The Bible is full of texts that convey Christ’s treatment of patients of all kinds of diseases. No wonder, God has supported his prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, with many miracles, including the healing of the blind, the leper, and the revival of the dead with his permission -glory be to him– A fact approved by the Holy Qur’an as well. According to the Bible:
“Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel”. (Matthew 15: 30-31).
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” (Matthew 35: 9)
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4: 23 – 24) (Fore more see: (Luke 7: 11-17, 4:37) and (Acts 5: 16).
However, a quick look at the Bible shows the lack of an integrated methodology in dealing with diseases and epidemics, like the COVID 19 Corona-virus, compared to what was stated in the religion of Islam.
Wrong Christian Concepts in the Perception of Diseases and Epidemics
Christian Claim of the Ability of Prophets, Apostles or Disciples to Heal Diseases Themselves Apart from God:
Christians claim that Jesus had the ability to heal diseases by himself apart from God, inferring some of biblical texts to this effect:
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”” (1 Peter 2: 21-24).
The Qur’an rectifies the belief, stating -on the authority of Jesus – that Jesus did so only with God’s willing and permission, and that he had neither benefit nor harm to himself:
“And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah. And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.” (49: 3)
As usual, we find in the Bible some remnants of truth that strike and destabilize the traces of falsehood. In Christ’s statement to the woman who was bleeding, Jesus said:
“Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.” (Matthew 9:22).
So, Jesus makes one’s belief and devotion a way of healing.
There are many biblical texts which state – specifically in the Old Testament – that God (Allah) is the ultimate healer:
“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases”. (Psalms 103-3)
Strangely enough, the Bible often combines a something and its opposite, and many contradicting ideas; in one context, we can see Christ demonstrating the ability of his companions to heal the sick:
“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’”Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give”. (Matthew, 10:7-8)
However, in another context, he waives such responsibility away from them by saying:
“Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17: 19-20)
Combating Illnesses and Epidemics in Christianity and Islam
The texts of the Bible are scattered and did not present a comprehensive approach in dealing with diseases and epidemics; they focused on the punitive aspect more than other aspects. However, Islamic religion, on the other side, dealt with diseases as a type of affliction that require spiritual and material preparation. Here are some of the criteria that Islam has established to deal with diseases:
Islam established the principle of quarantine, while the Bible lacked any reference to it. The Prophet of Islam, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, says:
“If you hear that it (plague) has broken out in a land, do not go to it; but if it breaks out in a land where you are present, do not go out escaping from it.”( Sahih al-Bukhari 5730)
He, also, says:
“Plague is a calamity which was inflicted on those who were before you, or upon Bani Isra’il. So when it has broken out in a land, don’t run out of it, and when it has spread in a land, then don’t enter it.”
Prohibition of the Belief in the Effect of the Disease Itself without the Power of God
Dealing with infection, the Sunnah (way) of Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings be upon him – has shown that a person should not believe that the infection is transmitted by itself, but, rather, with God’s willing.
This is what the Prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, explained in the narration of Abu Hurairah, where he said:
“There is no infection (i.e.transmitted by itself), no safar, no hama (there should not be belief in the influence of such matters and months themselves). A desert Arab said: Allah’s Messenger, how is it that when the camel is in the sand it is like a deer-then a camel afflicted with scab mixes with it and it is affected by sub? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Who infected the first one?”
Cause of the Disease
The Old Testament explicitly touches upon some of the causes of diseases, but the New Testament hints only at them.
In the Old Testament we find:
“And if you fail to learn the lesson and continue your hostility toward me, then I myself will be hostile toward you. I will personally strike you with calamity seven times over for your sins..” (Leviticus 26:23 and 24).
We also find a positive and negative relation between diseases and disobedience:
“Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you,” (Exodus 23:25).
“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers….The LORD will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.” (Deuteronomy 7: 11-15).
Christ alludes to some of the causes of illness, including the fact that the affliction is only a manifestation of God’s ability.
“Neither he sinned, nor his parents, but that God’s works may appear in him” (John 3: 9).
He also hinted that it could be a punishment and a penance for sins:
“For then, because Christ suffered for us in the flesh, you also armed with this intention. For those who suffer in the flesh stop sin.” (1 Peter, 4: 1)
The Qur’an also hints that many nations punishments and tribulations were due to their disobedience to God’s commands. Addressing the children of Israel, God Almighty says:
“And We tested them with good [times] and bad that perhaps they would return [to obedience].”(7:168)
“So we sent the flood upon them …”(7:133)
Also, Islam recommends its followers to follow certain etiquette in dealing with the disease, including:
Not to Insult Diseases
Once The Prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him- visited Umm Sa’ib (or Umm Musaiyyab) and asked her, “What ails you O Umm Sa’ib (or Umm Musaiyyab)? You are shivering.” She replied: “It is a fever, may Allah not bless it!” He said to her, “Do not revile fever, for it cleanses out the sins of the sons of Adam in the same way that a furnace removes the dirt of iron.”(Sahih Muslim, Book 18, Hadith 216))
Satisfaction with the Divine Destiny and Decree, Having Patience And Considering Calamities as Atonement for Evil and a Way for Getting More Reward from God
The Sunnah of the Prophet indicated that the duty of a Muslim towards the calamities of diseases is having patience and the lack of alarm, and that one should be satisfied with God’s divine decree and destiny and should not hesitate to take the measures for healing; one should also look optimistic by looking at the bright side that diseases are atonement for evil and can bring good reward.
The Prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, says,
“Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience”.” [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim].
On the authority of Abu Hurairah, may God be pleased with him, he also said,
“A Muslim, male or female, continues to remain under trial in respect of his life, property and offspring until he faces Allah, the Exalted, with no sin record”.
Utilizing Means and Taking Measures to Combat Disease
Islam urges its followers to adopt the means for recovery, while the Bible has no reference to this. Prophet Muhammad -peace be upon him- says:
“There is a remedy for every malady, and when the remedy is applied to the disease it is cured with the permission of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.
“Some Bedouins asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) shall we treat (our ill)?’ He said: ‘Yes, O worshipers of Allah! Use remedies. For indeed Allah did not make a disease but He made a cure for it’ – or – ‘a remedy. Except for one disease.’ They said: ‘O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w)! What is it?’ He said: ‘Old age.’” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2038).
Other measures include :
Seeking God’s forgiveness and doing good to others
Comparison between the Islamic perception of calamities, including illness, and the Christian perception of it, shows the comprehensiveness of the Islamic approach as to how it handled the issue with unparalleled comprehensiveness in terms of: dealing with the disease, treating it while preserving the constants, including contentment of divine destiny, and preserving the doctrine of monotheism through lack of belief in the effect of disease or infection itself on people.
Also, it shows how the Islamic approach presents ways to confront afflictions in a manner consistent with both Sharia (divine law) and reason; Islam has followed the rules of quarantine and the necessary legislation for public cleanliness, washing and urging medication.