Vaccination permissible, but ‘with conditions’: ulema


Mainstream scholars in South Africa agree that immunisation for Muslims is permissible, but have stressed certain conditions for the use of any impure vaccine. This comes amid vociferous debate around the effectiveness of vaccinations, as government kicks off a new measles vaccination drive in Gauteng.

Concern has been raised on the use of a measles vaccine with a porcine element, which some Muslims believe would be impermissible. Many parents remain particularly sceptical of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, following a UK study that linked the vaccine to autism. It also sparked a wide debate on social media and raised a question around the safety of vaccines in general.

While the Islamic Medical Association (IMA) has approved the use of vaccines, the issue remains a bone contention for some ulema.

In a fatwa issued by the mufti of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa committee, Maulana Tauha Karaan said in Islam, the use of medicine is encouraged.

“It is not contrary to the spirit of Tawakkul or placing reliance in Allah, but is itself an act of reliance on the One Who has created both disease and cure alike,” said Maulana Karaan.

According to the Karaan, the decision to use medication is not an obligation. The position of those to not use medication at all is respected. But by the same token, equal respect should be given to those who opt to use medicinal means to prevent or combat disease.

The ulema believe that when a disease holds the potential of reaching pandemic proportions, the use of preventative medication becomes urgent as a social and not just personal responsibility.

The MJC Fatwa Committee said whilst it acknowledged the “principled objection” of some sectors against vaccination, as well as the debates around the issue, it also recognises the success of vaccination in curbing disease.

The IMA has emphasized the overall benefits of vaccinations in terms of the preservation of Islam. It said Muslims who are vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases will be in a better position to uphold and practice all the farȃ’id of their faith. Secondly, vaccination initiatives by facilitating universal access of safe vaccines have succeeded in the preservation of the lives of millions of people across the globe, thereby reducing global morbidity and mortality.

Conditions for vaccination

Medical intervention should ideally occur with substances that are pure and unobjectionable. However, there are times that pure options are either completely unavailable or lie beyond the reach of many.

Karaan said the unavailability of pure alternatives does not close the doors to medical intervention. Islamic jurists have ruled that where three conditions are satisfied, the use of the impure substances as medicine is warranted.

  1. A lack of viable alternatives
  2. Proven efficiency of the medicine
  3. Obliteration of the impure substance to the point where it cannot be traced

“Those who are able to afford pure alternatives are encouraged to use them. Those who find pure alternatives beyond their reach are allowed to make use of the medication containing impure substances,” said Karaan.

This view is supported by the Jamiat Ulama South Africa, who said it approves these vaccines under special circumstances. In a statement, the Jamiat said it would implore Muslims to choose vaccines that are free of any haram ingredients, but that as a last resort, it would be permissible to use haram vaccines if halal alternatives are not available or if it is too expensive.

The Jamiat agrees that Muslims are duty bound to protect themselves and communities from harm and that vaccination is one of the methods of preventing the spread of viruses.

According to the MJC’s fatwa, the presence of the porcine gelatine in the measles vaccine is mitigated

  • By hajah or the general need for the vaccine
  • By istikhlaak, or the obliteration to the point of untraceabliity
  • By the potential of istihalah, or metamorphic transformation

“It is readily acknowledged that the satisfactory occurrence of Istihalah in the production of gelatine, including porcine gelatine, remains a matter of scholarly dispute. Nevertheless and with due respect to individual fatawa, the weight of international fiqh opinion is, in our reading, clearly on the side of satisfactory occurrence.”

In the hierarchy of the Objectives of the Shariah, the need to preserve life and health outweighs the obligation to abstain from Haram. When weighed against each other, “the advantages of immunisation take precedence, over the alleged harms”, Karaan concluded. VOC

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