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Office of the Mufti

Fatwa on precautionary measures in dealing with the Covid-19

ADMINISTRATION OF MUSLIM LAW ACT

(CHAPTER 3, SECTION 32)

FATWA ISSUED

BY

FATWA COMMITTEE, ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS COUNCIL OF SINGAPORE

The Fatwa Committee held a special fatwa meeting on 18 February 2020 to discuss questions received from Mosque and Community Development Strategic Unit in Muis (MCM) on precautionary measures that should be undertaken by mosques in dealing with the transmission of Covid-19

FATWA

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 Fatwa Committee has received two questions from the Mosque and Community Development Strategic Unit (MCM) following the spread of Covid-19 virus:

a) Are mosque officials allowed to prevent unwell congregants from entering a mosque’s premises?

b) Can congregational and Friday prayers be temporarily suspended and are mosques allowed to be closed if the situation calls for such measures?

FATWA BACKGROUND

2. The Covid-19 coronavirus emerged in late 2019. [1] According to recent reports, the number of infected individuals have increased exponentially with thousands of deaths linked to this virus being reported. Singapore reported its first case on 23 January 2020, [2] and since then, there has been evidence of community transmission. In light of these developments, the Singaporean authorities have upgraded the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) to the orange level on 7 February 2020. [3] Measures have been taken by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to control the spread of the virus. This announcement is followed by some general guidelines, such as the cancellation or suspension of large-scale events. [4]

3. Several places of worship have been affected. This is a result of some individuals who continued attending religious ceremonies at places of worship despite being infected with the virus or exhibiting symptoms. There are others who refused to take any precautions even when they were ill. This careless attitude worsened the situation, affected public health and places of worship.[5] Several places of worship in Singapore have taken precautions and postponed all their major ceremonies and religious activities while offering alternatives such as conducting religious services online etc. [6] In the event of a mosque facing a similar situation, the Fatwa Committee has discussed several approaches that mosque managements could apply.

MAIN PRINCIPLES

4. In considering the questions above, the Fatwa Committee has considered the following;

  I.  Religious textual evidence on need to contain spread of plague ;

II. Religious concession to not attend Friday prayers and congregational prayers for those with religious exceptions;

III. The role of maqāṣid in providing religious guidance during emergency situations such as in a disease outbreak.

I) Religious textual evidence on need to contain spread of plague

5. Among the teachings of the Prophet s.a.w in facing a disease outbreak, is the religious responsibility of individuals and communities to take preventive measures and avoid public places, including mosques, so that healthy people are not infected. The Prophet s.a.w said:

لَا يُورِدَنَّ مُمْرِضٌ عَلَى مُصِحٍّ

Meaning: “Do not place a sickly patient with a healthy person.”  (Hadith reported by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim).[7]

6. The Prophet s.a.w has also ordered those residing in an area affected by an outbreak to not leave the place. Those who are not infected are also ordered to not enter places of outbreak:

إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ بِهِ بِأَرْضٍ فَلاَ تَقْدَمُوا عَلَيْهِ وَإِذَا وَقَعَ بِأَرْضٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِهَا فَلاَ تَخْرُجُوا فِرَارًا مِنْهُ

Meaning: “If you hear that a land has a plague in it, do not go forward to it. If it comes upon a land which you are in, do not depart from it” (Hadith reported by Imam Muslim). [8]

7. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w was once visited by the Thaqif tribe who wanted to pledge allegiance to him, with one of its members infected by a contagious disease.  To avoid shaking hands with the infected individual, The Prophet s.a.w sent a messenger to him and without shaking the hands of the infected person (as the norm was) he told the messenger to convey that he  said: “We have received your pledge of allegiance, do return back to your place.(Hadith reported by Imam Muslim).[9]

II) Religious concession to not attend Friday prayers and congregational prayers for those with religious excuse

8. Rukhsah is a term in Islamic law which provides concession for Muslims when facing difficult situations in performing religious duties. It seeks to eliminate the difficulties faced by individuals or communities by providing facilitative religious positions which enables Muslims to perform their religious precepts and obligations within any limitations or challenges they face.[10]

9. Based on textual sources, religious scholars have discussed a number of situations that would allow an individual to be excused from performing Friday and congregational prayers. Among them, is the concession given to not attend Friday prayers during heavy rain as reported by Imam Bukhari and Muslim, that Abdullah bin Abbas r.a. ordered the one making the call to prayer to add the following line in the call for prayers. صلوا في بيوتكم (Pray in your own homes). Ibn Abbas r.a. said: [11]

فقال ابن عباس : أَتَعْجَبُونَ مِن ذَلِك!  لَقَدْ فَعَلَ ذَلِكَ مَنْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِنِّي، إِنَّ الجُمْعَةَ عَزْمَةً، وَإِنِّي كَرِهْتُ أَنْ أُخْرِجَكُم فَتَمْشُوا فِي الطَّينَ وَالدَّحَضِ.

Meaning: “Ibn Abbas said: Are you surprised with this statement! It has been done by someone more noble than me (that is Rasulullah s.a.w.). The Friday prayers is an obligation but I do not like to order you to go out and attend prayers while walking on wet earth and mud.

10. Imam Al-Nawawī detailed in al-Majmū’ that there are several factors that can lead to the concession to suspend congregational prayers, be they the five daily prayers or the supererogatory ones:

(أما حكم المسألة) فقال أصحابنا : تسقط الجماعة بالأعذار سواء قلنا إنها سنة أم فرض كفاية أم فرض عين

Meaning: “(With regard to this issue) Our fellow scholars (the Shafi’is) have opined that: Congregational prayers can become non-obligatory due to legal exceptions. This includes supererogatory prayers, communal or individual obligations… (fardu kifayah or fardu ain) [12]

11. He further mentioned that the same religious excuse which render congregational prayers non-obligatory can also be applied for Friday prayers:

من الأعذار المرخصة في ترك الجماعة، يرخص في ترك الجمعة

Meaning: “The religiously valid excuses that can render congregational prayers non-obligatory can also be accepted as valid excuses to not attend Friday prayers.”[13]

12. Thus, if there are valid reasons such as a Muslim who has contracted an infectious disease, then he is permitted to not attend Friday prayers. But, he has to offer Zuhur prayers in its place.

III) The role of maqāṣid in providing religious guidance for emergency situations such as during a disease outbreak

13. Islam places a high importance on human safety especially in situations that can adversely affect and threaten our lives. Islam has set some specific guidelines for dealing with emergencies such as a disease outbreak. This emergency situation allows individuals, and the public, to take certain precautions as provided by the following Islamic legal maxim:

الضرورة تبيح المحظورات

Meaning: “Emergencies permit the unlawful.

14. When there is a clash between a benefit (maslahah) and a harm (mafsadah), avoiding the harm (mafsadah) is prioritized.[14] If a harm is left unchecked, it will leave a lasting negative impact compared to when a benefit is avoided. This is in line with the Prophetic saying on avoiding any forms of harm and to not harm others:

لاَ ضَرَرَ وَلاَ ضِرَارَ

Meaning: “Let there be no harm and no reciprocation of harm.” (Hadith reported by Ibn Majah).[15]

15. The same follows for the Islamic legal maxim: الضرر يزال  (harm must be eliminated) that has been agreed upon by Muslim religious scholars as one of the five main legal maxims in deriving Islamic rulings. The legal maxim  المشقة تجلب التيسير  (hardship begets facility) also means that in Islam, any forms of hardship, even if it does not threaten lives, will allow for flexibilities in performing religious duties. Thus, although the Covid-19 virus is not shown to affect the whole population of a country or to certainly cause deaths to those infected, this disease is still considered an emergency as its implications are feared and causing anxiety within the society. 

16. Islam also allows relevant authorities to implement precautionary and preventive measures to safeguard the individual and societal well-being. Any form of advisories issued by the healthcare authorities must be observed by all. This is in line with the Islamic principle:

تصرف الإمام على الرعية منوط بالمصلحة

Meaning: “A leader's decision is based on the welfare of his people.”[16]

17. Taking precautionary and preventive measures to avoid being infected by any diseases is also highly important as it is in line with the Islamic principle of preserving one’s life. Furthermore, Islam emphasizes the necessity for those who are unwell to seek medical advice and undergo necessary treatments, based on the Islamic legal maxim known as Sadd al-Zara'i'.[17]

18. The Prophet s.a.w. used to instruct those who are well to avoid coming into close contact with individuals who have been afflicted by infectious diseases. This has been used as a basis by Muslim scholars to conclude that taking precautionary and preventive measures are better than having to seek cure or undergo treatment.

FATWA DECISION

19. Based upon the religious textual sources and principles above, the Fatwa Committee is of the opinion that mosques’ management has the religious duty to request or prohibit any unwell congregants from entering the mosque area, whether for performing prayers or other matters. This is because their presence may cause the transmission of the virus and harm to mosques and the community. The general well-being of mosque congregants should be safeguarded.

20. The Fatwa Committee is also of the opinion that if there is a wider spread of the Covid-19 virus and the situation becomes more critical which would require the closure of public places, including houses of worship such as mosques, or if there is a need for public access to public places such as mosques to be restricted, this will be considered as an emergency situation. Accordingly, the Fatwa Committee is of the view that the closing of a mosque or the suspension of congregational prayers and Friday prayers during this situation, is required.[18]

21. The Fatwa Committee also advises the Muslim community of Singapore, to strengthen our faith in these difficult times and to increase in prayers and supplications to Allah s.w.t, in addition to taking every necessary preventive measures to contain this Covid-19 situation. The Muslim community must remain united with all Singaporeans and partake in the shared responsibility of safeguarding our welfare.

والله أعلم ، وبالله التوفيق ، وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه وسلم.

 

 

DR MOHAMED FATRIS BIN BAKARAM
CHAIRMAN, FATWA (LEGAL) COMMITTEE
MUFTI OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS COUNCIL OF SINGAPORE

 

 

 



[1] Chaolin Huang et. al, “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China” in The Lancet Journal, vol. 395, published 24 January 2020, p. 499.

[2] Channel News Asia, “Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus”, 23 January 2020. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/wuhan-virus-pneumonia-singapore-confirms-first-case-12312860

[3] Channel News Asia, “Coronavirus outbreak: Singapore raises DORSCON level to Orange; schools to suspend inter-school, external activities”, 7 February 2020. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/wuhan-coronavirus-dorscon-orange-singapore-risk-assessment-12405180

[4] Ministry of Health, “Advisory for Large-Scale Events Amidst the Novel Coronavirus Situation”, 8 February 2020.  https://www.moh.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider5/default-document-library/advisory-for-large-scale-events-amidst-the-novel-coronavirus-situation-(8-feb-2020).pdf

[5] The Straits times, 'Crazy Auntie' and Secretive Church at Heart of Spike of Coronavirus Cases in South Korea”, 23 February 2020.  https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/crazy-auntie-and-secretive-church-at-heart-of-spike-in-s-korea

[6] Channel News Asia, COVID-19: Catholic Church Suspends Mass; Other Religious Groups Turn to Live streaming, Among Other Measures”, 14 February 2020.  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/covid-19-outbreak-coronavirus-catholic-church-religion-singapore-12435882

[7] Al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, hadith no. 5771; See also, Al-Naysabūrī, Muslim bin al-Ḥajjāj, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, hadith no. 2221.

[8] Al-Naysabūrī, Muslim bin al-Ḥajjāj, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, hadith no. 2219.

[9] Even though there are other prophetic sayings that mentioned the Prophet s.a.w sitting and eating with others who were infected with leprosy, which is a contagious disease, Imam al-Nawawī explained that there is a need to read and understand the prophetic sayings holistically and to not view them from only one aspect. He therefore opines despite these two hadiths which are seemingly contradictory, the preferred position is that because Islam urges its followers to take necessary precautions in facing epidemic situations, they should as far as possible avoid coming into contact with those infected with infectious disease. Please see: Muslim bin al-Ḥajjāj, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, hadith no. 2231; Al-Nawawī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim bi Syarḥ Muslim, Vol 14, p. 327.  We need to be able to differentiate in facing situations of contagious diseases such as leprosy, mentioned in the prophetic saying and other contagious diseases that can reach an epidemic level such as the Ta’un epidemic mentioned in other prophetic sayings.

[10] Al-Shāṭibī, Al-Muwāfaqāt, Vol 1, pp. 477 – 478.

[11] Al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, hadith no. 901; See also, Al-Naysabūrī, Muslim bin al-Ḥajjāj, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, hadith no. 699.

[12] Al-Nawawī, Al-Majmū’, Vol 4, p. 98.

[13] Al-Nawawī, Rauḍah Al-Ṭālibīn, Vol 1, p. 146.

[14] Al-Zarqā, Musṭafā, Sharḥ al-Qawā’id al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 205.

[15] Ibn Mājah, Sunan Ibn Mājah, hadith no. 2341.

[16] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Ashbāh wa al-Naẓā’ir fī Qawā‘id wa Furū’ Fiqh al-Shāfi‘iyyah, p.121.

[17] Sadd al-Zarā’i’: refers to blocking the means. It entails forbidding or blocking a lawful action because it could be means that lead to unlawful actions. Al-Qarāfī, al-Furūq, vol 2, pp. 32-33.

[18] The Haram Mosque has once been closed in 1979 as a result of terrorist acts carried out in the mosque by Juhaymān al-‘Utaybī and his followers. During that period, all obligational forms of worship and activities were temporarily suspended out of necessity. Please see: al-Sharq al-Awsaṭ, “al-Ṣolāt fi al-Masjid al-Harām Ghadan”, 5 December 1979.