In the name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds, and prayers and peace be upon our prophet Muhammad and his family and companions.

I have received the following question from a specialist doctor:
Is it within the jurisdiction of the British government to mandate that workers in the health sector and those in centres for the care of children, the elderly, and the like, take the Covid as to reduce the spread of the epidemic? Is this not considered an infringement on personal freedoms and state guardianship over people’s free will?

In order for me to answer this question, it is necessary to clarify two religious rulings:

First: The ruling on taking vaccinations:

Taking a vaccine in order to safeguard oneself from a disease falls within the realm of medication facilitating health which is advised by the Sharia on two levels: Firstly, as a recommended intervention if there exists an alternative. Secondly, as obligation if medical specialists deem it a cause for health or disease prevention, or, if not taking it may lead to exposing oneself or others to disease and hence running contrary to the principle of preserving human life.

Evidence of this is abundant in the Qur’an and Sunnah, for example:

The Almighty Says in causing the death of oneself or another: “And do not kill yourselves, for God is merciful towards you. And whoever does so out of transgression and oppression, We will punish him with fire, and that is an easy matter for Us to fulfill [An-Nisa’ 29:30]

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) commanded medicating, “Medicate yourselves, for God has not created a disease without having created a remedy for it, except for the disease of old age.” This text  covers both whoever has fallen ill and whoever wishes to avoid disease, as medicating oneself causes immunity from disease in both cases.

Second: The ruling on the necessity of safeguarding oneself from infectious diseases:

Islamic Law mandates avoiding any facet that may cause the spread of disease, as indicated by the holy verse above.

Sharia also mandates applying the rule stated in Prophet Muhammad’s Hadeeth, “Do no harm to oneself and do no harm to others.” This means it is not permissible for a Muslim to cause harm to others.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also said, “A sick person may not cause the illness of a well one.”

And of the Plague, he said, “If you hear it has infected a land, do not approach it, and if it falls upon a land while you are in it, do not leave that land to escape it.”

Accordingly, if medical specialists deem that a disease is contagious and may lead to death, such as the Plague, then these proofs necessitate the prevention of this disease through every possible  means. And since doctors and those who care for the sick and the weak must assist in treating such diseases and in mitigating their spread, it is obligatory for them to take more precautions against contracting this type of disease as they are responsible for the welfare of the patients they supervise, as well as their families and those of their patients. Since vaccines that help protect against these diseases are readily available, Sharia does not permit their refusal of the vaccine for the aforementioned reasons. This ruling extends beyond those who deal first-hand with these serious diseases and includes everyone who lives in an environment where such a disease exists.

In the case of Covid, having been proven an extremely infectious, life-threatening disease, and where science has proven that taking the vaccine prevents or limits infection thereof and mitigates its ill-effects, no person may choose not to take the vaccine. Whoever takes this matter lightly and is afflicted by Covid leading death or causes harm to others by infecting them with this disease as a result of their negligence, then they bear the blame thereof.

Ruling on governments obligating healthcare workers to take the vaccine:

Based on the above, may the government in any country obligate its citizens, particularly those working in healthcare or caring for the weak and the infirm, to take the vaccine, or does this infringe on personal freedoms?

To answer this, we note that personal freedom from a Sharia perspective is a right guaranteed to everyone, but it is nonetheless subordinate to rulings in Sharia. This means that freedom is not an absolute matter that allows one to choose doing something without considering its consequences. Rather, it is restricted by Sharia’s mandates, especially when the consequences affect others. For example, if a father does not pay alimony for the sustenance of his children, he has committed a forbidden act and a judge must force him to pay it. If one aggresses against another’s life or possessions, then he too has committed a forbidden matter and people of authority must hold him accountable.

Laws throughout the world are set in place so as to limit absolute freedoms, like drive a car without a driver’s license, crossing a red light or exceeding the speed. These are examples of restrictions on freedom, but righteous restrictions nonetheless as they preserve rights and ward off evil, and this is what Sharia has brought

God, Blessed and Exalted be He, freedom to strive in the land and gain means of sustenance, but He drew lines for us to follow, and made clear to us what is permissible and what is forbidden, and forbade us from transgressing the rights of others. Laws were then put in place to reflect the same.

Moreover, God forbade us from exceeding in the absolute freedoms He granted us, such as in food and drink; God Says: “Eat and drink and do not be excessive for He does not like the extravagant” [Al-A’raf: 31]. Excessive behaviour is harmful to oneself and considered a transgression, and more so in the case where it is an act of harm against another person.

Based on all the aforementioned, Islam grants ruler the right to limit people’s behaviour and interfere with restricting that which relates to their freedoms in order to preserve public order, care for public rights, and prevent public harm. This includes imposing some types of taxes on their money to protect the country and allow for the provision of basic services, and in intervention in markets when trade is predatory or monopolized. Also, it is an established precedence that judges (i.e., in Sharia): restrain fools who squander their money from doing
so, force husbands to divorce, order the alimony, decide who gets custody of children, and many other matters, all of which limit personal freedoms, but for righteous reasons and interests which the ruler deems correct.

Accordingly, the British government’s decree that workers in healthcare and those in centres for the care of children, the elderly, the infirm, and the like, take the Covid vaccine so as to reduce the spread of the pandemic –is a sound one that is consistent with Sharia proofs and intentions , and that it is the  government’s right to decide on such measures which medical professionals have deemed necessary, particularly when no other viable alternatives exist.

God knows more in any case!

Dr. Abdullah bin Yusuf Al Judai, PhD
Sharia Advisor to Leeds Grand Mosque