The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said on Sunday (Dec 13) that it "holds the position that a COVID-19 vaccine is permissible for Muslim use".
After a year has passed since the emergence of COVID-19, the world is still healing from this global pandemic. Some parts of the world are still experiencing new waves of the virus and thus, there is a need for a vaccine to counter the spread of COVID-19.
The Prophet s.a.w. said in a hadith:
تَدَاوَوْا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سُبْحَانَهُ لَمْ يَضَعْ دَاءً إِلاَّ وَضَعَ مَعَهُ شِفَاءً إِلاَّ الْهَرَمَ
“O servants of Allah. Seek treatment for Allah did not create a disease without making a cure for it except for old age”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
The hadith reminds us that all disease and cure comes from Allah s.w.t. Even then, it also reminds us that seeking treatment is indeed recommended. It is part of the overarching process of seeking a cure from Allah s.w.t.
The principle of Islamic Jurisprudence considers the sanctity and safety of human life and livelihood (wealth) as part of its higher objectives. As such, efforts that seek to protect it such as vaccines are welcomed.
In a recent Irsyad (religious guidance) published on the 13th December, Muis advises and encourages Muslims to "be vaccinated once it is available and when the vaccine has been medically authorised as safe and effective, as this is a basic necessity to protect lives in the context of a global pandemic."
In regards to the religious view of the COVID-19 vaccine, here are three main considerations carefully observed by the Office of The Mufti.
A safe and effective vaccine to protect lives and ensure the safety of social activities including religious practices in the public sphere has become a basic necessity (dharuriyyat). It is equivalent to basic human needs like food and shelter to protect and sustain human life.
Previous Muis fatwas recognise vaccines as a form of preventive treatment from diseases. This aligns with guidance from Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. that one could consume foods that offer some protection from illnesses.
مَنْ تَصَبَّحَ سَبْعَ تَمَرَاتِ عَجْوَةٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّهُ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمَ سَمٌّ وَلاَ سِحْرٌ
"Whoever consumes seven pieces of Ajwah dates every morning, she would be protected from poison and black magic on that day”
To know more about the previous fatwa published in 2013, read here. Thus, in the context of a pandemic world, the irsyad concluded that a vaccine is important to uphold the higher objectives (sanctity of human life) and the avoidance of harm from the effects of the COVID-19 virus.
In line with the principle of avoiding harm to human life in Islamic jurisprudence, it must be scientifically proven that the COVID-19 vaccine has “no known adverse medical effects” and will not “cause harm to those who take the vaccine.”
Thus, the irsyad gave the assurance that “Any COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved for public use must go through stringent and internationally-recognised medical safety standards and conform to strict ethical guidelines of government ethical bodies.”
The irsyad mentions that “previous fatwas on therapeutic drugs and vaccines have considered such situations and ruled that in cases where there are no alternatives, products that may contain prohibited ingredients can still be used for treatment because the objective is to save lives”. For more information on the issue, read here.
There are also situations that “permit the use of impure or prohibited substances for treatment as evident in some Prophetic traditions”. Do refer to the fatwa on the Heparin drug in 2015.
In addition to that, impure or prohibited substances would go through multiple layers of chemical processes that would render them undetectable or negligible in the final product. This is similar to the use of pig enzymes in drug Heparin. In Muslim jurisprudence, this process of chemical transformation is called istihala, when the original substance has changed its form and nature and is no longer prohibited.
In such situations, the final product (drug or vaccine) is deemed permissible for Muslim use. The irsyad also adds that “Vaccines can also be fully synthetic and do not contain any animal components or cells, such as in mRNA vaccines developed for COVID-19.”
In conclusion, the irsyad finds that “COVID-19 vaccines in development and/or trials do not diverge from these considerations.” Thus, Muis “hold the position that a COVID-19 vaccine is permissible for Muslim use.
Nonetheless, “the Fatwa Committee will review and assess suitability of vaccines for Muslim use if they fundamentally diverge from the principles above.”
For the full religious position issued by the Office of the Mufti, click here.
On Monday (14 December), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was co-developed by Singapore researchers, is expected to arrive in Singapore by the end of the month, and other COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months.
Vaccinations will be free for all Singaporeans as well as long-term residents currently in Singapore. Priority will be given to healthcare and frontline workers, the elderly and the vulnerable.