I have a question. Are the people who died because of the COVID-19 considered as martyrs? Hope for an explanation on this matter.
Waalaikumussalam w.b.t. Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
We start with the statement of Allah SWT:
وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَن يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ أَمْوَاتٌ ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَشْعُرُونَ
And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, "They are dead." Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.”
Surah al-Baqarah (154)
The above verse is a reminder for the believers to not say those who are killed in the way of Allah SWT (defending His religion) as dead (no longer of value). For they are actually alive in a special (specific) life in their graves, however, how it is they are alive (kaifiat of them living) is unknown except by Allah SWT and you are oblivious to this. And this is the evidence that shows the existence of the blessings in the graves. (See al-Tafsir al-Muyassar, pg. 24)
Muslims Who Die Because of An Epidemic is Considered as Martyrs?
There are numerous narrations that state about this matter. Among the narrations is a narration from Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
الشُّهَداءُ خَمْسَةٌ: المَطْعُونُ، والمَبْطُونُ، والغَرِيقُ، وصاحِبُ الهَدْمِ، والشَّهِيدُ في سَبيلِ اللَّهِ
"The martyrs are of five kinds: One who dies of the plague; one who dies of disease of his belly; the drowned; one who dies under the debris (of construction, etc.), and one who dies while fighting in the way of Allah."
Sahih al-Bukhari (2829) and Sahih Muslim (1914)
In another narration, the Prophet PBUH said:
مَن قُتِلَ في سَبيلِ اللهِ فَهو شَهِيدٌ، ومَن ماتَ في سَبيلِ اللهِ فَهو شَهِيدٌ، ومَن ماتَ في الطّاعُونِ فَهو شَهِيدٌ، ومَن ماتَ في البَطْنِ فَهو شَهِيدٌ
“One who is slain in the way of Allah is a martyr; one who dies in the way of Allah, is a martyr; one who dies of plague is a martyr; one who dies of cholera is a martyr.”
Sahih Muslim (1915)
The same is stated in a hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
الطّاعُونُ شَهادَةٌ لِكُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ
"Plague is the cause of martyrdom of every Muslim (who dies because of it).”
Sahih al-Bukhari (2830) and Sahih Muslim (1916)
The above hadiths clearly show that Muslims who died because of an epidemic (the plague) are considered as martyrs. The title of martyrdom is given by the Prophet PBUH himself as can be seen through the above hadiths.
Imam al-Nawawi said that all these types of death are considered as martyrdom because of the blessing of Allah SWT (for them) for the extreme pain and suffering that they experience in their death. (See al-Minhaj fi Syarh Sahih Muslim, Cet. Dar al-Siddiq, 5/550)
The Divisions of Martyrdom
Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani stated in his book that through the above hadiths, we can divide martyrdom into two categories:
- Martyrdom of this world and the hereafter for whoever who dies (killed) in the way of Allah SWT fighting against the disbelievers (upholding His religion), sincerely for the sake of Allah SWT, moving forward and not retreating or running away (from the enemy).
- Martyrdom of the hereafter are for those who are rewarded as martyrs, however, the ruling of martyrdom of this world is not applicable on them (which means they still have to be bathed, prayed upon and others).
(See Fath al-Bari, Cet. Dar al-Salam, 6/55)
While Imam al-Nawawi added a third category of whom who died a martyr of this world and not the hereafter. (See al-Minhaj fi Syarh Sahih Muslim, Cet. Dar al-Siddiq, 5/550). Likewise, Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani mentioned this category in his other book and explained these are the people who went to war and died (killed) in battle against the disbelievers, however, there are matters which prevent them from being considered as martyrs in the hereafter such as having the wrong intention or ran away during battle. (See Bazl Al-Ma’un, pg. 189)
Thus, we know that death due to epidemic of the plague is included as martyrdom of the hereafter and not in this world. This means they will receive the rewards of a martyr but in this world, they would still have to be bathed and prayed upon. Regarding this matter, Imam al-Nawawi said:
المراد بشهادة هؤلاء كلهم غير المقتول فى سبيل الله انهم يكون لهم فى الآخرة ثواب الشهداء وأما فى الدنيا فيغسلون ويصلى عليهم
“Martyr meant here are all of them with the exception of those who dies in the way of Allah SWT, will receive the rewards of a martyr in the hereafter. Although in this world, they would still have to be bathed and prayed upon (unlike those who died in the battle for Allah SWT).” (See al-Minhaj fi Syarh Sahih Muslim, Cet. Dar al-Siddiq, 5/550)
The Rewards Are Equivalent of Those Who Died Fighting for Allah SWT
Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani stated that the rewards of a martyr for those who died because of the plague is the same as those who were killed in the way of Allah SWT. (See Bazl Al-Ma’un, pg. 196)
Regarding this matter, it is as stated by the prophet PBUH:
يختصِمُ الشُّهداءُ والمتوفَّونَ على فُرُشِهِم إلى ربِّنا في الَّذينَ يتوفَّونَ منَ الطَّاعونِ ، فيقولُ الشُّهداءُ : إخوانُنا قُتِلوا كما قُتِلنا ، ويقولُ المتوفَّونَ في فرشِهِم : إخوانُنا ماتوا على فرشِهِم كما مُتنا ، فيقولُ ربُّنا : انظُروا إلى جراحِهِم ، فإن أشبَهَ جراحُهُم جراحَ المقتولينَ ، فإنَّهم منهم ومعَهُم ، فإذا جراحُهُم قد أشبَهَت جراحَهُم
"The martyrs and those who dies in their beds referred a dispute to our Lord concerning those who dies of the plague. The martyrs said: 'Our brothers were killed as we were killed.' And those who dies in their beds said: 'Our brothers dies on their beds as we died.' Our Lord said: 'Look at their wounds; if their wounds; if their wounds are like the wounds of those who were killed then they are of them and belong with them.' And their wounds were like their (the martyrs') wounds."
Sunan al-Nasaie (3164) and Musnad Ahmad (17195)
Is COVID-19 In the Same Category as the Plague?
In answering this issue, we will share several definitions of the plague as stated by lughah (language) scholars. Among them are:
- Al-Jauhari said: The plague refers to death which affects the public as a whole such as an epidemic.
- Syeikh Ibrahim al-Harbi in gharib al-hadis said: epidemic is the plague and any illness that affects the public population.
- Ibn al-‘Arabi said in Syarah al-Tirmizi: It is named as the plague for the harm affects the public and cause expeditious death because of it. Thus, diseases such as this is included as the same as it (the plague).
(See Bazl Al-Ma’un, pg. 95)
As it is known, the COVID-19 is a virus which leads to a contagious disease that leads to huge scale death. Thus, according to its characteristics, it can be considered as the same as the plague as stated in sahih narrations
According to the above discussion, we would like to conclude that whoever dies because of the COVID-19 pandemic is considered as a martyr as understood from sahih hadiths. However, the martyr meant here is martyr of the hereafter. As for in this world, their bodies would still need to be bathed and prayed upon.
The title of a martyr is given by the Prophet PBUH himself according to sahih narrations. However, in truth, Allah SWT is the All-Knowing whether a person is really a martyr or otherwise. We should always pray that our brothers in Islam who died because of the COVID-19 pandemic is blessed as martyrs by Allah SWT.
We end with the statement of the Prophet PBUH:
مَن سَأَلَ اللَّهَ الشَّهادَةَ بصِدْقٍ، بَلَّغَهُ اللَّهُ مَنازِلَ الشُّهَداءِ، وإنْ ماتَ على فِراشِهِ
“Who sought martyrdom with sincerity will be ranked by Allah among the martyrs even if he died on his bed.”
Sahih Muslim (1909)
May Allah SWT remove this pandemic from our country and protect us all.