First of all, we’d like to highlight that people inflicted with contagious diseases are relieved from performing salah (ritual Prayer) in congregation if the disease is serious and is likely to infect others. Such patients are even freed from the obligation to perform Hajj, if their case is incurable, so that the disease may not spread among the healthy.

Dr. MarawanShahin, Professor of Hadith and Its Sciences, Faculty of Usul Ad-Din (Theology), Al-Azhar University, states: Infectious patients are exempted from attending Prayers with the congregation so as not to transmit the disease to healthy people. The other way round, the healthy should avoid contact with infectious patients so as not to catch the disease. Anyway, avoiding such patients is not a guarantee that one would not catch the disease. Instead, it is a kind of al-akhdhbil-asbab (taking all possible protective procedures).

Infection is not effected by its own, but by the will of Allah. In this sense, we see many people who come in contact with infectious patients yet they do not get infected, whereas others who avoid sources of infection altogether get infected. So, the whole issue depends on what Allah has predestined for each person. Nevertheless, man should not stay idle waiting for what is predestined for him, for he does not know it. Man is ordered to apply all possible lawful means to reach an end or avoid a danger. He is to do his best and the result is in the hands of Allah Almighty. No one knows them but Him.

This shows that healthy people are commanded to keep away from infectious patients, and vice versa. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) declared the rulings related to such cases in many hadiths.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Avoid a man infected with leprosy as if you avoid a lion.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) He (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported as saying: “When you talk to a man infected with leprosy, let a distance of one or two spears between you and him.”

Moreover, Al-Bukhari records the story of `Umaribn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) in this concern on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Abbas who said: `Umaribn Al-Khattab departed for Sham (the Levant) and when he reached Sargh, a place near Al-Yarmuk, the commander of the (Muslim) army, Abu `Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah, and his companions met him and told him that an epidemic of plague had broken out in Sham. `Umar said, “Call for me the early Muhajirun (immigrants to Madinah).” So `Umar called them, consulted them, and informed them that an epidemic of plague had broken out in Sham.

Those people differed in their opinions. Some of them said, “We have come out for a purpose and we do not think that it is proper to give it up,” while others said (to `Umar), “You have along with you other people and the Companions of Allah’s Messenger. So do not advise that we take them to this epidemic.” `Umar said to them, “Leave me now.”

Then he said, “Call the Ansar (Muslims native to Madinah) for me.” I called them and he consulted them and they followed the way of the Muhajirun and differed as they did. He then said to them: “Leave me now,” and added, “Call for me the old people of Quraysh who emigrated in the year of the Conquest of Makkah.”

I called them and they gave a unanimous opinion saying, “We advise that you should return with the people and do not take them to that (place) of epidemic.” So `Umar made an announcement, “I will ride back to Madinah in the morning, so you should do the same.” Abu `Ubaydahibn Al-Jarrah said (to `Umar), “Are you running away from what Allah has ordained?” `Umar said, “Would that someone else had said such a thing, O Abu `Ubaydah! Yes, we are running from what Allah has ordained to what Allah has ordained. Don’t you agree that if you had camels that went down a valley having two places, one green and the other dry, you would graze them on the green one only if Allah had ordained that, and you would graze them on the dry one only if Allah had ordained that?”

At that time `Abdur-Rahmanibn `Auf, who had been absent because of some job, came and said, “I have some knowledge about this. I have heard Allah’s Messenger saying, ‘If you hear about it (an outbreak of plague) in a land, do not go to it; but if plague breaks out in a country where you are staying, do not run away from it.’” `Umar thanked Allah and returned to Madinah.

Coming to the point of contradiction between Islam and practical science, we say that Islam by no means contradicts with practical science. Instead it encourages seeking knowledge and directs people to ask specialized experts for what they are not aware of. On the other hand, no one has right to give a prescription in a specific field except the expert, so that scholars condemn a man who gives a legal advisory without having proper knowledge for that, even if his advisory proved true.

This is very obvious in a lot of Qur’anic verses and hadiths. For example, Allah Almighty says: (Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!) (An-Nahl 16: 43) and, (None can inform you like Him Who is Aware.) (Fatir 35: 14)

Anas reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) happened to pass by the people who had been busy in grafting the trees. Thereupon he said: “If you were not to do it, it might be good for you.” (So they abandoned this practice) and there was a decline in the yield. He (the Prophet) happened to pass by them (and said): “What has gone wrong with your trees?” They said, “You said such-and-such.” Thereupon, he said: “You have better knowledge (of a technical skill) in the affairs of the world.” (Reported by Muslim)

This indicates that science is respected by Islam, as science shows Allah’s signs in His creation. However, the scope of practical science is narrow in the face of the divine secrets in the universe. Practical science explains different phenomena that are already found in the world. But it can never warrant or justify them. For example, practical science explains that rain falls due to the condensation of water evaporated from seas and rivers in the form of clouds. Scientists explain the phenomenon and may try to imitate it, yet the whole process and substances included in it are Allah’s creation, and He Almighty availed them to scientists to see signs of Allah’s absolute power. This actually enhances the religious dimension of all fields of knowledge. (That is why Allah Almighty says: (The erudite among His bondsmen fear Allah alone.) (Fatir 35: 28)

In the same way, scientists say that contact with the sources of infection causes infection, yet they cannot warrant this, for, as we mentioned above, a healthy man may get infected with a contagious disease though he never comes in contact with sources of infection, while one who contacts with them may not catch the disease. Hence, we conclude that science is just a tool that explains existed data to reach general rules. But these rules apply only when Allah wills, and fail when He does not will.

From the above fatwa we derive that precaution is really better than cure, bearing in mind that all is predestined. That is, if precaution is not needed in the light of predestination, then cure also in not needed. Though Allah is the Protector and He is the true Healer, He directed us to take all necessary precautions and to keep away from sources of ruin. He says: (…And be not cast by your own hands to ruin.” (Al-Baqarah 2: 195) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also directed people to seek cure, saying: “Seek cure, O servants of Allah, and never use haram (unlawful) substances.)

Hence, there is no contradiction between religion and science, nor between religion and reason. However, applying reason to religion needs great wisdom and knowledge because lack of knowledge may lead man astray and confuse him. That is why Islam directs us to seek knowledge from the learned scholars of what we are ignorant of. Islam is a universal message that applies to all times and places and never contradicts with useful lawful fields of life. It only contradicts and rejects the unlawful whatsoever.

As for taking care of infectious patients, it should be done with due care according to the medical ways of protection. Not only medical care but also psychological and spiritual care should be rendered to them. For this end, there should be professional groups who are well-trained and equipped with all necessary precautions in order not to catch the disease. Also there are special places for such patients. Such quarantines are useful both in curing them and protecting others from catching infection. May Allah give quick recovery to all patients and protect the healthy from diseases.