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Congregational prayers can be suspended to save human lives

Top Story

March 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Egypt's Al-Azhar has issued a Fatwa (edict) on the request of President Dr Arif Alvi permitting suspension of Friday prayers to control the spread of deadly coronavirus in the country.

"I am thankful to Grand Imam Shaikh of Al-Azhar and Supreme Council for responding to my personal request to provide guidance to us with regard to Farz Jamaat & Juma prayers in mosques during coronavirus attack," the president said in a tweet on Wednesday.

President Alvi through Egypt's Ambassador in Pakistan had sought guidance from the Al-Azhar institute, an authority on Islamic injunctions, for a word on suspension of congregational prayers at mosques amid spike in coronavirus cases.

The president urged the Ulema in the country for urgent action on the Fatwa of Egypt's Al-Azhar institution that termed it purely Islamic to cancel Friday prayers over coronavirus concerns.

President Alvi mentioned that the countries already suspending congregational prayers included the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

The Fatwa stressed that public gatherings, including congregational prayers at mosques, could result in spread of coronavirus and the governments of Muslim countries had full jurisdiction to cancel such events.

It also emphasised amending Azaan (call to prayer) with words “Salaat Fi Buyut-e-kum”, meaning “pray in your homes” instead of the usual “come to prayer”. Also, families within their homes can arrange group prayers.

The edict says it is obligatory for the Muslims to abide by the health instructions of the state in case of crisis and avoid following unofficial information and rumours. In this situation, saving human lives and protecting them from all risks and threats is in line with the great concept of Islam, the Fatwa said.

"In view of risks to the lives of people, the officials in Muslim countries have full authority to cancel Friday prayers and other congregational prayers. "Furthermore, the older people should remain at their homes and follow the stated medical guidelines as all evidences clearly show that public gatherings, including prayers, constitute an environment conducive for virus, it said.

The Fatwa cites Abu Dawood narrating Ibn Abbas, who recounted that Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said that fear of sickness is an excuse for missing Juma payers. Moreover, Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Auf stated that the Prophet (PBUH) forbade those with unpleasant smell to avoid going to mosques in order to protect other faithful from disturbance.

Meanwhile, the country's top religious scholars have told the people that they could offer congregational prayers (Jamaat) at home with their family members in order to self-isolate themselves as a safety measure against the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, and it is not mandatory to go to mosque for the congregation prayer.

The edict in the form of a joint communique specifically highlighted that people suffering from different communicable diseases should avoid going to mosques as long as the coronavirus epidemic prevails in the country. Persons suffering from infectious diseases would not be committing sin by avoiding mosques for the congregational prayers during the viral epidemic.

The edict was given by the top religious scholars and Ulema belonging to different schools of thought at the Sindh Governor's House on Wednesday as a joint communique they adopted to warn people about undertaking necessary precautions while performing their daily Islamic rituals to prevent the local transmission of the coronavirus disease. The participants of the press conference included Mufti Taqi Usmani, Maulana Shehanshah Hussain Naqvi, Mufti Abdul Rahim, Maulana Abdul Karim, Maulana Muhammad Salafi, Mufti Yousuf Kashmiri, Maulana Abdul Waheed, Maulana Ameen. The CEO of the Indus Hospital Dr Abdul Bari Khan was also present on the occasion.

While reading out the joint communique, noted religious scholar Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman said that women family members could also join the congregation prayer at home if the male members chose not to go to mosques for the five prayers. Rehman also underlined that there would not be any religious objection if any specific medical condition bars a person from praying at home alone without going to the mosque.

He said that people over 50 years could also avoid going to mosques during the viral epidemic to save their lives and health of other faithful in mosques. Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman said that the government could go ahead with a plan to limit the number of devotees at the mosques and to define the maximum age limit of the faithful going for the congregational prayers to stop the viral transmission of the coronavirus epidemic as Islam has no issue with such a directive of the state in the interest of public health. Rehman also said that people busy at home looking after the health and well-being of the ailing and elderly should also pray five times a day at home instead of coming to the mosques.

Rehman said that the regular Urdu sermon of weekly Friday prayers should inform devotees about the safety precautions against the viral disease. The joint communique also advised the prayer leaders to keep the duration of Friday prayer and its Arabic sermon as brief as possible so the faithful can leave the mosque after Namaz as early as possible. He said that ailing persons, who have been advised by the doctors against going to mosque, should stay at home and instead offer Zuhr prayer on Friday. Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman also counselled children who have not yet attained adulthood not to go to mosques during this period. He also urged the 'Namazis' to perform ablution at home rather than at mosques as mosques should only be used for Farz Namaz (obligatory prayers) and Sunnat Namaz (non obligatory) should be offered at home. He said that while adopting necessary public health-related safety precautions, mosques in the country should remain open to provide the faithful an opportunity to offer five congregational prayers.

Mufti Rehman, who is also chairman of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, said that mosques should ensure provision of hand sanitizers for better hygiene of devotees during the prevalence of viral disease. He also asked television channels to stop airing programmes having objectionable and immoral content that is against the teachings of Islam.