Updated: April 25, 2020 12:56:56 pm
This year’s Ramzan or Ramadan has arrived as the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak. In this holiest Islamic month, Muslims fast during the day, share communal meals called iftar in the evening, and also essentially congregate for night prayers called tarawih.
Given the unprecedented times, scholars from across the world have, however, called on people to stay home and suspend outdoor tarawih to check the spread of Covid-19. Saudi Arabia has suspended pilgrimage and closed mosques in Mecca and Medina while stating that tarawih will take place without public attendance. In India, too, mosques have shut their doors and put Friday prayers as well as daily prayers on hold. Many have also changed the call to prayer or azaan to ask the faithful to pray at home.
As the month of fasting begins, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, one of the foremost Islamic scholars in the country and founder of Centre of Peace and Spirituality, International, advises Muslims to continue to offer tarawih prayers — albeit indoors, and not in mosques or any other congregations outside — as he emphasises that the Prophet would have practised the same.
What is tarawih? Is it mandatory to offer it in a congregation during Ramzan?
Tarawih refers to an additional ritual prayer performed every day in the month of Ramadan. These prayers are observed after the Isha’ prayer at night where a section of the Quran is recited. During the course of the month of Ramadan, the entire Quran is recited in the tarawih prayers. While tarawih prayers are optional (sunnah), they are strongly recommended during Ramadan because they become a source of deep reflection on the Quran and contemplating on its wisdom. The Quran should be read and understood in this month.
What is the alternative or best way to offer tarawih in the face of the coronavirus pandemic when social distancing is the key to check its spread?
The Quran is specially recited in month of Ramadan. As per a Hadith, however, congregational prayer for tarawih is not obligatory (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2010), hence it can be offered at home. Both men and women may choose to offer the tarawih prayers, either in congregation or individually.
Do we have examples from the time of the Prophet and his companions when they had offered prayers at home in extraordinary circumstances?
Islam is based on Nature. Islam and Nature are counterparts to each other. What is in an unwritten form in Nature is in written form in Islamic scriptures. A man came to Prophet Mohammad seeking some advice for his daily life. The Prophet said, “Consult your heart…” This means that every man has been endowed with reason and, therefore, he is in a position to make the right judgement, which will be as per the law of Nature.
During extraordinary circumstances, man’s reason is also extraordinarily awakened, which lets him assess what is right and what is not. In the current context, it is clear that social distancing is key to arresting the spread of this pandemic and in this scenario all preventive measures must be adhered to. In fact, there are several examples from the life of the Prophet and his companions, where given the extraordinary circumstances, they made a judgement which was most practically suited to the occasion.
There is a tradition which recounts how a change in the call of prayer was made during heavy rains. A companion of the Prophet, Abdullah ibn Abbas, said to the caller of the prayer (muezzin) to announce the following, “Perform prayer in your houses” instead of announcing “Perform prayer at the mosque.” (Sahih Muslim, 699)
Similarly, under the current circumstances when we are experiencing the Covid-19 crisis, it is very important for us to observe the requisite precautions outlined by the government and to avoid congregations of all kinds.
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How should Muslims observe Ramzan this year?
The Quran tells us that fasting is prescribed for you so that you may guard yourselves against evil (2:184). In the process, man should acknowledge his helplessness vis-à-vis God’s greatness.
The Prophet exclaimed about Ramadan: “Welcome to the one who purifies!” Ramadan is a process of rejuvenation of a believer. The main aim of fasting is to weaken a man’s dependence on material things and strengthen his spiritual resolve, so that he may enter the higher realms of piety.
While observing Ramadan during present times, Muslims must follow government directives in letter and spirit. According to a Hadith recorded in Sunan ibn Majah, the Prophet of Islam said about a believer that “he is one who does not reciprocate harm (2341). Muslims around the world should make this Ramadan an opportunity to stay fully indoors and engage in deep contemplation.
What is your advice to Muslims vis-a-vis congregational namaz in general and the Eid namaz in particular?
Namaz or prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. It can be observed at any place. According to a Hadith, “The whole Earth has been made a mosque.”
In current circumstances, it is the duty of Muslims to ensure the safety of all fellow human beings. One of the five basic goals or objectives of sharia is human safety from any harm. So my advice to Muslims is to stay indoors and use the opportunity to pray at home.
Ramadan and Eid are two different sides of the same coin. If Ramadan is spirituality, Eid is a kind of applied spirituality. The day of Eid begins with two units of congregational prayer, which is aimed at giving a spiritual direction to the festival of Eid. This year, however, given the special situation, Muslims should follow the wisdom from the following verse of the Quran: God does not wish to place any burden on you (5:6). It is, therefore, only obvious that Muslims should not throw themselves and others in harm’s way by joining any form of congregational prayers.
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