The preservation of life as a principle of Islam and our faith gives greater honour to human life.

Our great Muslim scholars like Ibn Sina have stated that “Medicine is the preservation of health and restoring it when it gets lost”, to accept a lesser harm, in order the ward off a greater one, or to forego a certain benefit to obtain a greater one.

Vaccination is a medical preparation intended to produce an immunity to a disease by stimulating the production antibodies in the host body. Vaccines include suspensions of killed or attenuated microorganisms, products or derivatives thereof.

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The most common method of administering vaccines is by injection, oral and nasal spray.

Many diseases have been prevented and even eradicated by the implementation and monitoring of a vaccination program, such as polio, measles etc.

The higher objectives of Shariah as expounded by scholars of Islam are the preservation of religion, human life, progeny, material wealth and human reason. Islamic law aims to preserve essential and other interests by preserving their existence and also protecting them from destruction.

One of the cardinal principles of Islamic law is to achieve benefits and ward off harm and corruption. We should also remember and practice the Prophetic traditions, where our beloved Prophet (s) not only sought remedy for himself, his family and companions, but also he used and advised certain medicaments eg black cumin (black seed, nigella sativa), aloe vera, senna, henna (lawsonia inermis), hijama (cupping) and using honey for many ailments, and their prevention (such as eating 7 arjwa dates every morning).

The views and opinions on the contemporary process of vaccination are quite nuanced and evidence that supports the process exists in abundance.

For instance, the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states that using vaccines to boost immunity against disease is lawful, for it is a means of warding off something evil before it afflicts people.

It is a duty of Muslims to do their best to ward off harm of all kinds, either before or after it comes. There is a juristic rule in this regard: Harm is to be warded off as much as possible.

In fact, evidence and proofs state that the polio vaccine contains neither harmful elements nor impure ones and that it does not cause infertility as stated by opponents of vaccination.

This is the first argument that supports the vaccination drives and refutes the arguments of those who have claimed that the vaccine is harmful and thus unlawful.

Second, parents are responsible for providing their children as much as they can with all means of protection and immunity against harm and diseases in order to save them long-life suffering.

Third, people in authority in every country are to enact laws and take actions, by means of which the health of people in general, and children in particular, is to be protected against diseases. In this regard, the government imposes a mandatory immunization scheme for children the requirements of which become more severe in cases of certain epidemics, such as meningitis.

An example of this is when Muslims pilgrims to Makkah and Madinah must have vaccination certificate as a right of entry.

Fourth, things are primarily in a state of purity. Experts in the field in question, ie, the vaccinations and immunizations, are the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has stated that the vaccines is not harmful in any way, nor does it include impure elements or cause infertility (i.e. polio vaccines).

Fifth, vaccine has been used for a long time all over the world, including more than fifty Muslim countries, and has proved to be highly effective in eradicating diseases.

No outstanding scholar, whether from Al-Azhar University, or anywhere else, has been reported to have objected to the use of such vaccine.

The Saudi scholar, Sheikh ibn Baaz also has provided a very useful ruling on giving treatment before sickness occurs, such as vaccinations. He said that there is nothing wrong with giving treatment if there is the fear that the disease may occur because of the presence of an epidemic or other factors which may cause disease.

This is a method of warding off a problem before it happens. So if there is the fear of sickness and a person is vaccinated against an infection that is present in the land or elsewhere, there is nothing wrong with that, because it is a kind of protection.

The Mufti of Kelantan (Malaysia), Mohamad Shukri Mohamad has said that Islam allows the use of vaccine although it contains ‘haram’ substances (forbidden in Islam) when there is no other medicine available.

The respected Mufti has said that Islam stressed on the well-being of its followers in terms of faith, life, mind, lineage and wealth, as such the vaccine is permissible in Islam. Following this line of logic, the August European Council of Fatwa and Research (1-7 July 2003) has clearly stated that it is permissible to use vaccinations for the treatment and prevention of harm, especially since forbidding its administration will result in greater harm for the individual, family and community. According to them, this holds even if it is known that the vaccine may be from impure sources (such as the enzyme trypsin).[1]

As social media becomes a prominent source of information, our media experts have cautioned against uncritically accepting information from non-reputable sources.

Dr Nasya Bahfen a former ABC and SBS reporter, course coordinator – Masters in Journalism program at La Trobe University,  has said that it’s so important to defer to the sources who attribute recognised scientific publications and mainstream medical professionals.

“Reputable media outlets won’t give the time of day to the anti-vaccination lobby, and won’t fall into the trap of a false equivalency as if the anti-vaccination movement – which is actually tiny – is on the same level as the majority of scientific finding. There is no such thing as a media conspiracy with this – there is no huge secret the anti-vaccination movement knows that the medical profession and medical researchers don’t know.”

As Muslims, whose civilisation contributed greatly to the development of the scientific method, we should be wary of seeking medical advice from Facebook memes – leave this stuff to the people who spend their lives researching it, and seek media sources who attribute peer-reviewed scientific journals or mainstream medical professionals.”

Dr Sara Hassan, Paediatric Medicine Resident, PhD in Paediatrics at The University of Melbourne, gave a talk in November 2016, at the Australian Albanian Islamic Society Women’s group debunking myths associated with vaccinations. At the talk, Dr Sara said that medical professionals take an oath of non-maleficence, that is a  pledge to do no harm.

This principle is encompassed by the Hadith of the Prophet (s) ‘There should be no harm nor reciprocating of harm’.

Dr Sara is an expert in these matters of vaccination, as both a  medical practitioner and a research scientist.

We should be listening to the advice of experts in our Ummah like Dr Sara, and heed the warnings of Dr Nasya about the perils of getting your knowledge from social media.

[1] Transformation of impurity into another substance that is different in its properties and qualities, such as transformation of oil into soap and the like, or consumption of a substance through manufacturing as well as change of its essence and qualities is considered as an acceptable method in the Islamic jurisprudence in order to regard it as a substance that is pure and can be utilized for various purposes.