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ADMINISTRATION OF MUSLIM LAW ACT
(CHAPTER 3, PART 32)
FATWA COMMITTEE, ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS COUNCIL OF SINGAPORE
The Fatwa Committee convened on 6th May 2020 in a special meeting to discuss a query it received from Muis’ Haj unit regarding the deferment of Haj for the year 2020 to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله رب العالمين ، والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وإمام المتقين نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين. اللهم أرنا الحق حقا وارزقنا اتباعه، وأرنا الباطل باطلا وارزقنا اجتنابه، وبعد.
1 The COVID-19 pandemic has affected religious activities in the Holy Land, such as the temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims as well as congregational prayers in mosques situated within the Holy Land – including Masjidil Haram and Masjid An-Nabawi.  Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry have also recently reminded Haj operators to not sign any financial contracts for Haj services due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 situation. 
2 It is still unclear if the Haj pilgrimage will take place this year. Notwithstanding the possibility of the Saudi government allowing the pilgrimage to take place at short notice with precautionary measures in place, pilgrims from Singapore would face various challenges and risks due to the limited time for preparation and the continued spread of COVID-19. In view of this, Muis’ Haj unit has posed the following question to the Fatwa Committee:
3 The obligation of haj is dependent upon a few key conditions. Among these are (a) Istiṭā’ah (possessing the means) and (b) safety of travel.
A. Possessing the Means
4 Possessing the means to go for haj is one of the key conditions upon which haj is made obligatory. Allah s.w.t. says in surah Al-Imran verse 97:
Meaning: “And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way.”
5 The word Istiṭā’ah (ability) in the above verse is one of the conditions for the fulfilment of haj. Muslim jurists explain that Istiṭā’ah comprises several categories. Among them are the physical ability to perform haj and the financial ability to bear the costs of the pilgrimage. 4
6 Haj can only be performed if all the necessary preparations can be made. This includes one’s medical needs, alongside all other basic necessities required to make the journey. Without such adequate preparations, the condition of Istiṭā’ah cannot be fulfilled. Allah s.w.t. does not wish hardship upon His servant in carrying out religious duties. Allah s.w.t. says in surah al-Hajj, verse 78:
Meaning: “And He has not placed upon you any difficulty in the religion.”
B. Safety of travel
7 Besides possessing the means to perform haj, the guaranteed safety of the pilgrims is also required. In this regard, the Fatwa Committee has taken into consideration several facts:
I. A large number of Singaporean pilgrims who applied for haj this year are aged 50 and above. They are senior citizens who are at a higher risk of becoming critically ill if they contract COVID-19.
II. Human congestion is a common occurrence during haj season. Even if the Saudi government limits the number of pilgrims (if they decide to proceed with haj this year), this does not mean there will be no congestion. In such a situation, it is highly likely that pilgrims may contract the virus from one another. This may occur even if those who are allowed to perform haj have been tested for COVID-19 prior to the travel, as there is a chance that some pilgrims are asymptomatic. In general, most countries (including Singapore) are still banning large scale activities to avoid any COVID-19 outbreak.
III. It is also possible that the haj pilgrims may become infected within 14 days of their arrival to the Holy Land or upon their return to Singapore. Should this be the case, they would require medical assistance in the Holy Land. However, healthcare professionals in Singapore are currently preoccupied with curbing the local spread of COVID-19 and are unable to join the Haj Mission to take care of pilgrim’s medical needs. At the same time, the medical situation and level of expertise in providing healthcare for COVID-19 patients in the Holy Land remains to be verified.
IV. Allowing the haj to proceed at short notice would also present various difficulties to would-be haj pilgrims. This includes testing for COVID-19 prior to departure. Should a person be tested positive just before departure, they would not be allowed to perform haj – and this will cause other problems such as the issue of refunds, leave application from employers, as well as flight and accommodation costs. All these would aggravate the emotional impact on affected parties.
8 Where there is a conflict between avoiding harm and gaining benefits, Islam instructs its followers to prioritise the avoiding of mafsadah (harm), as stipulated by the juristic maxim:
درء المفاسد مقدم على جلب المصالح
Meaning: “Avoiding harm is prioritised over gaining benefits.”5
9 It is the responsibility of religious authorities in every country to take the necessary steps and make the right decisions to preserve and ensure the welfare and interests of the individual and the community. This aligns with the juristic maxim:
تصرف الإمام على الرعية منوط بالمصلحة
Meaning: “The actions of an Imam (leader) is driven by the interest of the community.”6
10 All possible avenues of exposing the community and haj pilgrims to danger and harm must be avoided, including its impact on their emotional and physical well-being, financial status, as well as the risk of transmission among the Singaporean community. This is based on the maxim of Sadd al-Zara’i.7
11 Based on the above considerations, the Fatwa Committee has decided that the haj for this year (2020) has to be deferrred to next year (2021) because the conditions which make haj obligatory cannot be fulfilled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This deferment may also help Singaporean pilgrims to be better prepared for haj when the situation improves considerably.
والله ولي التوفيق، وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه وسلم.
DR NAZIRUDIN MOHD NASIR
CHAIRMAN, (LEGAL) FATWA COMMITTEE
MUFTI OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
 Arab News, “Saudi Ban on Umrah pilgrims backed by OIC, Arab Health Ministers”, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634211/saudi-arabia, published on 27 February 2020.
 Arab News, “Coronavirus Forces Closure of Courtyards at Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque”, https://www.arabnews.com/node/16344051/saudi-arabia, published on 19 March 2020.
 Arab News, “Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Minister tells Muslims to Wait for Coronavirus Clarity on Pilgrimage”, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1650736/saudi-arabia, published on 31 March 2020.
4 Al-Sharbīnī, Mughnī al-Muḥtāj, vol 2, pp. 210-218; See also, Al-Kasānī, Badā’i al-Ṣanā’i, vol 2, pp. 121 – 125; Al-Dasūqī, al-Syarḥ al-Kabīr, vol 2, pp. 5-10; Ibn Qudāmah, al-Mughnī, vol 3, pp. 216-222.
5 Al-Suyūṭī, al-Ashbāh wa al-Naẓā’ir fī Qawā‘id wa Furū’ Fiqh al-Shāfi‘iyyah, p. 82.
6 Al-Suyūṭī, al-Ashbāh wa al-Naẓā’ir fī Qawā‘id wa Furū’ Fiqh al-Shāfi‘iyyah, p. 121.
7 The concept of Sadd al-Zarā’I refers to the closure of an opening. It is a method of early prevention from that which may lead to things which are prohibited by the Syariah. Al-Qarāfī, al-Furūq, vol 2, pp. 32-33.