Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
Allah, the Giver and Taker of Life, proclaims in the Glorious Qur’an in Surah al-Anfal, Chapter 8 verse 24:
O Believers! Respond to the call of God and the Messenger whenever the Messenger invites you unto that which will give you LIFE. Know that God intervenes between a person and their heart. And unto God you will all be gathered (Q8:24).
The literal meaning of the above Qur’anic verse is crystal clear: Islam is a religion that invites and encourages its adherents to embrace that which gives life not death. The import of the above verse is reflected in many other verses of the Glorious Qur’an (see Surah al-Ma’idah chapter 5: verse 32; Surah al-An`am chapter 6: verse 151; Surah al-Isra’ chapter 17: verse 33; Surah al-Furqan chapter 25: verse 68). Inspired by the above pivotal teaching expounded in the most primary source of Islamic guidance, classical Muslim jurists have made the sanctity of human life (ḥifẓ al-ḥayāt) one of the five supreme objectives of Islamic Law (Maqasid al- Sharīʿah).
Given the above positive and life affirming message of Islam and the central position that the preservation of life occupies within Islamic jurisprudence it is not at all surprising, therefore, that the overwhelming majority of Muslim judicial authorities and scholars have declared the taking of Covid-19 vaccines not only as permissible (halal) but highly recommended (mandub). A number of prestigious Islamic Fatwa Bodies, including Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, the Al-Azhar Islamic University, the UAE’s Fatwa council under the leadership of the renowned contemporary Muslim jurist, Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, and the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, have all classified Covid-19 (Coronavirus) vaccines as preventative medicines and recommended that Muslims take it in order to prevent the spread of the contagious disease, to mitigate the harm the pandemic has inflicted on human lives and livelihoods and most of all to save human lives. Locally, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa have also recommended that Muslims take the Covid-19 vaccine.
All of the above fatawa Islamic legal judgments have two things in common. One, they uphold the supreme sanctity of human life (hifz al-hayat), and, second, they recognize that we are living through one of the worst pandemics in human history and thus require the application of an Islamic emergency legal maxim: “al-daruratu tubih al-mahzurat – necessity makes the unlawful lawful.”
This global and overwhelming affirmative Muslim response to the taking of Covod-19 vaccines is encouraging and commendable. There are, however, a few Muslims individuals and groups who are naysayers. It is my considered view that the Islamic evidences (adillah) of the small and insignificant number of Muslim skeptics who are unwilling to take Covid-19 vaccines are insubstantial and unconvincing. Moreover, in accordance with the Islamic legal maxim “lesser of the two evils” (akhaffu al-dararyn) the postulated risk of taking the vaccine are not sufficient to make the vaccine impermissible. More disconcerting, however, is the fact that these skeptics are prone to peddling conspiracy theories and despite the overwhelming medical and scientific evidence deny that humanity is currently living through a Coronavirus pandemic which is causing untold human suffering and deaths. It is my considered view that we should refrain from wasting our energies in engaging in negative diatribes with obstinate conspiracy theorists. It is ironic, that many of the same skeptics have taken yellow fever and other vaccines in order to qualify to travel to perform the hajj and to enjoy other worldly privileges such as enrolling their children in prestigious schools or immigrating to Western countries. While I am saying we should not engage with such obstinate conspiracy theorists, we should be aware of the misinformation they are peddling and guard ourselves and our families from falling prey to their misguided views.
My message is that all conscientious Muslims should take the Covid-19 vaccine and see their embracing of it as an act of sadaqah i.e. an act of charity intended to save lives and reduce the immense human suffering caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. For taking the vaccine is not merely an act of self-preservation but also an act of love and compassion for others. In this regard our exemplar and guide Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him) has taught us in a prophetic tradition narrated by the companion, Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) and recorded in the hadith collection of Imam Bukhari:
“Removing a Harmful Thing from the Road is a Charity”
The import and meaning of the above hadith is clear: preventing harm by removing things from public spaces which may cause injury or harm is a generous act of charity. This is indeed the case of those who take the Covid-19 vaccine and it resonates fully with another prophetic tradition (hadith) which was incorporated by classical jurists as an Islamic legal maxim: “la darara wa la dirar – One should neither suffer harm nor be the cause of harm to others”.
I strongly urge and encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as it is made available to you. I furthermore, recommend that Muslims should join civil society campaigns to ensure that the distribution of vaccines is executed equitably and justly and reach the most vulnerable, those who do not have private healthcare and cannot afford to pay for vaccines. In our current context, Covid-19 vaccines are a public good, and should be made available to all citizens. In this spirit, I urge you too, to guard against being driven by self-preservation only and using your privileges to jump queues – let us all exercise patience in the coming months and follow the national guidelines of the vaccine rollout plan, and step forward when our turn comes around.
In conclusion, while we are optimistic about the positive effects of the Covid-19 vaccine, until such time that we have not yet achieved population immunity let us continue to be vigilant and to practice the necessary protocols such as washing hands, wearing masks in public, maintaining physical distancing and avoiding crowded spaces. We make du`a and ask Allah, the Source of all-Healing, to grant us healing, relief and protection from the current Covid-19 pandemic. We pray that Allah guides our public officials to find the most equitable and just manner of rolling out the vaccine such that those who need it most may receive it first. Allahumma Amin