8 December 2023

The restrictive measures placed on mosques in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has sparked fierce debate, writes an Al-Qalam Reporter.

Muslims are torn apart as hundreds of masajid across the country have taken the heart-rending decision to shut its doors indefinitely or to suspend jumu’ah salah or continue with five daily salah under restrictive conditions.

Mosque leaders believe their drastic, yet necessary, preventative actions will be beneficial for the health of musalees before the blessed month of Ramadan.

In most of the Muslim world – including in Makkah, Madina and at Masjid Al-Aqsa, mosques have shut its doors indefinitely with announcements for citizens to pray at home until the dreaded coronvirus pandemic has abated.

In Durban, one of the largest mosques in the southern hemisphere, the historic Grey Street Juma masjid, has officially closed its doors “until further notice”. Trustee of the mosque, AV Mohammed, told a shocked congregation that “this masjid is out of bounds” for all salah including jumu’ah and big nights. He said it was important to heed the call of the government to prevent coronovirus health risks in the country.

However, the temporary lockdown of some masajid have sparked fierce online debate and criticisms. Those masajids that have decided to take extreme preventative measures to keep out the general public will nonetheless continue with five daily azaan with a message at the end for musalees to pray at home. Salah within its confines will continue to take place – but only by a few caretaker musalees.

Mosque leaders

But well-know Islamic scholar, Mufti A.K. Hoosen, cited a fatwa saying it was not permissible to close our masajid.

He said it was shocking that certain mosque leaders had given directives for musalees not come to their masajid for jumu’ah salah.

The Jamiatul-Ulama South Africa and the Sunni Jamiatul Ulama have provided guidelines for musalees on measures that can be taken to prevent coronovirus contamination in mosques.

In a statement, the Ulama of the Islamic Lifestyle Solutions stated that the Coronavirus pandemic in South Africa has “presented many challenges to us as an Ummah and Ulama, especially in matters of Fiqhi rulings concerning Salaah, Salaatul Janaazah etc.”

“All Ulema bodies and Islamic organizations have the best intentions to maintain Shar’ee Ahkaam and to further comply to the law of the land.

“You may feel let down by certain Masaajid who have closed their doors to the public entirely. You may be upset with some Masaajid who perpetuate the possible spread of the virus due to the performance of second or third Jamaat even. “You may feel that Ulama are stagnant, or not understanding of the dire consequences of keeping Masaajid open etc.

“All of this proves that as an Ummah, we may not all agree about a certain matter but whatever our position may be, we all have the best interest of our Deen and Ummah. 

“Those who have closed the doors of relative Masaajid to the public have done so due to this being the best way forward in their opinion or based on their unique circumstances”. “It must be kept in mind however, Salaah will still take place in such Masaajid. The doors are merely closed or not open to public due to the possible fear of the virus spreading. 

“Those who have decided to have second and third Jamaat have also done so, as this is in the best interest of keeping the Sha’aair of Islam visible in their opinion. Both intentions are admirable, and how practical both are, remains to be seen, especially for Jumuah. 

“Remember, we are bound by time, and haste is from shaitaan. Let us not be hasty in passing judgement and being critical in this period of time. 

“This is a learning curve for all of us, not just in Fiqhi rulings but in patience, understanding and trust in our Ulama and Ummah. Therefore, do not be harsh on a person or entity who has adopted a position you may disagree with. These differing views are a blessing to the different mindsets in our Ummah.”

*Meanwhile, the KZN Annual Ijtima that was due to take place from April 11 to 13 at the Stromia Road ground in Parlock, has been postponed.

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