Friday prayers have been an essential praying experience for Muslims. Every Friday, able-bodied Muslim men perform the obligatory prayer known locally as Solat Jumaat at mosques. This practice, however, has not been possible the past three months, due to closure of mosques around the world, including Singapore.
Mosques in Singapore were previously closed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. While Muslims anticipate the reopening of our mosques, it is important that we remain careful in preserving the sanctity of mosques and the wellbeing of our community. We are not completely free from virus yet.
Therefore, in preventing our sacred spaces from being potential hotspots for people who come to pray to get infected, and lead to more possible community spread, our religious authority, guided by our Mufti, are carefully reopening mosques with safety measures in place to allow congregants to return to mosques.
As we are in this period of a major public health crisis, there is a need for us to adjust our religious practices in accordance to Islamic legal paradigm. Islam is indeed a religion of mercy that provides fulfilment for the believer in all conditions. Allah s.w.t mentions in the Quran:
يُريدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ اليُسرَ وَلا يُريدُ بِكُمُ العُسرَ
"Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship"
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
As some Muslims are anxious that we will have to miss more than 3 Friday prayers consecutively, here are some guidelines and clarifications that we hope can bring ease to your hearts:
Our scholars have constantly reminded us to equip ourselves with knowledge and in this case, we can find out what are the valid excuses from performing Friday prayers. If the excuse is legitimately accepted within the Islamic rulings, a person will not only be excused from Friday prayers but he will also attain the very same reward, as though he is attending a Friday prayer. The Prophet s.a.w. said:
إِذَا مَرِضَ الْعَبْدُ أَوْ سَافَرَ كُتِبَ لَهُ مِثْلُ مَا كَانَ يَعْمَلُ مُقِيمًا صَحِيحًا
“If a servant falls ill or travels, he will be rewarded equal to his good deeds when done in good health or in residence.”
This hadith tells us that a person under these unfortunate circumstances is given the same reward as in their normal conditions.
In his book Taqrirat As-Sadidat, Al-Habib Hassan Alkaff concludes that there needs to be the following set of conditions to be given the mentioned reward:
The excuse must be legitimate according to the Islamic rulings
The act of worship must be part of a person’s normal routine. The least is to have performed that act of worship previously once.
The person is not taking advantage of this concession by turning it into a normal routine.
It must not lead to dismissing the Friday or congregational prayer at the mosque for establishing a congregational prayer at home. This is subject to the condition where it is accessible to pray at mosques.
The Prophet s.a.w. laid down two valid excuses for not participating in a routine act of worship - travelling and falling ill. There are however various other conditions that may render one to be religiously excused from performing the Friday prayer. Here are some of them, that can be found in authorised classical books such as Minhāj At-Tālibīn by Al-Imam An-Nawawi:
Rain. If a person gets wet and there are no shelters to the mosque.
Intense coldness or heat.
Illnesses that make it difficult for the person to attend.
The existence of something harmful in the journey. This could be a muddy path, a broken lift and staircase or a pandemic that could easily infect others.
Fearing for himself, or his wealth or his property. Here, we can see that even when something harmful that has not been actualised but is precautioned, it is already considered as a legitimate excuse.
There are other excuses that are not necessarily in the mentioned list but threaten the five main objectives of the Shari’ah (Maqasid al-Shariah). They are the preservation of Faith, Life, Intellect, Lineage and Property.
The nature of this pandemic is even more alarming than the normal flu. Its symptoms can remain hidden without the person knowing that she or he has been infected with the disease. Although some experts have reminded us to monitor our health and track certain symptoms, it is still challenging to counter this disease.
We praise Allah s.w.t. for allowing us to yet again pray the Friday prayers with its recommencement on the 25th of June. Yet, due to the safety measures and limitations in space, only some of the community members are allowed to join the prayer upon registration.
Some of us might wonder, now that the Friday prayers have started to be conducted again, what about those who didn't get the opportunity to register? Will they bear the judgement of missing a Friday prayer on purpose?
The local Fatwa Committee, led by our Mufti, has clarified for us in the most recent fatwa regarding Friday prayers, which concludes the following groups of people to be exempted from performing the Friday prayers, being:
1. The elderly
2. Those who have existing chronic conditions
3. Those who are worried that they might contract the virus and hence expose their family members with the possibility of contracting the virus too
4. Those who have tried booking a slot to perform Friday prayers, but are unable to secure a place
The mentioned groups of people are considered to be given rukhsah (concession) to not perform the Friday prayers in the current situation. What is compulsory for them is to pray the Zuhur prayer instead.
When we pray the obligatory prayer of Zuhur in our homes and avoid the possibility of circulating the disease, we can be rewarded as if we have prayed Friday prayers in the normal circumstances.
Now that the ruling regarding Friday prayers is established, some Muslims wonder if this is in contradiction with the hadith by the Prophet s.a.w:
مَنْ تَرَكَ ثَلَاثَ جُمَعٍ تَهَاوُنًا بِهَا طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قَلْبِهِ
"Whosoever misses three Jumu’ah (Friday) prayers by taking it lightly, Allah will seal his heart."
In other words, Allah s.w.t will block the person’s heart from receiving guidance. May Allah s.w.t protect us from such afflictions.
There seem to be some misconceptions that have caused fear and anxiety about the closing of mosques and the inability to perform the Friday prayers. Some concerns have been raised on whether this would lead to our hearts from being sealed from receiving guidance. Our Mufti Dr Nazirudin Nasir has clarified on this matter. He explained that, in another narration of the same hadith, the Prophet s.a.w. mentioned:
مَنْ تَرَكَ الْجُمُعَةَ ثَلَاثًا مِنْ غَيْر ضَرُورَةٍ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قَلْبِهِ
“Whosoever misses three Jumu’ah prayers without a valid necessity, Allah will seal his heart.”
(Sunan Ibn Maajah)
This narration of the hadith clarified that it applies only to those missing the Friday prayers without any valid necessity.
In our current circumstances, however, the inability to perform the Friday prayers is due to a legitimate reason that is recognised by our faith. Therefore, it does not fall under this hadith where those who are sealed from guidance for intentionally missing the Friday prayers without any valid reason or for taking the obligatory act lightly.
You may also watch the explanation given by Mufti Dr Nazirudin here.
In striving to fulfil our religious duties, some, unfortunately, see these duties as completely detached from other duties such as social responsibility. We can find many examples from the Prophetic tradition that show us that being socially responsible is part of our religious duty.
One such is the hadith of the Prophet s.a.w,
لَا ضَرَرَ وَلَا ضِرَارَ
“There should neither be harming (darar) nor be reciprocating harm (dirar).”
(Sunan Ibn Majah).
Each and every one of us will be accounted for according to our respective capacities. None of us should cause or return harm to others. Our Mufti Dr Nazirudin reminded us that indeed, social responsibility is a religious responsibility. Therefore, we should not associate God’s name with irresponsible acts that will harm one’s life and the life of others.
Islam also teaches us to respect human dignity and this includes taking care the self as well. This is why it is important for us to take the right measures as advised by scholars and experts in the field. Allah s.w.t. mentioned in the Quran:
وَلا تُلقوا بِأَيديكُم إِلَى التَّهلُكَةِ ۛ وَأَحسِنوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ المُحسِنينَ
“Do not contribute to your destruction with your own hands, but do good, for God loves those who do good.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah: 195)
Our religious duties are holistic in nature and are not detached from social realities as well. In fact, being religiously dutiful also necessitates one to be a responsible person. We are therefore encouraged to think of the consequences of our actions no matter how good and pure our intentions may seemingly be.
Dr Ali Gomaa, a senior Egyptian scholar, reminded us to “Worship Allah s.w.t according to how He wants, not according to our desires”.
If we feel the longing of performing our prayers at the mosques, indeed our heart is close to the House of Allah. However, let us not despair and lift ourselves up as Allah s.w.t. has promised us that He is indeed near to us.
We may be unable to reach the doors of the mosques, but we know the doors to attain Allah’s mercy and forgiveness are wide open for His servants. Let us use this moment to enliven the spirit of our masjid in our homes. Make our home, our masjid, such that we brighten it with the light of worship and submission. Let us strive to continue seeking Allah’s pleasure and pray that may this pandemic be over and our mosques will open once again for us, Amin. Do not be despair, Allah is with us.