A translation of the European Council of Moroccan Scholars' explanatory announcement and clarification regarding reopening of mosques in Europe at the present time:
Alhamdulillah and peace and prayers upon the Messenger of Allah, his companions, and those who follow him.
With the announcement of gradual lifting or curbing of quarantine (depending on the area), the council has received many questions regarding opening the masjids and Islamic centers in Europe, or the resumption of jum3ah (Friday) or jama3ah (congregational) prayers either in a gradual or alternating way, with complex rules and strict conditions. This compelled us to study the situation through a maqsad-based (purpose-based) fiqh that is deliberate, complete and removed from emotions and whims – culminating in this announcement. And upon Allah we depend and His support we seek.
It is well known to most everyone that there have been fatwas issued by many accredited fatwa organizations throughout the Islamic world on the necessity of closing the masjids to prevent the spread of disease, and Muslims have complied with the rulings that were issued in this regard without disagreeing or arguing. We, the Muslims of Europe, are not an exception, and we are not more caring about establishing the congregational prayers (Jum3ah and daily prayers) than everyone else. Therefore, it is our view that we remain as we are right now until Allah wills respite and the masjids can be opened to all who frequent it… rejecting all partial solutions and random rules which do not prevent the spread of the disease (per empirical findings and experience).
These partial solutions will cause people to pray without serenity and peace, rather each person will be afraid of the person next to him (or her) and we will lose our spirit of harmony, unity and closeness in the rows of prayer. In fact, our prayers in such conditions are closer to the prayers of “salatul Khawf” (the Prayer of Fear) as outlined in fiqh books. The imam, as he prepares people for prayers may have to replace the common words of “draw near to each other, or fill the gaps, or line up in rows” with newly minted words such as “keep your distance, or stay separate, etc.” This will only add to the anxiety of congregates and keep them preoccupied with this thought rather than achieving secure prayers with serenity and peace in deference to Allah. This, amidst the scene of masks and gloves, hand sanitizers, being required to enter from one door and exit from the other, no handshaking, hugging, chatting or socializing before or after the prayers, fearing every person who may sneeze or cough (even those with allergies), bringing personal rugs and napkins, and continuous disinfection and sanitation. Most imams and Islamic center administrators know very well that all these rules and conditions are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fully implement and enforce.
Additionally, the possibility that an asymptomatic carrier may attend the congregation – and whether he was unknowingly infected or concealing it so he is not treated like an infected case, will open the door to arguing, fighting, disputing, anger and fitnah.
This form of congregational prayers, even though may have been ruled acceptable by scholars that we respect and appreciate, does not beget the serenity that is purposefully sought in the prayers. In fact, it may beget problems and disagreement beyond which we (and most other congregates) can handle.
If the Muslims in Europe knew how much they gain from being patient by praying in their homes they would not rush, improvise, or load themselves with this burden only to please some enthusiasts or in response to the speech of some preachers etc. forgetting God's speech when he says, "And when there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear they divulge it. If they had only referred it to the Apostle or to those charged with authority among them the proper investigators would have tested it from them (direct)." Al-Nisaa 4:83
One of the critical fiqh principles that is applicable in this situation is “repelling harm takes precedence over acquiring benefit”. This is a critical principle in fiqh that is always used to prioritize conflicting issues. Shariah gives more weight to that which is prohibited than that which is mandated, to the contrary of what many religious people believe. Observant people, exposing themselves and other people to the harm that is most likely to happen is something that is unconditionally prohibited i.e. not based on “ability”. On the other hand, congregational prayers are commanded and encouraged based on “ability” for Allah subhanahu wa ta3aala says “Observe Allah all you can”. The prophet Sallahu 3alyhi wasallam said “What I commanded you with then do as much as you can and what I prohibited you from then avoid”.
Also, we know from WHO and trusted medical professional that enclosed places with more people than space and ventilation are more likely to spread the disease. Most masjids fit that profile (and the exception is no basis for general rulings) thus it is important to seek preservation of life and prevent the potential spread of the disease which will harm the congregates and return us to square one.
In the past, Hajj was “suspended” for the people of west Africa and Andalus by fatwas of many local scholars including “Ibn Rushd”. These rulings were intended to protect people from road gangs on land and pirates in the sea and were in effect for almost 80 years.
Opening up for daily congregational prayers before Friday congregation in this “rush to open” requires us to pause. Fiqh rule indicates that if something higher in importance is suspended, then that which is lesser (but is objectively similar) is suspended as well. Therefore, if Friday congregation (a commanded fard) is suspended per multiple top scholars then that applies even more so for daily congregation.
Medical consensus is that the virus still remains in circulation. One must be cautious since being inflicted by it is harmful, possibly even fatal especially for the elderly and those with other underlying chronic diseases… many of whom frequent the masjid the most, especially during daily congregation.
Therefore, we should patiently wait the return of a secure environment for masjid congregation and follow the example of millions of Muslims across the world who have accepted Allah’s license and avoided argument and exposing themselves and others to harm. We ask Allah that this safe and secure environment comes soon.