There are several versions of this hadeeth. Al-Bukhaari
(5776) and Muslim (2224) narrated from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be
pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) said: “There is no ‘adwa (transmission of infectious
disease without the permission of Allaah) and no tiyarah
(superstitious belief in bird omens), but I like good omens.” They said:
What is a good omen?” He said: “A good word.”
narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no ‘adwaa
[contagion, transmission of infectious disease without the permission of
Allaah], no tiyarah [superstitious belief in bird omens], no haamah [refers
to a Jaahili Arab tradition described variously as: a worm which infests the
grave of a murder victim until he is avenged; an owl; or the bones of a dead
person turned into a bird that could fly], and no Safar [the month of Safar
was regarded as “unlucky” during the Jaahiliyyah].”
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
The words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him) “There is no ‘adwa” are general in meaning, thus the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) states that there is no
contagion (without the permission of Allaah).
‘Adwa (contagion) refers to the spread of a disease from a
sick person to a healthy one. What happens in the case of physical diseases
may also happen in the case of psychological diseases. Hence the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said that a bad companion
is the like one who operates the bellows: Either he will burn your clothes,
or you will notice a bad smell from him.
The words “there is no ‘adwa” include both physical and
psychological diseases, even though it is more apparent with regard to
The words “no tiyarah (lit. superstitious belief in bird
omens)” refers to feeling superstitious because of something that you see,
hear or know..
With regard to the words
“no haamah”, haamah is interpreted in two ways:
1 – That it is a bird similar to an owl, or an owl. The Arabs
believed that if a person was killed, his bones became a haamah that could
fly and shriek until he was avenged. Some of them believed that the haamah
was the soul of the slain person.
2 – Some of the Arabs said that the haamah was a particular
bird, which they regarded as a bad omen. If it landed on the house of one of
them and made a sound, they said that it was predicting a death. They
believed that this was a sign that that person would die soon. All of these
are undoubtedly false beliefs.
The words “No Safar” refers to the month of Safar, which the
Arabs used to regard as inauspicious, especially for marriage.
And it was said that it was a stomach disease that affected
camels and was transmitted from one camel to another; based on this,
mentioning it after ‘adwa (contagion) comes under the heading of mentioning
something specific after something general.
It is more likely that what is meant by Safar here is the
month, and that what is meant by saying “No Safar” is that it is not to be
regarded as inauspicious, rather it is like any other time, during which
good or bad things may be decreed.
This does not mean that these things do not happen, because
they do happen. Rather it is a statement that they do not have any effect.
The One Who causes things to happen is Allaah. If any of these things has a
known effect then that is valid and real; if any of them is imagined to have
an effect, then that is invalid and false. Thus the hadeeth demonstrates
that if there is a valid effect, it cannot be attributed to that thing
itself (rather the One Who causes it to happen is Allaah). If the effect is
merely imagined, then this hadeeth is stating that it has no effect in the
With regard to the words “no contagion (‘adwa)”: contagion is
something that happens, as is indicated by the words of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “Do not put a sick one with a
healthy one” i.e., the owner of a sick camel should not bring it to the
owner of a healthy camel, lest the contagion be transmitted.
And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said: “Flee from the leper as you would flee from a lion.” Leprosy is a
serious disease that is transmitted quickly and kills the one who catches
it. It was even said that it is a plague. Hence the command to flee from the
leper so that the disease will not be transmitted from him to you. This is
an affirmation of the effect of contagion, but its effect is not inevitable
in such a way that it affects people by itself. The command of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to flee and not to bring
sick camels to where healthy camels are comes under the heading of avoiding
the means (that lead to sickness), not attributing the effect to the means
themselves. The means do not affect anything themselves, but we should avoid
the things that may be a cause of calamity, because Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“and do not throw yourselves into destruction”
We cannot say that the
Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was denying the
effect of contagion, because contagion is something that is proven to exist
in real life and is mentioned in other ahaadeeth.
When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said “there is no ‘adwa”, a man said: “O Messenger of Allaah, the
camels may be healthy like deer, then a mangy camel comes and mixes with
them and they all get the mange.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) said: “And who infected the first one?” meaning that the
disease came to the first one with no contagion, rather it came from Allaah.
By the same token, if it was transmitted by contagion, then it was
transmitted by the command of Allaah. A thing may have a known cause or it
may not have a known cause. The mange of the first one does not have a known
cause, apart from the fact that it happened by the will and decree of
Allaah, and the mange that came after it does have a known cause. But if
Allaah wills the camel will not become mangy. Hence sometimes a camel may
get the mange but then it recovers and does not die. The same happens with
the plague and cholera; they may enter a house and some may get sick and
die, while others are not affected at all.
We have to put our trust in Allaah and depend on Him. It was
narrated that a leper came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) and he took him by the hand and said, “Eat,” i.e., eat
of the food that the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) was eating– because of the strength of his trust in Allaah. This trust
counteracts the causes of contagion.
What we have referred to above is the best way of reconciling
between the ahaadeeth.
End quote from Sharh Kitaab al-Tawheed, 2/80
Based on this, what is meant by the words of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) “no ‘adwa (contagion)” is that
disease is not transmitted from a sick person to a healthy one by itself,
rather it is transmitted by the will and decree of Allaah. If a sick person
mixes with healthy ones this is one of the causes of the transmission of
disease. But this does not mean that it will inevitably happen, rather it
only happens if Allaah wills it. Hence we often see a sick mother give birth
to a healthy child, but the disease is not transmitted to the infant.
And Allaah knows best.