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World AIDS Day- Islamic Perspective

Jamiatul Ulama’ SA
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“And do not come near adultery, indeed it is immoral and a wicked path (to follow)”

All Praise is due to Allah – And May His choicest salutations continue to descend on our Master Muhammad Alayhis-Salâm.

The 1 December is commemorated as World AIDS Day. As Muslims we need to use this day to:

1. Reflect at the dwindling levels of morality and hayâ within our communities
2. Enforce our distinct Islamic identity in dealing with the scourge
3. Create an understanding of the devastating effects of the pandemic
4. Create an awareness of how to deal with those infected and affected by the pandemic within our communities.

Twenty-eight percent of people in South Africa have been affected by HIV/AIDS, and 13% of all the people in the world living with HIV can be found in South Africa. UNAIDS estimates that at the end of 2003 there were 5.3 million people in South Africa living with HIV – (i.e. 21.5% of the population.) A survey published in March 2004 shows that South Africans spend more time at funerals than they do having their hair cut, shopping or having Bar-B-Qs. It found that over twice as many people had been to a funeral in the past month as had been to a wedding1. It is estimated that about 600 people in South Africa die of HIV-related illnesses each day.

The United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that since the start of the global HIV pandemic around 29.4 million people have been infected with HIV. Although many Muslim countries claim that HIV has not affected them, this is not true. HIV infections have been reported in every single Muslim country. According to UNAIDS there are an estimated 300 000 people living with HIV in North Africa and the Middle East.

Anyone can become infected by HIV, including Muslims. No doubt, it will be a traumatic experience for a Muslim family to find out that their son or daughter is leading a promiscuous lifestyle and has contracted AIDS. Our great dreams could suddenly turn into nightmares. It has happened to other Muslim families, and can happen to our own.

What then is the best shield against the plague of this century? It is best encapsulated in one word- PREVENTION. Only Islam seems capable of bringing about the needed change of paradigm – back to the adoption of sexual morality in accordance with revealed guidance and Islamic sex hygiene. Addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic requires a comprehensive and integrated response, which emphasises preventive strategies, a ban on free intermingling, of the sexes, a prohibition of nudity and the display of the awrah, care and support to the afflicted and their families, and socio-economic intervention programmes.

We as Muslims have a leading role to play. Our engagement must however, be deeply rooted in the traditions and ethical teachings of Islam and we must operate within the Islamic conceptual framework. AIDS in the main is a behavioural disease. It is impossible for a Muslim to discuss AIDS outside the framework of moral and ethical behaviour. In other words, people in the secular world should not expect Muslims to think or operate outside of their religious and spiritual value system, because it is precisely this value system that determines their identity, self-concept and world view.

Knowledge as a shield: Accurate information about HIV and AIDS will help to control the spread of the disease in our communities. It will also reduce fear and discrimination against people who become HIV positive. Information will also help us challenge the many myths surrounding the disease. Discussing HIV and AIDS would involve discussing sexual and intimate matters. Islam has always encouraged discussions on matters, which will help us protect our health and life. Modesty in Islam does not mean that we should not discuss sexual matters. Muslim men and women never felt shy to ask the Prophet Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam about intimate sexual matters. The Noble Qur’ân has discussed reproduction, creation, family life, menstruation and ejaculation. The Prophet Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said, “Blessed are the women of the Ansâr [citizens of Madinah], shyness did not stand in their way for seeking knowledge about their religion” (Bukhari & Muslim). Islam does require people to be modest and so it is not so much the discussion of sex and sexual matters that is an issue, but how this is done. Not only has promiscuity eroded the levels of hayâ, it has also given rise to an alarming mortality rate- which is in keeping with the hadîth of Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam saw that says when zinâ becomes rampant Allâh will let loose such diseases for which man will have no cure.

Compassion for the ill: There are many Muslims who are affected by AIDS. They are someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister: they are part of the Muslim community. We cannot shun people living with HIV or AIDS. Any person living with AIDS should be given attention, care, love and affection, so that he /she can lead their life with dignity, hope and belief. The Prophet Muhammad Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam reminded Muslims that: “You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another.” In another Hadith, it has been said, “Allâh shows compassion only to those of his servants who are compassionate.”

Love and compassion are the qualities of a good Muslim, and people with AIDS cannot be denied these powerful emotions. Visiting and caring for the sick is another good deed that is highly recommended by the Prophet Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam. “Whoever visits a sick person is walking along the high road to heaven” (Bukhari). “A visit to a sick person is only complete when you have put your hand on his forehead and asked him how he is” (Tirmidhî)

Shouldn’t we make it compulsory for couples to get tested for AIDS before Nikah?

In an Indian website we read about two muslims girls who became infected after marriage. Most of the victims of Aids are mothers and woman that are sitting at home and are faithful to their husband.

The response was they can’t make it compulsory but what they can do is encourage couples to get tested before marriage. Rather be safe then sorry. Once you know the enemy, can you plan to attack the virus. There are many married couples with HIV that have children that are living normal lives.

All needing help on HIV/AIDS are requested to contact the Muslim AIDS Programme (MAP) at: 011 832 1677/1688.
The Muslim AIDS ProgrammeThe Muslim AIDS Programme (MAP) is a non-governmental organisation operating on a national, provincial and community level. MAP is a joint project of the Jamiatul Ulama, Islamic Careline and the Islamic Medical Association. MAP is also involved in President Mbeki’s Partnership Against AIDS initiative. Islamic Careline: Tel: 011 838 6085/6Islamic Medical Association: Tel: 011 8376717 Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal: 011 834 2859 MAP: Telefax: 27 21 637 0115 Islamic Medical Association (IMA) Western Cape Region: Telefax: (021) 762 1414 
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