Home News Lessons from the hadith of the plague

Lessons from the hadith of the plague

In the letter

A Nepalese Muslim boy prays the Friday prayer in Kathmandu during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. (Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters)

In times of life or death crisis, believers turn to their religion to understand the situation they find themselves in. For this reason, in Muslim societies where the scourge of COVID-19 is rampant, we often hear the words of the Prophet Mohammed quoted: “If the plague breaks out in a region, don't go there, but if you are already there, do it doesn't come out. '

This prophetic tradition (hadith) is invoked by Muslims to answer the practical and urgent questions of the day: “What should I think? 'And' What is to be done?

I was in Senegal when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported. The alarm was sounded and initially there was fear of “religious” resistance to quarantine and stay-at-home measures. Do without Friday prayers in the mosque? Out of question. Cancel planned celebrations of the various Sufi brotherhoods (which include a majority of Senegalese Muslims) that lead to gatherings of hundreds of thousands in religious capitals such as Touba or Tivaouane? Impossible.

Fortunately, the state took the time to explain its actions and gain support from the country's spiritual leaders. Airport closures, bans on religious gatherings, and night curfews became the norm. Granted, the decisions were dictated by common sense and science to the secular Senegalese state. Yet they are a contemporary translation of the plague hadith.

French culture: 'In times of crisis, believers turn to their religion to question it'

At the beginning of Ramadan, the Senegalese philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne deconstructs ...

The hadith teaches first of all that to challenge God by tempting the devil, the negation of consideration for others, for those around whom the Qur'an calls 'the children of Adam'. This means that whoever goes to a religious gathering has decided not only that their faith dictates that they risk their own health and that of the other devotees they gather with, but also the of his fellow citizens who do not share the same belief or have no religious belief at all.

In other words, God's decree is not against common sense. Disregarding common sense and what science dictates is neither a manifestation of the intensity of one's faith nor the self-conscious surrender to God that true faith requires.

When science has conquered the plague, the teaching of the plague hadith must continue to remind us that religion makes sense when it is the religion of mankind.


Souleymane Bachir Diagne, an Islamic scholar, is the chairman of the French and Romance Philology Department at Columbia University. His research area includes Boolean algebra of logic, history of philosophy, Islamic philosophy, African philosophy, and literature. This column is editorially independent of Colombia News .

Tags Religion International Coronavirus

Interesting Articles

Editor'S Choice

Design your future series of events
Design your future series of events
This March, Columbia University School of Professional Studies is hosting a series of multidisciplinary discussions that will bring together faculty, practitioners and ...
4 faculty members today delve into the importance of Black History Month
4 faculty members today delve into the importance of Black History Month
Our country is in the midst of a race reckoning. Columbia professors discuss how our current situation is reflected in Black History Month.
Columbia physicist honored with US commemorative postage honor
Columbia physicist honored with US commemorative postage honor
Chien-Shiung Wu's groundbreaking work changed the way scientists look at the structure of the universe.
Medieval Europe
Medieval Europe
Courses: First year students must enroll for GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography and GR8061 Topics in Pre-Modern European History at some point during the first two years.
Book review: 'Too much of a good thing
Book review: 'Too much of a good thing'
If your New Year's resolutions to eat better, exercise, and be less stressed are already a dark and distant memory, perhaps it should be blamed on persistent genes rather than weak willpower.
Problematic cannabis use is increasing in states where drugs are legal
Problematic cannabis use is increasing in states where drugs are legal
Cannabis use disorder - also known as problem use - has increased in adults after recreational marijuana use was legalized, according to a new study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and NYU School of Medicine. For adults aged 26 and over, marijuana use was 26 percent higher in the last month after legalization than in non-recreational states. Similar,
Application process
Application process
Your path to a J.D. degree from Columbia Law School starts here.