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Closing Mosques – Islamic Justifications for Coronavirus Lockdowns

This piece is cross-posted with permission from islam21c.com.

We are living in an unprecedented time. Superpowers have become overwhelmed by the tiny virus particle Covid-19, turning bustling metropolises into ghost towns, grounding planes and closing airports, with hundreds dying daily and some of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world grinding to a halt.

This unprecedented situation has led to the unprecedented move of the world’s mosques being closed to the public for the first time—en masse—since Bilāl (Allāh be pleased with him) first raised the call to prayer over 1400 years ago. It is indeed a sign of Īmān for this to hurt us, as the believers are connected to the Houses of Allāh, and their closure has stirred many emotions.

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It is important in times like these not to let these emotions get hijacked by Shaytān, who has tried to use the Coronavirus pandemic to sow seeds of discord among the Muslims. One of the most insidious traps of Iblīs is to cause us to lose respect and love for each other, particularly for the scholars and leaders of our communities, thereby blocking the mercy of Allāh from reaching us.

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The closing of a masjid is a matter of local jurisdiction. My personal opinion, one way or another, is not relevant in a matter that is up to responsible, knowledgeable scholarship in respective regions to decide based on their own scenarios. I could in fact be sinful for commenting on a specific decision taken by the leaders of a specific congregation, and even more sinful if my comments create unnecessary drama between congregations and their leaders.

However, I have been inundated with questions and arguments about the situation, from people for and against the closure of mosques, and I believe it would be beneficial for all of us to understand the matter at hand, to foster understanding of the reasoning behind the closure of mosques taken by scholars across many countries, and to highlight the fact that the scholars who hold different views are in fact in agreement on the major principles involved.

Furthermore it is important to appreciate that the decision to close mosques was a decision WITHIN the Islamic legal field, not due to the false dichotomy some have spread of the ‘medical’ vs ‘Islamic’ considerations. People with a particular interest or expertise are naturally inclined to giving that disproportionate weight. However, as we will see, the Islamic jurist in fact has to take into account ALL relevant angles—which is partly why there is more scope for disagreements—including the medical, economic, mental health, spiritual, political and hereafter angles.This is thus a delicate ijtihādi matter juggling various competing considerations, which should attract from us the highest level of adab (manners).

There is more agreement than disagreement

Both those who opined for and against full closure of mosques agree that an objective of the Sharia is the preservation of life. They both agree on the principle that prevention of harm takes precedence over gaining benefit. They both agree that out of two necessary harmful choices, one has to choose the lesser of two harms to avert the greater one.

They both agree that Allāh has gifted this ummah the unique gift of the entire earth being pure and a place of prayer in general, with certain places attracting more reward than others. They both agree that closing the masjid is no small matter, but a massive, catastrophic one.

They both agree that if you follow scholarly opinions of trusted scholars and scholarly bodies, you will not be sinful. And they both agree that if you are prevented from your usual ‘ibādah such as praying in the mosques, you will still be rewarded for them.

It is important to remember this, because we naturally ignore the majority area of agreement and focus on relatively small matters of disagreement. But why do those disagreements occur?

Differences occur in the micro-matters; of juggling the various ethical considerations (masālih), their respective implementation in real life, and the analysis and weighing of various harms—whether ‘major’ or ‘minor’, for example. Scholars differ due to their personal reasoning and understanding, since Allāh has created us all with different personalities and dispositions, so we naturally interpret a situation in different ways.

This is partly why large-scale decisions should be made by numbers of jurists coming together, mitigating each other’s variations, the pinnacle of which is Ijmā’ (unanimous consensus), which is a binding proof of what Allāh intended to be said on His behalf on any given matter. In any case, broadly speaking, where there is no unanimous consensus, we should not be overly dogmatic or rigid when it comes to accepting legitimate disagreements.

 

Arguments for closing mosques

The following are some of the Islamic justifications of the decision to close mosques en masse by scholarly bodies in several Muslim-majority countries.
Hadiths of avoiding spread of disease

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said:

“If you hear of a disease outbreak in a land, do not go there, and if you are there during an outbreak, then do not flee from it.”[1]

“The afflicted should not be mixed with the healthy.”[2]

“Flee from leprosy like you would flee from a lion.”[3]

When it comes to prophetic instructions, one of the first things the jurist does is try to ascertain whether it is: (i) intended literally as an act of obedience (ta’abbudi), such as maghrib being prayed three rak’āt or circumambulation of the ka’ba being anti-clockwise; or (ii) intended as a fathomable means to an end (ma’qūl al-ma’nā), such as the prohibition of wine being due to its capacity for intoxication.

When it came to narrations like the above, the scholars understood them to be of the second category, that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is in fact giving those as examples of means to an underlying end—or causative effect (‘illah)—which is to isolate infectious diseases and limit their harms.
As such, if the World Health Organisation were to send people into an infectious disease outbreak zone whilst taking precautions to limit its spread, the jurist would not say this is impermissible due to the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Even though they may be going against the literal instruction of the Prophet (“do not go there”), they are taking steps to prevent the intended meaning behind the hadith—i.e. to limit the spread of the disease.

This is why in the books of fiqh we find many examples of scholars giving rulings that on the face of it go against a particular hadith of the Prophet, but upon closer inspection they are actually being faithful to the intended meaning behind the Prophet’s instruction. An example is found in child custody cases. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) declared that in cases of a divorce, a small child should remain with the mother, and if she remarries then custody goes to the child’s father.

Despite the wording of the hadith, some scholars understood that this is based on an underlying ‘illah (effective cause), which is to prevent the child being neglected by a step-father or a mother busied with looking after another family. As a result, in cases where the father of the child is more likely to neglect him or her, and the step-father permits the child’s mother to nurture her child, scholars opined that the mother retains custody after remarrying, in spite of the wording of the prophetic hadith whilst being faithful to the underlying meaning transmitted by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Therefore, the jurists agree that the intended meaning behind the narrations above is to prevent or limit the harm caused by a disease, because the Sharia intends to preserve and protect life—including health. Since the coronavirus not only infects a large number of those who come into contact with it, but leads to death and secondary and tertiary disasters such as the overwhelming and destruction of public health service capacity, the Shariah thus instructs us to do what is possible in order to prevent it and limit its harms.

Conflicting Sharia objectives: Life vs Dīn (Faith)

A problem however occurs when this objective to preserve life, conflicts with another objective of the Sharia—namely to preserve the Dīn of Islām.
Medical experts have expressed the fact that the distance between you and the coronavirus is a simple handshake. Extreme Social distancing mechanisms have been implemented across many countries, and the deadly cost of delaying these measures has been seen in countries that adopted these measures after the disease started to spread more rapidly, such as Iran and Italy.

On one hand we have the call for social distancing, but on the other, the masjid wants us together; feet to feet, shoulder to shoulder. Will praying our five daily prayers and the Friday prayer in congregation lead to the virus spreading death and destruction of the public health services? The medical and epidemiology experts give us an overwhelming ‘yes’ to this question.

According to those scholars who opined to close masājid, the testimony of those experts reaches the threshold of ghalabat al-dhann—a warranted confidence in some information that the jurist will be held accountable for knowing, and thus anticipating. The medical experts have thus advised with a degree of confidence that we are responsible for anticipating, that things like Umrah and congregational prayer will indeed lead to the spreading of the virus.

But is that enough to close mosques?

Knowing that something is a potential threat to life is not automatically enough to trump any other consideration. The Sharia has, after all, legislated Jihād, which can and does lead to the loss of life. The key to understanding this is the following.

The Sharia has overall objectives that have been extracted by the scholars of Islamic law, from a holistic, inductive reading of all rulings (istiqrā’). There are various formulations, but they include the preservation of the Dīn, life, lineage, mind, wealth, and reputation.

Not just due to the fact that the Sharia has commanded things like Jihād, the scholars have understood that as an abstract objective or value, the preservation of the Dīn takes precedence over the preservation of life. However, before this can be implemented in the process of law and deriving rulings, it has to be resolved across a second dimension.

Each objective of the Sharia is broken up according to how necessary any given thing is to that objective.

A Darūra is something that is absolutely necessary to preserve that objective, its absence causing a detrimental impact on that objective. An example of this is not praying the Salāh at all, which is a Darūra for preservation of one’s Dīn.

The next level down is a Hājah, which is something you need to fulfil an objective, its absence causing hardship, but not necessarily detriment. It may lead to detriment down the line, but not immediately. An example of this is having a roof over your head, to preserve life. Not having it will be very difficult, but not an imminent threat to your life.

The third level the jurists mention is a Mukammil, which is something under normal circumstances neither necessary nor needed, but something that will assist you in achieving one of the objectives, sometimes translated as “embellishment”.

Scholars who gave the fatwa to close mosques cited that the congregational prayer falls into this third category, it is a Mukammil matter, not a Darūra nor a Hājah (under normal circumstances).

Performing the prayer in congregation assists a person in carrying out the prayer, therefore fulfilling the objective of preservation of the Dīn. If a person does not pray in congregation but still prays, he is able to preserve his Dīn. It will not be immediately detrimental to his Dīn and its preservation.

The faqīh therefore does not simply look at one dimension—Dīn vs life—but rather he looks at them combined with the second dimension, of necessity. Whilst the Darūra actions of preserving the Dīn trump the Darūra of preserving life (such as in warfare), the Darūra actions of preserving life (such as social distancing) trump the Mukammil actions of preserving Dįn (such as Ādhān and congregational prayer).

It is important to note that this is from within the Islamic legal paradigm. It is not an ‘Islām vs medicine’ or ‘dunyā vs ākhira’ binary—these are false dichotomies. From within Islām’s own legal framework, it is a religious obligation to carry out certain actions to preserve life and wealth, for example. If the mu’adhin feels (with ghalabat al-dhann) that going up a hill to give the call to prayer will lead to him getting robbed, for example, then he is told by the Islamic jurist to make the call from a safe place, even if no one will hear it. There is no guilt on him, in fact he may be rewarded for following this Islamic ruling.

What about Jumu’ah?

With regards to the Friday prayer, these scholars likewise opined that stopping it will not lead to the erosion of Dīn because the Sharia has given a replacement for it, in the form of the Dhuhr prayer, where it is not possible to observe the Friday prayer. It does not constitute an imminent threat to the preservation of the Dīn because Allāh has given a replacement (badal) for it, and there is a maxim in Islamic law that “When the default is excused, the replacement is moved to.”

Other general evidences

In addition to the above, those who opined to close mosques on account of the coronavirus outbreak refer to other supporting evidences. Among them are the statements of Allāh:

“And Allāh wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.”[4]

“And strive for Allāh with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.”[5]

“And do not throw yourselves into destruction with your own hands…”[6]

Among them is the legal principle “Harm must be removed,” which is taken from the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “There should be no harm nor the reciprocation of harm.”[7]

Those who were against the closure of mosques

It is important to remember that despite the dominant discourse in the public mind being a false dichotomy between absolute lockdown on one hand, and business as usual on the other, those scholars who opined that mosques should not be closed en masse did NOT argue for simply doing nothing, as some have misunderstood.

It is true that some people without knowledge have taken a condemnable course of action of being negligent with regards to their responsibilities to limit the harms of this virus—which is as we have explained an Islamic obligation. What is more condemnable is using the great Islamic value of Tawakkul (reliance on and trust in Allāh) as an excuse for negligence. Instead of tawakkul those who are negligent of their duties are in fact carrying out Tawākul, which is a misregard for taking necessary means to achieve a goal.

However, the scholars of Islām are far removed from this tiny minority and their actions. The scholars who argued against wholesale mosque closures called upon an axiomatic truth that if something gravely important can be reduced instead of eliminated, then opportunities for reduction should be exhausted before elimination. All scholars encouraged the taking of all reasonable medical precautions, however differed simply on what the most effective way to balance all the competing considerations is.

For example, even the scientific experts advising the UK government were in “heated debates” regarding the correct time and extent to implement social distancing.[8] Doing it too late could mean the disease would spread too quickly, doing it too early could mean a burden on people leading them to slack and risking a more dangerous ‘second peak’.

Likewise, scholars and mosque leaders contemplate other measures to reduce the numbers of people gathering, such as making a bare minimum congregation of two or three local individuals, whilst remaining effectively ‘closed’ to the public. This is partly why this is a jurisdictional matter. Different cities have different disease rates, infrastructures and social norms, which mean different strategies to combat the spread of the virus.

On top of that, the scholars remind us of an important theological point, that there are unseen, divine causes for the removal of calamities, and Salāh is one of them. So as a result of their ijtihād on this issue they might have used some form of prayer in mosques (with medical precautions) as a means to receive divine help and mercy as part of a comprehensive strategy for protection and cure. Not to mention considering the future political ramifications of setting a precedent of closing mosques down en masse.

As mentioned earlier, the jurist has to consider multiple angles at once. In any case, the scholars of Islām should not be accused of lacking the necessary jurisprudence insights when studying this matter, and condoning a “business as usual” approach.

Conclusion

Difference of opinion is a mercy for the Ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). But at the same time, being united despite differences is also a mercy, and being disunited is a punishment.[9] That which the scholars of this ummah agree on vastly outweighs that which they disagree over.
We are in unprecedented times so it is understandable to have unprecedented fatwas and unprecedented levels of confusion among the masses. However, do not let Shaytān make you depressed or focus on relatively trivial matters compared to the greater goal of glorifying Allāh and relying on Him first and foremost, whilst working together to make your communities and societies as safe as possible.

Use this opportunity to go back to Allāh, to flee to Him, and beg him for forgiveness, since He gave us a taste of something beloved to us and Him being taken away from us—the congregational prayers—no doubt to test us. Make the most of this time of social distancing and implement the guidance of the scholars who have told us how to pray in our homes during this trial, and make our homes into masājid glorifying Allāh.[10]


Notes:

[1] Bukhari & Muslim

[2] Muslim

[3] Bukhari

[4] Al-Qur’ān 4:28

[5] Al-Qur’ān 22:78

[6] Al-Qur’ān 2:195

[7] Ibn Mājah

[8] https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexwickham/10-days-that-changed-britains-coronavirus-approach

[9] The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The community is a mercy, whilst disunity is a punishment.” [Ahmed]

[10] https://www.islam21c.com/islamic-law/sh-haitham-how-to-pray-during-a-coronavirus-lockdown/

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Shaykh Sajid Umar, FD.IT, MED,LL.B (Shariah), MJS (Qadha'), LL.D is a qualified Mufti and Judge, as well as an educator, author, researcher. He is a lecturer at Knowledge International University; is the Director of Islamic Development for Mercy Mission World; and lecturer and head of the board of directors of AlKauthar Institute.

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  1. Avatar

    Faraz

    April 16, 2020 at 3:21 AM

    Jazak Allah khair!
    :)

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#Current Affairs

This Eid And Beyond Boycott Goods Made With Enslaved Labor Of Uyghurs Even If It Is Your Favorite Brand

Bidding farewell to Ramadan, celebrating Eid?

Well, the Muslims of East Turkestan under Chinese occupation had neither Ramadan nor will they have Eid…

Not only that, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) run government has transferred Uyghurs and other ethnic minority citizens from East Turkestan to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Nike, Gap, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Carters and others. Read Uyghurs for Sale for more information

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CCP is also pressuring governments across the world to extradite Uyghurs back to occupied East Turkestan.

Here is what you can do to help them:

Action Items

  1. Keep making dua for the oppressed of East Turkistan and the world.
  2. Boycott Chinese products! Do not be complicit in slave labour. Start with focusing on the companies in the graphic. Share it with #SewnWithtTears, #StopChina, #BoycottChina. Write to them and demand that they do better.
  3. Raise awareness on the plight of Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause. Learn more at SaveUighur.org
  4. Work towards reducing your country’s economic dependence on China.
  5. Build alliances with all people of conscience to demand a cessation of China’s oppression of all faith groups, be it Muslim Uyghur, Hui; Chinese Christian; or Tibetan Buddhist.
  6. Encourage and promote fairer trade and commerce with Muslims and others rather than China.
  7. Inquire about Uyghur diaspora members in your area. Organize to help out orphans, widows, and students.
  8. Pressure governments to provide legal protection to Uyghur refugees-exiles by granting either citizenship or refugee/asylee status. Stop the “extradition/repatriation” of Uyghurs to China!
  9. Get your universities/endowments to divest from China. Raise awareness about Chinese espionage and hired guns in academia. Demand academic and financial support for Uyghur scholars and students. Request more academic attention and funds for Central Asian, Uyghur, Turkistani studies. 

Read a greater discussion of action items in A Response to Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments on the Uyghurs, which also contains a greater discussion on East Turkistan’s history and its current situation. A condensed Arabic version of the article can be found here

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Coronavirus

Alternative Eid Celebrations In The Midst Of A Pandemic

“Eid-al-Quarantine” is what my sister has so fondly dubbed our upcoming Eid al Fitr this year. I find myself asking, “How are we going to make Eid a fun and special celebration this year in the midst of a dangerous pandemic?” With a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, this Eid can be fun–no matter the current circumstances. This post will provide you with some inspiration to get your alternative Eid preparations underway! 

Special note: Shelter-in-place restrictions are lessening in many places in the United States, but this does not give us the green light to go back to life as normal and celebrate Eid in the ways we usually would have in the past. I am no health expert, but my sincerest wish for all Muslims throughout the world is that we all err on the side of caution and maintain rigorous precautions.

In-person gatherings are going to be much riskier in light of public health safety concerns. I do not recommend that people get together this Eid. Keep in mind, as well, that this is a big weekend for all Americans, as it is Memorial Day Weekend and crowds may be expected in places like parks and beaches. 

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Eid Day Must’s

Just because you are staying in, doesn’t mean that all of the Eid traditions have to go. Some may be exactly the same, some may be slightly adjusted this year. 

  • Get dressed up, even if it’s just for an hour or two. This might be a good chance to do hair and make up for sisters who normally don’t on Eid because of hijab or other modesty concerns. 
  • Take your family pictures, as usual. 
  • Decorate your house, even if it’s just with some fresh flowers in a vase or hanging up some string lights. (This time, I think sharing pictures of your setup may  have some more wiggle room.)
  • Find a way to pray Eid salah at home, if your local imam mentions a way to adapt for the current situation or check out this MM article
  • Eat some good food, and make sure to feast. 
  • Take that infamous Eid nap. 
  • Greet loved ones (phone calls, video calls, text messages, voice/video messages, make and send Eid cards).
  • Give and receive gifts. (Electronic ways to transfer money/checks in the mail, dropping off gifts to homes/sending gifts in the mail/having an online order pick-up in-store. You may also choose to do a gift exchange, if not this weekend, next). 

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Virtual Parties

Virtual celebrations are a great, safe, option. The best thing about virtual hangouts is that people from all over the world can “come together” to celebrate Eid. This can be as simple as talking and catching up, or can be as orchestrated as a full-out party including games. Keep in mind, the games and virtual parties aren’t only for the kids–everyone should have fun this Eid! We recently threw a virtual birthday party for our one-year-old and it was quite the experience. 

  • Split guests into different calls (kids’ call, adults’ call; men’s call, women’s call)
  • Party agenda for a rigorously planned party so everyone knows what to expect
  • Party games, either with certain items that everyone has (or can easily and quickly purchase) or games that do not require much else besides an internet connection 
    • Games requiring physical items (think of items that everyone is likely to have and think of carnival-type games):
      • Soccer ball juggling or basketball shooting competition
      • Water balloon toss
      • Timed races (three-legged, holding an egg in a spoon, etc.)
    • Games with little to no special equipment
      • Online Pictionary https://skribbl.io/
      • Online Scrabble
      • Video games
      • Charades
      • Taboo (we do this for our cousin game nights with pictures of cards that one person sends to people from the opposite team)
      • Scattergories
      • Bingo
      • Mad libs
      • Speaking games that take turns going around a circle (going through the alphabet saying names of animals or colors or foods, rhyming words [we played the last two lines of “Down by the Bay” for our son’s birthday party])
      • Movement game (Simon says, dancing if you’re into that [“Cha Cha Slide,” dance-off, passing along dance moves as was a TikTok trend I heard of, simply dancing…])
      • Games like in Whose Line is it Anyway? or like the “Olympics” (specifically the “middle games”) that I wrote about way back
  • Performances
    • Skits prepared by one family or even across households
    • Reciting a poem or surah or singing
    • Other showcases of talent, by individuals or not
  • Gift Exchanges (I’ve been doing this virtually since 2013 with friends/distant family members.)

Alternative Virtual/Group Celebrations

Being “together” isn’t always gathering for a party, and that’s what I think most people miss during the forced isolation caused by the pandemic. There are many things you can do to get ready for or celebrate Eid with loved ones even if you’re not together. 

  • Share special recipes with each other or plan to serve the same meals.
  • Coordinate Eid outfits or attempt to do matching henna designs.
  • Send Eid pictures to family and friends.
  • Prepare and cook meals or clean or decorate while on a video call (you don’t have to be talking the entire time).
  • Watch the same movie or show (whether that’s something everyone does as separate households or you do concurrently/even with a video or phone call running. This might be a good time to watch Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King” and do the 10 things it invites us to do.)
  • Go through family pictures or old videos together. Maybe even create a short slideshow/video of your favorites. 
  • Story time full of family legends and epic moments (the best Eid, a difficult time of sickness, immigration or moving story, new baby in the family, etc.). Someone build the fire and get the s’mores going.

Alternative “Outings”

In the same breath, it’s so refreshing to go out and do something fun, not just stay cooped up in your house, right? Seriously. 

  • Check out a virtual museum tour
  • Go on a nice drive to some place you love or miss going to, like drive by the masjid or school or a beautiful area (but stay in your car if there are other people around)
  • Watch an Eid Khutbah (or a regular one) on Eid day (make it special by listening outside in your yard or as a family where you pray).
  • Create a movie theater experience inside the home (that might just mean some popcorn and homemade slushies).
  • Get carry out from a favorite restaurant (if it’s open), and finally have the motivation to take a longer drive if needed
  • Make fruit or gift baskets for friends and family and drop them off at their homes
  • A “paint night,” or some other craft, that everyone in the family participates in
  • Decorate your car and drive around to show it off to friends (I’ve heard there’s an actual Eid car parade at various masaajid in Chicago

Interesting Alternative Community Celebrations I’ve Heard About

Some communities are getting super creative. As I mentioned above, a handful of masaajid in Chicago (Orland Park Prayer Center, Mosque Foundation, and Islamic Center of Wheaton as well as Dar Al Taqwa in Maryland) are putting together Eid drive-thru car parades. I’ve heard of different communities, whether officially sponsored by the masjid or just put together by groups of individuals, having a drive-in Eid salah, in which families pray in their cars in a rented drive-in theater or parking lot (Champaign, Illinois and a community in Maryland). I’m  definitely impressed with that last option, and I’m waiting to hear about more creative ways to get together and worship and celebrate.

So, what am I doing for Eid (weekend) this year? All the must’s, inshaAllah, including getting extra dolled up and making donuts from biscuit dough. A “game night” (virtual party) with alumni from my MSA. A gift exchange party with my cousins as well as another gift exchange party with classmates from my Arabic program (we’ll send unboxing videos out instead of meeting at the same time.) Check out a local college campus we’ve been dying to drive around. Binge a few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender newly released on Netflix and do some online Memorial Day sale shopping. Le’s put a tentative on all of those, haha.

At the end of the day, Eid al Fitr is about acknowledging the month of worship we engaged in during Ramadan and spending quality time with loved ones. It doesn’t really matter what that quality time looks like–as long as it is intentional, this Eid will be special no matter what, inshaAllah. Who knows, this might be one of the best, most memorable holidays ever!

Eid Mubarak!

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#Islam

Eid Prayer During the Pandemic

Introduction

We have observed a Ramadan that was unlike anything we have experienced before. The community and individuals everywhere have shown dedication, commitment, and creativity. We learned to pray tarāwīḥ on our own in our homes. We read the Qur’an everyday consistently. We attended daily lectures and reminders delivered by our imams, teachers, and scholars online. We gathered virtually to hold iftars and check in on each other. We donated to our organizations to gain the blessings of charity in Ramadan. All of this and more is only possible through the guidance of Allah and resilience of our faith.

We now find ourselves approaching Eid al-Fitr. Eid is an occasion of celebration, joy, gathering, and gratitude to Allah for his countless blessings. We all have cherished memories of past days of Eid. However, we face the prospect of an Eid that is difficult and challenging. Similar to our mindset in Ramadan, we can and should find a way to have a joyous and meaningful Eid. Shāh Walīullah al-Dihlawi writes in his Hujjatullah al-Bālighah, “Allah provided us with two days of celebration that commemorate the markers of the Islamic tradition. He associated celebration with the remembrance of Allah and acts of devotion on the day of Eid, ensuring that the congregation of believers would not be for mere vanity. Rather, the gathering of Muslims would revolve around exalting the Word of Allah.”

The Obligation of Eid

The scholars of the four major schools of thought have differed regarding the obligation of the Eid prayer. Their differences stem from their methodologies in interpreting the verses of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition ﷺ. The Shāfiʿī and Mālikī schools agree that the Eid prayer is an established Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, and the prayer is highly recommended for every individual to attend.[1] However, the Ḥanafī school has deemed the prayer as wājib, necessary, for every believing man of age.[2] The Ḥanbalī school has ruled the Eid prayer as farḍ al-kifāyah[3].[4] 

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The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ prayed the Eid prayer in congregation with the Companions from the time it was prescribed until he passed. The Ḥanafī school has considered this consistency demonstrated by the Prophet ﷺ as an indication that the Eid prayer cannot be merely a recommendation. Additionally, the Prophet ﷺ did not go out of his way to inform his Companions of the lack of obligation as he did with ṣalāh al-tarāwīḥ.[5] The scholars of the Ḥanbalī school referenced the command in the Qur’an, “Pray to your Lord and sacrifice,”[6] and concluded the Eid prayer is farḍ al-kifāyah.

The Shāfiʿī and Mālikī schools quote a well-known Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ in which he informs an inquisitive Bedouin regarding the Islamic mandates. The Prophet ﷺ tells the man about the five obligatory daily prayers. The man asks the Messenger ﷺ if there are any additional prayers that are required and he responds, “All other prayers are optional.”[7] Therefore, they regard the Eid prayer as voluntary.[8] 

The Khutbah of Eid

On the day of Eid, it is recommended, according to the majority of scholars, to have a khutbah given by the Imam. The Imam advises the people in the congregation and reminds them of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. Unlike the Friday khutbah, the Eid khutbah is given immediately after the congregational prayer is completed. The Friday khutbah is considered an essential pillar of the Jumu’ah obligation. However, the scholars of the four major schools have all come to the conclusion that the khutbah on the day of Eid is not required for the validity of the Eid prayer.[9]

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Congregations

The following question has emerged in light of our current situation: Are we excused from the obligation to gather together and worship Allah for Friday, Eid, and congregational prayers? Is the concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 a legitimate reason for individuals to not attend religious services in person?

The scholars of the Ḥanafī school list reasons that excuse individuals from attending congregational prayers. The list includes inclement weather, sickness, paralysis, old age, and notably, fear of harm. It is reported in an authentic Hadith that the Prophet ﷺ once excused the Companions from attending congregational prayers by instructing the Mu’adhdhin to call the adhān and announce, “Pray in your homes.”[10] The Ḥanafī scholar al-Ṭahṭāwī uses this Hadith as proof that those exposed to immediate danger should be excused from congregational prayer, including Friday and Eid prayers.[11]

Al-Shurunbulālī[12] reminds us that the reward is still obtained by individuals who are not able to attend due to challenging circumstances. If an individual is prevented from fulfilling an obligation due to an acceptable and valid excuse, that person will still be rewarded (if Allah wills) according to his or her intention.[13] The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us, “Actions are rewarded based on their intentions. Every person will be rewarded according to his or her intention.”[14]

Recommended Eid Rituals

While our ability to congregate for Eid may be limited, this should not prevent us from observing the rituals recommended in our tradition.[15] 

  1. Supplicate to Allah ﷻ the night before Eid and ask Him for forgiveness for any shortcomings.
  2. On the morning of Eid, recite the Takbīrāt of Eid[16], glorifying Allah and rejoicing in the occasion.[17]
  3. Take a shower and celebrate by donning your best garments. It is also customary to apply perfume.
  4. Demonstrate the end of the month of fasting by eating something after Fajr on the morning of Eid. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would not leave his house on the day of Eid without eating some dates.[18]
  5. Be kind and generous.
  6. Congratulate others.
  7. Fulfill your obligation of contributing zakat al-fir before the morning of Eid. The majority of scholars are in agreement that zakat al-fir is mandatory for every believer male or female, young or old.[19] This serves the purpose of uniting Muslims on the day of Eid so they may celebrate regardless of financial circumstances.

Requirements to Conduct Eid Prayer

When performing the Eid prayer, one should, first and foremost, observe the requirements of ritual prayer (ṣalāh) such as being in a state of purification and facing the qiblah. The scholars have agreed that the prescribed time of the Eid prayer begins shortly after sunrise and ends before Ẓuhr time starts.[20] 

For the validity of the Eid prayer, the scholars among the Shāfiʿī, Mālikī, Ḥanbalī,  and Ḥanafī schools have stipulated: the prayer should be conducted during the prescribed time of Eid prayer.[21] The Ḥanafīs and some Ḥanbalīs[22] have additionally stated that the Eid prayer must be conducted in a group.[23] The Ḥanafīs specified that this requirement is fulfilled with 2 or 3 adult males other than the imam.[24] Moreover, the Ḥanafī scholars have stated that an Eid prayer should be accessible by the general public and not be in a restricted or an exclusive space.

Conducting the Eid Prayer

The Eid prayer itself is conducted very similarly to any other congregational prayer. The four major schools agree that the Eid prayer should be performed out loud with 2 rak’āt, units of prayer, just like the Fajr congregation. However, there is a difference of opinion in regards to the number of extra takbīrāt that are said in the Eid prayer. The format of the prayer has been detailed below based on the different opinions.

Mālikīs[25]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 6 additional takbīrāt[26], say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, perform 5 additional takbīrāt, say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Ḥanbalīs[27]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 6 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, perform 5 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Shāfiʿīs[28]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 7 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, perform 5 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Ḥanafīs[29]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 3 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Perform 3 additional Takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Say Allāhu akbar and bow into rukū’
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Conclusion

Eid is an occasion of glorifying Allah, praying for the acceptance of our deeds, and enjoying the blessings of Allah. It is a day to spend time with family and loved ones. The regulations of social distancing have limited our ability to congregate and spend time together as a community. However, these restrictions do not prevent us from fulfilling the rituals and traditions of Eid.

We recommend that every Muslim observes the Eid rituals as mentioned above. It has been authentically reported that the Companion of the Prophet ﷺ Anas ibn Mālik did not make it to the Eid prayer, so he gathered his family and offered the Eid prayer at home in the same manner the imam would with the congregation.[30] Furthermore, the Mālikī, Shāfiʿī, and Ḥanbalī schools allow people to perform the Eid prayer individually or with family at home. While the Ḥanafī school traditionally does not allow this, many senior Ḥanafī scholars have eased the condition of performing the Jumu’ah prayer in a public place during the current pandemic. Therefore, we recommend that individuals and families who are not able to attend an Eid congregation pray the Eid ṣalāh as detailed above at home.

May Allah accept our deeds. May Allah provide us with a joyous Eid. May Allah alleviate the current crisis. May Allah protect us all.

Allah knows best.

AbdulNasir Jangda

Sohaib Sheikh

26 Ramadan 1441 AH/19 May 2020 CE

Qalam Institute’s  mission is to educate humanity about Allah, His message, and His Messenger ﷺ. This article is written by the instructors at Qalam. Please consider supporting them as they create beneficial content for people to study their religion. 


[1] al-Majmu’ 5:2, al-Jumal ala sharh al-Manhaj 2:92

[2] Bada’I al-Sana’I 1:274

[3] farḍ al-kifāyah: An obligation that is mandated at a communal level. If a community fulfills the obligation, any other people that did not participate are excused from the obligation.

[4] al-Mughni 2:304

[5] Bada’I al-Sana’I 1:274, al-Hidayah 1:60, Tuhfah al-Fuqaha 1:283

[6] Qur’an 108:2

[7] Sahih al-Bukhari 2678

[8] Jawahir al-Iklil 1:101, al-Majmoo’ 5:3

[9] al-Lubab 1:118-119, Maraqi al-Falah 91, Tabyin al-Haqaiq 1:226, Fatawa al-Hindiyyah 1:141, Fath al-Qadir 1:428, al-Durr al-Mukhtar 1:782-784, al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:530, al-Sharh al-Kabir 1:400, al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah 86, Mughni al-Muhtaj 1:311, al-Muhadhab 1:120, al-Majmoo’ 5:36, al-Mughni 2:384-387, Kashaf al-Qina’ 2:61-62

[10] Sahih al-Bukhari 10:29, Sahih Muslim 6:32-33, Sunan Abi Dawud 2:672-673, Sunan Ibn Majah 5:989-991, Sunan al-Nasa’I 7:660, Sunan al-Nasa’I 10:78

[11] Hashiyah al-Tahtawi ala Maraqi al-Falah 297

[12] Hanafi scholar who authored the famous work Nur al-Idah

[13] Nur al-Idah 65, Hashiyah al-Tahtawi ala Maraqi al-Falah 299

[14] Sahih al-Bukhari 1:1, Sahih Muslim 33:222

[15] al-Fiqh al-Islami Wa Adillatuhu 1412-1416

[16] Takbirat of Eid: Saying Allahu Akbar and La Ilaha Illa Allah

[17] al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah 13:213-214

[18] Sahih al-Bukhari 13:5

[19] al-Zayla’I 1:307, Ibn Abidin 2:110, Fath al-Qadir 2:30, Bulghat al-Salik 1:200, Sharh al-Minhaj 1:628, Kashaf al-Qina’ 1:471

[20] Fath al-Qadir 1:424, al-Lubab 1:117, Maraqi al-Falah 90, al-Dur al-Mukhtar 1:779, al-Bada’I 1:276, al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:524, al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah 85, Mughni al-Muhtaj 1:310, al-Muhadhab 1:118, Kashaf al-Qina’ 2:56

[21] al-Dasuqi 1:396, Asna al-Matalib 1:279

[22] Imam Ibn al-Qudama stated both opinions in the Hanbali school regarding the requirement of a congregation to conduct Eid prayer. Some Hanbali scholars require a group of people for the validity of the Eid prayer while others said that an individual can pray Eid by him or herself. al-Mughni 2:291

[23] Kashaf al-Qina’ 1:455, 2:50, Bada’I al-Sana’I 1:275

[24] Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Muhammad stated that 2 congregants other than the Imam are the minimum required to be considered a congregation. Imam Abu Yusuf was of the opinion that 3 congregants other than the Imam are required.

[25] al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:525, al-Sharh al-Kabir 1:397, al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah 86, Bidayah al-Mujtahid 1:209

[26] Takbirat of Eid: These are extra Takbirs unique to the Eid ṣalāh. According to the majority of scholars, these Takbirs are conducted by the Imam raising his hands as he does when he starts the prayer and saying Allahu Akbar. The stronger opinion according to the Malikis is that when performing the extra Takbirs, the Imam does not raise his hands but says Allahu Akbar.

al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:525, al-Sharh al-Kabir 1:398

[27] Bidayah al-Mujtahid 1:209, al-Mughni 2:376-384, Kashaf al-Qina’ 2:59-65

[28] Mughni al-Muhtaj 1:310, al-Muhadhab 1:120, al-Majmoo’ 5:18

[29] The famous Companion, Ibn Masood, said in regard to the ritual of Eid prayer, “The Imam of the prayer should say Takbir to initiate the prayer. Afterwards, he should perform 3 additional Takbirat followed by the recitation of Surah al-Fatihah and another Surah following it. Then the Imam should continue his prayer, go into Ruku’, Sujood until he stands up (for his second Rak’ah). He should read Surah al-Fatihah and another Surah and proceed to perform 3 Takbirat followed by the Takbir to go into Ruku’” – Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar 4:347

al-Lubab 1:117, Maraqi al-Falah 90, Fath al-Qadir 1:425-427, Tabyin al-Haqaiq 1:225, al-Dur al-Mukhtar 1:779-782, al-Bada’I 1:277, al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah 1:141

[30] al-Sunan al-Kabir 3:503, al-Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah 2:183, Sahih al-Bukhari includes this Hadith in his Tarjamtul Baab 2:23

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