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Is Ghusl Obligatory Upon The New Muslim? | Abdullah Hasan

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Q. When non-Muslims embrace Islam, is ghusl (bathing) obligatory upon them?

The process of becoming a Muslim is very straightforward and undemanding. Allah desires ease for people and does not want to place difficulty on them. If a person has firm yaqeen (conviction) and iman (belief) that Islam is the truth, it is sufficient for that person to declare the two testimonies of faith:

“I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is the final messenger of Allah.”

As soon as the person pronounces these words, believing in them to be true, he or she becomes a Muslim. This is known by necessity in Islam (al-ma’lum min addin bid dharurat) and is agreed upon by all Muslim scholars. The validity of the testimony of faith is not reliant on the individual thereafter performing ghusl (bathing).

Concerning the specific action of ghusl after declaring the testimony of faith, the fuqahaa (jurists) have expressed different opinions which will be discussed below.

There are two main hadiths (traditions) reported from the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) pertaining to this issue.

  1. Abu Hurairah reported that Thumamah al-Hanafi was captured. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), passed by him and said, “What do you have to say for yourself, O Thumamah?” He said, “If you kill me, you would be killing a relative. If you give me a bounty (set me free), I would be thankful. If you want wealth (as a ransom), we can give you what you wish.” The companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) preferred the ransom and said, “What would we get if we killed him?” One time when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by him, he finally embraced Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), untied him and told him to go to the garden of Abu Talhah and perform ghusl. He performed ghusl and prayed two rak’ah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Indeed, your brother became a fine Muslim.”[1]
  2. On the authority of Qays b. `Asim he said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered him to perform ghusl using water mixed with the leaves of the lote tree when he embraced Islam.[2]

From these two hadiths (traditions) the fuqahaa (jurists) are divided into three main groups with regards to the ruling of performing ghusl (bathing) after embracing Islam:

A. Ghusl is obligatory – whether the person was a non-Muslim in their origin or relapsed faith and embraced Islam again.

This is the view of the Malikiyyah,[3] the Hanabilah,[4] Abu Thawr,[5] Ibn al-Mundhir,[6] and al-Khattabi.[7]

Ibn Qudama wrote: “If a non Muslim embraces Islam ghusl becomes obligatory upon him, whether he was a non-Muslim in origin or a murtad (the one who relapsed faith), or whether he bathed before or after embracing Islam, and whether – during the period of his non Muslim condition – that which necessitates ghusl was present or not.[8]

Thereafter he cited the hadith (tradition) of Qays b. `Asim in which the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) ordered him to perform ghusl after embracing Islam.

An-Nawawi objected to relying on the above traditions to assert that ghusl is obligatory by explaining: “The reply as regards to these two hadiths (traditions) are from two perspectives:

Firstly, the hadiths (traditions) should be understood and interpreted to purport the istihbab (desirability – not obligation) of ghusl by reconciling the various evidence. This is supported by the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered Qays to bathe with water and (also) sidr (lote tree leaves) and we have agreed that using sidr (to bathe) is not an obligation.

Secondly, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had knowledge that both of them were in a state of janabah (major ritual impurity) because they both had children, and so it was due to that reason he ordered them to perform ghusl, not because they (simply) embraced Islam.”[9]

B. Ghusl is not obligatory – whether he embraced Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) or not.

This is the view of the Ahnaaf,[10] and the view of Abu Sai’d al-Istakhri,[11] a muhaqqiq (verifier) of the Shafi’i school of thought.

Ibn al-Humam wrote: “If he (non Muslim) embraces Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) there is a disagreement: it is said that it is not obligatory because they are not obliged to fulfil the subsidiary matters of the religion (furu’), and after embracing Islam janabah is not present.”[12]

Al-Mawardi transmitted from Abi Sai’d al-Istakhri that it is not obligatory, which is the view of Abu Hanifah, due to the saying of Allah:

Say to those who have disbelieved [that] if they cease, what has previously occurred will be forgiven for them.’’[13]

And because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated: “Islam cancels out what came before it (of sins).[14]” Furthermore, if ghusl were a condition for adopting Islam, there would have been numerous reported citations about it, owed by the great number of people who embraced Islam. Moreover, when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was about to send Mu‘adh Ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) to Yemen, he ordered him to call the people of Yemen to testify that none is worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. Had ghusl been obligatory, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have certainly mentioned that.

However, An-Nawawi disapproved of this justification by stating:

“This reasoning is not justified because there is no disagreement that wudhu is obligatory upon him. Therefore there is no difference in him urinating then embracing Islam or being in the state of janabah then embracing Islam.

As for the verse and the hadith, their meaning is related to the forgiveness of sins; they (scholars) have agreed that if a dhimmi (non-Muslim living in Islamic state) has an unpaid debt or qisas (laws of retaliation are upon him), embracing Islam does not release him from paying them.

Furthermore, the obligation of ghusl is not made liable by that which necessitates ghusl during the period of disbelief; it is a required condition of the validity of salah (prayer) in Islam. His condition is the state of janabah and salah is not valid in that state. His embracing of Islam does not remove his situation of being in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity).

The answer to the query that they were not ordered to perform ghusl after embracing Islam is that this was something known to them, in the same manner that they were not ordered to perform wudhu because that too was known to them.”[15]

C. The ruling depends on whether the person embracing Islam is in the state of janabah or not.

This group of fuqaha (jurists) affirm that it is obligatory for him to perform ghusl after embracing Islam if he has done so while in the state of janabah. However, if he embraced Islam without being in that state it would be mustahabb (desirable) for him to perform ghusl.

This is the relied upon view in both the Hanafi[16] and the Shafi’i[17] schools of thought.

Ibn al-Humam explained: “Ghusl that is recommended (mustahabb) is the ghusl of a non-Muslim embracing Islam without being in the state of janabah.

If he (non-Muslim) embraces Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) there is a disagreement: it is said that it is not obligatory because they are not obliged to fulfil the subsidiary matters of the religion (furu’), and after embracing Islam janabah is not present.

However, the correct view is that it is obligatory because the sifat (properties) of janabah remain after embracing Islam. Therefore, since he is not able to perform that which is obligatory except when it (state of janabah) is removed, performing ghusl becomes obligatory.[18]

An-Nawawi elaborates: “If a non Muslim becomes sexually defiled (janabah) then – before ghusl – he embraces Islam, ghusl becomes obligatory upon him. This is opined by al-Shafi’i which the majority of the school has agreed upon.

And if he embraced Islam without being in the state of janabah, it is desirable for him to bathe, it is not obligatory upon him to bathe without any disagreement amongst us (the Shafi’is). This is the same ruling for a non-Muslim in origin, a murtad (one who relapses faith), a dhimmi (non-Muslim living in Islamic state), and a harbi (non-Muslim combatant).”[19]

The position I personally advocate is the opinion propounded by the Hanafi (in the sound view) and the Shafi’i schools; that if a non-Muslim embraces Islam without being in the state of janabah, it is recommended for him to bathe, though not obligatory. However, if he embraced Islam in the sexually defiled state (janabah) it is obligatory for him to bathe.

This is closest to the general purport of the texts and the maqsad (purpose) of ease and facilitation which the Shar’iah has come to establish. We should not place too much burden upon the new Muslim to bathe as it is not a requirement as clarified above.

Allah knows best.

[1] Musnad Ahmad

[2] Musnad Ahmad, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan al-Tirmidhi.

[3] Sharh al-Kabir, Hashiyat Dasuqi, 1/130-131

[4] Al-Mughni. 1/174

[5] Ibid, 1/275

[6] Ibid

[7] Al-majmu’, 2/175, Ma’alim al-Sunan, 1/96

[8] Al-Mughbi, 1/275-276, Ma’alim al-Sunan, 1/96

[9] Al-majmu’, 2/175

[10] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[11] Al-Hawi, 1/265, al-Majmu’, 2/173

[12] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[13] Anfal:38

[14] Muslim

[15] Al-Majmu’, 2/174

[16] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[17] Al-Majmu’, 2/173-174

[18] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[19] Al-Majmu’, 2/173-174

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Sh. Abdullah Hasan graduated with an Imam Diploma, BA and Ijaza Aliyah in Islamic Studies [Theology & Islamic Law, taught completely in Arabic] from a European Islamic seminary. He holds a diploma in Arabic from Zarqa Private University (Jordan), studied at the faculty of fiqh wa usuluhu (Jurisprudence and its principles) at the same university while receiving training in various disciplines privately with some of the leading Scholars of Jordan and the Middle East. He studied Chaplaincy at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE). He is a Licensed Islamic Professional Counsellor (LIPC), specialising in youth and marriage therapy. In addition, he is a specialist in Zakat and Islamic philanthropic studies.He served, as an Imam, several Muslim communities in the UK.Sh. Abdullah Hasan has enormous interest and passion in the field of community and people development. He has over 10 years of management, leadership and training experience within the third sector. He is the founder of British Imams and Scholars Contributions & Achievement Awards (BISCA), which is a national platform to celebrate, support & nurture positive leadership within the community. The Founder of British Institutes, Mosques & Association Awards (BIMA), which is national platform celebrating the achievements of mosques and Islamic institutions. He also founded Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA), an international coalition of leaders to end domestic abuse, and is a member of the National Council of Imams & Rabbis, UK.,

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. WAJiD

    WAJiD

    February 13, 2017 at 4:53 PM

    Asalaam alaikum,

    JazakAllah khairun for this article. While some may think it relatively esoteric, I think it is important that MM is a website that caters to the full spectrum of Muslims and their needs. It is rare to find many instances where multiple viewpoints are presented in such an unbiased manner.

    • Sh. Abdullah Hasan

      Sh. Abdullah Hasan

      February 19, 2017 at 8:27 PM

      AA, @Wajid, thank you for your comments. I very much agree with you.

      @Iman, it is the agreement of all scholars that ghusl is obligatory upon women once their menses stops.

  2. Avatar

    Iman

    February 18, 2017 at 3:39 PM

    Assalaam aleikum,
    What about a woman, who has had menses, but not at the time of embracing Islam, and reciting the Shahada? I am sure a lot of my fellow sisters need an answer to this.
    Jazakallah khairan

  3. Avatar

    Daniele Santos

    August 27, 2019 at 4:32 PM

    It is always good to know new cultures and other religions.

  4. Avatar

    Paulo Coelho

    September 17, 2019 at 8:22 AM

    Very well explained, thanks!

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Civil Rights

Podcast: Lessons from the Life of Malcolm X | Abdul-Malik Ryan

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One of the things that happens with historical figures who continue to remain well-known and influential years after they can continue to speak for themselves is that others seek to speak for them.  Attempts are made to co-opt their legacy, either in sincere efforts for good or in selfish efforts for ideological or even commercial gain.  This is especially true of Malcolm X, who is not only a historical and political icon but in many ways a “celebrity” remembered by many primarily for his style and attitude.

The only real and meaningful tribute we can pay to Malcolm X is to follow his example. Click To Tweet

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Once, while in class at college, an Arab girl I was sitting next to said quite loudly to another, “Hey, give this paper to the ‘abdah” referring to a black girl in the class. I wondered if she was even aware of what she was saying in English. Did she think that ‘abdah translates to “black girl” and never thought of its true meaning? Did she think that I didn’t understand?

 

Read by Zeba Khan, originally posted here on Muslimmatters.org.

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#Current Affairs

When Racism Goes Viral: The Coronavirus And Modern Muslim Orientalism

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Lumping an entire people together for collective punishment, reveling in their suffering, and sniggering at their food choices isn’t an exercise in science, Sunnah, or compassion. It’s good, old-fashioned orientalism.

In the eight weeks since it was identified, the 2019 novel coronavirus has infected nearly 12,000 people in China alone, 200 of whom did not survive. Symptoms are flu-like in nature, and global side effects include acute, apparently contagious… racism.

Online, in Muslim as well as non-Muslim spaces, social media feeds are sniggering “Eww, you eat gross things! Of course you’ll get gross diseases!” In the midst of this human tragedy, orientalist tropes about the Chinese are being sloppily repackaged as health concerns over the coronavirus, and served with a side of bat soup.

Yes, bat soup.

The coronavirus in question is found in bats, and thanks to the scientific expertise of social media, videos of Chinese people consuming anything from bat soup to baby mice and rats are popping up as “proof” of the disease’s cause.

However the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans, the initial source of the outbreak seems to have originated from the Wuhan Seafood market, where a number of employees and a few shoppers were the first casualties to the infection. The 2019-nCoV is moving from person to person the same way the flu does, and what a person eats – or doesn’t eat – has no bearing on whether they contract the virus or not.

In an article titled, No, Coronavirus Was Not Caused by ‘Bat Soup’–But Here’s What Researchers Think May Be to Blame, Health.com writes:

“Coronaviruses in general are large family of viruses that can affect many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In rare cases, those viruses are also zoonotic, which means they can pass between humans and animals—as was the case with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory system (SARS), two severe coronaviruses in people.

Initially, this novel coronavirus was believed to have started in a large seafood or wet market, suggesting animal-to-person spread, according to the CDC. But a large number of people diagnosed with the virus reportedly didn’t have exposure to the wet markets, indicating that person-to-person spread of the virus is also occurring. However, it’s still possible that the novel coronavirus began with an infected animal at the market—and then went on to person-to-person transmission once people were infected.”

Being uncomfortable with things you’ve never considered edible before isn’t necessarily a racist reaction. When my husband told me he ate a chocolate-covered cricket once, I hid my toothbrush for a week, but that’s not what’s happening right now. There is a deadly virus threatening a group of people, and the internet sees fit to make fun of them. Why? Because orientalism.

Orientalism is the “intellectual” framework through which Western societies create a clear and permanent line between Western superiority and “Oriental” inferiority. If orientalism were an Instagram filter, it would take any picture of any person, event, or thing, and distort its appearance to be “other,” and in some way inferior.

Orientalism is the “intellectual” framework through which Western societies create a clear and permanent line between Western superiority and “Oriental” inferiority. If orientalism were an Instagram filter, it would take any picture of any person, event, or thing, and distort its appearance to be “other,” and in some way inferior.Click To Tweet

The inferiorizing feature is step one, because in order to position yourself as a winner, the other guy has to be a loser in some way.

The otherizing is the step 2, and both steps are important because if you say that your little brother is a loser, in the end you’re still family and you’ve got his back. This would be inferiorizing, but not otherizing.

But if you say that other kind of guy is a loser, then you have no common ground. And when the other kind of guy is in trouble, you need only gloat and make nasty comments on Twitter. That’s inferiorizing with otherizing. Orientalism can be loosely translated as US vs THEM, normal versus weird, and local versus invasive foreign, or exotic.

The otherizing of orientalism is so subconsciously embedded in people that it even creates auditory illusions to maintain the “otherization” of the subject being viewed. As crazy as that sounds, everyone has their own experience. Mine for just last month played out as follows. A homeless man approached my window and said “Ma’am, do you have two dollars?”

I smiled and responded to him, “I have exactly two dollars!”

As I dug around for my wallet, he cocked his head and said, “Your accent. There’s something different about it. Something… foreign, exotic?”

“It’s Chicago,” I said, handing him two dollars.

He blinked a few times. “What’s Chicago?”

“My accent. It’s Chicagoan. English is my first language. My accent is from Chicago.”

He narrowed his eyes at me suspiciously, this gatekeeper of Chicagoness. “What part of Chicago?”

“North side, Lincolnwood area,” I said. “I grew up on Devon Ave.”

“Pulaski Park!” he beamed, pointing to himself. “I’m from Chicago too!”

We smiled at each other, basking for a moment in our mutual Chicagoness. Then I waved and drove away, adding his insistence of my  exotic“otherness” to the dozens of other peoples’ who have heard my perfectly flat, perfectly blandly midwestern accent and perceived something foreign. I call that one “hearing with your eyes.”

I have lost track of people who have tried to insist that I have an accent. One woman even went so far as to imply that I was lying about being a native English speaker, that I must have some other first language, because there’s “Something else in there, I can hear something foreign! But you’re very articulate though.”

(To form your own opinion on my exotic accent or the lack thereof, visit the MuslimMatters podcast here!)

Compliments like “You’re so articulate!” or “You’re so different!” give you partial credit for your exceptionality, while still discrediting every other member of your general race, religion, region, or hemisphere. The left-handed compliment has a long history, and follows a predictable pattern. Take, for example, this excerpt from The Talisman, a crusade-genre fiction published in 1825.

In this scene, our gallant, invading knight finds himself unable to defeat the enemy “Saracen,” aka – Muslim defender of the Holy Land. In grudging admiration, the knight concedes:

“I well thought…that your blinded race had their descent from the foul fiend, without whose aid you would never have been able to maintain this blessed land of Palestine against so many valiant soldiers of God. I speak not thus of thee in particular, Saracen, but generally of thy people and religion. Strange it is to me, however, not that you should have the descent from the Evil One, but that you should boast of it.”

Translation: “Your people and your religion are the spawn of satan, but not you. I speak not thus of thee in particular. You’re so cool for Muslim!” Spoiler alert: turns out it’s Salahuddin.

From the crusades to colonialism to America’s chronic invasion of Muslim lands, the misrepresentation of people from Over There is both a cause and effect of policy decisions. Orientalism creates the “bad guys” necessary to justify the “good guy” response by “proving” the bad guys to be so weird, inferior, and intrinsically bad that it becomes necessary to call for the good guy cavalry. That gives the good guys permission to take over the resources that the bad guys are too incompetent to manage anyway, and overthrow the governments they’re too stupid to run, and free the women that they’re too barbaric to appreciate.

One excellent reference on this is Dr. Jack Shaheen’s brilliant documentary Reel Bad Arabs, which summarizes a hundred years of Hollywood’s orientalist portrayal of “Arab Land,” a mythical, exotic, treacherous, incompetent, and seductive place, whose capital city is apparently Agrabah which, in 2015, a public policy poll found that 30% of GOP voters were in favor of bombing.

Another side effect of orientalism is the refusal to allow for individual accountability and the insistence on collective blame. “Western” men who harm and oppress women are rightly labeled as jerks and abusers who don’t represent Western morals, ethics, or ideals through their individual actions. Same for white racists, extremists, and criminals in general.

However, Muslims jerks who do the same are awarded representative status of the entire Muslim population (1.9 billion) and Islamic tradition (1441 years). The perception as all Muslim men based on only the worst of them seems ludicrous on paper, and such generalizations are no longer acceptable to make about race, but are still perfectly popular to make about minority religious groups.

Orientalism enables the belief that Muslims are terrible terrorists who are terrible to their women. If they say otherwise, it’s because their religion is terrible and lying about it is part of the religion too. They don’t deserve their own lands or resources, they’ll just use them for more terribleness. We should go in there and save them from themselves! And also, make lots of predictable, idiotic romance novels and movies in which a poor, beautiful Oriental Female is rescued through the power of Love and Freedom. Because just as violence is the natural state of the Muslim man, oppression is the natural state of the Muslim woman. Miskeena. Habibti.

Human beings can be horrible to each other. No ethnic, religious, or racial group is any exception. The problem arises when individual horribleness is elevated to collective attribution, and that collective attribution is used to justify collective punishment, as well as collective suffering.

When millions of Americans get sick from the flu, and tens of thousands die every year, why aren’t we making fun of the weird things that white people eat? Like Rocky Mountain Oysters (which are bull testicles) and sweetbreads (which are bits of an animal’s pancreas and thymus glands)?Click To Tweet

When millions of Americans get sick from the flu, and tens of thousands die every year, why aren’t we making fun of the weird things that white people eat? Like Rocky Mountain Oysters (which are bull testicles) and sweetbreads (which are bits of an animal’s pancreas and thymus glands)? What about snails, frog legs, crawfish, chocolate covered ants, and those tequila-inspired lollipops with an actual worm candied in the center?

The filtering effect of orientalism means that our weird foods – be it maghz masala and katakat– are quirky and fun, but their weird foods are disgusting and totally cause to celebrate infectious disease.

If the tables were turned and a deadly coronavirus originated from say, Saudi Arabia, would it be alright to ridicule Muslims for what they ate, or how they lived? What if that specific coronavirus actually originated in camels.

Yes, camels. The Islamophobic internet would have a field day with that one. Yes, we ride camels and prize camels and even eat camels – and they’re delicious I might add – but if a deadly virus originated from camels, found its way into humans in the Middle East, and from there caused death and destruction in other countries- would it be our fault? Would we deserve scorn? Would the suffering and death of our people be justified by how “gross” it is that we eat camels, even if only a few us actually do, and the rest of us prefer shawarma?

Pause for dramatic emphasis. Open the Lancet. Read.

“Human coronavirus is one of the main pathogens of respiratory infection. The two highly pathogenic viruses, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, cause severe respiratory syndrome in humans and four other human coronaviruses induce mild upper respiratory disease. The major SARS-CoV outbreak involving 8422 patients occurred during 2002–03 and spread to 29 countries globally.

MERS-CoV emerged in Middle Eastern countries in 2012 but was imported into China.

The sequence of 2019-nCoV is relatively different from the six other coronavirus subtypes but can be classified as betacoronavirus. SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV can be transmitted directly to humans from civets and dromedary camels, respectively, and both viruses originate in bats, but the origin of 2019-nCoV needs further investigation.

The mortality of SARS-CoV has been reported as more than 10% and MERS-CoV at more than 35%.”

MERS-CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome –Coronavirus emerged in 2012, traveling from bats to camels to humans, killing 35% of the people who contracted it. It originated in Saudi Arabia and found its way across the continent all the way to China. So could the Chinese internet have been justified in ridiculing our deaths because we ate camels?

Could they legitimize posting “gross” videos of whole, pit-roasted camels? Could they say it was science, not racism, as they moved on to our other “gross” foods, like locusts and the dhab lizard?

Read more about the Sunnah of the Dhab Lizard.

Locusts and lizards have as much to do with MERS-CoV as mice and rats have to do with 2019 novel coronavirus, but doesn’t our grossness in general mean we deserve our fate?

No, it doesn’t. Making fun of what people eat isn’t science, epidemiology, or the sunnah. It’s racism, and it is hugely disappointing to see Muslims hurt others with to the same tropes that are used to hurt us.

No, it doesn’t. Making fun of what people eat isn’t science, epidemiology, or the sunnah. It’s racism, and it is hugely disappointing to see Muslims hurt others with to the same tropes that are used to hurt us.Click To Tweet

Orientalism is alive and kicking both of our communities in the teeth — Chinese and Muslim – but to further complicate the matter, there’s the ongoing genocide of the Uighur Muslims in China, and that’s rooted in orientalism too.

The Chinese government has imprisoned 3 million Muslims in concentration camps, a number equal to the entire Muslim population in America. It is not unexpected that some people wishfully assume the 2019 novel coronavirus epidemic to be the comeuppance that the Chinese government deserves for its cruelty, but that’s sad and wrong on many, many levels.

People cheering the coronavirus on fail to understand a few very big, very important things about the situation. I will list them, because the internet is no place for subtlety and these points have to stand out for those who would sail over the entire article so they can trash it in the comments. They are as follows:


  1. The entire population of China is no more responsible for the actions of its government than you are for yours. If you hate Donald Trump, his border wall, the separation of families, the Muslim Ban, cuts to medical benefits, and corruption in general but STILL live in America, then you understand that a great, frustrated, and powerless mass of citizens can have little to no effect on its government’s choices. Such is politics. Such is life. Such is China too.

    This guy is all our fault specifically. So I hope we all die of the flu.

  2. The coronavirus’s lethality is exponentially higher in people with poor health and weak immune systems. Like the flu, the coronavirus is overwhelmingly most lethal to children and elderly. The coronavirus is not targeted at, nor limited to the Chinese leadership for its crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, that is not how epidemics work.
  3.  The spread of Coronavirus – like all respiratory infections – is greatly accelerated through close living quarters as well as poor sanitation and hygiene. The 3 million Uighur Muslims interred by the Chinese government are imprisoned in distressingly cruel, cramped, and unhygienic conditions. Their close proximity as well as population density mean that if the virus makes it into the captive population, hundreds of thousands – if not millions of Muslims – would die. Don’t root for the coronavirus. It does not discriminate based on religion or race, even if you do.

And now we come full circle. When Muslims ridicule the Chinese for “being gross,” they are simply echoing the same racist, Orientalist talking points that labeled the Chinese – and later the Japanese – as the “Yellow Peril,” a filthy, faceless, monolithic mass deserving all of our scorn and none of the individual considerations that we insist on for ourselves.

Given the abuse that Muslims have been subject to by orientalist tropes, it should make us all the more aware of its dangerous cultural impact. We know what it’s like to be looked down on, laughed at, and blamed for our own suffering. We know what it feels like to have our foods gagged at, our accents mocked, and our cultural clothing turned into Halloween costumes.

Worse still, we know, very painfully and very currently, what it looks like for an entire people to be treated as a disease in and of themselves. China has declared Islam to be a contagious disease, an “ideological illness,” and on this very basis is it holding 3 million Muslims hostage. In an official statement loaded with situational irony, the Chinese Community Party officially stated,

“Members of the public who have been chosen for reeducation have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient.

… There is always a risk that the illness will manifest itself at any moment, which would cause serious harm to the public. That is why they must be admitted to a reeducation hospital in time to treat and cleanse the virus from their brain and restore their normal mind … Being infected by religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology and not seeking treatment is like being infected by a disease that has not been treated in time, or like taking toxic drugs … There is no guarantee that it will not trigger and affect you in the future.” – source

The dangers of racism and orientalism are real, and the victims number the millions. Knowing how much damage orientalism causes in our community, we must commit to never, ever stooping to the same ideologies that are used to justify our own oppression. No matter how many bats people eat, or how evil their government can be, people are individual people. We stand on equal footing, equally deserving of respect, compassion, and acknowledgement of our humanity.



The Orientalist mindset that diminishes and distances us from each other strips us of our dignity, whether we are its victim, or its the perpetrator. Such racism is antithetical to the Prophetic compassion and mercy that Islam demands from us as Muslims. When Muslims celebrate the suffering of innocent people as some sort of epidemiological revenge for the suffering of innocent people, that’s not Islam.

That’s prejudice.

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