The Ulama and Covid-19 vaccine

By Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwi and translated by Syed Huzaifah Ali Nadwi

In the last few days, there has been an increase in the number of inquiries and fatwas regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. I am also being asked such questions, and without giving a formal response, I hope that scholars and Muftis alike will consider my thoughts.

Before making any comments on the Covid-19 vaccine, we need to keep the following in mind:

1. The scientists who have developed this vaccine are not scholars, nor have they studied in a Madrasa. They have not consulted any Dar al-Ifta’ or any group of scholars in the course of their research.

2. The World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing guidelines for this vaccine. There is no Mufti or scholar in its body, nor is it affiliated with any madrasa or Dar al-Ifta’.

3. Every country in the world is preparing a strategy for the use of this vaccine according to its own interests.

4. Apparently, the new guideline that will come into place will not allow one to get a visa for Hajj and Umrah without a certificate of the vaccination. Furthermore, a certificate of vaccination will be required for international travel and this may also apply for the use of public transport and public institutions. In short, we will not be able to go on Hajj, Umrah or travel internationally without a vaccination certificate.

Now, let us think about the value of any of our fatwas. Do we think we can issue a fatwa banning this vaccine? And, if a mufti was bold enough to declare this vaccine as haram, what will be the status of such a fatwa? Will he be able to follow this fatwa himself? Or will his family follow him? Or will his followers be interested in his fatwa?

We all know certain scholars are persistent in declaring the taking of photos as haraam, but in practice this fatwa has no effect. In fact, even those who call it haraam indulge in taking photos, and their pictures are circulating all over the world.

In truth, we have no real option but to allow the vaccine. Some of us will justify it on the grounds of Istihalah (change in the nature of a forbidden substance), while others will argue on the basis of necessity. The result of all these fatawa will be that this vaccine is deemed permissible and some people may go a step further and rule that it is obligatory.

The question is, why don’t we realise that we have completely lost touch with these issues? Our fatawa are only for entertainment and consolation.

In all honesty, if we remained silent, it might be better for Islam and Muslims. Why don’t we understand that we are not obliged to answer every question? Nor is answering every question useful for the ummah?