As facts, rumours, and fears mix and disperse, it becomes difficult to gain essential information about coronavirus, the vaccine and how we should respond. This is all the more important as the British Muslim community profile seems at higher risk than others, attributed to higher health inequalities, housing conditions, public-facing occupations and structural racism. Sadly, we have all experienced loss of friends and family members who were diagnosed with Covid.
People seem drawn to dark conspiracy theories, often in favor of the truth. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation and conspiracy theories have surged. We have heard a president praising anti-malarials and disinfectant as potential game-changers, theories about Covid being developed in a lab or even by Bill Gates for population control and of course the 5G mobile towers connection.
Its important to remember that in our search for the truth, our perception of the reality is just a perception, especially as we are all trying to learn how to respond to this unprecedented scenario. Ultimately, the truth lies with Allah(SWT) and this test we are living to is a reminder of our dependence on our Creator.
With everything this year happening at such pace, its clear that no-one is at all prepared for this. The mistrust, theories and conspiracies, which fill social media and common conversation, are understandable as we are all afraid because of the uncertainty and lack of control, causing backlash to guidance from the establishment. There is also a lot of doubt on the sincerity of decisions being made in a climate of discrimination and conflicting interests (political or financial).
There is nothing wrong with raising questions especially when things seem so rushed, so long as our intention is to help come to a positive solution. And there are many genuine questions being raised about the speed of vaccine production and roll-out, confidence in its efficacy and data regarding infections and outcomes.
We accept that there are a minority group of activists and scientists who are voicing concerns about the vaccine, however, this is not a new phenomena. The anti-vax community has been raising concerns about measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis and meningitis. Every one of us who plans to do Umrah or Hajj must get the ACYW135 vaccine against meningitis before arrival in Saudi Arabia, yet no-one has complained about that.
One of the concerns is about the speed of development of this vaccine and whether its been rushed out. However, it has tested with more than 20,000 sample size. This is ongoing with specific groups including ethnic communities and those with allergies. Its important to remember that Coronaviruses refer to a family of enveloped, single-stranded viruses which we first became aware of in 2002 – the early versions you may remember as SARS and MERS which spiked in the Middle East, so there has been a longer study of this type of virus. Also, the messenger RNA (MRNA) technology used in the vaccine has been in use for the last 6 years.
MRNA vaccines aren’t like normal flu vaccines which inject a weakened/inactive virus into our bodies, rather they are a piece of genetic code which contains instructions to trigger the immune response to the coronavirus. By the nature of this approach, it means:
a. MRNA cannot cause the infection
b. the body breaks down MRNA in a few hours so the chance of long term side effects are minimised
Regarding whether the vaccine is a microchip for the government to track you, this is really unnecessary when they can track your social media or phone far easier. Barcodes on the syringes of vaccines are common to track when and where it was administered.
The other concern has been around potential side effects. As of 24th December 2020, more than 600,000 people in the UK have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine of which 2 people have had allergic reactions. More than 1million people have had the vaccine in the US, with 7 known allergic reactions. There are some side effects like headache, chills and muscle pain but these really don’t compare to the serious long term effects of coronavirus including:
- Increased risk of clots (lungs, heart attack, stroke)
- Inflammation of heart muscle
- Permanent scarring of lungs
- Mental fogginess
As we reach 70,000 Covid-related deaths, its important to remember the unique dangers of Covid – it starts off as a lung disease but can take a week before it progresses to the point where people need hospital treatment and it affects the whole body, as well as causing inflammation and blood clotting.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Agency can confirm that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any components of animal origin (i.e. no gelatine) and no products are derived from foetal cell lines.
The position of the British Islamic Medical Association has been verified by scholars nationally, Wifaqul Ulema, MCB, MINAB and UKIM.
It’s important to remember that Shaytan has 2 main strategies by which he causes our downfall and they are repeated throughout the Qur’an. And he used these in his initial approach to trick Adam (AS) and Eve (Hawa) and then continues to use these at every opportunity to cause us to slip as well. After Iblees had been cast out for refusing to prostrate to Adam(AS) as commanded by Allah(SWT), Adam and Hawa lived in Paradise and they could eat of anything that they wished, except for one tree. Shaytaan was aware of this and made it his mission to get both of them to eat from this tree so that they would also fall from favour before Allah(SWT), so he set about a plan to trick them. The two strategies which he used – doubt and desire.
“Then Shaytaan (Satan) whispered to him, saying : ‘O Adam! Shall I lead you to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that will never waste away?’” [Ta-Ha 20:120]
“And he (Shaytaan (Satan)) swore by Allah to them both (saying): ‘Verily, I am one of the sincere well-wishers for you both’” [al-A‘raaf 7:20-21].
He caused doubt in their mind about the prohibition of Allah(SWT) by telling them this one tree was really special, so that they would reconsider its prohibition. He then tempted them with desire saying that eating from it would give them eternal life and an unlimited kingdom in Paradise, rather than being sent to Earth.
He deluded our forefathers, and today again, he continues to try to trick us by causing doubt. When questions are not suitably answered, they cause doubt and this can be dangerous as it snowballs, initially with small questions which when unanswered, cause one to doubt leadership and can lead to rebellion, without any clear guidance or alternative. However, Allah(SWT) provides the solution to doubt which is seeking knowledge.
There are 3 things to bear in mind when dealing with uncertainty to dispel doubt:
1. If you do not know, ask those who do [an-Nahl 16:43]
“So ask those who possess knowledge if you do not know”
Allah (SWT) has divided the Muslim community into two types of people: the ahl al-dhikr, and those that depend on the ahl al-dhikr (the scholars). Ask those scholars who have a good understanding of the shari’ah, have taqwa and who have either a very good grasp of the science or have consulted with those who have expertise in the science. Usually these are scholars who are respected in their communities and have been teaching the subject for some time and are accountable.
2. Don’t spread uncertainty
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “It is sufficient for a person to be a liar that they speak of everything he hears.” kafaa bil mar’i kadhiban an-yuhadditha bikulli maa sami’
[Saheeh Muslim: 5]
Imam Al-Nawawi (rh) explained: “Usually a person hears truth and lies, so if he speaks of everything that he hears, he is lying by telling of things that did not happen, and lying by speaking of something other than the way it happened; and he does not have to do that deliberately (in order to be regarded as telling lies)”
Be very careful of what you hear, what you believe and what you pass on. We hear and read so much today. Much of it is gossip, innuendo, insinuations, misconception, exaggerations, misunderstandings and only part of it is truth. Be very careful especially when it affects other’s lives. This is so harmful and detrimental.
If you are accepting a report or news from a source with the objective of using this to inform others, then it becomes a duty upon you to verify the information by ensuring it is peer reviewed by experts. Just because somebody is stating something with passion and emotion does not suggest that what this person is claiming is the truth.
3. Know that ultimate Truth lies with Allah(SWT)
Humanity had once been one community ˹of believers before they lost faith˺. Then Allah raised prophets as deliverers of good news and as warners, and revealed to them the Scriptures in truth to judge among people regarding their disputes. And no one disputed the Scriptures except the very people who received them after clear proofs had come to them—out of jealousy. Then Allah, by His grace, has guided the believers to the truth regarding those disputes. And Allah guides whoever He wills to the Straight Path. [Surah Al Baqarah 2:213]
In Tafsir ibn Kathir, ibn Jarir reported that Abduallah Ibn `Abbas (RA) said, “There were ten generations between Adam and Nuh, all of them on the religion of Truth. They later disputed so Allah sent the Prophets as warners and bringers of glad tidings.” He then said that this is how `Abdullah read the Ayah: The people were one Ummah and they then disputed.
They disputed about the day of Congregation (Friday). The Jews made it Saturday while the Christians chose Sunday. Allah guided the Ummah of Muhammad to Friday. They also disputed about the true Qiblah. The Christians faced the east while the Jews faced Bayt Al-Maqdis. Allah guided the Ummah of Muhammad to the true Qiblah (Ka`bah in Makkah). They also disputed about the prayer, as some of them bow down, but do not prostrate, while others prostrate, but do not bow down. Some of them pray while talking and some while walking. Allah guided the Ummah of Muhammad to the truth. They also disputed about the fast; some of them fast during a part of the day, while others fast from certain types of foods. Allah guided the Ummah of Muhammad to the truth. They also disputed about Ibrahim. The Jews said, `He was a Jew,’ while the Christians considered him Christian. Allah has made him a Haneefan Musliman. Allah has guided the Ummah of Muhammad to the truth. They also disputed about `Isa(AS). The Jews rejected him and accused his mother of a grave sin, while the Christians made him a god and the son of God. Allah made him by His Word and a spirit from (those He created) Him. Allah guided the Ummah of Muhammad to the truth.”
In relation to this ayah, the Prophet(SAW) was known to invoke Allaah(SWT) in the Night Prayer with this Du’aa: (O Allah, the Lord of (angels) Jibril, Mika’il and Israfil, Creator of the heavens and earth and Knower of the seen and the unseen. You judge between Your servants regarding what they have disputed in, so guide me to what have been the subject of dispute of the truth by Your leave. Indeed, You guide whom You will to the straight path.
Its also narrated from Umar(RA) that he would “O Allah, show me the truth as truth and guide me to follow it. Show me the false as false and guide me to avoid it.” [Sharḥ al-Muntahá al-Irādāt 3/497] as has been preserved in the jumuah khutba.
Misinformation increases work; it places our lives in danger and adds additional stress and emotional and mental toll to all of us. To summarise:
- The cure for doubt is seeking knowledge from those experts who understand the reality and can review it in light of the Islamic guidance.
- Everyone is entitled to their personal opinion and you can abstain from the vaccine, but take care not to spread doubt and confusion, especially for those who are at high risk and vulnerable.
- Seek guidance constantly and humbly from Allah(SWT).