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Protecting Life In Light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Our public health recommendations to government, communities, and you.

March 12, 2020


Over the last few weeks, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has spread and drawn the attention of the global community. According to public health officials, we are beyond the point of containment of the coronavirus; the health care sector is now focusing on mitigation and treatment of symptoms. The number one goal in Islam is to protect life, especially the vulnerable such as the elderly, those with compromised immune symptoms, the uninsured, and the homeless. In order to ensure that we all are prepared in this moment, we are offering public health recommendations at the governmental, community, and individual levels.

What should the government do?

1. We must call for public health accommodations and federal aid from our government.

We demand the passage of an emergency bill that streamlines access to healthcare, increases necessary healthcare funding, including for coronavirus testing kits, and improves the public health infrastructure, including universal access to necessary public utilities. If we increase funding and wide accessibility for coronavirus testing kits, we ensure more accurate reporting on the coronavirus, which will also decrease uncertainty and hysteria. If the government ensures that every American has access to basic utilities necessary to maintain good health, such as clean water, then under-resourced communities can wash their hands regularly, which government health officials say is the most significant step one can take to prevent illness.

2. We demand a wholesale shoring up of our medical care system.

It is unacceptable that the poor, the undocumented, or the uninsured are unable to get testing, treatment, and care if they are sick with COVID-19. If people are afraid of being arrested or deported, they will not seek treatment and the disease will spread further. As with any contagion, unless you treat everybody, you have treated nobody.

3. The government should provide paid sick leave, paid family leave, and a moratorium on evictions and mortgage payments.

People who live paycheck-to-paycheck or who have had to stay home from work without paid sick leave are disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of coronavirus. Public health crises should not render people unable to provide for themselves or their families.

What should communities do?

The coronavirus also demands that we take steps to change our practices at the community level.

1. Remove yourself from public gatherings including attending Friday prayers (this applies to shabbat and Sunday services also). It is important to remember that in times of necessity, what is Islamically impermissible may become permissible and vice versa. The emphasis on the prevention of harm supersedes the requirement to be in congregation. Additionally, government health officials recommend social distancing and not attending large gatherings. The California Governor, for example, has recommended that large events, gatherings, and conferences of more than 250 people be postponed.

2. We recommend that mosques change their format to online Friday sermons to reduce the possibility of transmission and reception of the virus. 

3. Health care professionals in our communities should volunteer to assist public health institutions, especially in the event that we have to establish make-shift clinics.

What should you do?

Public health officials recommend the following:

1. Wash your hands often, even more than normal. Resist the urge to touch your face, nose or mouth. Watch this public health announcement for more details.

2. If you feel sick, or are experiencing flu-like symptoms, stay home and self-quarantine from others. Consult your physician by phone or email to determine if hospital care is necessary. Physically going to the hospital may overtax an already stretched healthcare system.

3. Resist the impulse to make more of the COVID-19 event than it is, i.e., a garden-variety outbreak of a potentially, but rarely, serious infection. Resist the urges to pass along errant information. Resist sharing stories of paranoia on social media. Resist leaders that are using the outbreak as an excuse to ramp up xenophobia or promote suspicion.

Islamic law is based on five major objectives, the first and most emphasized of which is the preservation of life and prevention of harm. The Prophet Muhammad taught us that, “the life of a believer is more sacred than the Kaabah.” We call upon individuals and communities to take these steps and we will advocate for the necessary steps at the government level.




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