The Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF) today welcomed, reluctantly, the new lockdown in England, designed to keep down infection and death rates from Coronavirus. The BAME community is at high risk from Coronavirus, so the lockdown and the related government support for those not able to go to work or to school is welcome – and the MPF hopes it will be successful.
Government guidelines have permitted places of worship to remain open for worship. Despite this, the MPF calls on mosques to stop holding services which congregations can attend in person, but rather to broadcast them online.
The MPF took into consideration that one of the higher objectives of Islamic law is the preservation of the soul or self: in other words, to preserve people’s life on earth and their welfare.
Referring to Islamic law (Shari’ah), Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali has stated that, “The Shari’ah’s purposes of the creation are five: to preserve their religion, their souls, their mind, their offspring and their money.”
The Hadith narrated by Malik from Amr ibn Yahya al-Mazini from his father tells us that Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “There is no harm nor return of harm.” The meaning of this is that no one person should cause harm to another, and nor should they themselves be harmed. This Hadith is understood as establishing the objective of the preservation of the self.
The MPF’s support for Mosque closures came after a survey of members and supporters, the majority of whom believed that Mosques should prioritise keeping the community safe. MPF members respect the decision of the Muslim Council of Britain, which has advised Mosques to consider staying open while operating strict safety measures. However, those surveyed felt that the safety and wellbeing of worshippers and the Muslim community as a whole should be our priority at this time.
One senior community leader said, “My personal opinion is that Mosques should close down [to the public] immediately. To look at the wider interests of our community is essential. We have the highest rate of both infections and fatalities.”
One accountant said, “Schools are closed, weekend Quran [classes] are closed. Offices are closed. But I do worry that my husband goes to Jumma. And I have seen the lack of social distancing outside Mosques in Tower Hamlets. I personally would like it if my husband didn’t go, as there are many hospitalised and in a critical condition in our community.”
One MPF member said that saving lives is the priority, while another commented that as we are so close to a solution (the vaccination programme), Mosques should close for what will be a finite period to bring down the peak of infection.
Some members quoted religious authorities, with one saying that the Prophet Muhammad pbuh also referred to staying safe, while another member said that Muslims are excused from attending the Mosque if they do not feel it is safe to go there and should pray somewhere else.
Muslim Professionals Forum Chair, Cllr Khaled Noor, said:
“The virus poses a severe threat to the Muslim community – and the new strain only makes matters worse. It is important that we keep everyone safe, and that is why we call on Mosques not to hold prayers for the public to attend, but to broadcast prayers online. Renewing our spiritual wellbeing on a daily or weekly basis is an important part of giving us the resolve to observe the lockdown, but the safest way to do this is online. The community can then remain at home but still experience the solace of joining their community in prayer.
“There is a great appreciation among MPF members for the work of NHS staff (many of whom are Muslims themselves): not only are they working hard to look after the sick, but often they are putting themselves at risk to do so. We should play our part in thanking them: that includes staying at home and not going to the Mosque in person. We urge all members of the Muslim community to keep themselves – and everyone else – safe.”