The Covid-19 vaccine from an Islamic perspective and the role of Health Department in the Khilafah State

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic certainly shook the world to its mortal and feeble foundations, effectively ceasing all global activities and imprisoned every one of every age, status, and financial position in their abodes. Constantly likened to the Black Plague that happened in Europe in the Medieval Ages, the mortality rate soared to millions all around the globe, shocking not only the global population, but also astounded many biologists, virologists, and doctors as to the virulent and rapid spread of the coronavirus. Efforts to contain the virus, through the use of lockdown laws and quarantine measures, failed to keep the virus at bay; instead the number of infections rose steadily throughout much of the year.

However, after a year of constant anxiety and repeated quarantines, 2020 has come to an end; but the pandemic is still present all around the world, and with the advent of 2021, tension runs high as people, everywhere, still see the evidence of the pandemic strengthening with new COVID-19 variants. Millions more are infected; regardless of nations, developed, developing, or undeveloped; and increasing mortality rates, along with general political incompetence created a general air of distrust, insecurity, and anxiety unknown to this world since the credit crunch of 2009. Yet, the end of 2020, and the beginning of 2021, brought with it hopes of the end to this terrible pandemic, in the shape of the many pharmaceutical companies finally completing the clinical trials of vaccines, ready to export them to countries worldwide. An assorted number, notably the Oxford-AstraZenaca, Pfizer-BioNtech, and Moderna vaccines have finished the third phase of clinical trial, and have been used in mass vaccination programs in the United States and the United Kingdom, and have been exported to a significant number to many other countries. With the bright future of a possible world free of coronavirus, a few questions arise, especially amongst Muslims; first, is the vaccine really successful, and can Muslims use it (permissible, without forbidden ingredients)?

First of all, it is essential for us to understand how the vaccine really works. The popular vaccine used by many countries in the world are developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna. They are different from traditional vaccines. Traditional vaccines generally use a weakened or inactivated germ to stimulate the immune system to recognize the pathogen and prepare the necessary anti-toxins to combat future infections. However, due to the mutative capability of the coronavirus, traditional vaccines are considered not at all reliable in combating said disease, since the virus will mutate every time a vaccine is made to destroy it. Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna  developed mRNA vaccines; a method new to the practical medical world, but not unknown, as mRNA vaccines have been studied for use against such diseases as normal flu, the mosquito-borne Zika and mammal-borne rabies. Oxford-AstraZeneca on the other hand, chose to use a modified adenovirus “vector” to deliver the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the cell nucleus. The mRNA vaccine works by giving instructions in the form of ribonucleic acid (RNA) to the nucleus of a cell, prompting the cells to produce the spike proteins. These spike proteins resemble those that surround the coronavirus, and is easily its most recognisable feature. In doing so, the immune system will recognise the spike proteins as a foreign element, and will begin building an immune response and producing antibodies, a reaction similar to the expected biological reaction if a human being is infected by the coronavirus. By the end of this process, our body will be protected from future infections of the coronavirus; hopefully from any of its mutated strains too; without being affected by the actual virus itself.

The vaccines, too, has proven successful in three phases of clinical trials; special attention must be accorded to the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which has received widespread attention and increasing demand, due to it completing its clinical trials first with a 97 % success rate. Out of the 44000 volunteers who participated in the test; half of which were given the actual vaccine and the other half given a placebo of saltwater; only 94 were reported to have been infected by the coronavirus. As the test is blinded; that is, no one other than an independent board, not even the company executives know who received the vaccine or the placebo; it is safe to assume that the vaccine is successful according to the independent board, which reported a 97 % rate. This exceeded the minimum bar of a vaccine efficacy as set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States of America, which is 50 %t. As of yet, there were no serious safety concerns, as potentially dangerous doses have been weeded out during the May trials last year. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that though there were no safety concerns to be considered as of yet, it would still monitor patients who received the vaccine to confirm the guarantee made by Pfizer-BioNtech.

As to the question of whether Muslims should receive vaccination or not, it can be concluded that in Islam, it is encouraged for Muslims to seek a cure for every disease there is, but its consumption is not fardh (obligatory) but mandub (encouraged). This is in accord with a few of our Prophet’s hadith, for instance;

«لِكُلِّ دَاءٍ دَوَاءٌ، فَإِذَا أُصِيبَ دَوَاءُ الدَّاءِ بَرَأَ بِإِذْنِ اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ»

“Every illness has a cure, and when the proper cure is applied to the disease, it ends it, by the permission of Allah Azza wa Jal” [Muslim].

«مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ دَاءً إِلَّا أَنْزَلَ لَهُ شِفَاءً»

“Allah has not sent down a disease except that He has also sent down its cure” [Bukhari]

From the above ahadith, it can be safely concluded that any method to cure a disease, including vaccination, is encouraged, but it is not a fardh to do so. To understand why it is not fardh, let us refer to the below ahadith, which supports such a conclusion;

Abu Dawud narrated from Usama Ibn Shareek that he said: I approached the Prophet (saw) and his companions, and they appeared as if they had birds sitting on their heads. I extended my greetings and sat down, then many Bedouins came from here and there and asked: ‘O Messenger of AIIah, should we seek medicine?’ He said:

«تَدَاوَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لَمْ يَضَعْ دَاءً إِلَّا وَضَعَ لَهُ دَوَاءً، غَيْرَ دَاءٍ وَاحِدٍ الْهَرَمُ أي إلا الموت»

“Yes, O slaves of AIIah, seek medicine, for AIIah has not created a disease except that he has also created its cure, except for one illness.’ They said, ‘And what is that?’ He said, ‘Al-Haram’ [death]” i.e. except for death.

Thus, for a vaccine, the hukm is mandub, as vaccination is part of medication, and to be treated is mandub; except if it is confirmed that such treatment contains dangerous ingredients that may imperil a patient for one reason or another, then it will become haram.

As for the use of prohibited (haram) things for medical purpose, it is narrated in Bukhari on the authority of Anas (ra):

«أَنَّ نَاساً اجْتَوَوْا فِي الْمَدِينَةِ فَأَمَرَهُمْ النَّبِيُّ ﷺ أَنْ يَلْحَقُوا بِرَاعِيهِ يَعْنِي الْإِبِلَ فَيَشْرَبُوا مِنْ أَلْبَانِهَا وَأَبْوَالِهَا فَلَحِقُوا بِرَاعِيهِ فَشَرِبُوا مِنْ أَلْبَانِهَا وَأَبْوَالِهَا…»

“Some people came to Madinah and (they became ill, so) the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of (Milch) she-camels and told them to go out and drink the camels’ urine and milk (as a medicine). So they went and drank it…”.

When the people became ill, the Prophet (saw) permitted them to consume ‘urine’ which is unclean. This ahadith, and other similar ahadith serve as indication that medication through impure and prohibited substances is undesirable (makruh) and not haram. Therefore, the use of a medicine or vaccine that contains any haram ingredients is permitted, though undesirable. However, it is better not to use them in the pharmaceutical industry and a halal ingredient should be a preference.

As for what may happen in the Khilafah when it is established, the State would concentrate its resources in finding a cure for any infection that could cripple the State, for instance an endemic or a pandemic, as is happening now. It is the responsibility of the Caliph to manage medical issues, especially a pandemic, as according to the Prophet’s hadith;

«الإِمَامُ رَاعٍ وَهُوَ وَمَسْؤُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ»

“The Imam is a Shepherd and he is responsible for those under his care” [Extracted by Bukhari from Abdullah Ibn Umar].

Al-Hakim extracted in al-Mustadrak from Zaid Ibn Aslam from his father he said:

مَرِضْتُ فِي زَمَانِ عُمَرَ بِنَ الْخَطَّابِ مَرَضاً شَدِيداً فَدَعَا لِي عُمَرُ طَبِيباً فَحَمَانِي حَتَّى كُنْتُ أَمُصُّ النَّوَاةَ مِنْ شِدَّةِ الْحِمْيَةِ

“I suffered a severe illness during the time of Umar Ibn al-Khaththab. He sent me a physician who gave me a strict diet. I used to suck on the date stone.”

The above ahadith shows that a leader (Caliph) must be responsible for his people’s well-being, and must do everything he can to ensure that they are well taken care of. The noble sahabah Umar bin Al-Khattab set an example of such an attitude. Thus it is a priority for the Khilafah to provide healthcare and medicine, as they are among the primary needs of the people, where it is obligatory for the State to guarantee that the citizens will obtain free and high quality health care.

The Khilafah is a state which has a pyramidical framework with the Khalifah as its head, from which the various departments, administrations and councils originate from. All this is derived according to his understanding of the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw). Through the governance of the Khalifah, the delivery of the best healthcare can be achieved by establishing the best healthcare department. This is in line with the noble hadith of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ

«الإِمَامُ رَاعٍ وَهُوَ وَمَسْؤُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ»

“The Imam is a Shepherd and he is responsible for those under his care” [Extracted by Bukhari from Abdullah Ibn Umar].

There will insha Allah be a Healthcare Department, where a director is appointed by the Khalifah. This director in charge will be amongst the best professionals of healthcare. Posts that do not serve the main purpose of providing  healthcare, such as political appointments will be abolished and those who are affected will be reskilled and reappointed to other jobs. The institution will devote its efforts to treat people and develop medicines and vaccines. The Khalifah will minimize any dependency on non-Muslim countries in the supply of medicines and vaccines. At present, it is sad to see that most Muslim-majority countries are asking companies manufacturing coronavirus vaccines to issue halal certification rather than having the capability to produce these vaccines ourselves.

Through the health department, scientists will be encouraged to carry out research to find cures for various disease and waste no efforts to limit the findings by patenting it and use the cure to serve the health of the Ummah and not for profit. The doctors will be spared from administrative work and the State will make all efforts to have all medical equipments available to them. The number of doctors and health workers will be increased, and they will be posted all over the State. Salaries of doctors and health workers will also be at a reasonable rate in order to not let them resort to private medical profession, which is typical nowadays. The State is also responsible in ensuring that doctors and healthcare workers are well managed to avoid overload and stress.

The establishment of private hospitals is allowed but the State will work to ensure that the services and reputation of public hospitals are second to none in the Khilafah healthcare system. The local health infrastructures (centres and facilities) will have a decentralised administration – and the responsibility of the Wali (Governor) is to look after the affairs of the people locally. In the midst of any outbreak, swift action will be possible to contain the outbreak. However, the Wali is directly responsible to the Khalifah and must form a strong bond between the regional administrations with the central government. The health infrastructure should be able to scale up general facilities such as public halls into massive hospitals with increased intensive care beds. They will also be well equipped with adequate staff and equipments. Contingency and preparedness plans must be carefully crafted and executed whenever outbreaks such as the current covid-19 pandemic takes place. Mass testing and vaccinations will be implemented facilities for isolation be established if necessary. Most importantly, the State will implement consistent, effective and efficient health related measures to ensure that outbreaks can be controlled.

This is just a small picture of how the Khilafah State will handle outbreaks like the one we are facing right now. One may say, well, what you were talking about is what the governments of the world today are doing in managing the pandemic. The big difference between how this pandemic is handled today and how the Khilafah will handle it is that the Khilafah manages the situation as part of its responsibility to the Ummah in fulfilling the commands of Allah. The Khilafah State is fully responsible in making sure that Islam exists as a way of life where the Deen will be implemented totally in all aspects of life. Today, we are witnessing and experiencing oppression under a system which favours a group of individuals over the whole human race!  We have seen how the politicians manoeuvred many events that costs us more lockdowns rather than returning to the normal life. Without Islam, this Ummah cannot undertake its responsibility for mankind to be the best Ummah, that enjoins good and forbids evil.

نْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ

“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” [Ali Imran (3): 110].

We pray that Allah ﷻ allows us to continue to work for this monumental aim and that He ﷻ brings His victory soon.

By: Aaron Zachariah