An Islamic logic for canceling Juma, daily congregations, and weekend school

I teared up last Friday when a friend texted me “Juma Mubarak.” Juma, the Friday Prayer, is such a beautiful tradition--one that we grew up with--that missing it intentionally was incredibly painful. 

Many masjids have made the wise decision to cancel Juma salat and other congregational activities. Some, however, are still organizing and insisting on Juma Salat in Masjids.

This insistence is not supported by Islamic tradition, I believe. It is outright dangerous and will end up contributing to spreading this pandemic. I say this with full respect for Muslims who love praying together in masjid. But they cannot have more love for masjid and Juma than the Prophet. So let’s see what the Prophet would do.

Those scholars who insist on Juma in the time of this coronavirus pandemic are good people, but they are not medical experts. The Prophet, peace be upon him, consulted experts before making a decision. Once, however, he casually questioned a common farmers’ practice in Madinah, in which farmers would cross-pollinate date palm trees. So the people stopped that practice, and it resulted in low yield. When people informed him about it about it, he laid out the following principle: “If I tell you something related to Deen, religion, then you must follow it, but if I ask you to do something else in your affairs of this world, then consider that I am just a human being and it is my personal opinion” (Recorded by Sahih Muslim).

Here is our Islamic reasoning, explaining why we believe that those who have cancelled Juma prayers, daily congregational prayers, and weekend schools are wiser, scientifically correct, and more sound in their Islamic opinion:

  • Whereas Allah says saving one life is like saving all of humanity (Quran 5:32);
  • Whereas Allah tell not to put ourselves at risk of death (Quran 2:195);
  • Whereas the Prophet once on a rainy day inserted an announcement in Azan that people pray at home. When Prophet’s companion Abdullah Ibn Abbas narrated this on a Friday for people to pray at home, some Muslims disliked it, dismayed, he responded: “One who is better than me did that. Juma is obligatory, but I do not want to force you to walk in the mud and on slippery ground.” (Recorded by Sahih Bukhari);
  • Whereas the Prophet of Allah has asked us to tie the camel and then depend on God; 
  • Whereas protecting and saving human life is the first and foremost objective of Shari’ah. It takes precedent over all other objectives of Islamic faith as life is the basis of everything else.
  • Whereas early Islamic scholars in the past have cancelled Juma prayers when there is a storm or health risk for people; 
  • Whereas medical experts state that a person does not have to have symptoms to transmit the disease. So, who do not display symptoms might pass it on to others;
  • Whereas the coronavirus death rate among the elderly ranges from 10% to 18%;
  • Whereas scientific research has established that this virus remains harmful up to three hours in the air and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel;
  • Whereas the statistical models suggests that in a worse scenario more than a million Americans could die if the nation does not take swift action to stop its spread as quickly as possible;
  • Whereas containment of a pandemic through limiting human contact is the critical key to deal with the global problem;
  • Whereas medical experts are asking people to avoid crowded spaces and create human-to-human social distance;
  • Whereas we have already seen the dangerous impact of not cancelling religious events in Malaysia, where 243 cases of coronavirus (and 9 critically ill patients) have been linked to a mosque gathering;
  • Whereas an acute shortage of testing does not allow doctors to notice a community outbreak until it's too late;
  • Whereas there is no vaccine for this virus;
  • Whereas our government leaders are appealing to congregations to shut down and in some cases banning them;

We, therefore, appeal to all masjids to cancel Friday prayers, all congregational prayers (daily Jamaat), and all weekend schools until the situation improves.

Instead of Juma, offer zuhr prayers and take time to devote 30 minutes after or before zuhr salat for Quran reading, listening to an Islamic lecture or an online khutba, making extended dua for yourself and your neighbors, and doing zikr of Allah. Here is a link to alternate Islamic programs for Juma time.

If your masjid is not cancelling the Juma congregation and if you agree with the Islamic logic outlined above, I do not believe it is sinful for you to offer zuhr salat at home instead of Juma.

God, the Rahman and the Raheem, please forgive me if what I am saying is inaccurate.

May He protect us all, ya Hafeez, ya Lateef.

Allah knows the best.

(A personal note: I never flag my Islamic credentials, but since some people have questioned it, I share with you that I am a graduate of a darul uloom in Darse Nizami, where Mufti Wali Hasan Tonki, Grand Mufti of Pakistan, was also a teacher. I also have degrees of Maulavi, Maulavi Alim and Maulavi Fazil.)

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