Keep your distance – health lessons from the history of pandemics


From a simple cold to a serious illness, humans have always lived with the risk of catching diseases from one another. Pandemics affecting millions are fortunately rare, but the bubonic plague of the 14th century and the 1918 influenza outbreak have left a dark shadow on history.

During Muslim civilisation, people encountered plague and infectious diseases such as leprosy – but how did physicians then deal with issues of contagion? And are there any lessons we can learn?

Preventative Medicine
A key medical principle from the early days of Muslim civilisation was preventative medicine – sensible guidance for people of all ages on keeping well.

Physicians stressed in their medical works the importance of sport, personal hygiene, healthy eating and drinking, and good sleep. They encouraged positive management of worry, anger and anxiety, believing that the health of the body had a close link with the health of the soul.

Similar manuscripts of work on anatomy contained illustrated chapters on five systems of the body: bones, nerves, muscles, veins and arteries. This page depicts the arteries, with the internal organs shown in watercolors… (Source)

Measures to Avoid Contagion
‘Flee from the one with leprosy as you flee from a lion,’ cautioned the 14th-century theologian and physician Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, in reference to a saying of the Prophet Mohammed. In cases of contagious diseases such as leprosy, doctors knew that the only way to avoid transmission was by steering clear of a sick person.

In his book al-Ṭibb al-Nabawi (The Medicine of the Prophet) Ibn Qayyim identified how disease transmits through contact with a sick person or via their breath.

Umayyad Caliph Walid ibn ʿAbd al-Malik built the first Bīmāristān (hospital) in Muslim civilisation in the year 707 in Damascus. In this hospital, lepers were cared for in a separate ward and provided with regular supplies, measures designed to avoid patients infecting others.
Caricature by the English artist James Gillray (1757-1815) The Cow-Pock or the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! (London, 1802) depicting a vaccination scene at the Smallpox and Inoculation Hospital at St. Pancras, showing Dr. Jenner vaccinating a frightened young woman and cows emerging from different parts of people’s bodies (Source) (1001 inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization, 3rd edition, Page 176)

Limitation of movement
Guidance in relation to epidemics was not to enter or leave a land affected by the disease. 14th-century Andalusian physician and scholar Abu Jaʿfar Amad ibn ʿAli ibn Khatima al-Ansari followed this guidance appropriately when he stayed put in the city of Almeria after it was struck by bubonic plague. He made the most of his confinement, however, by investigating the nature of the disease and its spread, as well as tending to patients. His findings are recorded in his book Tahsil Gharad al-Qasd fi Tafsil al-Marad al-Wafid (The fulfilment of the Inquirer’s Aim Concerning All About the Invading Epidemic).

One of Ibn Khatima’s insights was that diet, and the strength of the body’s resistance, play a role in how severe the impact is and how quickly a patient will respond to treatment.

As the world grapples once again with a pandemic, there is a notable resonance with the past. Physicians in Muslim civilisation sought to provide the best care and advice they could during epidemics and outbreaks of infectious diseases, and today the guidance given by governments and health practitioners across the world is remarkably similar.

After all, the notion of medicine is about preserving health and saving lives.

Medicine is a science, from which one learns the state of the human body, in order to preserve good health when it exists and restore it when it is lacking.” 11th century physician and scholar Ibn Sina




Oh Allah ta’ala – do not leave me…


“O Allah, Your mercy I am hopeful for, so do not leave me to myself for the blink of an eye, and put all my affairs in order, there is no god but You.” [Abu Dawud]

اللَّهُمَّ رَحْمَتَكَ أَرْجُوْ فَلَا تَكِلْنِي إِلَى نَفْسِي طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ وَأَصْلِحْ لِي

شَأْنِي كُلِّهِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ

Allahumma rahmataka arju fala takilni ila nafsi tarfata `aynin wa aslih li sha’ni kullihi la ilaha illa anta

Du’a to recite when you visit someone ill


’Aisha (Allah be well-pleased with her) reported that when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) visited any ailing member of his family, he would touch the sick person with his right hand and would supplicate: “O Allah! The Lord of mankind! Remove this disease and heal (him or her)! You are the Great Healer! There is no healing but through You; (a healing) which leaves behind no disease.” [Agreed Upon]

اللهم رب الناس، أذهب البأس، واشف، أنت الشافي لا شفاء إلا شفاؤك، شفاءً لا يغادر سقماً

Allahumma Rabban-nasi, adhhibil-ba’sa, washfi, Antash-Shafi, la shifa’a illa shifa’uka, shifaan la yughadiru saqaman

Du’a for a person, who is ill


Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be well-pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Anyone who visits a sick person whose time has not yet come and says seven times in his presence, ‘I ask Allah the Immense, the Lord of the Immense Throne, to heal you,’ Allah will heal him of that illness.” [Abu Dawud; Tirmidhi]

أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ رَبَّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ أَنْ يَشْفِيَكَ

As’alullahal-’Azima Rabbal-’Arshil-’Azimi, an yashfiyaka

Islamic Names for Girls Today



Abia – Great
Abida – Worshipper
Abir, Abeer – Fragrance
Ablah, Abla’ – Perfectly formed
Abra – Example, lesson
A’dab – Hope and need
Adara – Virgin
Adiba – Cultured, polite
Adila, Adilah, Adeela – Equal
Adiva – Pleasant, gentle
Afaf – Chaste, virtuous, decent, pure
Afifah – Chaste
Afra’ – White
Ahd – Pledge, knowledge
Ahlam – Witty; one who has pleasant dreams; imaginative
A’idah, Aida – Visiting, returning; reward
Ain – Eye, thus “precious”
Aini – Spring, flower, source, choice
A’ishah, Aisha, Ayishah – Living, prosperous, youngest wife of the Prophet (pbuh)
Akilah – Intelligent, logical, one who reasons
Alhena – A ring; (A star in the constellation Gemini)
Alima – Wise
Alimah – Skilled in music or dance
Aliyyah, Aliah, A’lia – Exaulted, noble, highest social standing
Almas – Diamond
Aludra – Virgin
Alzubra – (A star in the constellation Leo)
Amal, A’mal, Amala – Hopes, aspirations
Amani – Wishes, aspirations
Amatullah – Female servant of Allah
Amber – Jewel
Aminah, Ameena – Trustworthy, faithful
Amineh – Faithful
Amirah, Ameera – Princess, leader
Amtullah – Female servant of Allah
Anan – Clouds
Anbar – Perfume, ambergris
Anisah – Close, intimate, good friend
Anwar – Rays of light
Ara – Opinions
Areebah – Witty, smart
Arub – Loving to her husband
Asima – Protector
Asiya – One who tends to the weak, one who heals
Asma’ – Excellent, precious; daughter of Abu Bakr
Atifa – Affection, sympathy
Atiya – Gift
Ayah – Sign; distinct
Azhar – Flowers, blossoms
Azizah, Azeeza – Esteemed, precious, cherished
Azzah – Young, female gazelle


Badi’a – Unprecedented, admirable, unique
Badra – Full moon
Badriyyah – Resembling the full moon
Bahira, Baheera – Dazzling, brilliant
Bahiya – Beautiful, radiant
Balqis – Name of the Queen of Sheba
Banan – Delicate, finger tips
Baraka – White one
Bari’ah – Excelling
Barika – Bloom, be successful
Bashirah, Basheera – Bringer of good tidings, joy
Basimah, Baseema – Smiling
Basmah – A smile
Batul, Batool – Ascetic virgin
Bilqis – Queen of Sheeba
Bushra – Good Omen
Buthaynah, Buthayna – Of beautiful and tender body


Cala – Castle
Cantara – Small bridge


Dahab – Gold
Dalal – Treated or touched in a kind and loving way
Duha, Dhuha – Forenoon


Fadilah, Fadheela – Virtuous, outstanding, superior, cultured and refined
Fadwa – Name derived from self-sacrifice
Faizah – Victorious, winner
Falak – Star
Farah – Joy
Faridah, Fareeda – Unique, matchless, precious pearl or gem
Farihah, Fareeha – Happy, joyful, cheerful, glad
Fatimah, Fatima – Accustom; Daughter of the Prophet (pbuh)
Fatin or Fatinah – Captivating, alluring, enchanting
Fawziyyah, Fawziya, Fazia – Successful, victorious
Fellah – Arabian jasmine
Firyal – Name
Firdaws, Firdoos – Highest garden in Paradise


Ghadah – Beautiful
Ghaliyah – Fragrant
Ghaniyah – Pretty girl, beautiful woman, beauty
Ghayda – Young and delicate
Ghusun, Ghusoon – Branches of a tree


Habibah – Beloved, sweetheart, darling
Hadiya – Guide to righteousness
Hadiyyah – A gift
Hafsah – Wife of the Prophet (pbuh)
Hafthah – Preserved, protected
Haifa, Hayfa’ – Slender, of beautiful body
Halah – Aureole
Halimah, Haleema – Gentle, patient, mild-tempered
Hamidah, Hameeda – Praiseworthy
Hana’ – Happiness
Hanan – Mercy
Hanifah, Hanifa, Haneefa – True believer
Haniyyah – Pleased, happy
Hasna’ – Beautiful
Hayam – Deliriously in love
Hayat – Life
Hessa – Destiny
Hibah – Gift
Hind – Proper name
Huda, Hooda – Right guidance
Huma – Bird who brings joy
Huriyyah, Hooriya – Angel
Husn – Beauty
Husniyah – Beautiful


Ibtihaj – Joy
Ikram – Honor, hospitality, generosity
Ilham – Intuition
Iman – Faith, belief
Imtithal – Polite obedience
In’am – Kindness, benefaction, bestowal
Inas – Sociability
Inaya – Concern; solicitude
Intisar – Triumph
Izdihar – Flourishing, blooming


Jala’ – Clarity, elucidation
Jamilah, Jameela – Beautiful, graceful, lovely
Janan – Heart, soul
Johara – Jewel
Jumanah – Silver pearl


Kalila – Sweetheart, beloved
Kamilah – Perfect
Karida – Untouched
Karimah, Kareema – Generous, noble
Kawthar – River in Paradise
Khadijah, Khadeeja – First wife of the Prophet (pbuh)
Khalidah – Immortal
Khayriyyah, Khairiya – Charitable, good
Khulud, Khulood – Immortality
Kulthum, Kulthoom – Daughter of the Prophet (pbuh)


Lama – Darkness of lips
Lamis, Lamees – Soft to the touch
Lamya’ – Of dark lips
Latifah, Lateefa – Gentle, kind, pleasant, friendly
Layla, Leila – (Born at) night
Lina, Leena – Tender
Lubabah – The innermost essence
Luloah – A pearl
Lu’lu’ – Pearls


Madihah, Madeeha – Praiseworthy
Maha – Wild cow, cow-eyes
Ma’isah – Walking with a proud, swinging gait
Maizah – Discerning
Majidah, Majeeda – Glorious
Makarim – Of good and honorable character
Malak – Angel
Malika – Queen
Manal – Attainment, achievement
Manar – Guiding light
Maram – Asperation
Mariam, Maryam – Mother of Jesus (pbuh); Arabic form of “Mary”
Mas’ouda – Happy, lucky, fortunate
Mawiyah – The essence of life
Maymunah – Auspicious, blessed
May – Old Arabic name
Maysa’ – To walk with a proud, swinging gait
Maysun, Maysoon – Of beautiful face and body
Mayyadah – To walk with a proud, swinging gait
Mufidah, Mufeeda – Useful
Muhjah – Heart’s blood, soul
Muminah – Pious believer
Muna, Mona – Wish, desire
Munirah, Muneera – Illuminating, shedding light
Mushirah, Musheera – Giving counsel, advising
Muslimah – Devout believer


Nabihah, Nabeeha – Intelligent
Nabilah, Nabeela – Noble
Nada – Generousity, dew
Nadia – The beginning, first
Nadidah, Nadeeda – Equal, rival
Nadirah – Rare, precious
Nadwah – Councel
Nafisah, Nafeesa – Precious thing, gem
Nahlah – A drink of water
Na’ilah – Acquirer, obtainer, one who succeeds
Na’ima, Na’imah – Comfort, amenity, tranquility, peace
Najah – Success
Najat – Safety
Najibah, Najeeba – Of noble birth
Najiyah – Safe
Najla – Of wide eyes
Najwa – Confidential talk, secret conversation
Najya – Victorious
Nashida – Student
Nashita Energetic, full of life
Nashwa – Fragrance, perfume, that which intoxicates
Nasiha – One who gives valuable advice
Nasira – Victorious, helper
Nathifa – Clean, pure
Nawal – Gift
Nawar – Flower
Nazahah – Purity, righteousness, honesty
Nazihah – Honest
Nazirah – Like, equal, matching
Nibal – Arrows
Nida – Call
Ni’mah – Blessing, loan
Ni’mat – Blessings, loans
Nouf – Highest point on a mountain
Nudar, Nudhar – Gold
Nuha – Intelligence
Numa – Beautiful and pleasant
Nur, Noor – Light


Qubilah – Concord


Rabab – White cloud
Rabi’ah – Garden, springtime
Radeyah, Radhiya – Content, satisfied
Radwa, Radhwa – A mountain in Medina
Rafa’ – Happiness, prosperity
Raghd – Pleasant
Rahimah – Merciful, compassionate
Ra’idah – Leader
Raja’ – Hopeful
Rana – To gaze, look
Rand – Tree of good scent
Raniyah – Gazing
Rasha – Young gazelle
Rashida, Rasheeda – Wise, mature
Rawdah, Rawdha – Garden
Rawiyah – Transmitter of ancient Arabic poetry
Rayya – Sated with drink
Rida – Favored by God
Rihana – Sweet basil
Rim, Reem – Gazelle
Rima, Reema – White antelope
Rukan – Steady, confident
Ruqayyah, Ruqaya – Gentle; Daughter of the Prophet (pbuh)
Ruwaydah – Walking gently


Sabah – Morning
Sabirah – Patient
Safa – Clarity, purity, serenity
Safiyyah – Untroubled, serene, pure, best friend
Sahar – Dawn
Sahlah – Smooth, soft, fluent, flowing
Saidah – Happy, fortunate
Saihah – Good, useful
Sakinah, Sakeena – God-inspired peace of mind, tranquility
Salihah – Correct, agreeable
Salimah, Saleema – Peace, flawless, faultless, safe, healthy
Salma – Peaceful
Salwa – Solace; quail
Samah – Generosity
Samar – Evening conversation
Sameh – Forgiver
Samihah, Sameeha – Generous
Samira, Sameera – Entertaining female companion
Samiyah – Elevated, exhalted, lofty
Sana’ – Resplendence, brilliance; to gaze or look
Sawsan – Lily of the valley
Shadha – Aromatic
Shadiyah – Singer
Shahrazad – Teller of “Tales of 1,001 Nights”
Sharifah, Shareefa – Noble
Siham – Arrows
Souad or Su’ad
Suha – Name of a star
Suhailah, Suhaylah, Suhayla – Smooth, soft, fluent, flowing
Suhaymah – Small arrow
Suhayr, Suhair – Proper name
Sumayyah, Sumaiya – Proper name


Tahirah – Pure, chaste
Takiyah – Pious, righteous
Talibah – Seeker after knowledge
Tarub, Taroob – Merry
Thana’ – Thankfulness
Thara’ – Wealth
Thurayya – Star


Umayma – Little mother


Wafa’ – Faithfulness
Wafiqah, Wafeeqa – Successful
Wafiyyah, Wafiya – Loyal, faithful
Wahibah – Giver, donor
Wajihah, Wajeeha – Eminent, distinguished
Walidah – Newborn
Warda, Wardah, Wordah – Rose
Widad – Love, friendship
Wijdan – Ecstacy, sentiment
Wisal – Communion in love


Yafiah – High
Yakootah – Emerald
Yamha – Dove
Yaminah – Right and proper
Yasirah – Lenient
Yasmine, Yasmin, Yasmeen – Jasmine
Yumn – Good fortune, success
Yusra – Proper name


Zafirah – Victorious, successful
Zahirah – Shining, luminous
Zahra’ – White
Zahrah – Flower, beauty, star
Zainab, Zaynab – Daughter of the Prophet (pbuh)
Zakiyyah – Pure
Zaynah, Zaina – Beautiful
Zubaidah – Excellent