As far as the issue of swine flu is concerned, it should be clear that Shari`ah cares about people’s interests and well-being. So, Muslim countries are required to take the necessary measures to prevent harm and the spread of infectious diseases. Saudi Arabia, therefore, should apply preventive measures that secure the safety of people who are performing `Umrah and Hajj.
Dr. Hatemal-Haj, associate professor of Fiqh at Shari`ah Academy of America and Islamic University of Minnesota, stated:
This is a legitimate concern, but the conclusion is mistaken at this point. Swine flu, though serious and may mutate, is not as deadly as some people may think. There have been 3 deaths in the USA out of more than 2000 infections, and one of them was a Mexican child and the other had previous health problems.
It is also not prevalent in Muslim countries where the majority of pilgrims come from. People who go there may take the necessary precautions as advised by their physicians. The decision to suspend performing `Umrah should be referred to a board of scholars and experts in medicine and public health; not individuals. That is how we Muslims should handle such matters of great importance and impact.
Sheikh Amr Elsamny, Imam of the Tempe Masjid, Arizona, USA, adds:
According to the laws of Shari`ah, the benefit of the believer should come first, so if a plague or a disease was to spread in the heat, in crowds or in closed areas then it is permissible to delay or postpone `Umrah or even Hajj if necessary.
The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “If you hear of plague in a land do not enter it and if it occurs in a land where you are, do not leave the place.” (Al-Bukhari)
Swine flu cannot be considered a plague at this time, so the countries and individuals who are affected should take the hadith into consideration on a personal level.
Additionally, we have to take into consideration that Muslims do not deal with swine directly or indirectly, as it is strictly forbidden for a Muslim to eat, raise, buy or sell swine, so they are the least to be infected by this virus, and as proof we find that none of the Muslim countries has recorded any cases of swine flu so far.
According to the latest WHO (World Health Organization) count, the number of people infected has exceeded 11,000 cases in 42 countries. `Umrah rites could certainly be postponed if the World Health Organization declares a global pandemic, and raises its pandemic alert from five to the maximum six.
However, we have to mention that this is a technical issue, which should be dealt with by the ministries of health, environment and agriculture in determining its danger. Based on their reports, the ijtihad or judgment of the scholars and the recognized councils of Fiqh shall be made and they will make a united decision regarding this issue, as it should not be dealt with based on individual fatwas.