The British Board of Scholars & Imams

Author: admin

The cup is always half full… 

The cup is always half full… 

It was Sunday 12th of January 2020, as I recall sitting in my mother’s living room enjoying my weekly chats with her. The weather was mild and unusually for Bolton, dry too. Our conversation was pertaining to our annual Umrah trip at Easter time. During the conversation, I checked online and booked our tickets to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the Easter Holidays. This was incidentally around the time, when news of a virus spreading in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province was breaking out on news channels around the world. Who would have thought then, that this virus, known globally as Coronavirus or COVID 19, will not only overtake all other news on news channels, but also impact lives of nearly every individual of the global population. My flights have been cancelled by the airlines, Saudi Arabia has stopped all entry in to the country and major airports around the world have become deserted.

As I write this article (27/03/2020 at 9.05am), the current global figures of people contracting Coronavirus stands at 537,331 with 24,136 deaths. There are 11,658 people who have been diagnosed with this virus in the United Kingdom alone with 578 deaths (www.worldmeters.info). No doubt, whilst you’re reading this article, many more will have lost their lives.

As panic was beginning to set in, we witnessed people hoarding food and essentials from supermarkets from the beginning of March, till supermarkets introduced a modicum of control to this madness. Shelves were emptying at an alarming rate; people were panicking as never witnessed before and uncertainty from all directions gripped humanity.

Against economic prudence and frugality, global governments were being compelled to present aid packages for industries and employees. Rishi Sunak, the United Kingdom Chancellor to the Exchequer, has already pledged £330 billion of government-backed loans and guarantees owing to this now a global pandemic (http://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/uk-announces-massive-aid-package-for-coronavirus-hit-industries.html).

Job losses are and will be inevitable as our government, along with most other countries ordain a closure to industry, schools and all unnecessary human interaction. As the masses feel the impact caused by this virus, both physically and economically, it is inevitably going to breed anxiety, apprehension and mental distress amongst them. This is unavoidable. However, as believers, such life experiences should present moments of spiritual reflections and opportunities of turning towards our Lord too. The Prophet of Islam (peace and salutations upon him) himself endured unparalleled hardships and difficulties during his lifetime.

Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas (May the Lord be pleased with him) once asked the Prophet (peace and salutations upon him), “who is the most severely tested?”  The Prophet (peace and salutations upon him) answered, “The Prophets (salutations upon all of them), then those (in devotion to the Lord) most resembling the Prophets then those most resembling them. A man is tested according to (the strength and weakness of) his faith. If he is firm in his faith, his trial is intensified accordingly. If he is weak in his faith, his trial is lessened accordingly. These trials will remain consistent with a servant (of the Lord) till he becomes without sin.” (Tirmizi)

The current situation is dire. There is no denying this. The mortality rate, as estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) will be 3.4% from among all those affected by this virus. This is most certainly a cause for concern for mankind, but on the flip side to this, more than 96% of those infected with the Coronavirus will survive too.

We firmly believe, this is a temporal world; we have a prescribed time of life here. Sooner or later, according to the will of the Lord, we will transfer from this world to our eternal abode in the Hereafter. We have no choice in how long we remain in this world. There is a predetermined time for every nation. When their predetermined time comes, they will then not be able to move a moment back nor forward (Quran: 10:49). 

An Urdu poet, succinctly and eloquently describes our state of being in this world, he states,

Divine Decree ordained we leave the world, so let’s leave. We did not come into the world by our desire neither will we leave by our choice. If we were to be given the life span of khidr (a long life) be aware, death is still inevitable. No matter how long we remain her, it will always seem as we have just come and left straightaway.

Our only goal in life is to do the best we can and be the best we can be. …The One who created death and life so that He may test you; which one of you is best of deed (Quran: 67:2). Come what may the situation be, we must remain focused on how we conduct ourselves. We must place our trust in Him. Say, ‘Allah is sufficient for me. There is no deity except Him. I place my trust in Him, and He is the Lord of the Supreme Throne.’ (Quran: 10:129). 

Undoubtedly, there are a lot of pressures due to this unprecedented global situation. People are confronting all kinds of life pressures as I write. Mentalheath.org has provided some good tips on their website for looking after our mental health:

  • Avoid speculations and look up reputable sources of information
  • Follow the Public Health advice of washing hands often and more rigorously
  • Try to stay connected with family and friends by telephone, email or social media
  • Spend quality time with your children
  • These are trying times and it is okay to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed 
  • Plan your day
  • Be as active as possible
  • Find time to relax
  • Improve your sleep

www.mentalhealth.org

In addition to the aforementioned tips, Muslims firmly believe, whatever is decreed by the Lord will occur. No one can defer or deter the will of the Lord. No calamity reaches the earth nor upon yourself except it is in the book, before We bring it in to existence (Quran: 57:22). However, what defines us as servants of the Lord in its truest form, is how we conduct ourselves in differing scenarios and experiences of life. Abu Yahya, Suhaib Ibn Sinan narrates from the Prophet of Islam (peace and salutations upon him), in a hadith referenced by Imam Muslim, the Prophet (peace and salutations upon him) said, “(I am) amazed by the state of a believer; there is certainly a reward for him in all his circumstances (of life), and this is exclusive for a believer. If prosperity reaches him, he (then) shows gratitude (to the Lord), this will then be good for him. (And remember when your Lord announced, “If you are surely grateful, I will most certainly increase for you… (Quran: 14:7). If he is afflicted with a calamity, he (then) bears it with patience, this will then be good for him. (Only those who are patient will be fully given their reward without reckoning (Quran: 39:10).    

As for our current plight with this virus and how we can spiritually benefit, Abdul Aziz Abdus Salaam Sulami, an Egyptian scholar from the thirteenth century A.D, has compiled some benefits that can be acquired by the believers when they are in the midst of afflictions, tribulations and trials:

  1. Acquisition of profound consciousness of Divine Power and Divine ForceYour Lord’s seizing is most certainly severe. He is certainly the One who originates and will bring back. And He is Most Relenting, the Most Loving; The Possessor of the Throne, the Glorious; Forever doing what He intends (Quran: 85:12, 13, 14, 15, 16)
  2. Acquisition of deep realisation of absolute servitude to the LordThose who say when a calamity reaches them, ‘We certainly belong to Allah and we will return to Him (Quran: 2:156).
  3. Faithfulness to the Lord. There is no place of return in averting calamities except to Him. There is no reliance in removing harm except upon HimAnd if Allah afflicts you with any harm, then there is no remover of it except Him (Quran: 6:17).
  4. Opportunity to turn towards the LordAnd when any harm afflicts the human, he calls his Lord, turning towards Him (Quran: 39:8)
  5. Opportunity to supplicate to HimWhen the human is afflicted by harm, he then calls Us… (Quran: 39:49).
  6. Opportunity to be forbearingIbrahim (peace and salutations upon him) was most certainly frequently sighing, forbearing (Quran: 9:114).
  7. Opportunity to pardon others…and those pardoning mankind, and Allah loves the ones who do good (Quran: 3:134).
  8. Opportunity to bear with patience…And Allah loves the ones who are patient (Quran: 3:136)
  9. Opportunity to be contentThe Prophet (peace and salutations upon him) said, “No hardship, illness, anxiety, sadness, pain or grief afflicts a believer, even if it is a thorn which pricks him, except Allah will wipe away his sins by it.” (Bukhari).
  10. Opportunity to be grateful for the benefits and rewards attached to enduring hardships in comparison to the immediate pain we may experience.
  11. Opportunity to show mercy to those afflicted and to help such people
  12. Opportunity to realise the value of good health
  13. Opportunity to trust the Lord in what He has decreed for you – …and it is possible that you dislike something whilst it is good for you, and it is possible that you like something whilst it is bad for you. And Allah knows whilst you do not know (Quran: 2:216).
  14. Calamities enables the human to abstain from being arrogant – …Allah certainly dislikes every arrogant, boastful one (Quran: 31:18)

(The 14 points have been translated from الفتن والبلايا والمحن والرزايا and additions have been made to the translation in places.)

May the Almighty keep us safe, enable us to be steadfast in our devotion to Him and wipe away this global pandemic sooner rather than later. Ameen.

Sh Yunus Mohamed, Imam, member of The British Board of Scholars & Imam (BBSI), and award winning Counsellor – The Imam Ghazzali Award for outstanding contribution to teaching in mental health – BIPCA, The National Muslim Mental Health Awards 2019. 

 

BBSI joins the National Solidarity Campaign

BBSI joins the National Solidarity Campaign

The Crisis

Covid-19 has sadly taken the lives of thousands globally and has virtually brought the way of life of billions of people to a standstill. The number of deaths in the UK continues to rise exponentially, as does the number of confirmed cases. Schools, shops, restaurants and cafés have been forced to shut down. Millions of people have been told to work from home, with strict measures introduced to ensure this. Many communities are finding themselves in precarious and vulnerable situations financially, emotionally and physically and without access to essential support.

The Need

Many households are at a high risk to the virus due to a range of factors, from multigenerational households, to health conditions. A high proportion of people affected by this crisis are reliant on income streams that have been heavily disrupted by the crisis, e.g. local tradesmen, self-employed, business owners, taxi drivers, and those with flexible work contracts. This impacts the entire population. There is an essential and immediate need for collective and coordinated action, and the MCF, together with the coalition of organisations and institutions have been working tirelessly to rise to this challenge and work together in our time of collective need.

The Solution

As a response to this unprecedented and devastating outbreak, leading Muslim charities from across the UK have united to pool their resources, skills and expertise ensuring that we can efficiently provide support to where it’s most needed. The needs of the UK population at this time are high, but through working together, we can overcome this challenge and ensure both that all communities are supported throughout the coming weeks and months of this crisis

However, we cannot do this without your help.  The time to act is now.

How will your donations be used?

Your donation will help us to ensure that:

Hardship Grants

We can help families and individuals who are facing significant financial hardship. This grant will give access to emergency funds so that those who are struggling are able to get the support they need to purchase their groceries, pay their bills, manage their debts and get assistance on paying any other living expenses.

  • £250 – Hardship grant could support a family for 1 week
  • £1,000 – Hardship grant could support a family for a whole month.

Community organisation grants (Solidarity grants)

We can help give community organisations the help they need to provide essentials to their community. Whether it be food provisions, or mental health support, or dog walking – many community organisations need our support to carry out this vital work. We will do everything we can in our commitment to reach those in need during this crisis.  Unity can and will beat this virus, eventually, but right now, we need your help to reach our goal of supporting others.

  • £2,500 – Solidarity grant could support an organisation in infrastructure, food supplies, medical supplies and safety kits for the community.

Please see the Launch Good page for the National Solidarity Campaign HERE

The BBSI is strongly encouraging all its national and global participants, as well as the Muslim communities to support this campaign.#TogetherWeCan provide people with the support they need.

Insha’Allah.

This campaign has been brought together by the Muslim Charities Forum 

PRESS RELEASE: BBSI Publishes Detailed Funeral Guidance for British Muslim Communities During Corona Pandemic

PRESS RELEASE: BBSI Publishes Detailed Funeral Guidance for British Muslim Communities During Corona Pandemic

STATEMENT

25 March 2020

BBSI Publishes Detailed Funeral Guidance for British Muslim Communities During Corona Pandemic

The recent concerns raised by faith communities to the Government’s Coronavirus Bill’s proposed burial arrangements highlights the challenges posed specifically to religious communities by the current pandemic.

Following efforts by Naz Shah MP, the government responded positively and adjusted the bill accordingly – Shah has noted the efforts of several organisations on faith-related issues, including the British Board of Scholars and Imams (BBSI). The BBSI has been responding to the challenges that Covid-19 poses to British Muslims, including a paper published today on precisely the issue of burials and funerals in light of the current challenges.

Shaykh Dr. Asim Yusuf, chair of the BBSI, said:

‘The outbreak of Covid-19 presents an unprecedented national and international challenge. The BBSI aims to provide definitive guidance for Muslim communities across Britain on managing and responding to these difficult times. By combining religious and medical expertise, we hope to provide Muslims with an Islamically authentic way of navigating the outbreak in a socially responsible manner, and one that crucially limits the damage of this dreadful virus.’

The BBSI’s most recent publication addresses funerary rites, which provides critical information for Muslims wanting to uphold their faith principles within the complex context of burying those who may have passed away after contracting Covid-19. The guidance is an exhaustive, thorough and sensitive treatment of the subject matter. It also includes an emphatic message for Muslim communities to develop an appropriately trained volunteer base to manage the unprecedented scale of death, and a call to support those on the front lines of the crisis.

At a glance, the BBSI’s publication presents a detailed guide of handling the deceased who may have died of Covid-19, performing the ritual cleansing of the body, shrouding, and finally observing the funeral prayer and burying the deceased. At each step, the paper has mined the vast repository of the Islamic tradition to provide alternatives to the standard Islamic after-death procedures in light of the exceptional challenges. These include coping with the sheer scale of death, the potential infectiousness of dead bodies, and the shortage of burial space.

Shaykh Abdal-Haq Bewley, an executive board member of the BBSI, emphasised a need for heightened spirituality:

‘We need to tap into Islam’s spiritual resource to create resilience in these trying times. Through patience and prayer, we must remember the virtues of servitude, selflessness and bravery, and enact them for the common good.’

At the same time, the publication makes extensive reference to the latest guidance from Public Health England, the Royal College of Pathologists, the NHS and the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals. The BBSI has medical doctors on its council, and have extensively consulted health professionals in producing this guidance.

This combination of confessional and professional expertise is emblematic of the BBSI’s ethos and core mission. They seek to develop theological leadership that can ‘authentically represent the rich scholarly inheritance of Islam, whilst responding flexibly to the context of modern times’.

Another BBSI council member, Ustadha Rehanah Sadiq has been a Senior Muslim Chaplain for Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital since 2000. She said:

‘I am awe-struck by the bravery and selflessness of our NHS. The situation is dire, and as a chaplain I have seen just how much pressure front-line workers are under. Now more than ever, we need to pull together as a nation, and do everything we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19.’

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. The BBSI is an apolitical national assembly of imams, traditional scholars and Islamically literate Muslim academics. Recently, the BBSI has been busy addressing the unprecedented ethico-theological implications of the outbreak of Covid-19 in Britain.
  2. The BBSI have published briefing papers for Imams, Mosques and Madrasas, providing important guidance on addressing the outbreak in a socially responsible and theologically sound way.
  3. For further information, please contact info@bbsi.org.uk .
Guidance for Burials & Funerals during the Corona Pandemic

Guidance for Burials & Funerals during the Corona Pandemic

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Significance of Funerary Rites
  3. Counsel and Consolation to the Bereaved
  4. Counsel to Health Care Professionals

    1. Keeping self and family safe physically
    2. Keeping mentally and spiritually well
    3. Actions to perform around/for a dying Muslim, especially if family unable to be present
  5. Safe and Dignified Interment

    1. Principles of precaution with the deceased’s body and infection control
    2. Storing, collecting and transporting the body
    3. Washing
    4. Funeral prayer
    5. Burial options
  6. Final counsel
  7. Appendices

Executive Summary

  1. The current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic will require a collective response from the Muslim community, working with health services and local authorities, to manage the volume of deaths.
  2. There are certain mandatory funerary rites afforded to the Muslim deceased.
  3. In such circumstances, the Divine law permits certain relaxations of these rites.
  4. Families should be comforted that their loved ones receive the deaths of martyrs, and that any short-comings in normal funerary rites will not affect this.
  5. NHS and emergency workers (including funeral workers) should not forget their own physical and mental health, nor that of their families, in caring for others.
  6. The risk of transmission of COVID-19 from a deceased body is low and should not be feared, provided adequate precautions are taken.
  7. All such precautions must be taken by those handling the deceased’s body, whilst ensuring dignity is maintained. The needs of the living take priority over the needs of the deceased.
  8. There are several options for ritual cleansing from: full ghusl, minimal ghusl, tayammum, wiping over the body bag. Each should be considered in sequence, but if none can be done, burial without ghusl is permissible. [Please note: the ghusl is not compulsory according to a classical opinion found in the Maliki school – we are not recommending following this opinion unless it is necessary according to the health risks involved.]
  9. The body bag may be considered to fulfil the role of the burial shroud (kafan).
  10. Funeral (janaza) prayers should be performed by a minimum of people; alternatives include the absentee funeral prayer (salat al-gha’ib).
  11. A number of options for burial can be considered, including shared graves, transferral to other sites, and delay in burial. Preparations should be made in advance, especially in areas with a large Muslim population. Cremation must be avoided at all costs.
  12. The BBSI emphatically exhorts community organisations, mosques, and charities to mobilise the community so that they might get trained in funerary rites. Local communities are advised to take decisions on the basis of this guidance whilst factoring in local circumstances.
  13. We are all returning to our Lord, and should pray for those who have passed away collectively and individually, remembering always the life to come.

 

Please note: the official version for this advice is at http://www.bbsi.org.uk/covid-funeralguidance/ ‎, and that website should always take precedence in terms establishing updates or corrections.

1.Introduction

The BBSI is an apolitical national assembly of imams, traditional scholars and Islamically literate Muslim academics formed to facilitate scholarly intra-Muslim research and dialogue. Our aim is to provide authoritative ethico-theological guidance and leadership on matters relevant to Muslims, whilst promoting wider community welfare. It primarily seeks to do this by developing theological leadership that can authentically represent the rich scholarly inheritance of Islam, whilst responding flexibly to the context of modern times. Its ultimate aim is to both serve and represent the Muslim community in an ethical, inclusive, professional and scholar-led way. The BBSI especially takes seriously the responsibility to provide theologically grounded, practically focussed, holistic and – above all – cool-headed and far-sighted guidance to the community in times of generalised anxiety and panic.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, in consultation with community organisations, health and medical experts, the BBSI has been providing ethico-religious guidance to the community. With an increase in death rates inevitable due to COVID-19, Muslim communities in the UK are advised to work with their local authorities in assembling a volunteer group of individuals. These individuals must be (i) aware of Islamic burial rites, (ii) properly trained in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and (iii) suitable to safely carry out the burial procedures.

This document provides guidance on the burial procedures: storing, collecting, transporting, washing (ghusl), prayer (salat al-janaza), and interring the body (dafan) to ensure that they accord with both Islamic and Public Health England (PHE) guidelines, taking into account the latitude of approaches in Islamic law and the principles of standard infection control precautions (SICPs) and transmission-based precautions (TBPs).

As with all BBSI guidance, it is directed primarily at imams, scholars and funeral workers, to help guide their decision-making processes, but equally is produced for the benefit of the general public. It should not be considered a religious verdict (fatwa), but rather comprises a comprehensive guidance that draws on the classical traditions of Islam to provide an overview of options available. We encourage those who read it to consult with their local scholars and utilise it to help their decision-making processes. We pray that it will be of benefit and consolation during this extremely difficult time for the British and international community.

2.   The Significance of Funerary Rights

For Muslims, death is a transition between one stage of life and another. The act of burial marks this passage and carries profound meaning for the dead as well as the living. Burying the dead is a communal obligation upon Muslims and it is a means through which dignity and respect are afforded to our fellow humans who have departed onto the next stage of their existence.

  • Dignity – God has bestowed a special status upon all humans, granting them dignity of the highest form in their bodies and honoring them amongst the rest of creation. Muslims believe that their bodies are a gift (amana) from God and will be returned to God. They take care to treat their bodies with respect during their lives, and to respect the bodies of those who have died. The funerary rites are designed to respect and maintain the dignity of the human form.
  • Desecration, harm, mutilation, disfiguring – Muslims are prohibited from causing or allowing any harm or mutilation to the human body both during life or after death. The funerary rites, such as washing, shrouding and praying are performed in order to honour the deceased, and burial acts to protect them from future harm.
  • Body and soul as a composite – for Muslims, the soul and body are inextricably connected from the womb of the mother to the womb of the grave and beyond. The human is understood as being a composite of body and soul, even after their physical separation at death.  Hence Muslims do not distinguish between the bodies of the living or the dead, in that both are afforded the highest levels of respect and care.  There is a deep metaphysical commitment that the soul is still aware of and able to experience what the physical body undergoes after death. Prophetic traditions further state that the dead can hear the greetings of those who visit them at their graves. Muslims are thus obliged to treat the dead with gentleness and care.
  • Rights of the dead – One of the rights that Muslims have over each other is that of funerary rites. It is a collective obligation on the living to wash, shroud, pray over and bury the dead, through respectful completion of the necessary rites and rituals as described in the primary sources of scripture and elaborated upon in the classical schools of law. These form part of a continuous tradition in Islam and carries deep religious, spiritual, historical and cultural significance for Muslims. These rituals may remind the wider public of other faith traditions who have similar beliefs around our final gifts to those who have passed. Alternatives to burial are unacceptable in Islam.

3.   Counsel to the Bereaved

As a community, we are going through very difficult times.  The death of a loved one is never easy. Despite the comfort of knowing that they are returning to their Lord in accordance with His divine Decree, grief at one’s loss is a perfectly normal response. This is even more the case in our current circumstance, where we may lose community members in large numbers. We may not also have the opportunity to bid them farewell in the traditional manner, due to fear of transmitting the virus, or adhering appropriately to government guidelines around isolating and lockdown.

Nonetheless, we take solace from the words of the Prophet (s) when he said: ‘The one who dies in a plague … dies as a martyr in the path of God.’ (Al-Bukhari, Muslim). In every distress we go through there is a divine blessing and wisdom. This narration indicates that the one who dies from an infectious disease receives the reward of a martyr, which is a tremendous rank.

By scholarly agreement, such people are still afforded all the funerary rites, but families may be  concerned about those rites not being performed properly during this very difficult period. There is a lot of confusion around what can and cannot be done, and also what might happen to the deceased if the funerary rites are not fully performed. This is understandable given the situation; however, we assure you that the Islamic tradition makes it abundantly clear that the souls of your loved ones will suffer no ill effects from any shortfall in this regard arising out of these circumstances. Furthermore, the tradition is clear that in such situations the community is not considered to be held accountable for what is beyond their ability to manage.

Rest assured: our and your prayers reach the Lord who hears all and answers every supplicant who calls unto Him.  We beseech Him for His mercy and pray in this time, as in all times, for His Grace and Beneficence.

4.   Counsel to Health Professionals and Chaplains

The BBSI recognises and tremendously appreciates the tireless and selfless work that all of our NHS workers – from medics to cleaners – are doing to keep us all safe and healthy.  We want you to know that our membership is supplicating for all of you; praying that God rewards you with the best of rewards for this noble service you are engaged in; beseeching Him to keep you and your families safe.

It should be noted that, notwithstanding the various narrations about avoiding places of contagion, we know that the Prophet (upon whom be blessings and peace) treated a leper by placing his blessed hand in the same bowl as that of the afflicted (Al-Tirmidhi). Please, therefore, be aware that what you are doing is fulfilling a specific sunna as well as the general Sunna of assisting those in need. We pray that this work be a means for you to be drawn nearer to Him, in accordance with His Wisdom.

We would also advise you to take all precautions necessary to keep yourselves and your families safe during this very difficult period, especially if you have elderly parents, in which case you should consider quarantining yourself from them as far as possible.

Given the lockdown measures currently in place, it may well be that those who pass away from COVID-19 will do so alone, in a hospital bed, not surrounded by family or loved ones.  Whatever your field but especially if you have access to such patients in their last stages, you are their family. Please take a little time, if possible, to minister to their spiritual needs at this critical stage of end of life. If possible, and if safe to do so:

  • Comfort them and counsel them to hope in God’s mercy and turn to Him, seeking His pardon, for they are returning to their Lord as martyrs, beloved in His presence
  • Encourage them gently to recite the shahada and occupy their time in:
    • Prayer (in the hospital bed, in any direction, with any slight head movement)
    • Vocal remembrance (if possible given their breathing difficulties) or
    • Silent dhikr (of the mind or heart, with a tasbih/sibha if that helps).
  • For those in their very last stages, recite the shahada without encouraging or exhorting them to do so, and if you are able, recite Surah Yasin to ease their passing
  • Tayammum: It may be that, as the rate of death increases, funeral services will be overwhelmed and ghusl will not be performed for the deceased. Only if it is possible:
    • Keep a small, clean stone (about palm size ideally) with you.
    • Once the patient has passed away, make the intention of tayammum.
    • Rub your gloved hands on the stone and pass once over their face,
    • Then rub again and pass over their forearms. Make sure to discard the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
    • This will fulfil the responsibility of ghusl of the deceased if it is impossible for it to be done later on, and will be a means of you single-handedly lifting the burden of this responsibility from the community.

Lastly, the BBSI recognises that this period is going to be emotionally and psychologically very difficult for all those working on the front line of dealing with this crisis. It may be that you are transferred out of your comfort zone, need to work additional hours to cover unwell or isolating colleagues, and be confronted with a significant amount of death. This can be extremely stressful for anyone, even healthcare professionals who often feel that they should be able to deal with such situations. We have a number of doctors in the BBSI, and can assure you that nothing equips you for the experience of disaster medicine.

If you find yourself nearing breaking point, please reach out to services that are available, whether psychological or spiritual, and seek help. We will work with other organisations to try and ensure that this service is available to you, and assist you in whatever way we can, with our prayers if nothing else.

5.   Fulfilling the Rights of the Deceased

There are general rights that the deceased have over the living: to pray for their forgiveness and acceptance; fulfilling their wishes and bequests as laid out in their wills; performing acts of worship, such as recitation of the Qur’an and asking God for the reward to be granted to them; and doing acts of lasting charity on their behalf.

There are also specific rights that the deceased have over the living, which are communal obligations.  These largely revolve around the funerary rites, and which this guidance details. There are several stages of interring the deceased’s body, each of which will be explained in detail: (1) storage, collection and transportation, (2) ritual cleansing (ghusl), (3) shrouding (kafan), (4) performance of the funeral prayer (janaza), and (5) burial of the deceased.

The BBSI emphatically exhorts community organisations, mosques, and charities to mobilise the community so that they might get trained in funerary rites. There are several online resources available for this.

The BBSI recognises the very courageous work being done by funeral workers, who will largely be on the front line of dealing with the deceased. We also understand that you have a great deal of anxiety about handling the bodies and the risks of contracting COVID-19 yourselves. There is a lot of uncertainty about this issue in the public, though top health experts and medical professionals have officially assured us that there is little to fear provided adequate PPE is utilised.  This guidance takes as its priority the safety and health of those entrusted to perform the funerary rights of the deceased, and we ask Allah to reward you tremendously for the service you are providing: you are as those who guard the frontiers of the land from attack.

For these specific funerary rites, given the still-contagious nature of the virus and the possibility of contracting it from the body of the deceased, we strongly advise that there are those who should not be involved.  This excludes presence at the funeral prayer and the site of the burial itself.

Exclusion criteria

There are certain categories of people who should avoid performing any of the funerary rites with the exception of the funeral prayer.

  • Anyone elderly (over 60)
  • Anyone with an underlying health condition (See Appendix A).
  • Those who are in frequent contact with the above mentioned individuals
  • Those who have not been properly instructed in the risks of dealing with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 positive bodies
  • Those who have not received basic training in dealing with infectious bodies, which includes methods of handling the deceased, safe working procedures, donning and removing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), personal hygiene, and steps to be taken if something goes wrong.

In the course of work, individuals involved in burial-tasks should carefully monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. Any individual who fits the description of those the government has advised to self-quarantine or self-isolate should not participate in these burial tasks. (See Appendix B)

It is very important, and possibly obligatory, under Islamic law for those vulnerable to the virus to act so as to avoid contracting it, especially in the situation where others are able to fulfil the rights of the deceased.  We recognise that family members, under normal circumstances, play a leading role in these funerary rites, which also allow us to process our grief. However, the circumstance of the pandemic is different: it is a religious principle that one must avoid exposing oneself to, and exposing others to harm (la darar wa la dirar).

 

A.   Collecting & Transferring the Deceased

  • It is of utmost importance to treat the deceased with dignity and care at all times.
  • The burial team should be the minimum number of people required to carry out the task safely and effectively. They should gather all appropriate information regarding the deceased prior to collection, his/her condition, potential infection risks, and any other information relevant to those who will be handling the body.
    • A hazard notification sheet is often provided detailing this information. It should be read and consulted carefully. Due to the sensitive nature of the information contained in the hazard notification sheet, it should only be shared with those who require information to safely handle the deceased. Burial teams should wherever applicable take the duty of confidentiality seriously.
  • To minimize risk, the deceased may be placed in a body bag during collection and transfer. Individuals should avoid directly touching the deceased and minimize moving the body.
    • At the time of writing this guidance, Public Health England (PHE) has NOT mandated the use of body bags for COVID-19 victims, though it is standard practice in some hospitals for all the deceased during this pandemic.
    • The BBSI recommends precaution and strongly advises burial teams to consult the medical personnel on call regarding the use of body bags if the deceased is not already placed in one.
  • In cases of likely risk of bodily leakage or delays leading to bodily decay, a body bag MUST be used.
  • During collection and transfer, individuals should abstain from activities that increase the risk of contracting the virus. They should:
    • Not bring their hands into contact with their mouth, nose, or eyes
    • Cover all abrasions and cuts, especially on the hands, with waterproof dressings,
    • Have available disinfectant material;
    • Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • PPE equipment includes: gloves, eye protection, face masks, waterproof gowns and sleeves, and, in some cases, respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
    • Equipment should be stored properly, fit for purpose, worn properly, correctly fitted, and disposed of after use.
    • Individuals should be trained in the donning and removal of such equipment.
    • For more on this see the guidance from Public Health England. (See Appendix C and D)
  • Burial teams should pay attention to the equipment they use. They should have dedicated equipment (vehicles, trolleys, etc.) for use with infected bodies. Equipment used should be of a type easy to decontaminate and disinfect.
  • Equipment that has come into contact with the deceased should be disinfected regularly and after every use, such that the vehicle, tables or stretchers, surfaces and reusable PPE. Single-use items should be discarded safely and immediately after first use.
  • After collecting and transferring the deceased, members of the burial team should: remove any protective clothing; dispose of such clothing safely; and wash their hands with soap thoroughly.

B.   Washing (ghusl)

  1. Who should perform the washing?

Washing of the deceased is a part of the Islamic ritual of honouring the deceased and a communal obligation on the Muslim community. Although this would ordinarily start with the family members, in this context those properly trained in PPE and with access to the appropriate equipment would need to take the lead.

Minimally, two people of the same sex as the deceased should be available for the washing, though more would ordinarily be required. Those selected to carry out the ritual cleansing should be from the ‘safe list’ noted above. Importantly, they should be aware of the Islamic rules on washing the deceased. Those on the exclusion list should not participate in the cleansing of the body.

  1. What is the procedure for washing the COVID-suspected deceased?

Provided the funeral washers take precautions, washing the COVID-suspected deceased is safe. As of the writing of this guidance, it should be noted that Public Health England has NOT made it a requirement for the COVID-suspected deceased to be sealed in a body bag and have deemed hygienic preparations and even post-mortem to be permitted for those positively diagnosed with COVID-19.  This is in line with their guidance for infectious diseases in general; it should be noted that COVID-19 is less infectious from deceased bodies than HIV, SARS, and Ebola, as well as other such similar serious diseases. The concern with COVID-19 is the likely volume and rate of funerals that will be required. Family and washers should be assured that all of the following guidance is both safe and in accordance with Islamic law.

A COVID-suspected body may be received from the morgue in one of two circumstances: with or without a ‘DO NOT OPEN’ tag.

  1. In the case of a DO NOT OPEN tag, those performing the cleansing rite should don PPE and wipe over the sealed body bag from head to toe, after having applied some water to their gloved hands.
  2. In the case where there is NO ‘do not open’ tag, and in light of PHE guidelines, it is possible for the deceased to be given a minimal washing with the following conditions:
    1. that those washing the body wear all the appropriate PPE and are properly trained in its donning/removal,
    2. that all reasonable means are taken to minimize risk of transmission, such as avoiding procedures that are aerosol-generating (like moving the body around),
    3. that the deceased does not suffer from any other condition that creates a significantly higher-risk of transmitting disease, and
    4. that those in charge of burial are able to provide a safe and dedicated space for washing that is properly disinfected/decontaminated after every washing procedure.
  3. The minimal washing consists of:
    1. Minimal movement of the deceased’s body
    2. Avoiding removing the disinfectant covering from the face
    3. Pouring water over the deceased’s body from neck down
    4. Flowing hair may be washed or wiped
    5. Avoiding performance of istinja or pressing the abdomen to extrude contents
  4. If any of the steps above cannot be safely undertaken, including not having access to adequate PPE, then the option to wipe over the body bag should be utilised.
  5. If one is either (1) advised by morgue staff that the risk of infection is extremely high, or (2) the rate of then – as a last resort – the deceased can be buried without either ghusl or wiping.
  1. Shrouding (Kafan/Takfin)

Ordinarily, shrouding is carried out immediately after ghusl, and it is recommended to use three white sheets (cotton or partly synthetic) for men and five for women. This is unlikely to be possible for a COVID-suspected deceased. In this case, the BBSI affirms that the body bag will fulfill the religious requirement of shrouding.  An additional shroud may be wrapped over the body bag, though this is not required, and the body then placed in the casket. The outer part of the casket should be wiped with the appropriate disinfectant as part of transfer procedures.

  1. Funeral Prayer (janaza)

Who should pray and where?

The ideal in our tradition is that there be a large gathering of people, including family members, to pray over the deceased following the ritual washing (ghusl) of the body. However, the communal obligation is also fulfilled even if only one Muslim (male or female) prays over the deceased.

It is envisaged that there may well be significant restrictions on gatherings, and that mosques may be closed for some time to come. In such a case, the funeral prayer may be performed in the cemetery, even though this is not ideal. The options are as follows:

  1. Group performance of the janaza prayer with the family, whilst maintaining appropriate social distancing strategies, at the cemetery prior to burial.
  2. Performance of the janaza prayer by a very small number of individuals (such as the washers), in the presence of the deceased’s body. One individual praying over the deceased fulfils the community obligation (fard kifaya).
  3. Performance of the funeral prayer in absentia (salat al-janaza ‘ala al-gha’ibin) by other family members and well-wishers, which is valid in the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of law. [This does not remove the communal obligation mentioned in (2) above – at least one person should fulfil that, if possible.] Hanafis and Malikis should consult their local scholars about following this option.

Muslims should always be aware that actions are in accordance with their intentions, and that ‘one who intends a virtuous deed but does not perform it is like one who performed it.’  If you would have gone to the funeral had you been able to do so, but were unable owing to your health, the need to socially isolate or community lockdown, you will be rewarded as though you had gone.  For further details on how to perform the funeral prayer, please refer to Appendix E.

 

  1. Burying the Deceased
  1. Who should not perform the burial?

The burial may be attended by anyone, bearing in mind government guidelines about social distancing and community lockdown. The actual burial of the COVID-suspected deceased’s body should not be performed by those on the exclusion list, as noted previously.

  1. Where is the deceased to be buried?

In the shari’a, the minimal burial is for a body to be placed in the earth in such a manner where:

  • The living are protected from the effects of bodily decay, such as the smell of the body
  • The deceased’s body is protected from mutilation or damage, such as by animals.

The basis is that a Muslim is buried:

  • in a Muslim graveyard, or the section demarcated for Muslims within cemetery grounds,
  • in his/her own individual grave,
  • without transferring the body an excessive distance from one area to another, and
  • without an undue delay.

The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented. Given the higher rates of deaths occurring from this illness, Muslim communities will be forced to make decisions regarding burial procedures that are non-ideal. It should be noted, however, that classical jurists have given significant scope to depart from the ideal funerary rites in cases of need and necessity. Below, we provide guidance on a few issues pertaining to burials that will likely be pertinent to Muslim communities in the coming weeks.

(a) Mass Burials:

  • A Muslim’s body should ideally be buried in his/her individual grave.
  • In times of general need (defined as any situation in which burying bodies individually in their own separate graves creates undue difficulty or harm), the shariah explicitly permits burial of multiple bodies in the same grave.
  • For a mass burial, it is ideal that:
    • Men are buried in one shared grave and women in another, or, if they are placed in a single shared grave, men to one side and women to the other. If this is difficult, it is permitted to bury them in one grave intermixed.
    • It is advised that each body be separated from the other with a barrier, even a small one formed with dirt, whenever possible without undue difficulty.
    • Muslims are buried together in their own cemetery, or, if not possible, in a grave separate to those from other faith traditions.
  • Burying the deceased in a shared grave is preferable to an excessive delay in burying them in their own grave. See further related points in ‘Burial in a non-Muslim cemetery’ and ‘Delaying Burial’.

(b) Burial in a non-Muslim cemetery

  • Muslims should ideally be buried in a Muslim cemetery.
  • If this is not possible for a valid reason such as lack of space, it would be permitted to bury a Muslim in a non-Muslim cemetery
  • When possible, a shared grave in a Muslim cemetery is to be given preference over an individual grave in a non-Muslim one. See related points below in ‘Transferring the Body’ and ‘Delaying Burial’.

(c) Transferring the Body

  • It is permitted to transfer the deceased in cases of need or for a valid purpose, such as lack of space or capacity locally, or a bequest to be buried in one’s hometown.
  • Decisions to transfer the body should be made in close consultation with the family of the deceased, relevant authorities, and the communities/sites to whom/where the deceased will be transferred to.
  • When possible, transferring the body for burial without delay, even a long distance, is preferable to an excessive delay.
  • When possible, transferring the deceased to a Muslim cemetery, even if a long distance, is to be given preference over a nearby burial in a non-Muslim cemetery.

(d) Delaying Burial

  • The default is to carry out the burial procedure as quickly as possible.
  • Slight delays are permitted if there is need, such as when the burial team is seeing to the funerary rites of others or when waiting for a space to be allocated for the deceased in a Muslim cemetery.
    • When possible, a slight delay to ensure burial in a Muslim cemetery is to be given preference over an immediate burial in a non-Muslim cemetery provided the deceased can be safely stored.
  • Excessive delays should be absolutely avoided.
    • It is preferable to transfer the deceased elsewhere, or bury him in a shared Muslim grave, than to excessively delay funerary rites and burial. This is a matter that requires sensitive consultation with the family of the deceased.
  • In cases where there are no other options and it is not possible to bury without delay, it would be permitted to delay the burial and other funerary rites. The deceased in this case should be kept stored in a manner that prevents bodily decay, is safe, and upholds their dignity. For this, the relevant authorities and experts should be consulted and communities should anticipate and plan for scenarios where this will be likely.
  1. How is the COVID-suspected deceased to be buried?
  • The burial and any activities associated with it should proceed as normal, but it should be restricted to the gravesite.
  • Before transfer to the gravesite, the outside of the casket should be disinfected. Individuals tasked with carrying the casket to and from the transport vehicle should don the appropriate PPE, such as suitable single-use gloves. They should dispose of this equipment after first use and thoroughly wash their hands with water and soap or hand sanitizer.
  • While transporting the deceased, it is recommended to engage in dhikr and supplication for the deceased.
  • The funeral should be attended by a minimal number of people given current government guidance.
    • Some councils have set limits on the maximum number of people that may attend a funeral. As such, those arranging the funeral should consult their relevant local authorities regarding this.
    • If there is no set maximum set by the government or local authorities but only a general instruction to keep funerals small, it is recommended to follow the guidance of the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), which has advised that funerals only be attended by immediate family or a few individuals.
    • It may give some solace to those unable to physically attend the actual burial to have it live-streamed, though one cannot actually join the funeral prayer via live-stream. For those who wish, the absentia funeral prayer remains an option.
  • Attendees should be told to observe all social distancing, self-isolation, and personal hygiene guidelines advised by the government.
    • This means that for the time being the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and those required to observe 14-day self isolation should not come to the funeral site, especially if the service will be attended by several people.
    • The BBSI understands that this will be extremely difficult for people who were close to the deceased, but wish to reassure them that true proximity is when hearts are entwined, not merely proximity of bodies.
  • Viewing of the deceased before burial is permitted, including the face provided this is medically permitted, as the risk of infection is very low.
    • However, the deceased should under no circumstances be touched or kissed.
    • See the Royal College of Pathologists advice for this (PPE, social distancing).
  • The deceased should be lowered into the grave as normally done in funeral services.
  • It is recommended by many jurists that the deceased be given an admonitory address (talqin) after burial, which may be expressed in any manner that conveys a meaning similar to what is related below:
    • Remember the covenant by which you exited this world; the testification that there is no god but God who has no partners and that Muhammad is the messenger and slave of God. Remember that the Day of Judgment is coming and that God resurrects those in the graves. Say: ‘I have accepted that my Lord is God, that Islam is my religion, that Muhammad is a true Prophet, that the Ka`bah is the true direction for prayer, that the Qur’an is my guide and that all believers in God are brothers.’
  • It is recommended to recite some Quran over the grave after burial and make a supplication for the forgiveness of the deceased.


Word of Counsel

May God be praised – He is the Maker of the heavens and of the earth; the Creator of all things, and the One who sent His Chosen Messenger, our liege-lord, Muhammad, the most noble of all creation. God is the Eminent, the Forgiving, the Manager of all affairs, the Maker of destinies; who has brought all His creation into being, and makes it thus they change from state to state, and moves from one abode to the next.

God has established that we have not one life, nor even two – but five ‘lives’, in that there are five abodes of existences that we pass through. We all too often forget that, and we are tempted to think that the life of this world, al-dunya, is the life, the only life, when, in fact, it is the most passing and fleeting of all.

Rather, by God’s Mercy and His Grace, we have already lived through the abode of the life before this one, where all the souls were gathered, and we all took the covenant with our Lord, recognising His Unity and his Lordship. And from among those souls include the community of Muhammad – the community that you come from. Wahb ibn Munabbih narrates that when our liege-lord Moses asked his Lord about the community of Muhammad, God replied: “ It is the community of Ahmad (another name for Muhammad), whose people are content with whatever little provision I give them, and I am content with whatever little good works they do. I make each one of them enter the Garden by their testimony that ‘there is no god but God’.

And then we go through this world that we are in; and then we shall be placed in our graves; and then we leave our graves for the Resurrection and Gathering, until the moment that all of us reach our final abode. Remember of that time in the Gathering that our Prophet (s) declared: “Each Prophet has one prayer which must be answered. They have prayed, but I have concealed my prayer, so that it may be an intercession for my nation, including, God willing, all those who died without partnering anything to God.”

That intercession is for the life to come; that life that is spoken of in the Qur’an (44:51-7) as: “Those who had taqwa will be in a secure place, in gardens and watersprings … a favour from your Lord: that is the supreme triumph.

The Prophet (s) noted to us: “the Garden comprises one hundred degrees; between each two degrees is like between Heaven and earth. Firdaus is the high degree, from which spring the four rivers of the Garden. Above it is the Highest Throne. When you petition God, therefore, ask for Firdaus!” and, “A herald shall announce: ‘O people of the Garden! It is time for you to be healthy and never fall ill. It is time for you to live and never die. It is time for you to be young and never grow old. And it is time for you to be happy and never be miserable.’”

May God make us all of its people, through His Generosity, His Grace, His Mercy, and Grace.

 

Bibliography/Sources Consulted

Primary Sources

Abu Bakr al-Kasani. Badaʼiʻ al-sanaʼiʻ fi tartib al-sharaʼiʻ. Edited by ʻAli Muʻawwad and ʻAdil ʻAbd al-Mawjud. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʻIlmiyya, 1997.

ʻAli ibn Sulayman al-Mardawi. al-Insaf fi maʻrifat al-khilaf ʻala madhhab al-Imam Ahmad. Edited by Muhammad Shafiʻi. 12 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʻIlmiyya, 1997.

Mansur ibn Yunus al-Buhuti. Kashshaf al-qinaʻ ʻan matn al-Iqnaʻ. 6 vols. Mecca: Matbaʻat al-Hukuma, 1974.

Muhammad Amin ibn ʿAbidin. Radd al-muhtar ʿala al-Durr al-Mukhtar. 7 vols. Cairo: Bulaq, 1323-26 A.H.

Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Hattab. Mawahib al-jalil li-sharh mukhtasar Khalil wa-bi-hamishihi al-Taj wa-al-iklil li-Mukhtasar Khalil. 6 vols. Libya: Maktabat al-Najah, 1969.

Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Dasuqi. Hashiya ʿala al-Sharh al-kabir. 4 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 2002.

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ʿIllaysh. Minh al-jalil sharh Mukhtasar Khalil. 9 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1984.

Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khatib al-Shirbini. Mughni al-muhtaj ila maʿrifa maʿani alfaz al-Minhaj. Edited by Muhammad Aytani. 4 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Maʿrifa, 1997.

Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Sarakhsi. al-Mabsut. 30 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Maʿrifa, n.d.

Muwaffaq al-Din ibn Qudama. al-Mughni. Edited by ʿAbd al-Fattah Muhammad Hulw & ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿAbd al-Muhsin al-Turki. 15 vols. 3rd ed. Riyadh: Dar ʿAlam al-Kutub, 1997.

Numerous authors. Fatawa Hindiyya. 6 vols. Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-ʿArabi, 1980.

Sulayman ibn Umar al-ʿUjayli. Hashiyat al-Jamal. Edited by ʿAbd al-Razzaq al-Mahdi. 8 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1996.

Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi. Rawdat al-talibin wa-ʻumdat al-muftin. Edited by Ishraf Zuhayr al-Shawish. 10 vols. Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1985.

———-. Kitab al-Majmuʻ. Edited by Najib al-Mutiʻi. 10 vols. Cairo: Dar al-Nasr, 1971.

Secondary Sources

Health and Safety Executive, Managing infection risks when handling the deceased Guidance for the mortuary, post-mortem room and funeral premises, and during exhumation (2018).

Public Health England, COVID-19: Guidance for infection prevention and control in healthcare settings. Version 1.0. (last updated on March 23rd, 2020).

The Royal College of Pathologists, Transmission-based precautions Guidance for care of deceased during COVID-19 pandemic (issued 25th March, 2020)

The Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals’ (AHCP) Revised Healthcare Cleaning Manual.

Appendix A – Who is at high risk from coronavirus

Coronavirus can make anyone seriously ill, but there are some people who are at a higher risk. For example, you may be at high risk from coronavirus if you:

  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having certain types of cancer treatment
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia
  • have a severe lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
  • have a condition that makes you much more likely to get infections
  • are taking medicine that weakens your immune system
  • are pregnant and have a serious heart condition

Source: NHS (last reviewed on 24th March 2020)

Appendix B – Self-isolation if you or someone you live with has symptoms – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Do not leave your home if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does. This is called self-isolation. If you are self-isolating, you must:

  • not leave your home for any reason, other than to exercise once a day – but stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people
  • not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home
  • not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you’ll need to self-isolate for 7 days or until your temperature returns to normal. You do not need to self-isolate if you just have a cough after 7 days. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

If you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started. This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear. If more than 1 person at home has symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person started having symptoms.

If you then get symptoms, self-isolate for 7 days from when your symptoms start, even if it means you’re self-isolating for longer than 14 days. If you do not get symptoms, you can stop self-isolating after 14 days.

Source: NHS (last reviewed on 24th March, 2020)

Source: Public Health England, COVID-19: infection prevention and control guidance (last reviewed 23rd March, 2020)

Appendix E – Performing the Funeral Prayer

Hanafi method

  1. The janaza prayer is fard kifaya (communal obligation) – it is fulfilled by a minimum of one (1) person.
  2. It is sunna for the imam to stand in front of the chest of the deceased.
  3. The necessary components of the prayer are the 4 takbirs and standing up.
  4. It is sunna to read the thana after the 1st takbir, salutations on the Prophet after the 2nd takbir, dua for the deceased after the 3rd and it is wajib to do the salam after the 4th takbir.
  5. The hands should only be raised for the 1st takbir
  6. Sura al-Fatiha can be prayed after the thana with the intention of dua’ and not qira’at
  7. Supplicating for forgiveness is not required for a child or an insane person; on the contrary the dua should be made that the children are a source of salvation for us.

Shafii Method

The funeral prayer (salat al-janaza) is a communal obligation, requiring a minimum of 1 person to pray it. For those that are unable to attend the salat al-janaza in person, they may pray the absentee funeral prayer (salat al-gha’ib). The following will apply:

  1. The body of the deceased should be placed between the imam and the qibla, with the head to the right and the feet to the left. The imam should preferably be in front of the head of the body, if the body is a man, or to the midpoint of the body, if the body is a woman. (This condition does not exist for those praying salat al-gha’ib).
  2. One stands, intending to pray an obligatory funeral prayer, with the intention occurring at the time of the opening takbir. (For those praying salat al-gha’ib, they intend to pray a sunna prayer that is salat al-gha’ib.)
  3. The opening takbir (Allahu akbar) is then followed by the reciting of surah al-Fatiha (quietly, to one’s self);
  4. Then this is followed by a second takbir, which is then followed by quietly saying ‘alhamdulillah’, and then (quietly, to one’s self) recitation of the prayer upon the Prophet, upon whom be blessings and peace, in the same way that one would do so in the second half of the tashhahud in the ritual daily prayer;
  5. Which is then followed by a third takbir; which is then followed by (quietly, to one’s self) supplicating for the deceased. It is recommended one says, “Allahumma la tahrimna ajrahu wa la taftina baʿdahu wa-ghfir lana wa lahu” (“O God, do not deprive us of his reward, nor afflict us after him. [O God,] grant us and him forgiveness.”)
  6. Which is then followed by a fourth takbir; which is then followed by (quietly, to one’s self) praying for all the Muslims;
  7. Which is then followed by saying aloud ‘as-salam ‘alaykum’ to the right, and then to the left.

 

10 Easy Spiritual Counsels During the Pandemic

10 Easy Spiritual Counsels During the Pandemic

In the name of God, Merciful to all, Compassionate to each!

My dear beloved brothers and sisters,

We as Muslim should see the positive in every situation. In light of this, I just wanted to share some advice that InshaAllah will be beneficial for us during these times.

  1. Let us make Niyyah (intention) of performing Itikaf (seclusion) during the quarantine period. This can be done by allocating a room in your house especially for that.
  2. Let us try to stay in wudhu (ablution) as much as possible.
  3. One way of connecting with Allah is through his own words which is to recite the Quran. Also this is a wonderful opportunity to read the whole Quran in the language you understand via a translation. You can achieve this by reading 1 1/2 jazz (parts) a day during the 21 day quarantine.
  4. Call the Adhan in the house and try to pray together in Jama’ah with other family members at the prescribed times (Follow your normal local masjid iqamah time table).
  5. Pray your Sunnah and Nawafil along with your Fard.
  6. Thereafter sit and recite the prescribed Adhkar after Salah, which are aspects of our Deen that many have stopped performing.
  7. Let us pray Tahajud, as well as praying Shuruq, Salatul Hajah, Salatul Tawbah, Salatul Tasbih, etc.
  8. Let us try to observe fasting on Monday’s and Thursdays.
  9. Let us read the Sirah of our Beloved Prophet (SAW), especially together with our families.
  10. Let us reconnect with our loved ones over the phone and check on their well-being. Make them smile and comfort them; there is extra reward in doing so!

Remember our Beloved Prophet (SAW),  was in self isolation in the Cave of Hira when he received Prophethood.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran in Surah Al-Imran verse 26:

Say: “O Allah! Master of all the Kingship, You give the kingdom to whom You please and take away the kingdom from whomsoever You please; You give honour to whom You please and disgrace to whom You please; all the good is in Your hand; surely You have power over everything.

It is Allah who gives and takes and all good is in Allah’s hands and control. Be hopeful that we will gain his pleasure and will bestow his Khair (Good) upon us!

These above are some of the easiest ways to get reward for staying in the house. We may not be able to go to our physical place of work and business to conduct day to day business, but we can still do business with Allah!

Sh Afdal Feroz

Trustee & Executive Board Member, The BBSI

HOLDING ONTO FAITH

HOLDING ONTO FAITH

The British Board of Scholars & Imams presents..

HOLDING ONTO FAITH – from Shu’ab al Iman

Daily reminders from the celebrated book, Shu’ab al iman – covering mental health, spirituality, community welfare and other important topics.

Join a scholar or imam from the BBSI every night at 8pm- 8:30pm (during this crisis) for LIVE webinars through the BBSI facebook page.

STARTING FROM FRIDAY 20th March 2020

Facebook.com/bbsionline
@bbsionline
www.bbsi.org.uk
info@bbsi.org.uk

THE FRIDAY BAYAN

THE FRIDAY BAYAN

The British Board of Scholars & Imams presents

THE FRIDAY BAYAN

Fridays (during this temp crisis) a Scholar or Imam will deliver LIVE Facebook webinar via the BBSI page from 1-1:30pm.

Join us to watch inspirational words and continue the connection with God.

www.facbook.com/bbsionline
www.bbsi.org.uk
@bbsionline
info@bbsi.org.uk

UK COMMUNITY BRIEFING PAPER FOR IMAMS, MOSQUES, AND MADRASAS FOR THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

UK COMMUNITY BRIEFING PAPER FOR IMAMS, MOSQUES, AND MADRASAS FOR THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

In the Name of God, Merciful to all, Compassionate to each!

Executive Summary

  1. The coronavirus pandemic constitutes a highly significant danger to the world health, and necessitates immediate action to prevent or slow its transmission, especially to those at risk of severe consequences. Critical to this are social distancing measures.
  2. This guidance is supported by a number of Muslim organisations (theological and community), and is based on sound empirical and theological reasoning, while practical in application. It is intended as advisory, and to assist local religious organisations in taking decisions in the best interests of their communities.
  3. It balances between the worldly and next-worldly interests of people, and recognizes the importance of taking precautionary measures whilst maintaining dignity, serenity and neighbourly compassion.
  4. We fundamentally affirm that all that transpires does so according to God’s decree, and provides an opportunity to deepen our connection with Him, either directly through patience and prayer, or indirectly through serving His creation.
  5. Individuals are ethically required to take all appropriate measures to prevent transmission – whether relating to hygiene or social distancing, including self-isolation if medically indicated – and to assist others in doing the same.
  6. In recognition of the fact that enclosed public spaces facilitate the spread of the virus, we advise that the recommended mosque congregations for the daily prayers be suspended and performed at home. We further strongly affirm that high risk individuals should avoid (or be precluded from) attendance at mosques, because of the manifest danger they might pose to themselves and others.
  7. Supplementary educational classes in mosques and other centres need to consider alternative teaching arrangements, such as online, as children would appear to be at high risk of transmitting the virus to others.
  8. It is the preliminary view of the majority of BBSI members consulted, as well as a number of institutions and international bodies, that the individual obligation to perform Jumua in mosque congregations be temporarily lifted. The contrary opinion is also noted, and this is a recommendation that will be regularly reviewed.
  9. Institutions such as mosques or religious schools have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their attendees, and should be supported by the community to discharge it. This guidance should be considered advisory to them, and to provide them with a framework with which to take an informed decision.
  10. As a community, we have a collective responsibility to one another – whether keeping each other safe, coming together to identify and assist the vulnerable in a coordinated and strategic way, to avoid harming others (by, for example, hoarding necessities), or being a source of comfort and solace in distress.
  11. Finally, we urge the community to remain calm, take precautions, and assist others.

Preliminaries

Along with many of you, the British Board of Scholars and Imams have observed with much concern the deepening crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the equally dangerous communal panic that has accompanied it. We have engaged in continuous deliberation among our members, partners, and senior medical experts, kept abreast of updates to official advice (as well as the concern among scientists that this advice is insufficient), and engaged in heartfelt prayer for guidance (istikhara).

 

In collaboration with Wifaqul Ulama and MINAB, we are issuing holistic guidance on community resilience with regards to the coronavirus pandemic, based on the spread of opinion within this ecumenical fellowship of scholars. This guidance supersedes any previous guidance and will be regularly updated in the future, consequent to any changes on the ground. We will issue any changes via our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bbsionline/ and bbsi.org.uk/coronavirus

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Principles underlying the guidance
  3. Theological and spiritual considerations
  4. Moral and ethical responsibilities for individuals
  5. The Jumua Prayer
  6. Institutional Responsibilities
  7. Collective responsibilities
  8. Miscellaneous points
  9. Parting Counsel

1 Introduction

The coronavirus pandemic is of particular concern because of the combination of a number of factors:

  • It is both highly infective and much more severe than the seasonal flu,[1] especially but not exclusively to the elderly and infirm;
  • It is most often spread by those who show no symptoms, making it virtually impossible to prevent without drastic lockdown measures;
  • It has the potential to overwhelm the resources of an already stretched National Health Service (NHS), and;
  • It is a novel virus, meaning that we are still learning about its nature, means of spread, and potential consequences.

All of this and more has been clearly evidenced by medical experts worldwide and need not be repeated here.

In addition to this, the demographics of the UK Muslim community – specifically the frequency of extended family domestic environments and the pervasiveness of chronic illness – put the older generation of Muslims at particular risk of contracting the virus and suffering the most severe consequences. These risks also extend to the wider community; the absolute obligation to protect the most vulnerable members of the British community is what animates the majority of this guidance.

2 Principles underlying this Guidance

  1. The BBSI is an ecumenical fellowship of Imams, religious scholars, and Islamically literate Muslim academics with diverse outlooks and different opinions. As such this document attempts to broadly represent that range of perspective, and is proffered, with humility, as advisory recommendations.
  2. Our guidance adheres to three conditions that entail it should be
    1. based on solid evidence, be it scriptural, jurisprudential, or empirical;
    2. structured with clear rationales linking that evidence to our conclusions;
    3. comprised of practical and actionable steps to be applied.
  3. We take seriously our responsibility to minister to the welfare of the community – both worldly and next-worldly. This involves a recognition of the serious importance that our religion places on life, health, community, and spiritual well-being. To trivialise any aspect of this would be an error. As our scholarly tradition demands, our approach in the guidance is directed by consideration of what is essential, recommended, and desirable. This includes a keen understanding of when (and which) religious rulings may be suspended due to temporary harms or hardship.
  4. The concern within this guidance does not merely relate to the risk of becoming infected with coronavirus, but more so to the risk of transmitting it to others, especially the old and infirm. To choose to put oneself in harm’s way may be acceptable, unwise, or even prohibited; to put others in harm’s way is always more severely censured. The guidance utilises a risk matrix approach that considers both likelihood of infection/transmission and consequence of infection, from mild to severe.
  5. In the event that government directives are issued overriding any part of the guidance relating to gathering in public or private spaces, then the government directives would take priority.
  6. This document is intended to provide specific guidance to individuals, but a general framework of decision-making for institutions and mosques. Given that each mosque and institution is different (size, resources, region affected etc), we call for local Imams, scholars, and mosques to decide on what is in the best interests of their communities. However, our advice is that this should be done when all parties are properly informed and have considered all the principles outlined in this document.

3 Theological and spiritual considerations

At the outset, it is important to reorient ourselves and ensure that our individual and collective responses, whether internal or external, are informed by a transcendent theological and spiritual outlook. As believers, we have faith that all benefit and harm comes from God, and that all proceeds exactly in accordance with His pre-eternal Decree. We must remember that no soul can be taken ‘before its time’, and let this certain knowledge inspire tranquillity amid the panic and chaos around us.  Trials and tribulations are an inevitable part of the life of this world – decreed as part of the Divine wisdom to develop within us blessed characteristics such as: patience, endurance, gratitude, remembrance of God, faith and trust, mercy, generosity and compassion for one another, and contentment with the Divine decree.

This current crisis is an opportunity to draw nearer to our Lord with prayerful supplication, remembrance of the life beyond death, meditation on the frailty of the human condition, deepening our connection with the Divine, supporting one another towards patient endurance and ultimate truth, and thankfulness for the many blessings that often go unremembered.

We encourage ourselves and others to abide this current state of hardship in accordance with the elevated Prophetic character, shining a light of guidance, serenity, and beauty to the people of this land. That includes taking precautions, but fundamentally – as the Prophet Muhammad exemplified – it is being a mercy to creation, and loving for each other in humanity what we would love for ourselves.

Acts of worship that are particularly recommended, in this time and others, would include: passing a portion of the night in worship; the recitation of Quran abundantly; dhikr/remembrance; increase in charitable works; paying due attention to the rights of your family and neighbours; reading Salat al-Hajah (the prayer of need), performing voluntary fasts, beseeching God for His mercy and subtle bliss for yourself and others; deepening bonds of compassion with those around you; and tending to the unwell in appropriate ways.

Lastly, do not be afraid, and do not panic. All will unfold according to God’s decree, and we are all returning to Him. Have trust in the workings of the Lord of the Worlds, and recognise, as the most elementary studies in our religious theology dictate: He is the All-Powerful, the Ever-Decreeing, the All-Merciful, the Healer, the Compassionate, and the Bestower of Grace.

4 Individual Moral and Ethical Responsibilities

This section, which includes the bulk of the guidance offered to the community by the BBSI – as informed by our scholarly tradition, our understanding of the nature of the virus, and expert advice – relates to three categories: the individual, the institutional, and the community.

Our individual religious responsibility entails (1) the obligation to keep oneself safe from significant harm, and (2) the prohibition of causing harm to others – whether significant or minor. Bearing this in mind:

(a) Prevention of Infection/Transmission – Hygiene & Public Interaction

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds, especially when having been outdoors or in a public space. Increase the frequency of making wudu (ritual ablution) – though not to the point of obsessiveness.
  2. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (or similar) and discard immediately. If no tissues are available, use your scarf or the sleeves of your shirt.
  • Avoid opening doors with your hands. Use your elbows if you are able to.
  1. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth until you have cleaned your hands properly with soap and water, preferably, or with hand sanitizer if water and soap are not available.
  2. Do not spit or discard any bodily fluid including saliva and mucus in the open, instead use the sink and wash it down immediately. If you use a tissue, dispose of it carefully.[2]
  3. Give the recommended salam when you meet people, but avoid physical contact, such as shaking hands or hugging. Maintain a safe distance – six feet is advised.
  • Being particularly careful about your interactions with (and care of) elderly or infirm members of your family, so as to ensure a reduced risk of transmission to them.

 

(b) Congregating in Enclosed Spaces, including Prayers in the Mosque

In terms of contagion, a mosque is merely an enclosed space where people congregate; as such, the guidance in this section is applicable to any similar public space. However, our focus is on religious spaces, and it should be noted that there are additional risks associated specifically with mosques, including: the possibility of acquiring the virus from hard surfaces in the mosque, such as ablution areas, or from carpets during prostration; spreading the virus within the mosque when entering, exiting, and congregating; the usage of water and presence of bodily fluids; and the difficulty of managing attendance. As such, and given the religious importance of the mosque, the following advice is intended for individual attendance.

The BBSI advises that, as a general principle and until further notice, individuals in the UK should avoid congregating in such enclosed spaces, which includes general congregational prayers at the mosque. The larger the potential congregation, the more strongly this is recommended. We recognise the acute sensitivity of this position, but feel we must prioritise the health of the community, especially the elderly amongst us.

Importantly, any individuals who fit any one of the following descriptions are specifically required to avoid such congregations:

  1. Someone who has flu symptoms, even if minor
  2. Someone who has been around an individual with flu symptoms, even if minor
  • Someone in an area where the authorities have temporarily banned public gatherings and one’s congregation/mosque would fall under the ban, in which case it is obligatory to follow the advice of the government until further notice
  1. Someone in a local area where there are confirmed cases of coronavirus and evidence of community spread
  2. Someone who fits the description of those who the authorities have advised to enter self-isolation, such as people who have recently visited countries where the risk of coronavirus is high (China, Italy, Iran, Japan, Spain, etc.),
  3. Lastly and most importantly, the elderly (60 plus) and those with an underlying health condition, or those frequently in contact with the aforementioned even if otherwise healthy (e.g. family-carers, nursing home workers).

This advice, collated by the BBSI from its members, is based on the following considerations:

  • The majority opinion that identifies the performance of congregational prayer in the mosque as recommended, not obligatory. The sunna of congregation can be fulfilled in non-mosque settings, such as the home with one’s family.
  • The many principles related to avoiding harm including:
    • The harm aversion principle: “Harm must be prevented” and “let there be neither inflicting nor reciprocating harm.”
    • The prioritisation principle: “Averting harm takes precedence over acquiring benefit.”
    • The mercy principle: “Averting harm from others takes absolute priority.”
    • The facilitation principle: “Hardship engenders facilitation, to the extent required to avert that hardship.
    • The reasonable fear principle: “Reasonable fear of harm is taken into consideration by the shariah.”
    • The self-preservation principle: “Do not destroy yourself with your own hands, rather do good.” (2:195)
    • The contagion principle: “Neither enter nor leave a land where an epidemic has spread,” (Bukhari 3473) and “let the [contagiously] sick not mingle with the healthy.” (Muslim 4235)
  • The need for precaution (ihtiyat) in order to prevent harm and the spread of illness, which is specifically demanded in the current context given:
    • the ease by which the virus is transmitted from person to person, with transmission potential in even asymptomatic patients,
    • the difficulty and delay in detecting the presence of this illness in people,
    • the difficulty in tracking those who are affected by it,
    • the difficulty in guaranteeing the mosque as an infection-free environment
    • the pronounced threat posed by the illness to the elderly and vulnerable people
    • the social and economic disruption occurring from the spread of this virus

All of these render it an obligation to take any means – small or large – to curb its spread: especially in terms of protecting the vulnerable and reducing the rate of contagion. This effectively renders attempts to connect rulings on this issue to the legal definition of ‘reasonable surety’ (al-zann al-ghalib) unproductive, unfeasible, and potentially dangerous.

In light of the above, and considering that the general ruling of congregational prayers in mosques is one of desirability, we recommend that individuals perform congregational prayers at home while this crisis unfolds and (as is likely) enters into a more aggressive stage. This is in keeping with increasingly prevalent measures relating to workplaces, educational institutes and public transport being undertaken by wider society.

(c) Tarawih Prayers

The ruling recommended for the Tarawih prayers is the same as that of general congregational prayers. In fact, tarawih in the mosque is a lesser emphasized recommendation than the normal congregation prayers, and the sunna is also fulfilled by individuals praying it at home. Nonetheless, it is acknowledged that this is something very dear to the hearts of communities and mosques. Further guidance on this is forthcoming in the coming days and weeks.

5 The Jumua Prayer

It is understood that this is the most contentious question within this guidance, and it has been the subject of significant and vigorous debate among religious scholarship and among the members of the BBSI in particular. Jumua is both an obligation on healthy adult males and a clarion sign of Islam; lifting or suspending that obligation from the community at large is not a step that can or should be taken lightly.  Nonetheless, we reiterate that the prime directive animating this briefing paper is people’s health and welfare, particularly protecting the elderly and infirm. Given these factors, the question of Jumua will be explored in some detail. Equally, it should be noted that this section primarily refers to the norm of performing Jumua in the mosques.

Two points of consensus emerged from the discussions: (1) if the government issues a directive banning public gatherings, this needs to be adhered to, and (2) ‘high risk’ individuals (as previously identified in the congregational prayers section) should NOT attend: not only is the obligation of Jumua is lifted from them, but their attendance, if any congregation does occur, should be severely and proactively precluded. If they are at high risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable people, it should be unambiguously clarified that their attendance would be immoral and sinful.

With this being understood, two broad opinions were articulated by BBSI members: that of the continuing obligation of Jumua, and the position that individuals in the UK are generally exempt from the obligation of Jumua prayers.

Strenuous efforts were made, given the extremely short timescales and the difficulty of engaging in detailed legal argumentation remotely, to survey the opinions of over 100 members of the BBSI on their basic stance regarding these two positions[3]. A clear majority of those consulted opined that – at this time and until further notice – the obligation of Jumua should be lifted from the generality of UK Muslims. These guidelines will be regularly reviewed for continuing relevance and proportionality.

Further Explanation

Both these positions were ultimately based on a risk-benefit analysis: whether the risks posed by coronavirus were sufficiently severe to warrant a blanket lifting of the obligation, and whether effective steps could be taken to mitigate the risks.  Supporters of the former position opined that either the current level of risk was not sufficiently high and/or that effective steps could be taken, such as interdicting high-risk individuals from attending the congregation, limiting congregation sizes, and so forth.

They also proposed a ‘subjective opinion’ approach, where individuals are given the option to determine for themselves which ruling applies to them. This opinion is held by a number of scholars and is valid – except in the specific context where it is promoted in ignorance.  In this context, this means anyone (scholar or not) who clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of the coronavirus threat and consequently places the community at risk. Examples of this would be obliging the elderly who show no symptoms of coronavirus to attend a normal Jumua, continuing to insist on large and concentrated congregations, and so forth. To follow such an unqualified opinion in such a circumstance would be impermissible.

The supporters of lifting the obligation of Jumua, on the other hand, argued the opposite, especially given the developments and trajectory of the pandemic both globally and nationally. The potential spread and danger of the virus, and the inevitability of mitigating steps failing, along with scholarly precedent, were sufficient to lift the obligation.  The evidences guiding this position were the same as those mentioned in the section on congregational prayers, with the following additional considerations:

  • The precedent of classical Islamic scholars to exempt individuals from Jumua for reasons including excessive rain or cold, heavy snow, fear of an enemy, and others, which are premised on relatively minor degrees of harm, inconvenience, and/or difficulty.
  • The precedent of some classical Islamic scholars to exempt individuals from Jumua due to fear of illness, which – given the nature of coronavirus, the level of difficulty in tracking its spread, and the inability to predict who may be affected by it and how – is effectively realized for the community at large, and hence a form of umum al-balwa (widespread hardship).
  • The minority position of some classical Islamic scholars that Jumua is a collective obligation rather than an individually binding one, so some people establishing a congregation lifts the obligation from everyone.
  • The classical option to perform very small (less than 20 people) Jumua gatherings where the risk of transmission is minimized, and which more resemble private gatherings. This is to understood in keeping with the idea that the norm in Islamic societies throughout history has always been to perform Jumua in a public prayer space, specifically the mosque. Personal obligation was not generally premised on the ability of an individual to create his own mini-congregation when an excuse existed to exempt him from attending Jumua. Thus the only option in such cases was to replace Jumua with the Dhuhr. This however is no longer the case.

This is explicitly not the same thing as stating that the mosques should be shut, which should only be countenanced in the circumstance that those responsible felt unable to manage the health and safety of attendees appropriately.  It should also be noted that this opinion is expressed in a context where the vast majority of people perform Jumua in public mosques.  The concern here is about the risk of contagion in public spaces, especially enclosed ones with poor air circulation like mosques.

There are alternative circumstances where the risk of contagion is clearly low (for example, health professionals who are deemed safe to come together to work are also safe to come together for Jumua prayer in the same environment). These would retain the ruling of obligation. However, the opinion of non-obligation has been left general, in keeping with the legal maxims: “The majority takes the ruling of the whole” (al-ghalib fi hukm al-kull) and “Rulings are given in view to what is the preponderant case” (al-hukm lil-ghalib). For details, one should consult conscientious and reliable scholars.

The ‘subjective opinion’ approach, where people decide for themselves, was also rejected on the grounds that many people (out of religious zeal) are likely to underestimate the risks posed to them – or by them to others. They may downplay or minimise: possible symptoms, their interactions with potentially affected people, the nature and seriousness of the illness, the need to take what they perceive as ‘extreme’ actions to confront this threat, and more. This could harm the larger community: it takes only one individual to disregard isolation and social-distancing guidelines to create a cluster of cases as clearly evidenced recently in some South Korean churches.[4]

Another issue raised in favour of the majority opinion is that of practicality. The minority ‘subjective opinion’ approach has the potential to lead to increased numbers of people going to the mosque based on their personal determination that they are obligated to do so. This will pose a difficulty for mosques attempting to manage congregation size, or screen out symptomatic/elderly individuals, and expose them to unmanageable situations. While a mosque can implement control mechanisms, the general exemption for individuals would provide a further control and make the work of mosques easier.

Given this, and the reasonable basis underpinning the view that coronavirus constitutes a universally-applicable excuse, the BBSI has opted to highlight the opinion of general exemption from the Jumua prayers for individuals within the UK, while acknowledging that other scholars validly disagree.

Nonetheless, the BBSI is not a directive body, and this guidance constitutes advice to the community.  As such, it is recognised that there are individuals who believe that Jumua remains a binding obligation upon them despite coronavirus.  For such individuals, we offer the following recommendations:

  • According to a completely valid opinion in classical Islam, the minimal obligations of Jumua can be fulfilled with three congregants and does not require an Imam. The two khutbas need only consist of a formula of dhikr (subhanallah, walhamdulillah, wa la ilaha illAllah w’Allahu akbar. Allahuma Salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammad would suffice in both khutbas). The two rakat prayer is performed as any normal prayer.
  • We emphasize the importance of religious precaution: it is obligatory to take steps to minimize transmission of the virus. We strongly advise that they only establish Jumua in a minimalist and tightly controlled setting, while strictly adhering to all social-distancing, self-isolation, and hygiene guidelines.
  • If there is any chance that these guidelines cannot be effectively implemented, or any doubt regarding the safety of even one congregant – even in the most minimalist of settings where transmission can still occur – or that of the broader community connected to the congregants or their prayer space (as they may transmit it to others if infected or contaminate surfaces that people may touch), the congregation and Jumua must not go ahead.
  • Lastly, we strongly advise such individuals to consult the guidelines we have mentioned earlier regarding congregational prayers in enclosed spaces and those required to avoid them.

6 Institutional Responsibility

The BBSI are deeply aware of the general imperatives within our religion to seek knowledge, and to come together in learning, as well as worship collectively – indeed, we are often at the forefront of delivering them. Such activities are usually coordinated via responsible figures within the community: mosques, institutions and individual scholars.

However, there are many specific imperatives that delineate when these general prescriptions – the recommended, but even the obligatory – can be suspended or put aside temporarily. Due to the very specific health threat that is currently facing our communities, it is the humbly submitted advice of BBSI that those in positions of authority over teaching institutions – whether in mosques, community centres, or otherwise – consider the previously mentioned recommendations regarding the risks of congregation, infection, and the vulnerable. Additionally, we advise all those in authority within the management of these spaces:

  1. That large teaching commitments (like maktabs) be moved online or suspended for the time being.
  2. If, and only if: the teaching area is not used for prayer (i.e., where people may put their faces to the ground, and thus expose themselves to infection), and two metre distancing is instituted between all individual students and the teachers; then small classes such as hifz or ‘alamiyya may be continued.
  • If those in authority do not do so, we strenuously advise that those who are particularly at risk, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, excuse themselves from teaching circles or congregational prayers for the time being as directed in the “Individuals” section. This is for their own health and also for the health of others that they might come into contact with, if they do become infected.
  1. The management of these spaces should be aware of the great responsibility that they have in protecting all that utilise them, as well as those to whom they may transmit the infection.
  2. If and when the above recommendations, including those related to congregational prayer, are implemented, we advise the mosque management to consider what active steps might be required to facilitate the safe reintroduction of activities in the mosque, whether regular disinfectant regimes or others, as well as how to proactively engage their communities absent the congregational prayer times. We also advise that the adhan continue to be called from the mosque.
  3. We strongly advise mosques in an area, of whatever denomination, to cooperate and coordinate activities with each other, including decisions about congregational prayer, in order to ensure a joined up approach to protect public health effectively.

Finally: it is recognised that the restrictions we are recommending will put a great deal of stress on our teachers as well as our students. We strongly advise that the community at large be very cognisant of this, and provide additional resources to mosque and community teachers, so that they might be able to invest in options for alternative learning; and also so that they are not further impacted by any restrictions that take place. Many of our teachers depend on the very limited funds that come to them to provide teaching – we need to address this more generally, but especially during such a difficult time.

7 Collective Responsibility

In these difficult days, it is the responsibility of any moral human being to assist the vulnerable. If we have an elderly parent, we should tend to them more than before.  To build resilience within our communities, we need to act now and develop mechanisms to take care of the vulnerable and support one another. Our Prophet (may blessings and peace be upon him) said ‘God assists his servants as long as His servants are assisting their fellows’. Respecting and helping the elderly and vulnerable is a centerpiece of the Prophetic Sunna and constantly encouraged in the Islamic tradition. In order to protect those at high risk from Coronavirus, they should be encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. We strongly recommend the following:

  1. Establish a network of healthy volunteers with local partners
  1. Mosques should use their communication channels (social media, WhatsApp etc.) to recruit healthy volunteers to shop for the vulnerable and socially isolated. It is especially important that the vulnerable do not leave their homes.
  2. If communication channels do not yet exist, they need to be instituted immediately. Not everybody will have access to technology. Utilise your local network of volunteers to disseminate information by checking on friends and neighbors through phone calls.
  3. Liaise with other local places of worship, community centres, local charities and your MP. Combine resources and volunteers with these groups and coordinate tightly in good faith. A number of mutual support groups have been established across the UK.
  4. Muslim charities have a great responsibility to provide support to the affected where they can. They may provide financial assistance who may be out of work is not receiving sick pay, provide food parcels to families affected etc.
  5. Consider establishing ‘anti-hoarding’: advising people to buy extra of essentials for storage in mosques and community centres for distribution to the needy and vulnerable.
  6. The psychological impact of the coronavirus will be immense; people will experience anxiety, loneliness and depression. We urge trained counsellors and therapists – as well as the public at large – to volunteer their services to people over the phone/skype etc and provide the much needed psychological support and befriending to the community.
  1. The logistics of volunteering
  1. Keep the following vulnerable groups in mind: the elderly, the infirm, the socially isolated, the underprivileged and those who don’t have shelter. The homeless and the underprivileged may not have the means to purchase sanitary equipment.
  2. Keep shopping trips to a minimum by coordinating with others. Rather than there being a large number of shopping trips, make a small number of trips by compiling multiple shopping requests into a single trip.
  3. Wipe down shopping items where possible before delivering them.
  4. Take care when delivering them; ensure that contact with the vulnerable or socially isolated is kept to a minimum. You may wish to leave the shopping at their doorstep.
  5. Consider using a fundraising platform if necessary.
  6. Volunteers should complete the WHO Coronavirus online training.
  7. Take care of volunteers, and workers more generally.
  1. Responsibilities towards neighbours
  1. Everybody should regularly check on their neighbours. Support them by carrying out shopping trips for them if required, or notify your local volunteer network if you are unable to do so.
  2. If everyone does this, the community and volunteer network will be well aware of those who need assistance. Do not assume that they already have support in place.
  3. If you are even mildly unwell, or are socially isolating, then do not check on your neighbours in person
  1. Upholding Islamic behaviour during the outbreak
  1. Helping and supporting one another is an essential part of our religious practice.
  2. The Prophet (may God’s blessings be upon him) condemned and reprimanded those who hoarded. We should be satisfied with our share and let others have their share. Besides being immoral, hoarding sanitary products will worsen the spread of the virus.
  3. Stay positive and spread positivity; ‘Behold! Allah’s help is indeed near’ (Quran 2:214). Consider taking breaks from social media to maintain your mental wellbeing.
  4. Be very cautious about spreading unverified information on social media or to your friends and family. There is much misinformation going around via social media – only spread around that which can be verified via a reliable website, rather than forwards that cannot be verified.
  5. Business owners and shops should not increase prices of goods simply to make profit and take advantage of the desperation of people. If this is done without extenuating circumstances, it would be considered reprehensible in the sight of Allah.

8 Miscellaneous Issues

Infection control in hospital and healthcare settings is vitally important, and it is part of our holistic religious responsibility to ensure that we safeguard the vulnerable – as has been repeatedly noted. This may include a ‘bare below the elbows’ policy, which can affect Muslim professionals who are observant of the hijab, as well as, potentially, the requirement to shave or trim the beard in order to ensure tight fit of face masks. Accordingly, please note:

  1. BBE: many hospitals provide elbow length gloves, which can be worn over clothes to comply with the policy. If not available, there is a valid and followable legal opinion that permits women to uncover their arms to their elbows for reasons as trivial as working in the fields or cooking in large pots. This is a fortiori permissible in this circumstance, as well as others such as prevention of transmission of MRSA and other very serious hospital acquired infections.
  2. Trimming the beard: it is acknowledged and well-known that the position of the majority is that keeping a beard is – at minimum – a highly recommended Sunna, if not legally obligatory. All safe options should be considered and explored to fulfill this in the work context. However, if alternative arrangements cannot be found, then one may follow the valid (and relied upon Shafi’i) position that trimming or shaving the beard is disapproved of, and thus without sin to do so.  It remains obligatory (contractually and therefore ethically) for such Muslim males working in the health sector to remain at work and fully participate in providing treatment to the public.
  3. Both these recommendations are offered as advice only: please liaise with reliable and conscientious scholarship for further information and specific guidance in your circumstance.
  4. Re Funeral: please refer to the National Burial Council for specific updates and recommendations: nbc.org.uk

9 Parting Counsel

In these difficult times that we are experiencing, we are afforded the opportunity to reflect on our ultimate purpose, and the meaning of our sojourn in this world. The spectre of death, an inescapable reality, is so often clouded by the vanities and trivialities of this passing life that it goes forgotten. But this world is merely a seeding ground for the Life Eternal – so let us look to what we sow now, and what we shall reap after death.  God says that “this world is nothing but play and heedlessness, while the life to come is truly better for those who are mindful of Him” (6:32), and the Blessed Prophet said, “remember often [death], the destroyer of sweetness” (Tirmidhi).  May Allah help us to remember the eternal life-to-come, and prepare for it with faith and good works, hope and fear, joy and yearning, patience and gratitude, faith and trust.

Let us remember also those in these times those who are far less fortunate than ourselves, who are undergoing trials of nature – and the evil of human oppression – far more severe than anything we are experiencing, and with far fewer resources, save their faith in God. May Allah grant relief, serenity, reward undying and the ultimate return to Him – well-pleased and well-pleasing, among His beloveds and into His gardens of bliss.

And may peace and blessings everlastingly be upon our beloved, the Last Prophet Muhammad, his folk and companions. Praise is for God, Lord of the Worlds.

[1] https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200306-sitrep-46-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=96b04adf_2

[2] All from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

[3] The limitations of this approach are acknowledged; as with many other bodies, the urgency of the need to provide guidance on this rapidly changing situation necessitated a deviation from the BBSI’s usual mechanisms of deliberation and decision making. It is the exception rather than the rule.

[4] https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-SOUTHKOREA-CLUSTERS/0100B5G33SB/index.html

British Imams & Scholars condemn Finsbury Park terror attack & Call for communal solidarity

British Imams & Scholars condemn Finsbury Park terror attack & Call for communal solidarity

This statement was initiated by some of the members of the BBSI.

We, the undersigned, an independent group of Muslim Imams and religious scholars, are heartbroken and appalled at the terrorist attack on worshippers outside the Muslim Welfare House in the Finsbury Park area of London.Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to the deceased, the injured, their families, and all those affected by this tragic incident.

At this time, we urge everyone to remain calm, vigilant, Read More