Fiqh Council of North America
Rulings on Daily and Weekly Congregational Prayers during Coronavirus Pandemic
Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah
Executive Director of Fiqh Council of North America
The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The NBA has suspended its season. President Trump has suspended travel from 26 European countries to US and declared a state of emergency in America. This devastating pandemic is spreading like a bush fire and affecting lives of millions.
World-wide, human beings are facing an existentialist threat posed by the fast spreading Corona virus (COVID -19). Doctors are struggling to find medications to treat those who get afflicted, or to vaccinate others to protect them. The best we can do, at this time, is to take a few simple steps to slow down its spreading. We Muslims need special attention because of our practice of congregational prayers, shaking hands, embracing each other, and kissing to show our affection. These practices can easily enable transmission of common cold, influenza, virus and infection.
It is our moral duty as Muslims that we take all steps necessary to safeguard ourselves and others around us from this terrible disease. One’s personal desire to do obligatory prayers at the masjid or fulfill other religious duties comes second to ensuring the common health of the larger community. Masjids should be protected from bacterial or viral transmissions.
As Muslims we do believe that nothing happens without Allah’s permission. The Qur’an states, “Say, “Nothing will happen to us except what God has ordained for us; He is our Protector.” In God let the faithful put their trust.” (9:51) Total reliance upon Allah SWT does not exclude precautionary measures such as social isolation, surveillance, prevention, treatment, quarantine and other CDC approved measures. The Second Caliph Umar (RA) refused to enter Syria which was afflicted by an epidemic. Abu Ubaidah bin al Jarrah’s (RA) contention was mitigated by Umar’s theological response that “we escape from the command of Allah SWT to the command of Allah.” Reliance upon Allah SWT and tying the camel are two sides of the same coin.
Epidemics, as trials and tribulations, have been and will remain part of human life. “We will certainly test you with some fear and hunger, and some loss of possessions and lives and crops. But give good news to the steadfast. Those who, when a calamity afflicts them, say, “To God we belong, and to Him we will return.” (2:156-157) viral catastrophes remind us of our creatureliness and sheer dependence upon Allah SWT, the True Master and Controller of the cosmos. They are stark reminders of Allah’s omnipotence, providence and total control over our destinies.
The Prophet (SAW) gave us specific guidelines to navigate the epidemics. Quarantine, social isolation, travel bans, restricted movement, visitations, congregation and socialization are among the precautionary and preventive measures specified in the Ahadith. The Prophet (SAW) commanded us to escape epidemics such as leprosy as we run away from the lion. وَفِرَّ مِنْ الْمَجْذُومِ كَمَا تَفِرُّ مِنْ الْأَسَدِ” (Bukhari). Fear for one’s safety is a genuine Islamic reason to forgo some of the fundamental Islamic actions and rituals. The Prophet (SAW) relinquished oath of Islam from a member of Banu Thaqi’f tribe who suffered from Hansen disease. Therefore devotional acts such as daily and weekly congregational prayers, funeral prayers, Taraweeh prayers and Eid prayers can be stopped temporarily to avoid the real, life threatening, widespread dangers of endemics.
Daily congregational prayers in a mosque are mandatory (Wajib) according to some Fiqhi schools while Sunnah according to others. Jama’ah or congregational prayer at any place such as home or office is accepted as Sharai’ congregation. Even those who consider it mandatory accept fear and sickness as genuine Islamic reason to miss the congregational prayer at the masjid, as the Hadith categorically states. Therefore, fear of viral, life threatening sickness such as Novel Coronavirus or actual symptoms of such an alarming disease are sufficient enough Sharai’ reasons to temporarily stop coming to the masjid for daily prayers and perform the Jama’ah at home or in a more controlled, less congested environment. Therefore, all community members who are suffering from known symptoms of Coronavirus such as dry coughing, sneezing, wheezing, upper respiratory problems or fever must stop coming to the masjid until fully cured. The Prophet (SAW) commanded us not to harm others and not to be harmed by others. It is an established Islamic axiom that “Prevention is more significant than treatment”.
The Friday prayer is far more important than any other congregational prayer as it is established by a pinpointed Qura’nic text. To overturn a categorical Qur’anic text, precise Ahadith and Ijma’a of Ummah (Consensus) requires different sorts of compelling evidences both religious and medical such as umum al-balwa (widespread hardship, credible life threatening risks and proven local pandemic). Credible local risk of high morbidity and mortality are essential to forfeiting the Friday prayers on communal level. Individuals can miss the Juma’ prayers due to far lesser reasons such as travel, sickness, fear of personal safety, physical torture, property damage or familial urgencies. Therefore, real fear of personal safety, viral transmission, health scares etc. are sufficient enough Sharai’ reasons to take the individual concession of turning Juma’ into Dhuhr prayer. It is a permission given by the authentic Hadith to individual Muslims stricken by fear or sickness. Therefore, small children, elderly, women and those with symptoms of cold, flu, influenza or infection are requested to stop coming to the masjid both for daily prayers and Juma’. This is their Islamic duty to protect themselves and others from transmission of disease especially in these trying times. The healthy Muslims can populate the masjid in reduced numbers and for limited periods of time. The masjid can be completely closed to all in case of state emergency when the schools, offices and shopping malls are closed. Protecting human life is one of the fundamental objectives of Islamic Shari’ah. It takes precedent over all other objectives of Islamic faith as life is the foundation of everything else. Therefore, preservation of human life and human rights at times is far more significant than continuity of even essential acts of devotions.
Based upon the above, the Fiqh Council of North America is recommending the following:
Elderly adults, women, children and individuals with symptoms of disease shall stop coming to mosques for daily as well as Friday prayers. Instead of Juma’ they shall do Dhuhr prayer at home.
People with serious health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart problems and blood pressure shall also stay home and not attend the daily or Friday prayers. Genuine fear of contracting virus is a valid Sharai’ reason to miss the congregational prayer.
Mosques shall follow the guidelines of local authorities and reduce traffic/gatherings at mosques. All non-essential programs shall be cancelled.
Friday crowd shall be curtailed, controlled and dispersed soon after the Fard prayer. Khutbahs and prayers shall be shortened. People shall do their Sunnah and Nafl (supplementary prayers) at home. Combining Dhuhr with Asr and Maghrib with Isha is permissible to limit crowds during these trying times.
Mosques can be closed for daily or weekly congregational prayers based upon local authorities’ advisory. The closure will depend upon local mosque leadership’s assessment of credible threat of pandemic. Such a drastic step is permissible to avert dangers of widespread transmission. Historically speaking, the mosques were closed and Juma’ was suspended due to pandemic of A’mawa’s in Syria during the time of second caliph Umar (RA), during Crusades and on many other occasions when the conditions were not congenial.
Mosques shall allow and organize Friday prayers for those who intend to perform the Friday congregational obligation.
May Allah SWT protect us all and accept us all.
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خطبة الجمعة الأولى ٢٠ مارس ٢٠٢٠
د. فرغل علي
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The Islamic Center of Jersey City
Muslim organizations, including ICNA, MAS, MUNA, MANA, CAIR-NY, the Tri-State Imams Council, and also consisting of local leaders, Imams, physicians, and activists. This taskforce is dedicated to provide educational material, resources, and guide the Muslim community throughout this pandemic with calmness.
Text CV19 to 56525 for mobile updates for the Muslim community.
After much consultation, it is our recommendations that religious leaders, mosques, organizations, and the community practice the following to reduce the impact of this virus:
- Mosques should shorten any khutbas and prayers as much as possible, and should limit its public programs for the sake of limiting public interactions. Healthy adult men are still obligated to perform jumu’ah and congregational prayers.
- Do NOT come to the mosque or go out in public spaces if you are feeling flu-like symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, and a dry cough. We strongly advise the elderly, and those with weaker immune systems and chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, a compromised immune system, chronic pulmonary/lung disease, and/or cancer to avoid the mosque and places of big public gatherings during this outbreak.
Avoid unnecessary travel whether you are healthy or sick, to limit the spread of this virus.
- Prepare for the possibility of temporary mosque closures to contain any outbreaks. In extreme cases, such as if movement is restricted in your area or you are seriously ill, it is permissible for you to pray Jumu’ah prayer in the form of Zuhr at home.
- We urge the community and our institutions to practice proper cleanliness and hygiene at all times. Provide adequate hand-sanitizer and antibacterial soap at your mosques. Disinfect your mosques daily, including bathrooms, doorknobs, and highly trafficked surfaces and areas.
- Please wash your hands with soap and water frequently for at least twenty seconds. Make sure your children are practicing these habits. In addition, try to perform ablution at home, bring your own prayer rugs, and limit all forms of physical touch including handshakes, hugs and kisses at the mosque.
- Gatherings of 500+ will be prohibited beginning at 5pm on Friday, March 13. Furthermore, facilities capacities of 500 or less will be legally required to reduce its occupancy by half.
- Islam teaches us that "preventing harm takes precedent over the acquisition of benefits." And so, we urge the community to listen and take appropriate measures regarding the spread of COVID-19. But, most importantly, we urge the community to remain calm and rational and routinely check for updates. It is important that we get through this pandemic together with a clear mind so as not to create more chaos and confusion. Rely on trusted sources for information and refrain from sharing information that is not verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local government officials, or trustworthy organizations.
- We will continue to update the Muslim community regarding the possibility of school and mosque closures through our websites and social media channels.
To stay up-to-date with this task force:
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If you have any questions on finding medical care, call 311.
Dr. Farghal Ali
one of the well respected and educated Imam with:
* Doctorate titled with: " the stories in the Quran and its impact of Da3owa in the Islamic culture" year 2000.
* Masters titled with " The approach dialogue in the Holy Quran and its impact of the Da3owa year 1996
صلاة الجمعة غداً إن شاء الله تعالى مرتين نظراً للظروف الراهنة ، ، الصلاة الأولى تبدأ الساعة الواحدة والعشر دقائق وتنتهي الساعة الواحدة والنصف ، والثانية تبدأ الساعة الواحدة وأربعين دقيقة وتنتهي الساعة الثانية
نهيب بالإخوة جميعاً تقديم العون والمساعدة وخاصة في الباركن لات، موقف السيارات فالمجئ مبكرين والانصراف مبكرين
توصيات يجب مراعتها: أي واحد مريض أو عنده في البيت مريض فليصل في بيته
أي واحد من المسنين عنده أي مرض صدري أو أي مضاعفات صحية فليصل في بيته ظهراً ولهم أجر الجمعة إن شاء الله تعالى
الرجاء الوضوء في البيت وإحضار سجادة كأمر وقائي
نرجو عدم التصافح أو التعانق والانصراف مبكرين بعد الصلاة مباشرة
النساء والأطفال يصلون في بيتهم
ولكم جميعاً جزيل الشكر
At the Center
Jumah Prayer: 1:15pm
خطبة الجمعة الثانية ٢٠ مارس ٢٠٢٠
د. فرغل علي
Islamic Center of Jersey City