|Contagion and Pessimism|
|Library - Friday Khutbah (sermons)|
by Saalih Aal Ash-Shaykh
O believers in Allaah and His messenger! Fear Allaah and glorify Him as He deserves to be. Know that this life is nothing except a very short period of time, so act righteously herein. He who does so will have a great and pleasant consequence by the mercy and favour of Allaah and he who is neither conscious nor fearful of Allaah will not have a way out of his hardships and will have an evil end.
Servants of Allaah! Abu Hurayrah, May Allaah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “No contagion, no pessimism, no Haammah and no Safar” (Bukhaari). The meaning of this Hadeeth is as follows: Haammah is a type of bird; the pre-Islamic Arabs used to think that whenever this bird landed on anyone’s house, somebody who lived in that house would definitely die. This is of course a type of superstition. As for Safar, this is another type of superstition; one group of Islamic scholars held the view that the pre-Islamic Arabs were highly superstitious regarding the month of Safar while another group held the view that Safar is in fact a worm which used to dwell in the bodies of some animals (as a disease) and that this disease was contagious.
In this Hadeeth the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam negated and refuted the prevalent belief of the disbelievers at that time. These false beliefs would affect the hearts of the people so greatly that it would weaken their reliance on Allaah and lead them to doubting Him and even attributing evil to Him. Also, these beliefs would lead people to attribute deficiencies to Allaah, either by them claiming that He has incapabilities or by them ascribing partners to Him in acts of worship, or in controlling destiny.
So the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was addressing all those who truly believe in Allaah and in His control over everything by saying: “No contagion, no pessimism, no Haammah and no Safar.” The words “No contagion” mean that contagion is not independently effective, because the Pre-Islamic Arabs used to believe that contagion was itself a characteristic of a disease and that it had no external control over it. They also believed that there was nothing that could prevent contagion from occurring and that nothing could eliminate it.
When the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said “No contagion.” he certainly did not mean that contagion itself does not exist, nor did he mean that diseases and sicknesses do not spread from one person to another due to them coming into close contact, rather, this is something that obviously occurs. However, what the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was doing was refuting the belief that the disbelievers had which was that if a sick person happened to come close enough to a healthy person, then sickness would definitely be passed onto the healthy person. The disbelievers used to believe that this transfer was beyond the control and will of Allaah and that it was bound to happen. Therefore, what the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was explaining was that sickness does not spread simply by mixing healthy people with sick ones, rather, it happens with the decree and command of Allaah; contagion may or may not occur because it is not necessarily the case that every contagious disease will spread from a sick person to a healthy one unless and until Allaah permits this to occur. If Allaah does not permit it to happen then it cannot and will not ever occur, because that is by the decree and command of Allaah.
Contagion is nothing but a means that will only have an effect if Allaah decrees for it to occur, it is not something that necessarily takes place. Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “A sick one should not go into the presence of a healthy one, nor should a healthy one go into the presence of a sick one.” (Muslim). He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said this regarding camels because allowing them to mix is a means of spreading disease among them. Therefore, in this Hadeeth, the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam proves that contagion actually exists, but he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam only proved its existence as a means and not as an end.
This is exactly the same as saying, for example, that if a person were to do something that could result in his death, then by doing it, he would die – if Allaah decreed that to happen. It is also the same as saying, for example, that if a person were to eat and drink then he would satisfy his hunger and quench his thirst. In reality, these actions are nothing but means to an end that will only occur if Allaah has decreed it to do so.
Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Run away from a person with leprosy as you would run away from a lion.” (Ahmad & Bukhaari). This is because mixing with such a person is a means of spreading the sickness from a person with leprosy to a healthy one. So this Hadeeth of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam explains that although these are nothing but means and that their effect will not take place without the decree of Allaah, we still have to exert our utmost efforts in avoiding these means that may result in disease, destruction or tribulations. Moreover, we must rely on Allaah in all cases.
This is why on one occasion the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam sat next to a man who had leprosy and ate with him from the same plate, he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam even put his hand in the same food that the man was eating from to prove to people that diseases spread only if Allaah wills for them to do so. He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam also did this to show that it is not a must that contagious sicknesses will spread and that it is only Allaah who gives the ability for these means to take effect. Then, after eating, he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “No contagion and no pessimism.”
He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “No pessimism” because during Jaahiliyyah, or the pre-Islamic period of ignorance, the disbelievers were extremely pessimistic about everything. Ibn Mas’ood, may Allaah be pleased with him, said that “Each one of us had this (i.e., pessimism), but Allaah replaced it with our reliance on Him.” (Abu Daawood & Tirmidhi). This saying means that at that time, the people’s hearts were full of pessimism. For example, people used to feel pessimism when they felt the wind blowing strongly, or if some of them intended to set out on a journey and subsequently saw something that they disliked, they would be sure that they would meet a calamity or even death during the forthcoming trip, so they would be overcome by pessimism.
However, a believer must completely rely on Allaah as Ibn Mas’ood, may Allaah be pleased with him, said: “Allaah replaces pessimism with reliance on Him.” Pessimism is a false and futile concept; it has no effect in determining events because they are all under the control and decree of Allaah. This is why the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam used to hate pessimism and love optimism; for one who is always optimistic has a high opinion of his Lord, which the believer is commanded to have. As for pessimism, this leads a person into thinking evil of his Lord, which was the belief of the people during Jahiliyyah. Due to these reasons, the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam forbade us from being pessimistic by saying: “No pessimism.”
Then, he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said “No Haammah” which refers to the bird already mentioned which the disbelievers had false beliefs about. For example, they believed that a person who was murdered would have this bird in his grave screaming for revenge. They also thought that the Haammah bird contained the soul of a dead person and flew it between different neighbourhoods. There were countless other false beliefs which were prevalent at that time, so the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam had to refute and negate them because these beliefs were contrary to the sound creed that a Muslim is commanded to have. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam clarified the concept that everything occurs due to the decree and command of Allaah and nothing else.
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam exerted all possible efforts in explaining these concepts to us. He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam made it clear that we need to purify our hearts from thinking evil of our Lord or being pessimistic regarding places, times or dates. For example, we must refute and negate the belief that some have which is to think that Wednesday is a day on which all evil takes place, so they avoid doing certain things on that day.
Dear believers! We must pay close attention to such matters, our belief must be sound and correct, and we must not allow our hearts and minds to be invaded by such falsities. We must not be pessimistic regarding specific times and places because the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam forbade us from doing this. Also, it goes against the sound belief that we are required as Muslims to possess. I ask Allaah to guide me and you all and to make us among those who always think highly of their Lord.
Also, we must know that favours and bounties cannot be attained except by being obedient to Allaah and that hardship, calamities and problems can be reduced if not terminated by supplicating to Allaah or by being obedient to Him. Therefore, whoever relies on Allaah, He is sufficient for him. Allaah says that which translates as: “…And whoever fears Allaah – He will make for him of his matter ease.” (At-Talaaq: 4). Nothing can avert the decree and command of Allaah except supplication. Destruction and calamities cannot be stopped except through obedience to Allaah. I ask Allaah to make me and you all among those whom He has mercy upon. Allaah says that which translates as: “By time, Indeed mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (Al-Asr: 1-3).
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