Who said, ‘He who escapes from plague is like the one who escapes from war’?

The Details of the Question

- Is the statement ‘He who escapes from plague is like the one who escapes from war’ a hadith or a statement of Hz. Aisha?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

That statement belongs to Hz. Aisha and the full statement is as follows:

“He who escapes from plague is like the one who escapes from war. He who shows patience and stays in the place where plague breaks out is like a mujahid in the way of Allah.” (Faydul-Qadir, 4/288; Haythami, Majmauz-Zawaid, 2/315)

Nuraddin Haythami states that the chain of narrators of this narration is hasan and he points out that it is sound. (Majmauz-Zawaid, ibid)

The following hadith reported by Hz. Aisha from the Prophet (pbuh) shows clearly how the statement above should be understood:

“Plague was a punishment which Allah used to send on whom He wished, but Allah made it a blessing for the believers. None (among the believers) remains patient in a land in which plague has broken out and considers that nothing will befall him except what Allah has ordained for him, but that Allah will grant him a reward similar to that of a martyr.” (Bukhari, Tibb 31; see Bukhari, Anbiya 54; Qadar 15; Muslim, Salam 92-95)

Plague is an infectious disease that causes mass death. The fact that it emerges unusually in any region and causes death on a large scale caused it to be described as torment/punishment.

In this hadith, it is not pointed out that Muslims will not catch this disease, but that this disease is a means of mercy for them and that this mercy will be manifest in the form of the reward of a martyr for those who have the necessary conditions.

Those conditions are listed as follows:

The person who has caught plague must be patient and expect his reward from Allah; he must not leave the place where he is; he must know that only what Allah appreciates will happen to him and he must accept it.

To be patient with the disease and expect reward from Allah does not mean not to seek a cure for its treatment. He should look for a solution according to both his own means and the means of medical science.

Medicine did not have the means in the face of plague in the past; similarly, the ill person or the local people in the place where the disease originates might not have the means today. In that case, what needs to be done is to wait for the reward from Allah without rebelling and to surrender to God Almighty. In fact, that is an attitude that is desired and expected from every Muslim at all times.

It is important that the ill person not leave the place where he is located so as not to spread the disease to other regions.

This hadith asks the believers to apply the practice of quarantine.

It is a characteristic of Islam to have taken such a serious measure fifteen centuries ago related to a matter that concerns the public.

As it is pointed out in other hadiths regarding the issue, entry to and exit from the region where plague is seen is prohibited. This is complete quarantine.

It is regarded as not believing in Allah's predestination to claim that one will definitely catch the disease if he remains in the place where the disease has emerged and to claim that one will not catch the disease even if he enters that place.

Thus, if a believer who has this belief and does what he is advised in the hadith dies due to plague, he will be treated as a martyr.

As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following

“He who dies of plague is a martyr.” (Muslim, Imara 166); 
“Plague is a means of martyrdom for Muslims.” (Bukhari, Jihad 30, Tibb 30)

For, a martyr is a person who is killed while fighting the enemy in order to protect the Muslims from danger; therefore, a person who tries to prevent such infectious and relentless disease by showing patience and makes efforts so as not to infect other Muslims, that is, fights in order to protect the Muslims from this disease is also regarded as a martyr because both of them die while protecting Muslims.

“He who escapes from plague is like the one who escapes from war. He who shows patience and stays in the place where plague breaks out is like a mujahid in the way of Allah.” Hz. Aisha’s statement above is another evidence for the similarity of it.

On the other hand, it is very well understood how current, ethical and humane those hadiths are today, when there is news that some AIDS patients resort to special methods to infect healthy people.

- It is pointed out in the hadith that patience is necessary even in the most desperate environments and that the outcome is truly extraordinary and satisfying.

- Patience is the greatest shelter and weapon of the Muslim to protect his belief.

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