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Islam and Sickness

Salman Rasheed

The writer is a Karachi-based research analyst and political consultant.

When afflicted with an illness, we usually become distressed but we don’t realize that from an Islamic perspective, sickness is a powerful blessing that can expiate the sins that we commit.  Allah (SWT) tells us the following in the Holy Quran, “Whatever affliction befalls you is because of what your own hands have committed. And He pardons much.” (Surah Ash-Shuraa Ayat 30) The affliction can be anything such as sickness, death of a loved one, financial hardship, or any type of pain and suffering.

There are numerous hadiths of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) instructing us not to curse the fever as it atones for sins.  Our Nabi (SAW) visited Umm Sa’ib (RA) when she was suffering from fever and asked her, “What ails you, O Umm Sa’ib? You are shivering.” She said, “It is a fever. Allah has not blessed it.” The Prophet said, “Do not curse fever. Verily, it removes the sins of the children of Adam, just as a furnace removes dirt from iron.” (Sahih Muslim 2575), What a splendid analogy by the Prophet (SAW) since we know that iron has many impurities but as soon as we place it in the furnace and take it out, it becomes completely pure.  Therefore, comparing fever with a furnace is proper as both are scorching.

In another hadith, our Nabi (SAW) compared illness to the falling leaves from a tree during the autumn, “Yes No Muslim is afflicted with the hurt caused by disease or some other inconvenience, but that Allah will remove his sins as a tree sheds its leaves.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5667).  Again, all these hadiths illustrate that sickness is a blessing in disguise.

This concept of expiation of sin through sickness also applies to all calamities and misfortunes that happen to us. 

The Prophet (SAW) said, “No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5640).  In another hadith, our Nabi (SAW) stated, “How wonderful the affair of the believer is! Indeed, all of his affairs are good for him. This is for no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is grateful to Allah, which is good for him. And if something bad happens to him, he has patience, which is good for him.” (Sahih Muslim)

From the above, the Prophet (SAW) is explaining to us that the believer is always a winner regardless of what sickness and/or calamity he/she is experiencing and that goodness and success are always on his/her side.  If a misfortune occurs to a believer, he/she is persevering, waits for help from Allah, and seeks divine reward.  Furthermore, if Allah (SWT) gifts a believer with a blessing, be it religious, such as knowledge or good deeds, or ordinary such as wealth or family, he/she thanks Allah (SWT) and obeys Him (SWT).  In both circumstances, the good and the bad situation of the believer are nothing but good for him/her.

Whenever a believer becomes ill, Hazrat Salman al-Farsi (RA) said that Allah (SWT) uses this opportunity to forgive the believer’s sins and give time to the believer to reflect and become a better person. Sometimes, we become arrogant because of enjoying worldly pleasures but as soon as an illness or calamity befalls us then we suddenly become humble.  Also, we realize that we are mortal and servants of Allah (SWT). During our sickness, our family and friends visit us to boost our spirits leading us to better appreciate the blessing of family and friends that we might not have when we are healthy. Getting through an illness is like recharging our iman and appreciating all the small blessings of life. 

Regarding good health and time, the Prophet (SAW) stated, “There are two blessings in which most people are in great loss: 1) Good health and 2) Free time.” (Sahih al-Bukhari).  How true this statement is for most of us that we don’t appreciate these two blessings until they are gone.

During sickness and calamity, we can pursue spiritual healing by increasing our communication with Allah (SWT), reciting the Quran, and Ayat ul-kursi over the sick person.  Moreover, regarding physical healing, for general health, our Nabi (SAW) recommended daily use of honey and black seed and for cures specific to our illness, we should visit a physician. A Sahaba asked the Prophet (SAW) if we should take medicine which he (SAW) replied, “Yes, O You servants of Allah take medicine as Allah has not created a disease without creating a cure except for one.” They asked which one. He replied “old age.”  Every single disease on this earth has a cure and so this should be a motivation for our Muslim medical researchers and scientists to discover these cures.

Whenever a disease or calamity happens to us, we should thank Allah (SWT) for three things: 1. It isn’t worse than what it is; 2. Causing awareness of the other blessings we have but take for granted and; 3. Allah (SWT) tests us with this disease or calamity knowing that we can get through it. 

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