Social distancing doesn’t invalidate prayers—Imam Abdul-Hamid

A Muslim scholar, Alhaji Mohammed Lamin Abdul-Hamid, has advised Muslims to observe the social distancing guidelines and wearing of the masks in the mosques, as part of the directives to check the spread of the COVID-19.

“It is important we reiterate that although closing the gap and standing shoulder to shoulder in the row is admirable, it is not a prerequisite for the validity of prayers,” Alhaji Abdul-Hamid stated.

Alhaji Abdul-Hamid, who is the Imam of Bilal Bun Rabah Mosque at New Fadama, a suburb of Accra, was delivering a sermon at last Friday(Jumah) congregational prayers.

He explained that, “If for some reasons the congregation decided to stand separately in their rows, their prayer is still considered valid,” adding that “the situation becomes even more compelling especially when the measures taken are aimed at preventing the spread of a pandemic such as the COVID-19.”

Alhaji Abdul-Hamid said according to the majority of Islamic scholars, straightening and standing shoulder to shoulder in rows during ‘salat’ was an emphasised Sunnah and not compulsory (wajib).

The sermon was delivered in the context of the easing of restrictions to allow for a congregation not exceeding 100 people and worshippers are expected to observe social distancing and other health protocols.

Shedding some light on the theory of Islamic jurisprudence, Alhaji Abdul-Hamid explained that the Qur’an contained words of God and a complete code of life that serves as a point of reference for the Muslims to resolve issues that confronted them.

“However, if the Qur’an does not touch on the subject matter confronting the Muslim community, we then turn to the Sunnah the second source of the Shariah which encompasses the sayings and actions attributed to the Holy Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).

“The Sunnah is very important because it comes to explain the details of what is stated generally in the Qur’an.”

Alhaji Abdul-Hamid further explained other sources of Shariah as the “Ijma,” which represented the consensus of opinion of Muslim jurists and the “Qiyas” which anchors on analogical reasoning.

“The covid-19 pandemic is a major test not only for our religion, but also for our logic and reasoning, whether our scholars will help save the sanctity of lives or put the entire community of faithful at risk,” Imam Abdul-Hamid opined.

“Since the emergence of the pandemic, councils of Muslim scholars across the Muslim world were able to respond swiftly to the deadly outbreak by coming out with ‘fatwas’ that encouraged Muslims to respect the rules of social distancing, regular washing of hands, wearing of protective face mask, and to suspend all communal mosque services and observe prayers indoors as per the recommendations of our health experts.

He said that was a rational precautionary measure taken by the governments and the Muslim leaders to save human lives, saying, “Saudi Arabia for instance since early March closed down the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina.”

“Other Muslim majority nations across the world called off communal prayers in the mosques and the call to prayer was modified, instead of the usual “come to prayer, come to salvation” the Muezzin says “pray in your homes,” he added.

Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: “If a person makes a ruling by applying his reasoning and he gets it correct, he will be given two rewards. If he makes a ruling based on ‘Ijtihad’ and he errs, he will have one reward,” Alhaji Abdul-Hamid said quoting from Bukhari and Muslim.

He said it was unfortunate that some mosques were not observing the rules of the social distancing in the name of faith, exposing the congregants and the entire community to serious risks.

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