Senior Islamic scholars who had previously resisted calls for mosques to be closed due to the coronavirus outbreak have now told worshippers to pray at home.
Senior Deobandi scholars and muftis from London, Bradford, Leicester, Bury, Blackburn, Lancaster, Dewsbury, Batley and Bolton issued a declaration saying everyone should stay at home and perform Salah at home.
However, to avoid a full mosque closure they said four or five healthy people should be chosen to look after the mosque, manage burials, and perform Salah with precautionary measures.
They had previously argued that mosques should remain open for congregational prayers with restrictions in place due to the importance of prayer in Islam, the lack of government orders to shut down, and the fact that wider society had yet to go into lockdown.
It is thought their influence had persuaded hundreds of UK mosques to remain open despite calls from within the Muslim community and without for mass gatherings to be prohibited.
Following the declaration many mosques announced they would close although it is thought that some still remain open.
The scholars declared: “After carefully considering the nature of this contagious and rapidly spreading virus and its impact on lives, together with the societal, religious and political implications, scholars agreed… In accordance with the Government and Public Health England guidelines, all Muslims and Citizens of the UK should adopt social distancing. Other precautionary measures, such as implementing hygiene and reducing travel, should also be taken.”
The declaration added: “A full Masjid closure should be avoided, unless the Government advises to do so… As the deadly virus has spread quickly and is easily passing from person to person, there is an urgent need to take further measures to stem the spread. Therefore, it would be justified to perform Salah in one’s own home. However, a limited group (four or five) of appropriately selected individuals should continue to undertake five times Adhan and Salah at the Masjid…
“In the interest of maintaining unity in the community and the gravity of the subject matter, everyone should respect each other’s opinions in this regard and should not belittle the opinions of others.”
Meanwhile, another influential Islamic scholar, Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, has also now changed position and recommended mosque closures.
Sheikh Haitham put his name to a declaration by the council of scholars, Wifaqul Ulama, which said there had been a fundamental shift in the past few days towards self-isolation and social distancing,” so Muslims should stay at home and should not emerge unless it is absolutely essential and necessary.
The statement said: “Due to the urgency, the need and strictness of the isolation, it is acknowledged that normal congregational activities within the Mosque cannot continue. Thus the advisory for the Mosque has been revised as follows:
“All Mosque activities including public congregations Salāh should be suspended until further notice. However, use the Radio transmitters or the Internet to continue to educate the British Muslim communities…
“We advise that due to isolation guidelines, a select few individuals should be designated to continue with congregational Fardh (obligatory) Salāh and Jumuāh (Friday) prayers in the Mosque. The minimum congregation requirement for Jumuāh (Friday) prayers is 4 adult (male) individuals i.e. Imām + 3 (others). Sunnāh and other non-obligatory prayers should be done at home. Those who are isolated at home should pray the Dhuhr Salāh on Friday instead of Jumuāh.”