Can plague enter Mecca and Medina?

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

The Prophet (ṣ) promised us that severe pestilence or plague will never enter the city of Medina, and some scholars said Mecca is included in this protection as well. Is it possible for an epidemic to breakout in the two holiest cities?

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْمَدِينَةَ الْمَسِيحُ وَلاَ الطَّاعُونُ

The False Messiah will not enter Medina, neither will pestilence.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5731, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet (ṣ) informed us that ‘pestilence’ (ta’un) will not enter Medina, just as the False Messiah will be prohibited from entering Medina. However, pestilence is a severe type of epidemic that is distinct from an ordinary epidemic (waba’).

Ibn al-Qayyim writes:

وَالتَّحْقِيقُ أَنَّ بَيْنَ الْوَبَاءِ وَالطَّاعُونِ عُمُومًا وَخُصُوصًا فَكُلُّ طَاعُونٍ وَبَاءٌ وَلَيْسَ كُلُّ وَبَاءٍ طَاعُونًا وَكَذَلِكَ الْأَمْرَاضُ الْعَامَّةُ أَعَمُّ مِنَ الطَّاعُونِ

Investigation concludes the difference between ‘epidemic’ and ‘pestilence’ is general and specific. Every pestilence is an epidemic, but not every epidemic is pestilence. Likewise, common diseases are more general than pestilence.

Source: al-Ṭibb al-Nabawī 1/31

Therefore, Mecca and Medina are protected from ‘pestilence’ but not ‘epidemics.’ Although the two cities may never experience severe plague the likes of which we see in other parts of the world, the believers nevertheless need to take ordinary precautions to ward off such harm. The Sunnah is to implement measures, such as basic hygiene and quarantines, to prevent disease from spreading within the community.

Sa’d reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ بِالطَّاعُونِ بِأَرْضٍ فَلَا تَدْخُلُوهَا وَإِذَا وَقَعَ بِأَرْضٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِهَا فَلَا تَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَا

If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5396, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا عَدْوَى لَا يُورِدُ مُمْرِضٌ عَلَى مُصِحٍّ

There is no superstitious infection, but do not mix the sick with the healthy.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2221, Grade: Sahih

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

غَطُّوا الْإِنَاءَ وَأَوْكُوا السِّقَاءَ فَإِنَّ فِي السَّنَةِ لَيْلَةً يَنْزِلُ فِيهَا وَبَاءٌ لَا يَمُرُّ بِإِنَاءٍ لَيْسَ عَلَيْهِ غِطَاءٌ أَوْ سِقَاءٍ لَيْسَ عَلَيْهِ وِكَاءٌ إِلَّا نَزَلَ فِيهِ مِنْ ذَلِكَ الْوَبَاءِ

Cover the vessels and close the water skins, for there will be night out of the year in which an epidemic descends. It will not pass over an uncovered vessel or an untied water skin but that some of this contagion will fall into it.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2014, Grade: Sahih

As such, the believers in Mecca and Medina still need to follow the Sunnah in regards to preventing the spread of disease. If they do so, Allah will protect them from such severe pestilence as has wiped out other nations. However, they must not take the protection of Allah for granted, lest Allah remove His protection from them.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.