Hundreds of mosques around the UK remained open today for Jumu’ah prayers despite calls for them to shut due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Scores of mosques in Leicester, Lancashire, London, Birmingham, Luton and other parts of the country chose not to shut their doors and introduced restrictions instead, such as urging anyone who has coronavirus symptoms (constant cough or temperature) not come to the mosque at all.
One mosque in Manchester, Jameah Masjid E Noor, even announced a special Jama’ah for the over 50s.
Anti-closure scholars have justified their decision by emphasising the importance of Friday prayers in Islam, the lack of a government ban on mass gatherings, and the fact that general wider society has not shut down.
Earlier today Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, of the Islamic Council of Europe, reiterated that he categorically disagrees with the full closure of mosques on the grounds that “no one has the right whatsoever to control the Houses of Allah.”
In a fatwa he urged Muslims to try to perform Jumu’ah as much as they can, but if they cannot find a congregation to join then they should try to establish Jumu’ah wherever they can in homes or even in parks. And if they can’t then they must pray Dhuhr instead.
“It could be argued from a worldly perspective that gathering in the mosque for Jum’uah or daily prayers will add to the spread of the virus. While we take all proven precautions, we must remember Allāh is the one who causes means to reach their ends. We remember His ability over all things and His subjugating of the creation to us when we obey His commands and establish His glorification on the earth,” the fatwa said.
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Most mosques shut doors
However, over half the mosques around the country, if not more, closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. These included most of the biggest mosques in the country in major population centres.
Lancashire Council of Mosques also reversed its position last evening and is now calling for daily congregational and Friday prayers to be suspended to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Despite considerable opposition to their stance in a meeting last night they encouraged worshippers to pray at home. Worshippers were also told not to shake hands after prayers and to stop the use of the wudhu area.
A Council statement read: “We recognise how important Friday prayers are to the community, particularly at this difficult time for us all. However, our shared priority must be to keep people safe and give them the best possible advice on how to do this…
“Earlier this week, the Government issued advice on social distancing. This advice urges everyone to avoid large gatherings and also gatherings in smaller public places. It also recommends avoiding gatherings with friends and family. This advice is needed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and also to make sure our hospitals have the capacity they need to cope with the pandemic.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we strongly recommend, from a Public Health perspective, at this stage of the pandemic outbreak, that both daily and Friday congregational prayers and other significant gatherings such as madrassah, courses or lectures are suspended until further notice.”
However, it is not certain if individual mosques in Lancashire will abide by the Council’s advice or not.