How is it necessary to address a person who sneezes? Is it permissible to express one’s good wishes orally?

Details of the Question

How is it necessary to address a person who sneezes? Is it permissible to express one’s good wishes orally?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is sunnah for a Muslim who sneezes to say "alhamdulillah" (praise be to Allah) and for the people who are present there to say to him, "yarhamukallah / May Allah show mercy on you!" and the person who sneezes to answer as "yahdina wa yahdikumullah / May Allah guide us and you!"

When the vapor that would cause some permanent disorders if it remained where it was comes out through sneezing, it becomes a boon and benefit for the person who sneezes. When the organs remain healthy after the quake that takes place in the body, it is necessary for a person to praise Allah, that is to say "alhamdulillah". (Zadul-Maad, II/983)

According to what is narrated from Abu Hurayra, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

"When one of you sneezes, let him say, “alhamdulillahi ala kulli hal (praise be to Allah for every state)". Let his brother or friend say, “yarhamukallah (May Allah show mercy on you!)”. Let the person who sneezes say, yahdikumullahu wa yuslihu balakum (May Allah guide you and improve your affairs / improve your heart!)"  (Bukhari, Adab, 126; Abu Dawud, Adab, 91; Tirmidhi, Adab, 3; Ibn Majah, Adab, 20)

In a narration by Tirmidhi, instead of the phrase “‘yahdikumullahu wa yuslihu balakum” the phrase “yaghfirullahu lana wa lakum (May Allah forgive us and you)” exists. (see Tirmidhi, Adab,3)

According to a narration, when Abdullah b. Umar sneezed and when somebody said to him, yarhamukallah”, he would answer him as follows: “Yarhamunallahu wa iyyakum wa yaghfiru lana wa lakum (May Allah show mercy on us and you, and may Allah forgive us and you!” (see Muwatta, Istidhan, 2; Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, X/609)

Due to those benefits of sneezing for human health, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following in the narration of Ibn Umar reported by Khatib:

"If a person who sneezes or belches says, 'alhamdulillahi ala kulli hal minalhal (praise be to Allah for every state)', seventy diseases, the slightest of which is leprosy, are kept away from him."

In another narration in Adab al-Mufrad, the following is reported from Hz. Ali:

"If a person says ' alhamdulillahi Rabbil-alamina ala kulli hal in ma kana' when he sneezes, he will never suffer from earache and stomachache." (Kutub as-Sittah, IX/426)

Besides, when man sneezes, his heart stops beating for a few seconds; the hearts rests at that time. After that, it starts to beat again. This is like man’s dying and returning to life again. For, the heart that stops during sneezing might not beat again. Thus, he says, "alhamdulillah" to God Almighty and thanks Him for making the heart beat again.

According to medical experts, when we sneeze, our eyes and air passages close for a third and we throw 85.000.000 bacteria into the air with a speed of 300-350 kph.

A special technique was used in very fast cameras in researches done in order to understand how sneezing takes place and pictures that were demanded were obtained only when the image was frozen at 1/100.000 of a second. The liquid layer seen around the particles in the picture flies as vapor and particles fly in the air. Those particles are not harmless water particles or lifeless matter. When a layer on which a nutrient medium that would help bacteria to reproduce was placed in front of a person who sneezed and when the bacteria were counted, it was observed that one particle produced 19.000 bacteria colony. Only one sneeze can send 85.000.000 bacteria around. 

It is sunnah for a person who sneezes to cover his mouth with his hand, a handkerchief or his garment so as not to cast microbes around and spread diseases like influenza. A narration regarding the issue is as follows: 

"When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sneezed, he would cover his mouth with his hand or garment, hides his voice or sneeze silently."  (see Abu Dawud, Adab 90; Tirmidhi, Adab 6)

Sneezing, which is something that has to be done according to physiologists, takes place with a surprising mechanism without man’s conscious help. For, when you need sneezing, you sneeze; you cannot prevent it. If this mechanism were not present in us, we would not be able to get rid of many harmful substances and dust that disturb us. Therefore, we thank our Lord and say "alhamdulillah" after sneezing because we get rid of millions of microbes and harmful substances. 

It is permissible to express one’s good wishes orally to a person who sneezes but it is more appropriate to use the expressions that are in compliance with the Sunnah.

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