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Islah In Immunisation

Meaning piety and good, Islah represents the permanent behaviour of transforming towards the direction of betterment and perfection. Islah also means the transformation from the state of bad to good, from good to better and from better to perfection (Malik, 2011: 237).

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Islah is a landmark theme in the individual Muslim’s lives which transforms them into self-actualised people striving to achieve ihsan (excellence) in their daily life in their pursuit of falah, success in this world and salvation in the hereafter.

These righteous concepts thus take centrestage in the domain of medical and healthcare programmes, and consequently determine the consistency of justice, benevolence, religiosity, good governance and the development of the ummah (humanity).

The perpetual and unrelenting efforts of man to conquer the ravages of disease have been rewarded with the many successes in global immunisation. Since the advent of the smallpox vaccine in 1796, the world has since witnessed the eradication of this deadly and debilitating disease in 1980.

This transformation (islah) towards the eventual eradication and elimination of vaccine preventable diseases (VPD) via the global Expanded Program of Immunisation (EPI) is a cardinal principle of the Maqasid Shari’ah.

The world is now virtually free of polio, or poliomyelitis, yet it remains endemic in two countries in the world – Pakistan and Afghanistan, unfortunately all Muslim nations. This crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus spreads easily from person to person. Once infected, the virus can invade the brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.

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Until the vaccine was recently introduced, Nigeria has been endemic to polio. Since 2003, polio of Nigerian origin has been imported into 26 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and has led to re-established transmission in Chad and Sudan at one point.

Multiple factors contributed to the vaccine boycott in Nigeria, most notably rumours and misinformation on the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). The OPV was alleged to contain unsafe substances which can lead to infertility, and that the OPV was made with “haram” constituents.

“The world is now virtually free of polio, or poliomyelitis, yet it remains endemic in two countries in the world – Pakistan and Afghanistan, unfortunately all Muslim nations.”

Similar loss of public confidence in OPV was observed in Pakistan and Afghanistan, leading to low OPV uptake and Supplementary Immunisation Activities (SIAs) that failed to reach >80% of children in high-risk states.

The European Council of Fatwa & Research (ECFR), chaired by SyaikhDr Yusuf Qaradawi, and includes more than 100 Muslims scholars from all over the world, has reviewed many medical issues including immunisation from the perspective of shari’ah.

When permitting the use of the oral polio vaccine (OPV), the ECFR issued a most powerful call to all Muslim scholars and leaders;

“The medical, social and economical benefits conferred by immunisation programmes are impactful and unprecedented compared to other public health programmes, fulfilling the Islamic concept of Islah.”

“The Council urges Muslim leaders and officials at Islamic Centers not to be too strict in such matters that are open to considered opinion and that bring considerable benefits to Muslim children, as long as these matters involve no conflict with any definite text.”

The medical, social and economical benefits conferred by immunisation programmes are impactful and unprecedented compared to other public health programmes, fulfilling the Islamic concept of Islah.

Except for a few conservative Muslim scholars, virtually all distinguished Muslim scholars, national fatwa councils and international majma’fiqh (fatwa councils) endorse global immunisation programmes and urge all believers to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and protect themselves from the scourge of vaccine-preventable diseases.

 

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