Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance regarding the religious gatherings of Muslims

By Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwī and translated by Maulana M Talhah

At this present time, the Coronavirus has spread to almost every country in the world, and is continuing to spread very rapidly. There is no cure that has been found to combat this virus. The most effective means of protection which can be understood is to avoid social contact, avoid travel, and avoid places of congregation and gathering. Those countries which have strictly enforced this guidance have relatively been protected, and those that are somewhat lenient in this regard, are being immensely affected and the death rate has reached terrifying numbers.

Like all matters of life, the guidance of Islam regarding illness and sickness is that the clear instructions of the Noble Qur’an and the blessed ahadith be followed, and advice of doctors and medical experts be taken heed of. Formulating a course of action based on presumptuousness, dreams, and divine intuitions is extremely detrimental, misguiding, and irresponsible.
Muslim countries have responded to this virus seriously. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Turkey, Malaysia, etc, have responded amongst other necessary measures to stop the spread of this illness, by issuing orders for the closing of mosques indefinitely. The scholars and respected Muftis of these countries have issued unanimous verdicts that Salaah should be performed at home, either in congregation or individually, and Dhuhr be performed instead of Jumu’ah Salaah. This is also the view of numerous scholars in Europe and America. Subsequently, many mosques have been closed in these regions too.

No matter how painful the closure of mosques may be, this is an effective method of halting the spread of the illness, and is in total conformity to the teachings of Islam. I have written two articles on this topic in Arabic and English in light of proofs and evidences, which can also be referred to. As has been mentioned, the view of the majority of the scholars in the Middle East and the West is that mosques should be temporarily closed, as there is a heightened risk of this virus spreading amongst congregants by attending the mosque.

A narration of Jabir (RA) has been narrated in Sunan Abi Dawud and other books of hadith that we were once on a journey when one of our companions was severely wounded on his head by a rock. He then required a ritual bath, so he enquired whether he was permitted to make Tayammum. The people answered that as there was water present, Tayammum would not suffice. He then took a bath, and subsequently succumbed to his wound and passed away. We returned from our journey and related the incident to the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) responded, “They killed him. May Allah destroy them.”

We understand from this narration that it is not correct to practice upon an obligatory statute in subsidiary issues in the existence of dispensation, especially when that obligatory statute carries risk to life.
One distinguishing trait of the Coronavirus is that its symptoms do not become immediately apparent. In some instances, the effects do not become apparent until up to two weeks after contracting the virus. An infected person can go about their daily life just like a healthy person; meeting and greeting others, and in this way this virus is spread to multitudes of others.
It is rather surprising that despite the entire world being aware of the seriousness and gravity of this virus, some notable scholars of the Asian Subcontinent hold the view that the closure of mosques is incorrect. However, those that show symptoms and the elderly should refrain from coming to the mosque. The Imams should shorten the Salaah and Khutbah, and the congregants should perform ablution from home, etc etc.
There are three point to be noted regarding this opinion:

  1. Firstly, if the mosques are not closed, the elderly and infected will continue to attend the mosques, and it is not easy prevent them from doing so. This is not something hypothetical, but there are still many frail and sick people who continue to attend the mosques, and they do not refrain despite being advised to the contrary. They say, “We will continue to attend the mosques as long as the mosques are open.” There is not logical nor effective method of preventing them from entering the mosque, nor is it possible.
  2. Secondly, how long is this sustainable? If, Allah forbid, this virus spreads in this country at the rate in which it spread in Italy and Iran, will the mosques still remain open then? It is evident that the response will be in the negative. Is it then not intelligent that we prevent such a scenario from unfolding, and adopt such a course of action in advance that would save us much remorse and regret later?
  3. Thirdly, as it has already been mentioned that the symptoms of this virus sometimes do not become apparent until up to two weeks later, and an infected person perceives themselves to be healthy. They neither have any idea of their own infection, and others too, see them as fit and healthy. What method is there of preventing these people? The world over, this virus is spreading exponentially due to these very people.

Do mosques have stocks of testing kits? Governments even do not possess the means of instant tests, so how will the mosques have them? Who will test every worshipper before every Salaah?

Thus, those that presume they will stop the infected from attending the mosques are totally wrong and deluded, and there is no doubt that this is practically impossible.

Something to ponder over is that can we take responsibility for the death of any human? Can we imagine the consequences the death of one person would have on their family? Never! Thus, we should fear Allah and advise people to perform Salaah in congregation at home, and if there are no others at home, they should perform individually and engage in other acts of devotion and virtue.

I would like to remind the reader once again that the effects of this virus do not become apparent immediately, and we cannot possibly prevent an infected person from entering the mosque. Thus, we should act responsibly and in the best interests of Muslims and the entire humanity, and temporarily close our mosques following in the footsteps of the majority Muslim countries. We should advise people to refrain from frivolities, and spend as much time as they can in Salaah, remembrance of Allah, recitation of the Qur’an, and repentance. May Allah Protect us all, remove this virus, and guide us to His devotion. Ameen.