Egypt's Al-Azhar issues fatwa permitting Juma prayers’ suspension in Pakistan

Published March 26, 2020
President Arif Alvi had asked for guidance on the matter. — AFP/File
President Arif Alvi had asked for guidance on the matter. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Egypt’s Al-Azhar has issued a fatwa on the request of President Dr Arif Alvi permitting suspension of Friday prayers to control the spread of deadly coronavirus across Pakistan.

“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 and 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 Al-Azhar institution, an authority on Islamic injunctions, for a word on the suspension of congregational prayers at mosques amid spike in coronavirus cases.

He also appealed to religious leaders in the country to urgently take action on the fatwa of Egypt’s Al-Azhar institution that termed it purely Islamic to cancel Friday prayers over coronavirus concerns.

Dr 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 emphasized 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 Muslims to abide by the health instructions of the state in case of crisis and avoid following rumours and unofficial information.

As per credible medical reports, the coronavirus spreads very easily and quickly. In this situation, the fatwa said, saving human lives and protecting them from all risks and threats was in line with the great concept of Islam.

“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 a conducive environment 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.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2020

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