The concern and the fear are not for our current situation rather the fear is for our nearest future. This becomes clear for whosoever understands and reflects over the nations that were infected with epidemics and the effects it left behind. Certainly, in such, there are lessons for men of understanding.
The worst of evil is not concealed in the pandemic itself but it concealed in the aftermaths and effects it left behind ranging from anxiety, restlessness, death of hundreds, thousands or even millions of people among tribes and clans, disarray in the economy which leads to hunger and starvation and eventually loss of lives. If schools and institutions are inactive for a very long period of time and private and government sectors are lockdown and the nation’s resources and revenue stopped to flow, how would the government, companies and factories be able to pay the employees’ salary and labourers’ wages? How would livelihood not be threatened? How would the whole life not be in mess and threatened by prevalent theft, rubbery and unjustified killing! This had happened to both righteous and vicious people in the past, thus, it is neither imagination nor a muddled dream.
Poverty has started stretching its neck as we have heard companies and factories, among those countries affected with coronavirus, professing their inability to pay their workers’ salary. Some of them promised to pay half salary until situations become improved and stable. This is happening in developed or advanced nations. What do you think will happen if our country’s condition (Nigeria) reaches that of those countries and our country is known with backwardness in terms of standard of living, oppression, poverty, lack of necessary care for the poor who represent the vast majority of the population?
Furthermore, whoever had witnessed war and its aftermaths will never anticipate its outbreak. Instead, he will do everything humanly possible to extinguish its outbreak whenever he sees its neck stretching. Epidemic or pandemic is not like war but both share some characteristics based on many similar outcomes they have in common. Just the way war leads to death of thousands, disorganization of activities, commotion and hunger, pandemic also leaves the same effects behind and sometimes even more. Whoever is interested in knowing more about how epidemics and plagues turned some states into destruction and some towns into deserts and how they spare not righteous and evil perpetrators in some communities etc., should go through some paragraphs of Albidayat wa-nnihayah by ibn kathir, al-Mudhish by ibn Al-jawzy, Bazlu al-maa’un fi fadl al-ta’un by ibn Hajar Al-asqalany, Qissatu al-‘aduwwi alladud ‘ala marri al-azmaan wa-al’uwud by Abu Furaihan.
It is my hope that we look at our current situation from this perspective because the past remains the best predictor of future as it is said.
SO AS NOT TO MAKE OUR RECKONING DIFFICULT DUE TO OUR CONDUCT AND SLUGGISHNESS
How would an imam, a speaker or a preacher (Da’i) feel secure from Allah’s punishment if pandemic of COVID-19 penetrates into the mosques as a result of his negligence? How would he stand before Allah (SAW) on the Day of Judgment if mosques become centres of viruses as a result of his silence and negligence? The Prophet(P) said “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock” Allah (SAW) says: “whoever killed a soul, except for a soul slain, or for sedition in the earth it should be considered as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved it should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind”. Surely whoever ponders over the penalty of killing a soul in our
Shariah (Islamic law) and also reflects on the blood money and expiation bounding prescribed on whoever killed (a soul) mistakenly will understand the magnitude of a soul and that it is one of those major essentials that must be safeguarded in Islam without any negligence. Protection of religion, which is one of the major essentials, will only be achieved if life is safeguarded, even though protection of religion, in hierarchy, precedes protection of life according to intellectuals and professionals (i.e., scholars of Islam).
A good observer and follower of the ongoing efforts of most of our political leaders concerning COVID-19 will be very saddened for negligence and sluggishness he will observe in their efforts towards preventing the spread of coronavirus despite the assertion of the Director-General of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) few days ago that we will witness increased cases of infections these days!
Of course, our leadership took some preventive measures like stopping people from observing Friday prayer (Jumaat) and church services for the common good of the masses. They also stopped people from going out within the framework of specified hours in other to prevent the outbreak of the pandemic, but at the same time, they didn’t stop people’s movement between the infected and non-infected states. During this lockdown, our markets even become so populated and terribly choked. Sitting arrangement in public transit remains the way it was before COVID-19 with no policy suggesting adjustment among others.
Are their efforts towards curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 real efforts?! This is indeed worrisome but worse than that is the stance of many Muslims including our scholars and preachers on this issue. We seem to have agreed with government decision on mosque’s closure for Jumu’at but our attitudes and actions show as if such a decision is a punishment imposed on us with no religious justification! The proof of this is what was observed last week where some of our Imams planned to observe Friday prayer claiming that there was no any registered case of COVID-19 in their states ignoring the following facts or realities:
a. The statistics providing us with the number of states with corona cases and those with no cases cannot be relied upon. This will be better understood if you know that majority of the states have not Testing Kits. This is the reason why some states where initially sending people with symptoms or those who had contact with returnees or suspects to the neighbourhood to carry out the test. The person referred for the test will travel and care not to mingle with people during his journey with the possibility of him being a carrier of the virus.
b. No suspension of Inter-state travels since day 1 of corona in the country until resent time in a few states.
c. It was established a few days ago that six of the suspects who were placed on quarantine escaped from isolation Centre and the government officials are still in search of them. I assert: even if all the six are eventually found, there is that possibility that they have interacted or mingled with many other people. This is indeed worrying and bothersome!
d. I was able to establish in an article of mine before this that at the onset of the issue it was reported that a person went to a hospital in his state for a test when he began to notice some symptoms of the virus but he was not attended to. Thus, he returned back to his house. If the person is a carrier of the virus, no doubt that he would have socialized with tens of people and these tens would have also intermixed with other tens of people. So, it will be difficult to differentiate between who is a carrier of the virus and who is not. The likes of this information are numerous.
After this revelation, can one say with any degree of certainty that a particular state in the country is free of the virus?!
This is the case of a person who believes that there is no justification for stopping people from going for Jumu’at prayer.
As for those who agreed to government decision to close down mosques for Friday prayer for the fear of the spread of the pandemic, they are still – or let me say we are still observing our five congregational prayers daily as we used to do. The classes we hold after some prayers still continue in some of our mosques even in cities where cases of infection are recorded. In otherworld, our five daily prayers are taking place and the use of mosques toilets and ablution areas are still on where people share kettles and the containers that are used to fetch water. The rows in prayer are still closely tight (i.e., shoulders to shoulders and heels to heels are observed). Neither soaps, water at the mosque entrance to be used for washing of hands, nor disinfectant (or hand sanitizers) are provided. The number of congregation in some mosques is around fifty or even more.
This to me is laughable for someone who claims that he is curtailing the spread of the pandemic. It’s like we agree to close our mosques in the face of the virus once in a week but we open them five times daily for six consecutive days!
MY SUGGESTION REGARDING THIS ISSUE:
I think we have two options regarding handling this issue if really we are truthful in our struggle to prevent the spread of pandemic:
Opening of mosques for observing five daily prayers on condition that the following protective measures are strictly adhered to in all prayers. viz;
a. To prevent people from entering the mosque premises until they wash their hands with soap and water or rub them with sanitizers.
b. To close water system in the mosques and request mosque members to perform ablution from their houses as water closet (or toilet), sharing of a kettle and the container for fetching water are some of the outlets in which virus could easily spread.
c. To avoid uniformity and joining of heels to heels and shoulder to shoulder on the basis of juristic preference. According to the majority of Muslim scholars, in a normal circumstance prayer is for sure not rendered invalid just because of distance or separation (between rows) though a person will be sinful. We are in the state of necessity and the maxim says: (Al-darurat tubihu Al-mahzurat) “Necessities make prohibitions permissible”.
d. Anyone who is showing any symptom of the infection should not be allowed into mosques until he is recovered.
e. To advice the elderly and the children to pray at their homes
f. To suspend handshake among the congregation and be contented with only the greeting of Salaam
g. To recommend the use of face mask
If we are able to keep to these measures, we are very sure that we have taken necessary preventive measures which I believe will prevent anybody from imposing complete lockdown of the mosques on us except the situation gets worse. This option will be useful and yield a positive result by Allah’s will in those areas or places where no case has been recorded yet.
Mosques should be locked and congregational prayers should be suspended in mosques during this critical period. This is based on the principle of blocking the means to evil or harm (Sad al-Dhari’ ah). Alternatively, the prayers should be called loudly while only the imams and the callers to prayers observe the prayers in the mosque in other to protect and glorify the rites of Allah “such (is his state): and whoever holds in honour the rites of Allah(in the sacrifice of animals), such honour should come truly from piety of heart”. This is the view of most of the scholars who gave verdict on stopping of the Jumuat and congregational prayers in a period of trial like this.
BLOCKING THE MEANS IS AN ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLE AMONG THE PRINCIPLES OF ISLAMIC LAW
Indeed, Sadd zari’ah (blocking the means) is the blocking of an opening through which evil, corruption, something discouraged might enter or prohibit what is permissible if it will most likely lead to prohibition. This is a basic principle in Islam to an extent that a prominent scholar Ibn Qayyim (may Allah have mercy onto him) said: the chapter of blocking the means is one-fourth of the obligation in Islam. Therefore, it is mandatory to give consideration to this principle among the other shariah principles without any slackness.
PIECES OF ADVICE TO OUR SCHOLARS, IMAMS AND THE PREACHERS
- It is compulsory on the scholars, the imam and those who invite others to do their best as far as this issue is a concern so that Allah bears witness that they did not help in the spread of this pandemic even if it eventually wiped out millions of people. By so doing, they have fulfilled the trust and discharged their responsibility and duty.
- It is mandatory on our scholar and imams to hasten up in taking a proper decision at the right time without any delay. For it is known that “delaying of explanation when it is needed is prohibited”. Thus, waiting for the government to dictate for us in everything we do whether small or big is dispraised and objectionable.
- It is mandatory on our scholars, imams and Du’at to quickly do the needful without waiting for somebody’s decision provided it is for the common good of the general public. Scholars are the inheritors (successors) of the prophets. They should know that they are not equal to the masses and that their significance is not below that of those in authority (rulers). Hence, Allah commanded In Quran that the people in authority be obeyed.
Allah says: “O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the prophet and those in authority among you…”. Those in authority are the scholars and the rulers based on the interpretation of some of the Mufassirun (exegetists).
- They should be good advisers and guide to the rulers whether they accept their advice or not. “if then they turn away, we have not sent you as a guard over them. Your duty is but to convey the message….”.
“And I do not wish to keep on contradicting you about what I forbade you to do. I only desire reform and improvement to the best of my ability and my success is only by Allah, in Him I have put my trust and unto Him, I direct my attention in prayer 
I pray Allah (SAW) to relieve us of this pandemic for He is capable of that. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon our noble Prophet, his household, his companions and those who follow his path till the Day of Judgment
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Written by: Ismail Abdulkadir
Assistant Director, Research and Training department, Da’wah Institute of Nigeria
Translated By Adam Abdulrahman
Researcher and Trainer, Da’wah Institute of Nigeria – Minna
 Quran 5:32
 Quran 17:32
 ‘ilaamul l-muwaqqi’in vol.4 p.189
 Quran 4:59
 Shurah 48
 Hud 88