Islam in the COVID-19 Period – Real Time

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Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

The Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation speaks of an increase in cases of coronavirus against the background of the spread of other respiratory diseases during the season. While part of the public expects the next introduction of quarantine measures, columnist for Realnoe Vremya Karim Gainullin recalls what restrictions the world Islamic community has faced.

How Islam generally views restrictions in the event of an epidemic

In fact, the Islamic community faced epidemics in the very first centuries of its existence. In prophetic times, a plague epidemic was taking place in the Middle East, which noticeably weakened two large empires – the Byzantine and Sassanian ones. A number of researchers call this factor among the reasons for the success of the Islamic Caliphate in conquering new lands.

Islamic tradition (sunnah) tells how the prophet Muhammad himself forbade to visit lands affected by the plague and leave his village in case of infection. We can say that this is one of the earliest mentions of the quarantine system as such. In the same legend, it is stated that an infected person who died of an illness, but observing all the necessary measures so as not to infect others, will fall the death of a martyr.

“And if any slave (Allah) who is in any locality, [где разразилась чума], will not leave there, remaining there, showing patience and hoping for the reward of Allah, knowing that nothing will befall him, except for the one predetermined by Allah, he will receive the same reward as the one who fell for the faith (martyr). ” (Saheeh al-Bukhari)

In prophetic times, a plague epidemic was taking place in the Middle East, which noticeably weakened two large empires – the Byzantine and Sassanian ones. Photo wikipedia.org

The very first case of a direct meeting of the early Islamic community with a plague is associated with the campaign of the righteous Caliph Umar in the Sarg region. Of course, there was no mask-and-glove regime at that time. But there was an understanding that an emergency situation requires some restrictions.

Friday prayer of discord

One of the duties of Muslims is to perform Friday worship. A whole surah (chapter) from the Holy Quran – Friday is dedicated to this prayer. During the quarantine, Muslims were forced to leave public worship.

In response to this, the Spiritual Administration of Russia in Moscow issued a legal opinion (fatwa) suggesting that Friday worship be performed online. At the same time, in a normal situation, Friday prayer seems to be performed instead of the obligatory midday prayer – in this case, the muftiat emphasized that after performing the juma namaz online, it would be necessary to perform the midday prayer. It turns out that such a Friday prayer will be additional.

On the other hand, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan issued a fatwa prohibiting the conduct of Friday prayers online. They pointed out that in the Hanafi madhhab, which is common among Muslims in Russia, there are a number of conditions that prevent online worship. Instead, DUM RT statedthat it will be enough just to read the midday prayer at home.

The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan issued a fatwa on the prohibition of conducting Friday prayers online. Photo tatarstan.ru

A similar disagreement was observed in the Arabic-speaking environment. Thus, the Qatari theologian Isan Talima proposed to perform zhomga-namaz online. A large number of scholars have written this refutation, pointing out that collective worship has a number of conditions that differ depending on the legal school.

The House of Fatwas of Jordan issued a statement urging Muslims to refrain from attending services. On the other hand, at the grassroots level, there were cases of ignoring quarantine measures. A number of preachers have strongly opposed the restrictions.

In the month of Ramadan, a similar restriction applied to festive prayers and evening taraweeh prayers.

Quarantine Hajj

This year there were difficulties with one of the pillars of Islam – the Hajj in the month of Ramadan. Obviously, a crowd of thousands of people would create an uncontrolled spread of the infection. Therefore, this year Saudi Arabia imposed restrictions on compulsory and minor (umrah) pilgrimages, limiting them to a small number of Muslims within the Kingdom itself.

One of the most authoritative institutions among Muslims, al-Azhar, supported the measures introduced. On the other hand, the theologian Ali al-Kardaghi, a disciple of the famous Sheikh Yusuf Kardawi, called the restriction of the Hajj contrary to religion. He pointed out that the Hajj was limited only at the time when Mecca was captured by the Karmat sect. On the other hand, at that time it was not possible for as many people to make the pilgrimage as today.

This year there were difficulties with one of the pillars of Islam – the Hajj in the month of Ramadan. Photo bbc.com

Funeral difficulties

The most worrisome for some Muslims was the loss of loved ones during the epidemic. The funeral rite in Islam presupposes a special form of washing the body of the deceased, burying it and reciting a collective funeral prayer (janaza) after it. The concern was caused by contact with the body of the affected person and the risk of infection. Some people wanted to lobby for alternative methods of burial: cremation, burial in zinc coffins, or restricting the ritual side, which was harshly greeted by Muslims. The House of Ftes in Jordan, the Qatari religious organizations, al-Azhar almost unanimously indicated that, if possible, the entire ritual side should be observed. Let the Janaza prayer be recited by a small number of people and keeping a distance, but the form of the ceremony should not be changed.

As a result, in general, Islamic institutions and Muslims calmly reacted to the introduced quarantine measures. On the other hand, there are a number of fundamental issues for Muslims, in which it is difficult to accept any restrictions. Several studies note that the New Era will be an era of epidemics, and theologians have yet to interpret Islamic law through the prism of an epidemiological situation. Fortunately, Islamic sources allow this.

Karim Gainullin

SocietyMedicineCulture of Tatarstan



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