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Navigating the COVID-19 Vaccine - An Islamic Perspective

COVID-19 / Coronavirus / SARS-CoV-2

A detailed fiqh discussion by Abu Eesa Niamatullah regarding the COVID-19 vaccination.

"Syringe and Vaccine" by NIAID [CC-BY-2.0]

COVID-19 / Coronavirus / SARS-CoV-2

Abu Eesa discusses the permissibility of the COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 / Coronavirus / SARS-CoV-2

Confused about the vaccine? @Islam21c put all the questions and doubts to expert Abu Eesa Niamatullah in this special Unscripted episode - warning: the answers are deep!  For a more detailed response related to the facts about the vaccine, watch the lecture here.

Bismillah. I've taken the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine. There are two types of vaccines available. Sinopharm is among the old school traditional vaccines. That's the one I took. Pfizer, Moderna etc have developed a new generation of vaccine, of which the long term effects are yet to be known. I would hold on on those until the study is completed. May Allah Almighty protect us ALL from this and all other viruses, sicknesses and diseases. Amin

Picture of a child receiving an oral vaccination [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

COVID-19 / Coronavirus / SARS-CoV-2

Question: What is the Islamic perspective on childhood immunizations or vaccinations? There is evidence to prove that they can be harmful to the body, but they are required in many countries. This is a very important topic that many do not have an adequate understanding of.

The disputed tomb of Bilal ibn Rab'ah at Bab Saghir, Damascus

History of Islam

Bilal was a black slave belonging to 'Umayyah ibn Khalaf. He was tall, thin and slightly hump-backed. Thick grayish hair crowned his head. He moved about silently - speaking only in reply. He was born to two slave parents, making him a slave. He used to travel to ash-Sham for 'Umayyah's trading caravan, braving the bitter cold of winter and the extreme heat of summer. His only recompense was a handful of dates each day that he ate to strengthen his body. At his master's house he would serve the guests while going hungry. He was overworked and mistreated as were 'Umayyah's other slaves.

A plaque at Badr showing the names of the martyrs of the Battle of Badr. Image by Tariq Amir [CC BY-ND 3.0]

History of Islam

The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam exhorted the Muslims to treat the prisoners so well to such an extent that the captors used to give the captives their bread (the more valued part of the meal) and keep the dates for themselves.

Through his prodigious efforts, hundreds of ahadith or sayings of the Prophet were transmitted to later generations. His is the foremost name in the roll of hadith transmitters. Next to him comes the names of such companions as 'Abdullah the son of 'Umar, 'Anas the son of Malik, 'Umm ul-Mu'minin 'A'ishah, Jabir ibn 'Abdullah and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri all of whom transmitted over a thousand sayings of the Prophet.

Umm 'Umara was blessed with many honours, amongst these her presence at 'Uhud, Al-Hudaybiyyah, Khaybar, the Fulfilled 'Umrah, Hunayn, and the Battle of Yamama. But her most noble role came about during the battle of 'Uhud.

Umm 'Umara set out to the battle with her husband, Ghaziya, and her two sons. Her (task had) been to give water to the wounded, but Allah had planned for her a more rewarding role.

So she set out with her family with a waterskin, and arrived at the battle field during the beginning of the day. The Muslims had the upper hand, and she went to see how the Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was. But then the Muslims committed a fatal error - seeing the Quraysh on the retreat, they ran towards the booty, ignoring the Prophet's command to remain on the hill. Khalid ibn Walid, (who hadn't embraced Islam yet), seeing the open flank, made a charge against the Muslims and suddenly the tide had swung towards the Quraysh. The Muslims panicked and began to flee, leaving behind only the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam and a handful of his Companions. Among these was Umm 'Umara.

Seeing the Muslims flee, Umm 'Umara ran to the defense of the Prophet and took up arms, along with her husband and two sons. The Prophet noticed that she had no shield, and so said to one of the retreating men: "Give your shield to the one who is fighting." So he handed her the shield, and she defended the Prophet of Allah with it, using also the bow and arrow along with a sword. She was attacked by horsemen, but never wavered nor felt fear. She later boldly claimed, "If they had been on foot as we were, we would have trounced them, Allah willing."'

'Abdullah ibn Zayd, her son, was wounded during the battle. His wound bled profusely. His mother ran to him and bandaged his wounds, and then commanded him, "Go and fight the people, my son!" The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam admired her sense of sacrifice, and commended her, "Who can endure what you can endure, Umm 'Umara!"

Suddenly, the man who had struck her son advanced, and the Prophet called out to her, "This is the one who struck your son." She bravely confronted the man, who her very son described as being like a great tree trunk, and struck at his leg, sending him to his knees. The Messenger of Allah smiled so much his teeth became visible, and remarked, "You have retaliated, Umm 'Umara!" Having finished him off, the Prophet then said, "Praise be to Allah who has given you victory and delighted you over your enemy and let you enjoy your revenge directly."

At one stage, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was left alone, so taking the opportunity, the enemy Ibn Qumaya'a charged at the Prophet, shouting "Show me Muhammad! I will not be saved if he is saved!" So Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr, along with some other of the Companions, dashed to the protection of the Prophet. Umm 'Umara was among them, and began fiercely striking at the enemy of Allah, even though he was wearing double armour. Ibn Qumaya'a managed to strike a blow at her neck, leaving a serious wound. The Prophet quickly called on her son, "Your mother! Your mother! Bind her wound! May Allah bless you, the people of a house! The stand of your mother is better than the stand of so-and-so. May Allah have mercy on you, people of a house! The stand of your foster father is better than the stand of so-and-so. May Allah have mercy on you, people of a house!" Umm 'Umara, seeing the Prophet's pleasure on her determination and valour, earnestly requested, "Ask Allah to make us your companions in the Garden!" So he said, "O Allah, make them my companions in the Garden." And this was the desire of Umm 'Umara, to which she replied, "I do not care what afflicts me in this world!"

That day, she received thirteen wounds, and was treated for her neck wound for a complete year. She also participated in the Battle of Yamama, where she received eleven wounds and lost her hand.

Her courageous character earned her the respect of all the Companions, especially the Khulafah who would visit her and pay special attention to her.

'Umar ibn al-Khattab was brought some silk garments which contained excellent quality material. One of the people remarked, "This garment is worth such-and-such (meaning how expensive it was). You should send it to the wife of 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, Safiyyah bint Abi 'Ubayd." 'Umar radiallahu 'anhu however did not desire such a garment for his daughter in law. "That is something which I will not give to Ibn 'Umar. I will send it to someone who is more entitled to it than her - Umm 'Umara Nusaybah bint Ka'ab. On the day of 'Uhud, I heard the Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam say, 'Whenever I looked to the right or left I saw her fighting in front of me'."

This was the life of Umm 'Umara, the warrior who stood when many fled, who sent her wounded son back into the thick of the battle, and was prepared to lose her life to save the Prophet's. In return, she received the du'a for the Prophet's companionship in Paradise.

May Allah bless our women with such courage, self-sacrifice and perseverance.

A map showing the movements of the Battle of 'Uhud

History of Islam

All of the Prophet's ghazwat, bu'uth and saraya occurred after the hijrah, within a span of ten years. There were either twenty-seven ghazwat, or twenty-five, or twenty-nine.

'Abdullah was the son of 'Abbas, an uncle of the noble Prophet. He was born just three years before the hijrah. When the Prophet died, 'Abdullah was thus only thirteen years old.

When he was born, his mother took him to the blessed Prophet who put some of his saliva on the babe's tongue even before he began to suckle. This was the beginning of the close and intimate tie between 'Abbas and the Prophet that was to be part of a life-long love and devotion.

When 'Abdullah reached the age of discretion, he attached himself to the service of the Prophet. He would run to fetch water for him when he wanted to make wudu. During salah he would stand behind the Prophet in prayer and when the Prophet went on journeys or expeditions, he would follow next in line to him. 'Abdullah thus became like the shadow of the Prophet, constantly in his company.

In all these situations he was attentive and alert to whatever the Prophet did and said. His heart was enthusiastic and his young mind was pure and uncluttered, committing the Prophet's words to memory with the capacity and accuracy of a recording instrument. In this way and through his constant researches later, as we shall see, 'Abdullah became one of the most learned companions of the Prophet, preserving on behalf of later generations of Muslims, the priceless words of the Messenger of God. It is said that he committed to memory about one thousand, six hundred and sixty sayings of the Prophet which are recorded and authenticated in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim.

The Prophet would often draw 'Abdullah as a child close to him, pat him on the shoulder and pray, "O Lord, make him acquire a deep understanding of the religion of Islam and instruct him in the meaning and interpretation of things."

There were many occasions thereafter when the blessed Prophet would repeat this du'a or prayer for his cousin and before long 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas realized that his life was to be devoted to the pursuit of learning and knowledge.

The Prophet moreover prayed that he be granted not just knowledge and understanding but wisdom. 'Abdullah related the following incident about himself:

"Once the Prophet, peace be upon him, was on the point of performing wudhu. I hurried to get water ready for him. He was pleased with what I was doing. As he was about to begin salah, he indicated that I should stand at his side. However, I stood behind him. When the salah was finished, he turned to me and said, 'What prevented you from being at my side, O 'Abdullah?' 'You are too illustrious and too great in my eyes for me to stand side by side with you,' I replied. Raising his hands to the heavens, the Prophet then prayed, 'O Lord, grant him wisdom.' "

The Prophet's prayer undoubtedly was granted for the young 'Abdullah was to prove time and again that he possessed a wisdom beyond his years. But it was a wisdom that came only with devotion and the dogged pursuit of knowledge both during the Prophet's lifetime and after his death.

During the lifetime of the Prophet, 'Abdullah would not miss any of his assemblies and he would commit to memory whatever he said. After the Prophet passed away, he would take care to go to as many companions as possible especially those who knew the Prophet longer and learn from them what the Prophet had taught them. Whenever he heard that someone knew a hadith of the Prophet which he did not know he would go quickly to him and record it. He would subject whatever he heard to close scrutiny and check it against other reports. He would go to as many as thirty companions to verify a single matter.

'Abdullah described what he once did on hearing that a companion of the Prophet knew a hadith unknown to him:

"I went to him during the time of the afternoon siesta and spread my cloak in front of his door. The wind blew dust on me (as I sat waiting for him). If I wished I could have sought his permission to enter and he would certainly have given me permission. But I preferred to wait on him so that he could be completely refreshed. Coming out of his house and seeing me in that condition he said: 'O cousin of the Prophet! What's the matter with you? If you had sent for me I would have come to you.' 'I am the one who should come to you, for knowledge is sought, it does not just come,' I said. I asked him about the hadith and learnt from him."

In this way, the dedicated 'Abdullah would ask, and ask, and go on asking. And he would sift and scrutinize the information he had collected with his keen and meticulous mind.

It was not only in the collection of hadith that 'Abdullah specialized. He devoted himself to acquiring knowledge in a wide variety of fields. He had a special admiration for persons like Zayd ibn Thabit, the recorder of the revelation, the leading judge and jurist consult in Madinah, an expert in the laws of inheritance and in reading the Qur'an. When Zayd intended to go on a trip, the young 'Abdullah would stand humbly at his side and taking hold of the reins of his mount would adopt the attitude of a humble servant in the presence of his master. Zayd would say to him:

"Don't, O cousin of the Prophet."

"Thus we were commanded to treat the learned ones among us," 'Abdullah would say.

And Zayd would say to him in turn, "Let me see your hand."

'Abdullah would stretch out his hand. Zayd, taking it, would kiss it and say, "Thus we were commanded to treat the Ahlul-Bayt (members of the household of the Prophet)."

As 'Abdullah's knowledge grew, he grew in stature. Masruq ibn al-Ajdah said of him, "Whenever I saw Ibn 'Abbas, I would say: He is the most handsome of men. When he spoke, I would say: He is the most eloquent of men. And when he held a conversation, I would say: He is the most knowledgeable of men."

The Khalifah 'Umar ibn al-Khattab often sought his advice on important matters of state and described him as "the young man of maturity".

Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas described him with these words: "I have never seen someone who was quicker in understanding, who had more knowledge and greater wisdom than Ibn 'Abbas. I have seen 'Umar summon him to discuss difficult problems in the presence of veterans of Badr from among the Muhajirin and 'Ansar. Ibn 'Abbas would speak and 'Umar would not disregard what he had to say."

It is these qualities which resulted in 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas being known as "the learned man of this 'Ummah".

'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas was not content to accumulate knowledge. He felt he had a duty to the 'Ummah to educate those in search of knowledge and the general masses of the Muslim community. He turned to teaching and his house became a university - yes, a university in the full sense of the word, a university with specialized teaching but with the difference that there was only one teacher 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas. was to be part of a life-long love and devotion.

There was an enthusiastic response to 'Abdullah's classes. One of his companions described a typical scene in front of his house: "I saw people converging on the roads leading to his house until there was hardly any room in front of his house. I went in and told him about the crowds of people at his door and he said: 'Get me water for wudhu.'

He performed wudhu and, seating himself, said: 'Go out and say to them: Whoever wants to ask about the Qur'an and its letters (pronunciation) let him enter.'

This I did and people entered until the house was filled. Whatever he was asked, 'Abdullah was able to elucidate and even provide additional information to what was asked. Then (to his students) he said: 'Make way for your brothers.'

Then to me he said: 'Go out and say: Who wants to ask about the Qur'an and its interpretation, let him enter.'

Again the house was filled and 'Abdullah elucidated and provided more information than what was requested."

And so it continued with groups of people coming in to discuss fiqh (jurisprudence), halal and haram (the lawful and the prohibited in Islam), inheritance laws, Arabic language, poetry and etymology.

To avoid congestion with many groups of people coming to discuss various subjects on a single day, 'Abdullah decided to devote one day exclusively for a particular discipline. On one day, only the exegesis of the Qur'an would be taught while on another day only fiqh (jurisprudence). The maghazi or campaigns of the Prophet, poetry, Arab history before Islam were each allocated a special day.

'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas brought to his teaching a powerful memory and a formidable intellect. His explanations were precise, clear and logical. His arguments were persuasive and supported by pertinent textual evidence and historical facts.

One occasion when his formidable powers of persuasion was used was during the caliphate of 'Ali. A large number of supporters of 'Ali in his stand against Mu'awiyah had just deserted him. 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas went to 'Ali and requested permission to speak to them. 'Ali hesitated fearing that 'Abdullah would be in danger at their hands but eventually gave way on 'Abdullah's optimism that nothing untoward would happen.

'Abdullah went over to the group. They were absorbed in worship. Some were not willing to let him speak but others were prepared to give him a hearing.

"Tell me" asked 'Abdullah, "what grievances have you against the cousin of the Prophet, the husband of his daughter and the first of those who believed in him?"

The men proceeded to relate three main complaints against 'Ali. First, that he appointed men to pass judgment in matters pertaining to the religion of God - meaning that 'Ali had agreed to accept the arbitration of Abu Musa al-Ashari and 'Amr ibn al-'As in the dispute with Mu'awiyah. Secondly, that he fought and did not take booty nor prisoners of war. Thirdly, that he did not insist on the title of Amir al-Mu'minin during the arbitration process although the Muslims had pledged allegiance to him and he was their legitimate Amir. To them this was obviously a sign of weakness and a sign that 'Ali was prepared to bring his legitimate position as Amir al-Mu'minin into disrepute.

In reply, 'Abdullah asked them that should he cite verses from the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet to which they had no objection and which related to their criticisms, would they be prepared to change their position. They replied that they would and 'Abdullah proceeded:

"Regarding your statement that 'Ali has appointed men to pass judgment in matters pertaining to Allah's religion, Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, says:

'O you who believe! Kill not game while in the sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb. If any of you do so intentionally, the compensation is an offering, of a domestic animal equivalent to the one he killed and adjudged by two just men among.'

"I adjure you, by God! Is the adjudication by men in matters pertaining to the preservation of their blood and their lives and making peace between them more deserving of attention than adjudication over a rabbit whose value is only a quarter of a dirham?"

Their reply was of course that arbitration was more important in the case of preserving Muslim lives and making peace among them than over the killing of game in the sacred precincts for which Allah sanctioned arbitration by men.

"Have we then finished with this point?" asked 'Abdullah and their reply was: "Allahumma, na'am - O Lord, yes!" 'Abdullah went on:

"As for your statement that 'Ali fought and did not take prisoners of war as the Prophet did, do you really desire to take your 'mother' 'A'ishah as a captive and treat her as fair game in the way that captives are treated? If your answer is 'yes', then you have fallen into kufr (disbelief). And if you say that she is not your 'mother', you would also have fallen into a state of kufr for Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, has said:

"The Prophet is closer to the believers than their ownselves and his wives are their mothers (entitled to respect and consideration)." [Al-Qur'an 34:6]

"Choose for yourself what you want," said 'Abdullah and then he asked: "Have we then finished with this point?" And this time too their reply was: "Allahumma, na'am - O Lord, yes!" 'Abdullah went on: "As for your statement that 'Ali has surrendered the title of Amir al-Mu'minin, (remember) that the Prophet himself, peace and blessings of God be on him, at the time of Hudaybiyyah, demanded that the mushrikin write in the truce which he concluded with them: 'This is what the Messenger of God has agreed ... ' and they retorted: 'If we believed that you were the Messenger of God we would not have blocked your way to the Ka'bah nor would we have fought you. Write instead, 'Muhammad the son of 'Abdullah.' The Prophet conceded their demand while saying, 'By God, I am the Messenger of God even if they reject me.' "

At this point 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas asked the dissidents: "Have we then finished with this point?" And their reply was once again: "Allahumma, na'am - O Lord, yes!"

One of the fruits of this verbal challenge in which 'Abdullah displayed his intimate knowledge of the Qur'an and the sirah of the Prophet as well as his remarkable powers of argument and persuasion, was that the majority, about twenty thousand men, returned to the ranks of 'Ali. About four thousand however remained obdurate. These latter came to be known as the Khawarij.

On this and other occasions, the courageous 'Abdullah showed that he preferred peace above war, and logic against force and violence. However, he was not only known for his courage, his perceptive thought and his vast knowledge. He was also known for his great generosity and hospitality. Some of his contemporaries said of his household: "We have not seen a house which has more food or drink or fruit or knowledge than the house of Ibn 'Abbas."

He had a genuine and abiding concern for people. He was thoughtful and caring. He once said:

"When I realize the importance of a verse of God's Book, I would wish that all people should know what I know.

"When I hear of a Muslim ruler who deals equitably and rules justly, I am happy on his account and I pray for him ...

"When I hear of rains which fall on the land of Muslims, that fills me with happiness ... "

'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas was constant in his devotions. He kept voluntary fasts regularly and often stayed up at night in prayer. He would weep while praying and reading the Qur'an. And when reciting verses dealing with death, resurrection and the life hereafter his voice would be heavy from deep sobbing.

He passed away at the age of seventy one in the mountainous city of Ta'if.

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