When a Plague or a Pandemic Occur is Dua or Qunout Legislated?
An Essay between the Shafa’I and the Hanabala Jurists
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Whenever there is a plague or a pandemic outbreak is it legislated to make dua to Allah asking Him to lift it, and should this be done individually, or in a congregation based on the seriousness of the incident; as found in some Islamic Jurisprudence Schools. Moreover, should the people go out to a Musala in an open area after breaking fast similarly to the rain prayer?
The answer to this is a supplication to Allah is a legislated act for the Muslims to perform when a plague befalls them in their country. It’s allowed for them to perform this act singularly and in the congregation. This is the opinion of the Shafa’I Jurisprudence. This opinion is built on the issue of making Qunoot during difficult times. Imam Ash-Shafa’I held the position that it’s permissible to perform Al-Qunoot during difficult times which include plagues and droughts. In his book, “Al-Um”, he wrote, “I don’t dislike a person making Qunoot during difficult times; however in times of ease then it’s disliked.
The Qunoot during hard times which include is considered a legislated act to the Shafa’I school, unlike with the Hanabala. The Hanabala (followers of Imam Ahmed) say it’s not legislated to make Qunoot during a plague asking Allah to remove it; as a plague happened during the time of the companions and nothing was reported on them making Qunoot.
The Hanbali texts such as Zad mention Qunoot is allowed to be done during difficult times, but dismiss plagues. Imam Ahmed said a plague happened during the time of companions (رضي الله عنهم ) in a town known as Emmaus during the of Umar ibn Al-Khattab (رضي الله عنه ) and nothing was reported that he ordered Qunoot.
Imam Al-Uthaymeen said there is a difference of opinion if whether or not a person should make dua asking Allah to lift the plague.
Some scholars have mentioned dua should be done as the plague has caused difficult times. This is a great thing when the Muslims unite fleeing to Allah begging Him to remove the plague.
Other scholars have stated that dua to Allah asking Him to remove the plague shouldn’t be done. The reason being, when a Muslim dies from a plague then he is considered a martyr. It’s inappropriate to make Qunoot to remove something grants a person martyrdom. In fact, we submit to Allah’s decree and when He sees fit to remove the plague then He will do so.
Here we can see that there is a difference of opinion about the legitimacy of performing Qunoot among the scholars for the issue. Their differences in more detail are based on several issues. The weakest of the issues is since death is certain to come there is no need to make dua asking Allah to help us avoid it during the pandemic crisis.
Ibn Hajr mentioned this is position is weak as that would include leaving all actions and relying completely on the Qadr, while not taking up the necessary means for certain things to come into place. Ie. Having children is by the Qadr, yet one still needs to get married and have relations!
Many Sufis lean towards the view that dua should be avoided during a plague; however, it’s legislated to make dua for good health for a sick person. Moreover, there is a legislated dua in seeking refuge from all kinds of illnesses, and without a doubt supplicating to Allah is way better than taking medicine.
Further issues of debate:
- A plague is a mercy for the believer, so how could it be possible to make dua to remove it.
Ibn Hajr replied to this by saying the only way we can say it’s prohibited to make dua to Allah to remove the plague is by way of clear authentic texts, which show it’s possible to do so. This is similar to making dua for sick to get well soon, seeking refuge in Allah from diseases, and taking medicine from a doctor.
Furthermore, since the plague is a mercy this doesn’t negate that idea of asking Allah to lift it. Mercy is one thing and its effects are another. The effects and reasons for something can vary at different levels. i.e mild,moderate, and severe. This is similar to a fever.
- Having patience during a plague allows one to receive the reward of a martyr is he dies
Ibn Hajr mentioned that dying as a martyr during a plague can still be achieved even if the person makes dua to Allah to remove it. Reason being, seeking refuge and assistance in Allah is something desired and recommended. Facing a plague is similar to facing the enemy on the battlefield. It’s been authentically reported to ask Allah for good health and safety from both situations, but if a person falls ill or encounters the enemy on the battlefield he must remain patient, but at the same time he doesn’t wish to encounter either.
Has making Dua and praying witr ever occurred during the time of the Salaf?
Ibn Hajr mentioned that nothing specifically regarding Qunoot during a plague has reached us from the era of the Sahabah, or the Tabee’oon, or that any of them joined together to make prayer similar to the rain prayer.
What has reached us though are a few reports involving serious incidents that caused difficulty. For example, there was an earthquake during the reign of Umar ibn Abdil Aziz and he ordered the people that had the ability to give charity and to make dua saying ,” Our Lord we have wronged ourselves.”
The Dua made for Qunoot during the plague.
Ibn Hajr states that he hasn’t found anything written specifically from the Jurist about the exact wording and therefore what can be said is for the iman and what the listeners can understand; as found in all Qunoots during times of extreme difficulty. 
It’s evident that both sides of the argument have their proofs and evidences for either allowing Qunoot or not. The scholars who are well grounded in their understanding are left to make a verdict similarly to how the issued edicts to close schools, masjids and airports, to issue a fatwa regarding the issue. And Allah the Most high knows best.
Abu Aaliayah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle
March 20,2020 ©
 Al-Muntee’ ala zad al Mustaqna’ vol,4 pg 42
 Return to بذل الماعون في فضل الطاعون , by Ibn Hajr pg 315-334