a matter of great importance that goes beyond the interests (Maslaha/Masalih) of individuals to communal ones, and the community is represented in this respect by its public health institutions. It is known that the pandemic has, so far, affected over seventy million people worldwide and caused the deaths of more than one and half million of them. There is no way to stop this pandemic except by reaching herd immunity, which requires that around 70% of the people have immunity. This can be achieved through one of two ways:

1. Allowing the infection to spread among the people without curtailing it.

2. Vaccinating people against the virus.

The first way does not conform with the Shari’ah, because it risks the lives of people, particularly the weak, which is in direct conflict with the intent of the legislator with regard to preserving all human lives. Its harms go beyond the realm of public health to affect people’s worship and livelihood and other aspects of their lives:

“There should be no harm and no reciprocation of harm.”

The second way is through vaccination, which is congruent with the Shari’ah and reason. The permissibility of taking medicine to repel an existing disease or prevent an expected one is a matter of consensus (Ijma’i) among the people of knowledge. The point of contention is whether it is obligatory or not, and various fiqh councils have addressed this matter in detail, and one of the cases where taking medicine is obligatory is when the disease may harm others. This may apply to the case of COVID-19, which is extremely contagious.

As for the problems of production, about which some have said that it might be done through cultivating the viruses in fetal or porcine cells (or producing their proteins therefrom), here is the answer to this reservation:

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, which will be soon available, do not rely on such technologies according to the very reliable researchers, and thus, there is no reason to doubt their permissibility because of this concern.

As for the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) vaccine produced by AstraZeneca, the virus is grown in a cell line that has grown in a laboratory for more than 40 years and not directly in fetal tissue. Those cells have come from aborted fetuses in 1972. This vaccine is not currently available. Despite that, the permissibility of using human organs and cells, with certain conditions, is the position of the majority of Muslim scholars and fiqh councils. Of course, it is forbidden to abort fetuses for this purpose, and of course, parental consent must be obtained before using any part of an aborted fetus.

As for the possibility of cultivating some viruses in porcine cells (if such is in fact taking place), the vaccine would usually have none of the cellular parts, but only cultivated in them. This makes the “Najasah (impurity)” here happen only by proximity (Mujawarah), in addition to being microscopic, and trivial things of this nature should be excused, particularly when the matter is about the necessity of protecting the people from this disastrous pandemic. If the porcine cells will be directed through mRNA to produce the proteins that resemble those of the virus, then such vaccine should not be used in the presence of alternatives. It is also impermissible in the presence of alternatives for Muslim scientists to use porcine ingredients for such purposes, whether for the cultivation of viruses or production of its proteins.

As for the suggested risks of the vaccines, it must be stressed here that I’m not the person that should opine on this matter, but rather the experts in the public health agencies. In my assessment, some of those risks are nothing more than unfounded and baseless rumours, and some are plausible. However, here are some noteworthy considerations:

The approval of such vaccines is not a decision that is left to one person or company, but is conducted by the Nigeria Ministry of Health, Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and similar agencies in other countries, and they follow stringent practices that consider the risk-benefit ratio, which is congruent with the principles of Shari’ah.

I was also informed by trustworthy Muslim physicians that the Pfizer vaccine that has now been approved by some International agencies has been studied on 40,000 participants (20,000 of them received the actual vaccines), and for more than two months, none of them had serious side effects. This surpasses the needed numbers for such trials and for a period that exceeds the period in which serious side effects usually take place. It must be said, though, that such numbers and duration may not be sufficient to rule out the possibility of rare complications, which may happen with any vaccine or medicine. While we should continue to monitor the developments, such possibility should not, for now, and after the approval by great majority, prevent us from availing ourselves of this vaccine. It also seems that the Moderna vaccine is following the same trajectory.

Based on the aforementioned, and because of the nature of the danger the world faces, the postulated risks are not sufficient to make the vaccine impermissible, and the least that could be said is that it is prescribed: either permissible or recommended for the individuals to take. As for the governments and the public health authorities, it is incumbent on them to make it available for the people, for their benefit and protection.

Just recently, The United Arab Emirate’s Fatwa Council, the country’s highest Islamic authority, issued a ruling allowing Muslims to receive Covid-19 (Coronavirus) vaccines even if they contain “non-halal ingredients” such as pork gelatin, as the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Tuesday, 22/12/2020.

The fatwa, or Islamic ruling, comes amid growing concern among Muslims about whether the vaccine’s ingredients are permitted under Islamic law.

We the Nigerian Muslims Ummah also have the same highest Islamic authority as UAE, which is The Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), under the able leadership of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III. Therefore we must fear Allah, listen to them and obey them concerning the fatwa on Covid-19 (Coronavirus) vaccine!

• In case We Are In Doubt Or Suspicious About The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine

On the authority of Abu Muhammad al-Hasan Bin Ali Bin Abi Taib, the grandson of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), and who is dearest to him (RA), who said:

“I committed to memory from the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) the following words: “Leave that which you are in doubt or suspicious for that which you are in no doubt or suspicious.” [Al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasa’i related it, and al-Tirmidhi said: It is a good and genuine Hadith]

Respected brothers and sisters, in this Hadith the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has set a criterion by which Muslims can decide whether something is permissible or not. There is another version of this Hadith where the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) elaborated further by saying:

“Verily, truth is tranquillity and falsehood is doubt.”

This means that the truth will lead to tranquillity and falsehood will lead to doubt.

Thus the criterion set by the Prophet (Peace be upon him), allows us to judge what is false or wrong (i.e. something which causes us to be doubtful) and what is the truth (i.e. something which we are sure of and confident that it is correct because we feel happy and at peace with it).

This Hadith lays down a principle that can be applied in all aspects of one’s life. It also shows the way to truth and righteousness. Thus, this Hadith is of extreme importance.

And this Hadith indicates that one should only perform an act or deed (which is permissible and proper) if he is positive or certain of it. Performing this act will lead to some kind of tranquillity or happiness in this life and in the Hereafter – this is one of the benefits of applying the Hadith.

In the other version of this Hadith mentioned above, falsehood leads to doubt and never to tranquillity. So if a believer finds his heart being disturbed by something (i.e. he feels uncertain or doubtful), then he should stay away from it. The heart of the true believer is in tranquil at the sight of truth and righteousness. And the heart becomes unsure and shaky at the sight of falsehood and wrong.

We can conclude that this criterion applies only to the guided righteous Muslim who is enlightened by revelation (wahy), i.e. the Qur’an and Sunnah, and is adhering to this guidance. If a Muslim is indulging in forbidden acts, this criterion will not work for him because his heart will not be sensitive to what it faces.

The criterion of the Hadith is activated by certain conditions or pre-requisites: Knowledge, Iman, Adhering to the enlightenment of the revelation (wahy), etc. In other words, this criterion can only exist if the person is adhering to the commands of Allah Almighty, the commands of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), following the revelation (wahy), etc. Only then can a person reach such a status or level. But for those who indulge in muharramat (prohibitions), and do not observe wajibat (obligations), etc., this criterion will not be activated. Even if it does exist, it will not be reliable.

Sometimes there are people who try to avoid doubtful matters while they are indulging in muharram (prohibition). For example, the people who killed al-Husain (the brother of the narrator of this Hadith). After having killed him, they start discussing about the ruling on the killing of mosquitoes, whether it is permissible or not.

There are many matters or issues relating to the Shari’ah where the scholars have conflicting views or opinions. For example, some scholars say that it is a wajib (obligatory) to recite Surah al-Fatihah in the congregational prayer while other scholars say it is not. Or the paying of zakah for Muslim women’s jewellery – whether a woman has to pay zakah for jewellery that she wears/uses and not just for those that she keeps for investment – an issue which has never been resolved. In these situations, can the Muslim apply the criterion of this Hadith? According to some scholars, it is permissible to do so – this is known as the ‘cautious approach.’ This became a very well-known approach for some scholars who used it whenever there were conflicting views. So for the issue of reciting Surah al-Fatihah, to those who insist that without reciting it the prayer is invalid, these scholars following the cautious approach say that they should recite it. And in the case of the zakah for jewellery, the cautious approach is that it is better to pay the zakah for all jewellery, whether it is worn/used or not, so that the woman will be ‘saved’ either way.

There is another approach of the scholars which holds that it is not a matter of conflicting views, it is a matter of the authenticity and soundness of the proofs. If there is a sound dalil (evidence), the scholars will follow it. This approach is also practiced by those who strictly follow a Mazhab because the Mazhab follows a dalil (evidence).

There are also many situations which consist of both good and bad. The cautious approach will suggest that we avoid an act if it involves both good and bad aspects. The approach which follows the dalil (evidence) applies the concept of weighing between benefits and harms. This involves applying principles derived from the Qur’an and Hadith. These principles state that it is permissible to give up a minor benefit in order to avoid a major harm. Or tolerate a minor harm in order to avoid a major one or to gain a major benefit. Looking back on Islamic history, we can see that some scholars were for one approach while other scholars were for the other. Thus it is not crucial for us to determine which one is the better approach.

In the situation of conflicting views where something is known for certain and something which is just a mere conjecture, what is known for sure will take precedence, i.e. will be the prevailing view. This is one of the principles of Fiqh. For example, if we know that a piece of clothing has some impurity on it but we are not sure exactly where, it is better that we wash the entire clothing. Another example is if a person is doubtful about how many raka’ats (units) he has already prayed, whether it is one or two, he should continue his prayer with what he is certain of – he is sure he has prayed one raka’at so he should continue with the second one.

Another principle is that it is not allowed to make ijtihad if something is clearly and definitively stated in the Qur’an or authentic Hadith. If there is text (nassi) which clearly states the hukum (ruling), then the ijtihad is not needed.

There is no righteousness or piety in avoiding something that is clearly and unquestionably permissible, i.e. something that is lawful and clearly permitted by Shari’ah. For example, in the area of food, one shouldn’t say he will refrain from eating meat as a matter of righteousness. He will not be rewarded for this.

There is the Hadith that tells the story of the three men, where one vowed not to sleep so he can pray all night, one vowed to fast everyday and one vowed not to marry, all for the sake of righteousness. These actions which these men vowed not to do (sleeping, eating and getting married) are lawful things which are not only permitted but also encouraged. (In fact, some scholars even say that there should be a minimum number of hours everyday which we allocate for sleep so that our bodies get enough rest). When the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) heard of the three men’s vows, he was very disappointed. He (Peace be upon him) called them and told them he was the most righteous and pious amongst them and yet he sleeps, eats and marries. Moreover the Prophet (Peace be upon him) made a principal concerning this matter by saying:

“This is my way, and whoever refrains from it is not part of me.”

Thus, if something is clearly permissible in Shari’ah, there is no point in refraining from doing it with the intention that doing so is an act of Ibadah (worship). If it is for other good reasons, e.g. to avoid meat because of one’s health, then it is okay and understandable.

One of the tricks of Shaitan (Satan) is that he will take something which is forbidden and present it in a way to make it look like a permissible act. One should be careful not to be deceived by Shaitan (Satan). If something is muharram (prohibited), then no matter what, it is forbidden. We must not allow Shaitan (Satan) to influence us and change our perception into thinking that something which is forbidden may not be all that bad after all – that it is permissible to do it.

In these contemporary times there are many matters in business transactions where there might contain some implicit aspects of ribah (interest). Thus there are many new situations or issues where people are confused as to whether something is acceptable or not. It is better to avoid acts which we are in doubt, or we are suspicious about, or we are not sure of, or where there are no clear views from scholars.

Sometimes these issues are discussed by scholars but their views are not being promoted enough to the Muslims in general. Many of the renowned scholars today meet once a year to discuss contemporary issues and these issues are then published in a special magazine. Unfortunately, this magazine is not widely distributed and not many people, including educators, other scholars, etc., are aware of it. We should all try to keep ourselves informed with the latest views or opinions of the scholars, especially on matters related to our lifestyle today, e.g. vaccine, banking, insurance, etc.

Lastly, this Hadith equips Muslims with a practical criterion by which to judge doubtful and suspicious acts and situations, and enables them to make the right decision concerning these matters. However, Muslims need to understand how to apply such a criterion correctly and not to be deceived by wrong perceptions or personal interest.

Dear brothers and sisters, know that, Nigerian Muslims or Nigerians are not the only people against the Covid-19 Vaccine, even in the west where the Vaccine originated many people are in doubt or suspicious about it. Please for more information about our claims, you can check the following articles:

1. U. S. Public Now Divided Over Whether To Get Covid-19 Vaccine, in www.pewresearch.org

2. 636 Questions With Answers in Vaccines, in www.researchgate.net

3. China’s Covid Vaccine is Caught in Controversy, in www.businessinsider.in

4. After Admitting Mistake, AstraZeneca Faces Difficult Questions About It’s Vaccine, in www.nytimes.com

5. Halal Status of Covid-19 Vaccine Worries Muslims, in www.voanews.com

6. Are Covid Vaccines Halal? Malaysia Tries to Find Middle Ground, in www.bloomberg.com

7. Why are some Muslims suspicious of a Covid-19 Vaccine?, in www.abc.net.au

So please let’s listen to and respect each other’s views in order to settle this issue through dialogue. Don’t belittle or look at your brother with disdain because he is against or in support of Covid-19 Vaccine, it is something very natural that we cannot escape, that’s how Allah created us!

May Allah send His Salah and Salam upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

All praise and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.Allah

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusauimam@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

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