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Visiting the Sick: A Sign of Mercy

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Islam invites all that is good and warns against all that is bad. From these good and virtuous actions flow visitation of the sick and afflicted. When people visit each other in good health, the bonds of brotherhood and friendship are strengthened. But when they visit each other in times of sickness and poor or failing health, their brotherhood grows even greater.

Illustrating the empathy that Muslims should feel for each other, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is said to have said: “The parable of the believers in their mutual love and mercy is like that of a living body: If part feels pain, the whole body suffers from insomnia and fever. (Muslim)

Visiting the sick is one of the clearest signs of such mutual love, mercy and empathy. Indeed, it is also a duty that Muslims are required to fulfill, in accordance with the following hadith in which the Prophet is said to have said: “The rights of a Muslim over another Muslim are six… When you meet him, you greet with salaam. (i.e. say: as-salamu alaykum); when he invites you, you accept his invitation; when he consults you on a matter, you give him a sincere opinion; when he sneezes and praises Allah, you ask Allah to have mercy on him; when he is sick, you visit him; and when he dies, you follow his funeral. (Bukhari)

From the above hadith, we can conclude that Muslims are encouraged to care for each other during the three phases of worldly existence: health, sickness and death.

As long as he is in good health, the Muslim is bound to greet his brother in faith with the invocation of peace and mercy, to accept his invitation and to give him sincere advice.

Then when a Muslim suffers from a cold, allergy or anything that makes him sneeze, his brother in Islam is instructed to ask Allah Almighty to have mercy on him. Likewise, when a Muslim is sick and bedridden, his Muslim brothers must go and visit him.

Finally, when a Muslim dies, Muslims are required to attend his funeral procession and prayer, and ultimately his burial.

The great reward that awaits those who visit the sick was stated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who is said to have said: “A Muslim visiting his sick brother will continue to reap paradise until he goes back home. (Muslim)

And he is also said to have said: “A Muslim walking to visit a sick person will wade in the mercy of Allah. When the visitor sits with the sick, he will be immersed in mercy until he returns. (Ahmed and Ibn Hibban)

Demonstrating the greatness of the reward of visiting the sick, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is said to have said: “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah Almighty will say: ‘O son of Adam! I got sick and you didn’t visit me! The person will say, ‘O Lord, how can I visit you and you are the Lord of all!’ Allah will say: “Did you not know that my servant “So and so” was sick, and you did not visit him? Didn’t you know that if you visited him, you would find me with him? (Muslim)

A model

In the Quran, Allah Almighty says:

(Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah, you have an excellent example for anyone who hopes [the meeting of] Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much.) (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Sent as a model for all virtuous deeds and noble duties, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) set the example. He both took the time to visit the sick personally and also inquired about them through other people.

In Mecca, for example, a pagan woman used to throw rubbish and trash at the noble Prophet whenever he passed by her house. One day, the noticeable absence of the Prophet’s aggressor worried him so much that he asked about her. When he learned of her illness, he visited her. She was so surprised by his merciful care that she embraced Islam. This sublime attitude is encouraged in a Quranic verse which says:

(Repel the bad deed with a better one, so look! He between whom you were enmity (will become) as if he were a bosom friend.) (Fussilat 41:34)

The learned Companion Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) related the following episode from the life of the Last Prophet of Allah to mankind:

A Jewish boy who wanted to serve the Prophet fell ill. The Prophet said to some of his companions: “Let us go and visit him. They went to visit him and found his father sitting beside his head. The Messenger of Allah said to the boy: “Proclaim that there is no god but Allah and I will intercede on your behalf on this matter on the Day of Resurrection.” The boy looked at his father, who said, “Obey Abul-Qasim (Muhammad)!” In response, the boy uttered it saying, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.” Thereupon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “All praise is due to Allah who saved him from the fire of hell.” (Ibn Hiban)

It is clear from these two examples from the life of the Prophet that the virtue of visiting the sick is not limited to Muslims, but includes non-Muslims as well. Such a visit to a non-Muslim patient can be such a touching and moving experience that it could even cure the most fatal disease: disbelief.

By Ben Adam