Long term war against viral diseases — Islam provides major arsenals

The day the world adopts Islam’s Dynamic Paradigm of Health and makes life and healthiness of life as the chief criteria for developing legal, social and economic policies, the world will become a healthier and more peaceful place. But this is not likely to happen because the current world first commercializes the causes of the problems and then commercializes the solutions. Sex, alcohol, dogs, pigs – all are big industries and their solutions including vaccines and management are also big industries. Why would they then take steps that jeopardize market economy?


Practices that help viruses emerge

Swine flu: pig farming necessitated by pork eating

HIV/AIDS: Promiscuity, homosexuality and prostitution

Rabies: dog bite

Hepatitis B: blood transfusion and sexual route (Promiscuity, homosexuality and prostitution)

HPV: sexual perversions, lack of urogenital hygiene

Alcohol: that helps HIV and HPV

Islamic practices that prevent viruses

Prohibition on pork

Prohibition on promiscuity, homosexuality and prostitution

Urogenital and sexual hygiene

Prohibition on alcohol and drugs

General hygiene

Discouragement against dogs in houses and localities

Quarantine in epidemics: Neither go to the affected areas nor out of it


Since the beginning of the Twentieth Century, viruses have proved to be the biggest threat, as far as infections are concerned, to the human health. The data before 1900 is not largely available but it can be safely assumed that viruses have always been the big tormentors throughout the human history. Swine flu and HIV/AIDS have been the biggest killers both consuming tens of millions of lives in modern times. Rabies and Human Papilloma Virus too are notorious killers. How much damage the covid-19, the latest virus that has brought the world to an almost complete standstill, ultimately causes, only time will tell. Let us have a look at some of the major devastations caused by the viruses.

Swine (Pig) Flu

Swine Flu has proved to be a devastating killer in the last century with several epidemics. Also called pig flu, this is an infection caused by any one of several types of swine influenza viruses. Swine influenza virus (SIV) or swine-origin influenza virus (S-OIV) is a strain of the influenza family of viruses that is endemic in pigs. The known SIV strains include influenza C and the subtypes of influenza A known as H1N1H1N2, H2N1, H3N1H3N2, and H2N3.

People with regular exposure to pigs are at increased risk of swine flu infection. But there have been several outbreaks during last one hundred years that have resulted in massive casualties. Even when the strains have disappeared in humans, the retention of influenza strains in pigs might make pigs a reservoir where influenza viruses could persist, later emerging to re-infect humans once human immunity to these strains has waned.

About 203,000 people around the world died of flu and respiratory problems during the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic, according to a new study funded by the World Health Organization. Deaths from heart failure and other secondary consequences of the flu pushed the overall toll to about 400,000, according to the study, published online by PLoS Medicine1

Other epidemics in the past have killed even bigger numbers. During the 1918 pandemic, approximately 20% to 40% of the worldwide population became ill and an estimated 50 million people died. Nearly 675,000 people died in the United States alone. Manyinfluenza–and pneumonia–related deaths occurred in September 1957 and March 1958. Although the 1957 pandemic was not as devastating as the 1918 pandemic, about 69,800 people in the United States died. The elderly had the highest rates of death. The number of deaths between September 1968 and March 1969 was 33,800, making it the mildest flu pandemic in the 20th century. It was mainly active in Hong Kong2.

HIV/AIDS

The biggest killer in recent time has of course been HIV/AIDS which has killed close to 40 million people since it was first detected less than 40 years back. The overview provided by UNAIDS about the AIDS epidemic is as follows3:

GLOBAL HIV STATISTICS

  • 36.7 million [30.8 million–42.9 million] people globally were living with HIV in 2016.
  • 1.8 million [1.6 million–2.1 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2016.
  • 1 million [830 000–1.2 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2016.
  • 76.1 million [65.2 million–88.0 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic.
  • 35.0 million [28.9 million–41.5 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.

People living with HIV

  • In 2016, there were 36.7 million [30.8 million–42.9 million] people living with HIV.
  • 34.5 million [28.8 million–40.2 million] adults
  • 17.8 million [15.4 million–20.3 million] women (15+ years)
  • 2.1 million [1.7 million–2.6 million] children (<15 years)

New HIV infections

  • Worldwide, 1.8 million [1.6 million–2.1 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2016.
  • Since 2010, new HIV infections among adults declined by an estimated 11%, from 1.9 million [1.6 million–2.1million] to 1.7 million [1.4 million–1.9 million] in 2016.
  • New HIV infections among children declined by 47% since 2010, from 300 000 [230 000–370 000] in 2010 to 160 000 [100 000–220 000] in 2016.

WHO website gives the following overview about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS4:

“Since the beginning of the epidemic, 75 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 32 million people have died of HIV. Globally, 37.9 million [32.7–44.0 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2018. An estimated 0.8% [0.6-0.9%] of adults aged 15–49 years worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably between countries and regions. The WHO African region remains most severely affected, with nearly 1 in every 25 adults (3.9%) living with HIV and accounting for more than two-thirds of the people living with HIV worldwide.”

A UNAIDS report says:

“Evidence shows that HIV prevalence among sex workers is 12 times greater than among the general population. Even in very high prevalence countries, HIV prevalence among sex workers is much higher than among the general population. An analysis of 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 showed a pooled prevalence of more than 37% among sex workers.”

Moreover, not only the sexual workers are more susceptible to HIV than normal women; the men coming into their contact also run much higher risk. 

Apart from sex workers, homosexuality is another natural habitat for HIV/AIDS. The United Nations estimates that 2 to 20% of MSM (men having sex with men) are infected with HIV, depending on the region they live in. The CDC reports that “in 2009, in United States MSM accounted for 61% of all new HIV infections and that MSM who had a history of recreational drug injection accounted for an additional 3% of new infections. Among the approximately 784,701 people living with an HIV diagnosis, 396,810 (51%) were MSM. About 48% of MSM living with an HIV diagnosis were white, 30% were black, and 19% were Hispanic or Latino. Although the majority of MSM are white, non-whites accounted for 54% of new infections HIV related MSM infections in 2008. A recent study estimated that for every 100,000 MSM, 692 will be diagnosed with HIV. This makes MSM 60 times more likely to contract the virus than other men and 54 times more likely than women.5 The obvious reason for this huge difference is the nature of organs involved in coitus. The HIV virus is more easily transmitted through unprotected anal intercourse than through unprotected vaginal intercourse and men who report unprotected receptive anal intercourses are at increased risk of contracting the HIV virus. Generally, the receptive partner is at greater risk of contracting the HIV virus because the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow the virus to enter the body through semen exchange. The insertive partner is also at risk because STIs can enter through the urethra or through small cuts, abrasions, or open sores on the penis. Also, condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex. Thus, even with a condom, anal sex can be more risky.

The IV drug abuse is also one of the major risk factors and the drug abuse along with promiscuity and/or homosexuality increases the risk multi-fold. 

Rabies (Dog Virus)

Another big killer, which has almost one hundred percent mortality even in this age of advanced medicine, has been Rabies, the dogs being the major carrier followed by some other animals like bats. According to the WHO, the global burden of rabies is 60000 deaths per year. More than 20000 deaths take place in India alone. Africa accounts for even a greater number. According to “Rabies vaccines: WHO position paper”, Rabies in dogs poses a threat to more than 3.3 billion people in the world6.

HPV (human papillomavirus)

HPV or human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection, which can lead to cancer or genital warts. Cervical cancer is most commonly linked to HPV, but HPV can also cause cancer in your vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, and throat.  According to an article, “In 2012, an estimated 528,000 cases of cervical cancer occurred, with 266,000 deaths. This is about 8% of the total cases and total deaths from cancer….. Worldwide, cervical cancer is both the fourth-most common cause of cancer and deaths from cancer in women. In 2018, 570,000 cases of cervical cancer were estimated to have occurred, with over 300,000 deaths. It is the second-most common cause of female-specific cancer after breast cancer, accounting for around 8% of both total cancer cases and total cancer deaths in women.”7 

Islamic Arsenals

Islamic position is clear. It permits “Tayyab” (healthy) things and prohibits “Khabeeth” (dangerous) ones. It warns against those practices that can kill. See the following verses:

“…the one who promotes the well-recognised (actions) and campaigns against the Unacceptable, permits them what is healthy and prohibits what is unhealthy, and rescues them from their heavy burdens and the shackles that grip them. It is they who are truly committed to him, honour and help him and follow the Light which has been dispatched to accompany him. They are the true achievers.” (7: 157)

“This day all healthy foods are made lawful to you.” (5: 5)

“Except the mentioned ones, all the others are lawful to you on the condition that you seek (marriage with) them in return of assets, for a healthy relationship, not for temporary pleasure….” (4: 24) 

“Items prohibited for you are: the meat of the dead (animals), blood, the pork, the meat which has been dedicated to a deity other than God, the flesh of the animals killed by strangulation, or by a violent blow, or by a fall on the head side, or by being gored, or left after hunting by a wild animal, unless you are able to properly slaughter it, or (that of an animal) sacrificed at altars. Further, taking decisions through divination of arrows is a gross violation (of the code).” (5: 3)

“They ask you about the substances of addiction and gambling. State: “There is huge sin and some benefits for the mankind in them; but the sin is much greater than their benefits.” (2: 219)”

“State: My Lord has prohibited nothing but the illicit relationships, open as well as secret, the (known) sins and the unauthenticated violations.” (7: 33)

Circumcision a potent weapon against viruses and bacteria

Circumcision is becoming increasingly popular due to the evidence accumulating that it has a very strong protective effect against all sex transmitted diseases including AIDS as well as HPV related Cervical Cancer. A report from Africa says:

“As hospital wards overflow, avoiding HIV has become a consuming concern for Swazis. Since the South African report appeared saying that circumcised men are 60 percent less likely to contract HIV, the shift in Swazi attitudes toward circumcision — once widely viewed as unmanly — has been dramatic and swift….Hospitals that once rarely performed circumcisions have recently been doing 10 to 15 a week, with two-month waiting lists. A physician with a radio show has called on his listeners to have the surgery, which removes the foreskin and along with it the cells most vulnerable to HIV. A lawmaker has advocated the procedure in a speech to parliament and demanded that the government increase capacity and subsidies for it…..The South African study was the first to experimentally test the effectiveness of circumcision in preventing HIV, but dozens of studies have shown that infection rates are far higher in regions with low circumcision rate”.8

The Scientific fraternity is usually not sympathetic towards religion. There have been attempts in the past to disregard the beneficial effects of circumcision. But the greater numbers of medical experts have argued in favour than those against it. In the US, circumcision enjoyed great popularity in the last century. But after 1999, when the American Academy of Paediatrics issued a policy statement saying the potential medical benefits of neonatal circumcision weren’t strong enough to recommend it as a routine procedure, the popularity declined. The group shifted its stance however again recently saying newer studies indicate the health benefits of circumcision do outweigh the risks and that parents should be told of its protective effects.

Ronald Gray, a physician and professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, makes the case in favour of neonatal circumcision. Here are a few excerpts from his article,” Yes: The Benefits Are Many, While the Risks Are Few”9:

“The health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, and the procedure should be accessible to all families who want it. So said a task force convened by the American Academy of Paediatrics to review the latest scientific evidence on circumcision and update the group’s policy stance…Here are the facts, based on published, peer-reviewed and independently monitored studies

“The risk of complications from newborn circumcision in U.S. hospitals is estimated to be about 0.2%. The most common complication is bleeding, which can be readily controlled. Infection and penile injuries are very rare…..The benefits of circumcision that accrue during childhood include a marked reduction in urinary-tract infections, which affect one in 100 uncircumcised boys, mainly during the first two years of life, and inflammation or infection under the foreskin, which affects around 17 in 100 uncircumcised boys before the age of 8. Circumcision reduces the risk of these problems by around 60%. In adulthood, circumcision has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in men by 50% to 60%, and is now recommended by the World Health Organization as an HIV prevention strategy…….Circumcision also lowers the risk of acquiring herpes infection and genital ulcers in men. It reduces infection with human papilloma viruses, or HPV, in both men and their female partners. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S., causing cervical, penile and anal cancers and genital warts. Female partners of circumcised men have lower rates of vaginal infections and genital ulcers…… Circumcision doesn’t impair sexual potency or pleasure, according to randomized controlled trials. These studies are considered the most credible because they compare men who are circumcised at random versus men who aren’t, and the men who are circumcised during the trial can assess whether their pleasure or potency is affected by the procedure.

In short, infant male circumcision has lifelong health benefits that outweigh the immediate risks, and parents should be counselled so they can decide what is best for their child.” 

According to reports, in 2007, the WHO reviewed the totality of evidence concerning male circumcision and HIV, and issued the following joint recommendations with UNAIDS.10

  • Male circumcision should now be recognized as an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention.
  • Promoting male circumcision should be recognized as an additional, important strategy for the prevention of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men. 
  • Circumcision should only be performed after informed consent.
  • Kim Dickson, coordinator of the working group that authored the report, commented:
  • Male circumcision “would have greatest impact” in countries where the HIV infection rate among heterosexual males is greater than 15 percent and fewer than 20 percent of males are circumcised.
  • WHO further recommends that the procedure must be done by a trained health care professional
  • Protection is incomplete and men must continue to use condoms and have fewer partners.
  • Newly circumcised men should abstain from sex for at least six weeks

Incidentally, this writer had proposed the inclusion of circumcision in AIDS control programme way back in 1995 in his book, “Islamic Model for Control of AIDS”.

 Another report says:

“A 2009 Cochrane meta-analysis of studies done on sexually active heterosexual men in Africa found that circumcision reduced their acquisition of HIV by 38–66% over a period of 24 months. The WHO recommends considering circumcision as part of a comprehensive HIV program in areas with high endemic rates of HIV, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where studies have concluded it is cost-effective against HIV Circumcision reduces the incidence of HSV-2 infections by 28%,and is associated with reduced oncogenic HPV prevalence and a reduced risk of both UTIs and penile cancer, but routine circumcision is not justified for the prevention of those conditions. Studies of its potential protective effects against other sexually transmitted infections have been inconclusive. A 2010 review of literature worldwide found circumcisions performed by medical providers to have a median complication rate of 1.5% for newborns and 6% for older children, with few instances of severe complications/ Bleedinginfection and the removal of either too much or too little foreskin are the most common complications cited. Circumcision does not appear to have a negative impact on sexual function…….There are plausible explanations based on human biology for how circumcision can decrease the likelihood of female-to-male HIV transmission. The superficial skin layers of the penis contain Langerhans cells, which are targeted by HIV; removing the foreskin reduces the number of these cells. When an uncircumcised penis is erect during intercourse, any small tears on the inner surface of the foreskin come into direct contact with the vaginal walls, providing a pathway for transmission. When an uncircumcised penis is flaccid, the pocket between the inside of the foreskin and the head of the penis provides an environment conducive to pathogen survival; circumcision eliminates this pocket. Some experimental evidence has been provided to support these theories…..The WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) state that male circumcision is an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention, but should be carried out by well-trained medical professionals and under conditions of informed (parents’ consent for their infant boys). The WHO has judged circumcision to be a cost-effective public health intervention against the spread of HIV in Africa, although not necessarily more cost-effective than condoms. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has calculated that newborn circumcision is cost-effective against HIV in the US. The joint WHO/UNAIDS recommendation also notes that circumcision only provides partial protection from HIV and should not replace known methods of HIV prevention.” (Wikipedia article)

Lancet Global Health writes,

“Persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Women with circumcised partners were protected against any HPV (five of five studies including three RCTs, involving women from multiple settings in Africa and Europe) and low-risk HPV types (three of three studies, two being RCTs, involving women in Africa and Europe). ….. The benefits of male circumcision for men are well established, with the science driving affirmative policy recommendations by WHO, UNAIDS, the World Bank, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings of this systematic review support affirmative policy recommendations for women. Women can have considerable power in regard to male circumcision. They can and do influence the choice of male circumcision for their sons ideally soon after birth, and later, as well as for their brothers and other male family members. Women can choose a circumcised sexual partner or encourage an uncircumcised partner to get circumcised. Most studies, including an RCT, have noted that women generally favour male circumcision for aesthetic reasons, ….hygiene, and reduced infection risk.”11

Finally coming to the religious angle, it cannot be without significance that the practice of circumcision was started by Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic, PBUH), the revered Prophet of Jews, Christians as well as Muslims; and there must have been more to it than a sheer coincidence that this was done at a time when Sodom and Gomorrah had become the hotbed of homosexuality and were subsequently destroyed by God.

Other Preventive Methods

If the all-out war against viruses and other infections has to be waged, Islamic steps involving Primary Prevention will have to be taken. These include:

  • Istanja (Washing of private parts after urinating), which has huge protective effects against the urogenital infection;
  • Wudu (Ablution), which involves washing of the exposed organs and mouth reducing the risks of mouth infections, cardiovascular problems, skin infections and cancers and eye infections;
  • Washing of private parts after intercourse and bathing as soon as possible; which will decrease the chances of sex related diseases;
  • Total ban on premarital, extramarital sex and promiscuity, homosexuality and prostitution, which all are the leading factors responsible for propagation of various sex related disorders including Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Herpes, Reiter’s disease, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B infection; (The last is not generally included in sex related diseases but has sexual route as one of the most common modes of spread.)
  • Avoidance of sex during menses, which again prevents from urogenital infections;
  • A compulsory period of Iddah (waiting period) between two marriage partners, which again is very important in preventing sex transmitted diseases. This will be elaborated later;
  • Total ban on the production, serving and use of alcoholic beverages, which will not only prevent diseases like Cirrhosis, several cancers and Psychosis but will also help in prevention of sex related diseases and impotence and alcohol related accidents, crimes and suicides;
  • Circumcision that prevents from Phimosis, Paraphimosis, sex-transmitted diseases including AIDS and the Cancer of Cervix (among women)
  • Miswak (Brushing of teeth), which has a remarkable preventive effect on the infective diseases of teeth, gums and several internal organs, is also a part of secondary prevention;
  • Ban on Pork
  • Discouragement of` keeping dogs in houses and near vicinity;
  • Covering nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing.

It appears from one Hadith that pigs will become such a big source of trouble in future that Jesus, at the time of his Second Advent, will order the killing of all the pigs. Abu Hurayra, RA, narrates that Rasulullah (SAW) said, ‘By him in whose hand my soul is, surely the son of Mary will come down among you as a just ruler. He will break the cross, kill the pigs and abolish the Jizyah.’12

And of course, there are clear guidelines regarding epidemics. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “So if you hear that it (epidemic) breaks out in a land, do not go there. If it breaks out in a land where you are, do not run out of that land.”  (Al-Bukhari)

If this hadith had been followed in total in Wuhan, from where the Covid-19 epidemic began, and China had not allowed anyone to go out of it, the world could have been saved from the disaster it is faced with. There is nothing known yet about the real origin of this virus, but it may ultimately prove to have originated through contact with some wild animal. In Islam, hunting animals for entertainment and gambling is strictly prohibited, and the emphasis on eating the meat of only certain permitted variety of domestic animals and certain fishes and birds.

In short, pigs, dogs, promiscuity, prostitution and homosexuality have been the biggest breeding grounds for the spread of the killer viral diseases. If prevention against infections in general and viral infections in particular has to be successfully achieved, ban on pork eating and pig farming, domestication of dogs and effective campaign against prostitution, promiscuity and homosexuality will have to be ensured. Alcohol has clear relationship with many of these practices and subsequently the death caused by these. Apart from banning alcohol, circumcision needs to be popularized at the war footing. 

Islam has of course provided the clear guidelines in all these matters. Obviously, while in the modern world, practices are banned or promoted according to their impact on economics, in Islam, what is good for health is promoted and what is bad is either expressly forbidden or discouraged. The day the world adopts Islam’s Dynamic Paradigm of Health and makes life and healthiness of life as the chief criteria for developing legal, social and economic policies, the world will become a healthier and more peaceful place. But this is not likely to happen because the current world first commercializes the causes of the problems and then commercializes the solutions. Sex, alcohol, dogs, pigs – all are big industries and their solutions including vaccines and management are also big industries. Why would they then take steps that jeopardize market economy? 

References

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/health/who-revises-estimate-of-swine-flu-deaths.html?_r=0)
  2. http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/
  3. FACT SHEET – LATEST STATISTICS ON THE STATUS OF THE AIDS EPIDEMI BY UNAIDS; http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet
  4. World Health Organisation; Global Health Observatory (GHO) data; https://www.who.int/gho/hiv/en/
  5. HIV and men who have sex with men; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV_and_men_who_have_sex_with_men
  6. WHO/Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases; WHO position paper – April 2018; Weekly epidemiological record
  7. Cervical cancer – Wikipedia; en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Cervical_cancer
  8. Craig Timber; Un Swaziland, Science Revives an Old Rite: Washington Post; (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/25/AR2005122500749.html)
  9. Yes: The Benefits Are Many, While the Risks Are Few By Ronald Gray; Wsahington Post; https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324798904578531063301112102
  10. “WHO and UNAIDS announce recommendations from expert consultation on male circumcision for HIV prevention”. World Health Organisation. March 2007. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumcision_and_HIV
  11. Lancet Global Health: Article on Uses of Circumcision
  12. Hadith in response to An-Nisaa 4:159 (Bukhari; Muslim)

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