Countries and communities around the world are working to contain COVID-19 and mitigate its effects. The following digest represents a variety of sources in which law, particularly Islamic law, was invoked in the decision making process.
- Bahrain’s Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim calls for the suspension of religious and social activities throughout the country.
- Iran cancels prayers ceremonies in provincial capitals for the third week since the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
- Malaysia’s Melaka government shortens the Friday sermon and urges the public to perform their ablutions at home, as preventive measures against COVID-19.
- Morocco‘s Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs cancels religious gatherings over fears of coronavirus.
- Pakistan‘s Mufti Taqi Usmani advises shortened prayers and limited handshakes.
- Saudi Arabia bans Umrah pilgrimage and suspends visas for foreigners.
- Singapore’s Islamic Religious Council of Singapore’s Fatwa Committee issues a fatwa to close all mosques throughout the country and suspend Friday prayer to contain COVID-19.
- Tajikistan suspends Friday prayers, despite the lack of reported coronavirus cases.
- Educators share best practices for online instruction amidst COVID-19 school closures:
- William W. Fisher, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard Law School, outlines teaching tips for academics unfamiliar with online teaching in his recent post “Emergency Online Pedagogy.”
- Aimi Hamraie, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, offers suggestions for accessible online teaching rooted in disability culture and community.
- Research institutions clarify their capacities at this time:
- The Library of Congress, including its Manuscript Division, is closed until April 1, 2020.
- The National Archives is closed, until further notice, 1) all research rooms nationwide, including those at Presidential Libraries, and 2) all museums, including those at Presidential Libraries.
- The Program in Islamic Law (PIL) at Harvard Law School, following Harvard University guidance, commits to live-streaming programming in lieu of in-person gatherings. PIL will continue their regular operations remotely, to the extent possible.
- Harvard University cancels Jumuah prayers for the remainder of the school year. Imam Dr. Khalil Abdur-Rashid, Harvard University Muslim Chaplain and Instructor of Muslim Studies, Harvard Divinity School, offers an analysis of this decision based on Islamic law:
In Islamic law, the Friday prayer is an obligation based on two components:
1.) The first is the Quran itself: “Believers! When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation, hurry towards the reminder of God and leave off your trading (work) – that is better for you, if only you knew – then when the prayer has ended, disperse in the land and seek out God’s bounty. Remember God often so that you may prosper.” (Quran 62:10)
2.) The second is local authority. This latter points rests on the fact that the gathering for the Friday prayer is a large, public event and therefore requires permission from the local authority, whatever form it takes. In a city, the local authority, is the office of city hall which issues permits authorizing the use of religious houses of worship and restricts the numbers of people allowed to occupy the space. On a university campus, the university administration itself serves as the local authority and therefore all authorization is granted by the central administration for Jumuah prayer.
In Islamic law, it is not permissible to suspend or cancel the Jumuah Prayers, UNLESS the local authority deems it appropriate because of expected harm or the risk of harm. In the event the local authority (in this case the university central administration) advises the suspension of gatherings for religious groups and the avoidance of large gatherings (25 people or more), then all leadership and management of religious groups must comply, and in this case, everyone should pray the dhuhr prayer, instead of the Jumuah Prayer, at home.