Ruling on Social Distancing During the Prayer in Masjid During Covid-19?

Answered by Shaykh Abul ‘Ataa Ahmad Banaja (may Allah preserve him)


Oh Our brother Abul ‘Ataa, may Allaah preserve you, we have an urgent question:

The masjid will reopen soon, but the authorities have kept a condition upon the ones who are praying that they should maintain a distance of one metre between them. Hence, is it upon us to pray the Jumu’ah prayer and the other prayers in congregation or shall we pray in our homes as long as the matter is as such? Barakallahu feek.

Answer :

Rather, pray in the masajid. And that is because of the following reasons:

1) The distancing between the positions of the ones praying in the row does not affect establishing the prayer in congregation, because it (the distancing) has taken place out of compulsion, and not out of their choice. Then how can they be prohibited from it?!

2) The distancing between the ones who are praying in the rows in congregation in this form, does not take them out of being in congregation, not from the aspect of language, and this is clear, nor from the aspect of intellect, and this is more clear, nor from the aspect of legislation because they are still being led by one imam, but they have been separated by a space without having a choice.

3) This mas’ala is very close in analogy with mas’ala of the prayer in congregation if there was to be a separation between the rows without having a choice like a wall or a beam or a stream or a pathway, and these kind of separation is not considered (to invalidate the congregation) according to the majority of companions and those who followed them upon goodness, because there is no choice for them in it.

4) This is the opinion that is more closer to the foundations of the legislation that indicates acting in accordance to capability, for indeed no person shall have a burden laid on him greater than he can bear.

5) A Beneficial foundation; Imam Sa’di may Allaah have mercy upon him states in Al Qawāid(The foundations): “And he does a part of that which has been commanded, if it became difficult for him to do all of it”.

Which means, if a slave was to find it difficult upon him to act upon that which Allaah commanded him with, in the complete form in which it was legislated, then he tries to act upon it as per his capability. And this foundation here, is applicable in the case of the one who comes to the masjid and prays in the mentioned state, and not in case of the one who left it completely.

6) Prayer in congregation is legislated for many reasons, and from them are:

  • Uniting for the prayer (Achieved)
  • Meeting between the Muslims (Achieved)
  • Sending salutations upon one another (Achieved)
  • Inquiring about one another(Achieved)
  • Attending the gatherings of knowledge which usually follows the congregational prayers (Achieved)
  • Attaining the reward of walking to the masjid and returning from it.(Achieved)
  • Making the masajid live and not abandoning them(Achieved)
  • Making apparent the signs of Islam (Achieved)
  • Increasing in happiness of the Muslims(Achieved)
  • And other than that(Achieved)

So how can plenty of loss or harm that takes place in a set of order due to leaving off these affirmed virtues be delayed in order for one harm that which is built upon probability and not definite, i.e the issue of praying in single behind the row?!

7) We do not agree as it is, that the issue of ‘praying alone behind the row’ is applicable in this case, due to few reasons;

Firstly because he is definitely not ‘praying in single’ from the linguistic aspect. And if it is said that it falls into that category from the aspect of legislation, that’s not the case because he has been forced to do so, and
no person shall have a burden laid on him greater than he can bear.

Secondly, the hadeeth that states “There is no prayer for the one praying alone behind the row” according to the majority of scholars, it’s not applied for the one who is not compelled and does not have any excuse in it. This is the correct opinion according to Ibnu Taymiyyah, imaam Assa’di and Ibn Uthaymeen may Allaah grant them mercy.

And that’s why Ibn Uthaimeen, the Faqeeh of his era رحمه الله says:
“The one who forms a row behind the row by oneself following his imam, attains the virtue of prayer in congregation, even if he missed the position; but missing the position here, is with an excuse, i.e, there is no place for him in the row. So that which he is not capable of with regards to entering the row, he has been excused from it, and is obligated with what he is capable of, i.e, praying in congregation. And the legislative foundation (Keep your duty to Allaah and fear him as much as you can). So a person does that which he is capable of doing, and that which he is not capable of doing, he is not necessitated with it.”

Allaah knows best.

⁦Translated by: Abu Rayyan Abdullah Al Hindy -غفر الله له وهدى والديه-

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