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Plague of Emmaus (Plague of Amwas) 639 AD

Plague of Emmaus Facts:
  • The Plague of Emmaus (طاعون عمواس in Arabic).
  • Also known as the Plague of Amwas.
  • Possibly an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by Yersinia pestis.
Historical Context:
  • The plague occurred in 639 AD, in the town of Emmaus (Amwas), in Palestine.
  • The illness struck shortly after Emmaus's conquest by the forces of the Rashidun Caliphate (they having already set up a military camp there).
  • Caused the death of many prominent companions of the Messenger Muhammad.
  • Estimated that 25,000 people died in this outbreak.
  • Now considered part of the outbreaks of plague, that followed the Plague of Justinian (541–542 AD), extending through to the 8th century.
Mu'adh b. Jabal (Plague Martyr):
  • Mu'adh b. Jabal, a prominent ascetic, was officially a made a plague martyr for staying in the town and exhorting that the plague was "a blessing from your lord, the prayer of His prophet and the manner in which the righteous ones prior to you have died."
  • Mu'ah is then said to have prayed "O God. Give Mu'adh and the family of Mu'adh the most generous portion of this plague, since You are capable of everything."
  • His son, Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam al-Muradi, was soon to catch the plague and die.
  • Mu'adh b. Jabal, then caught the plague and subsequently died.
  • One beneficial effect of plague martyrdom, and the example of Mu'adh b. Jabal, was that this probably limited the deadly spread of the plague in the Muslim world (a form of quarantine).
References:
  • Dols, Michael W. "Plague in Early Islamic History". Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 94, No. 3 (Jul-Sep, 1974), pp. 371-383.
  • David Cook. Martyrdom in Islam (Themes in Islamic History), Cambridge University Press (Hardcover, 15 Jan 2007), pp. 28-29.

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