Monday, April 6, 2020

Controversy over Fatwa issued by Mufti Muhammad Nizamuddin Razvi On Avoiding Normal Friday Prayers in the struggle against Coronavirus Pandemic

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

06 April 2020

The novel Coronavirus is a contagious disease that has infected almost 1.1 million people and killed more than 59,000 worldwide. To avoid this pandemic, it is imperative for every citizen of the world to adopt social distancing. According to medical science-research, this virus rapidly spreads from one person to another. Therefore, several countries worldwide have called for lockdown and social distancing for protection of the people from the deadly infectious virus.

Undoubtedly no disease can affect anyone without the will of Allah Almighty. This is the faith that nothing can happen in the world without the permission of Allah Almighty. However, at the same time, on the part of human beings the precautions and safety-measures are must, as Allah Almighty says in the Quran, “And do not cast yourself into destruction” (2:195).

To avoid the Coronavirus, we must adopt whatever is the best measure. We will be then obeying the divine command of life-protection from destruction. In the light of the Ahadith related to the contagious epidemics, we can keep active both teaching of our faith and of action. Teaching of Faith is that even the contagious disease does not affect without the will of God Almighty, and the teaching of action is that social distancing should be maintained in times of contagious plague.

It is reported by Sa’ad that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, Translation: “If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.” (Source: Sahih al-Bukhari 5396, Sahih Muslim 2218)

There are several other Ahadith which encourage social distancing, isolation and quarantine in times of the plague or contagious diseases, in addition to seeking forgiveness from Allah Almighty. The medical science and experts in the developed countries are suggesting the same advice to avoid the epidemics as was given by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) 1400 years ago. For the human beings it high time they succeed in their fight against the corona virus by seriously implementing the methods guided by Allah Almighty, the Lord of all Worlds and the Last Prophet (peace be upon him), the Mercy for All worlds.  

Given the medical suggestions, most countries have called for lockdown and curfew. One issue that made the common Muslims more anxious was about the Friday prayer. They wanted to know whether they would be sinners as per Islam if they missed the congregational prayers in the mosques in times of the Coronavirus lockdown.  Is the current excuse acceptable in Islam? Does Islam allow Muslim worshippers to leave congregational Friday prayer in order to avoid possible harms and threats of Coronavirus? Then there appeared an Urdu fatwa issued by Mufti Nizamuddin Razvi on March 30, 2020, which not only addresses the common Muslims’ anxiety but also conforms to the Indian administration in the present lockdown and to the permission granted by Islam only in case of preventing harms. 

The following is the English translation of the Urdu Fatwa and the question raised by Muhammad Yusuf Raza Qadri from Bhewandi, Maharashtra.

Question: what is the opinion of the Islamic scholars in the current epidemic situation that the government has imposed Article 144 all over the country to prevent the novel Corona-virus whereby the five people can’t collectively gather? An order was issued to close all the religious places. Our mosques are also locked. The administrative ruling is that only the Imam, Muazzin and trustees of the mosques can pray together, but if more people come to the mosque, a case will be registered against the imam and the trustees. In this regard, the police are taking strict actions. Even in some areas, the worshippers were beaten outside the mosques.

In case of the current ban imposed by the administration, though the right of the mosques that the five-time congregational prayers should continue therein (at least with the number of four people), the issue of the Friday prayer has become very complicated. The Friday prayer on March 27, 2020 was cancelled because It is prerequisite, as per Islamic jurisprudence, to keep the door of the mosque open for all, but in the present case the door cannot be kept open, otherwise people will come in a large number and then the same legal problem will take place.

Therefore, it is important to know the answer in the current situation; Is it permissible for the same few people (as allowed by the administration) who are offering the five-time prayers to close the mosque-door and establish the Friday prayer?

It should be known that the Muslims have closed the door but not wilfully. It is happening under the government’s pressure and that too, only for our protection. Another point of consideration is that the condition of Izn-e-Aam which is mentioned in the jurisprudential books such as Durre Mukhtar, Bahare Shariat, Fatawa Razviyya and the Kutub al-Nawadir etc is not mentioned in the Zahir al-Riwayah.

That is why there is no mention of this condition in a well-known book such as “the Hidaya”. So in the current situation, if four to five people perform the Friday prayer inside the mosque without satisfying the condition of Izn-e-Aam, will the prayer be valid, as it will not cause at least complete cancellation of the Friday prayer (which is one of the symbols of Islam) in the whole world and then the mosques will not stand deserted? We even do not know how long the Corona-virus will keep affecting the people, and how long this ban will remain imposed. The current epidemic situation can lead to the cancellation of many Friday prayers, which is also a matter of great concern. In the afore-mentioned case, I hope that there must be any way-out for the issue of Friday prayer to be established without the condition of Izn-e-Aam.

The Questioner: Muhammad Yusuf Raza Qadri, Bhewandi Maharashtra

Allah - beginning with the name of - the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Answer: If there are at least four persons (one Imam and three Muqtadis) performing the Friday prayer with the intention of Izn-e-Aam (general permission), then the Friday prayer will be valid in the current circumstances of Corona curfew or lockdown. The reason that led to the present lockdown is to prevent the entire human community from the harmful and fatal effects of corona-virus, and not to stop them from Namaz or its congregation, so this lockdown or curfew does not cause the breach of the seventh condition of the Friday prayer, Izn-e-Aam.  

The corona-virus is considered even more dangerous than the Nagasaki atom bomb, and it is a fact that hundreds of people are dying every day, as Italy, Iran, the United States, Spain and China are undercounting thousands of deaths caused by this virus. The earliest symptoms of this disease are cold, dry cough and fever. However they initially don’t appear in the people having good immune system. Thinking of them as unaffected, others make close contact with such people and then the virus spreads from one person to another. 

This virus directly or indirectly keeps spreading and after very few days it goes out of the government’s control, then a deadly series of casualties begins. To avoid this virus, "social distancing" has been suggested for which "lockdown" and "Janta curfew" became necessary.

The main purpose of Lockdown is essentially to keep the human community from making close contact with each other, which causes transmission of the virus from one body to another, so it is not intended to prevent Friday and congregational prayers. The real intention is only to avoid the novel coronavirus and its deadly effects.

Such prevention during lockdown does not cause breach of one of the seven conditions of Friday prayer, Izn-e-Aam (general permission). 

Izn-e-Aaam means the open permission for every worshiper to come to the mosque. For example, women, because of fear of temptation, and harmful people, because of the harm, are forbidden to come to the mosque. Just as such forbiddance does not cause breach of condition of Izn-e-Aam and the Friday prayer becomes valid, so the prohibition of social connecting and religious gathering of the human community too will not cause breach of condition of Izn-e-Aam and thus the Friday prayer will be valid. 

It is mentioned in Durre Mukhtar:

فلا يضر غلق باب القلعة لعدو أو لعادة قديمة لأن الإذن العام مقرر لأهله وغلقه لمنع العدو لا المصلي و نعم لو لم يغلق لكان أحسن كما في مجمع الأنهر معزيا لشرح عيون المذاهب . اهـ
(الدر المختار على هامش رد المحتار ج1، ص 601 باب الجمعة)

“There is no harm (with regard to breach of the condition of I zn-e-Aam) in locking the door of a fortress for protection from an enemy or due to it being an old practice (custom) because Izn ‘Aām is established for its inhabitants, and locking the gates is to prevent the enemies from entering, not for preventing Musallees (those who want to perform Salaah). Yes, if they didn’t lock the gates it would be better as it is mentioned in Majma’ul Anhur with reference to the book Sharh-e-Uyun al-Madhahib.” (Al-Durr al-Mukhtar Ala Haamish-e- Raddil Muhtar vol. 1, p.601, the Chapter of Friday prayer)

A similar statement is mentioned in Raddul Muhtar, “Locking the door of a fortress for protection from an enemy or due to it being an old practice (custom) will not cause breach of the condition of Izn-e-Aam (during the Friday prayer)”.

In short, if the basis of prohibition is Namaz and its congregation, then it will be unacceptable to the condition of Izn-e-Aam. But if the basis of prohibition is fear of Fitna or harm from the enemy or anything else, it will not cause the breach of Izn-e-Aam and then the Friday prayer will be valid.

As for the present case, the basis of lockdown or social distancing is prevention of the virus and its harm and not the Namaz or its congregation. So even if the four people offering Namaz in the mosque close its door, the Friday prayers will be valid. Yes, preferably it will be good to keep the door open.

It is true that the condition of Izn ‘Aam is not mentioned in the Zāhir ar-Riwāya (the six mainstream books in the Hanafī Madhab) as pointed out in the well-known jurisprudential books such as ‘Badai al-Sanai, Bahr al-Raiq, Raddul Muhtar (chapter of the Friday Prayer). This was why the reliable Hanafi book of jurisprudence ‘Hidaya’ did not mention the condition of Izne Aam. However it can be said that Adm-e-Zikr is not the Zikr-e-Adam (i.e. not mentioning something does not mean denial of something). Sometimes something appears to any Mujtahid in the light of any evidence, therefore he does not feel the need to mention it.  

To Sum Up:

The Indian governance and administration allow only five people to establish the Friday and other congregational prayers in the mosques. So, the Muslims must abide by this rule, because in case of violations they may be humiliated and punished as it took place in some places.

Muslims must take this issue seriously. The rest of the people must perform the Zuhr Prayer alone at their homes, instead of the Friday prayer. As for those five people performing inside the mosque may keep the door of the mosque lightly open during the Friday prayer.

However if they sense any difficulty or threat in case of keeping the door open, they can keep the door close for the sole objective of prevention of the virus, just as it is allowed to close the door of the mosque for avoiding Fitna and harms as mentioned in the authentic Hanafi books of jurisprudence ‘Sharh Uyun al-Madhahib, Majmaul Anhur, Tahtawi and Raddul Muhtar. Allah knows the best!

Issued by (Mufti) Muhammad Nizamuddin Razvi

(The Head of Faculty of Ifta and Teaching, Al-Jamia al-Ashrafia, Mubarakpur Azamgarh, March 30, 2020)

A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).

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