ISLAMABAD - On the request of President Dr. Arif Alvi, the Supreme Ulema Council of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, has issued a formal Fatwa (edict) banning congregational and Friday prayers in mosques to prevent the spread of deadly coronavirus in the country.

“I am thankful to Grand Imam Shaikh of Al Azhar and Supreme Council for responding to my personal request to provide guidance to us with regard to Farz Jamaat & Juma prayers in mosques during coronavirus attack,” the president said in a video message on Wednesday.

In view of the global outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, President Alvi through Egypt’s ambassador in Pakistan had sought guidance from Al- Azhar institution, an authority on Islamic injunctions, for a word on suspension of congregational prayers at mosques amid spike in coronavirus cases.

The fatwa further states that all evidences clearly indicate that public gatherings, including congregational prayers, can spread the coronavirus. Hence, government officials in Muslim countries have the authority to cancel congregational and Friday prayers.

Following the edict, President Arif Alvi has urged all the religious scholars to take an urgent action to halt congregational prayers in the country and curb the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan. He said the religious scholars should act on the basis of principles of Islam from Quran and Sunnah.

“Countries that have stopped congregational prayers: UAE, Saudia, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt,” said President Alvi.

“Government of a country can impose a ban on congregational prayers, including regular and Friday prayers, and halt gatherings across the country,” read the fatwa.

The Fatwa stressed that public gatherings, including congregational prayers at mosques, could result in spread of coronavirus and the governments of Muslim countries had full jurisdiction to cancel such events.

The edict says it is obligatory for Muslims to abide by the health instructions of the state in case of crisis and avoid following unofficial information and rumours.

“In view of risks to the lives of people, the officials in Muslim countries have full authority to cancel Friday prayers and other congregational prayers,” the edict says.

The Fatwa cites Abu Dawood narrating Ibn Abbas, who recounted that Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said that fear of sickness is an excuse for missing Juma payers.

Moreover, Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Auf stated that the Prophet (PBUH) forbade those with unpleasant smell to avoid going to mosques in order to protect other faithful from disturbance.

The fatwa also quoted authentic hadith from the Prophet where it highlighted the fact that during natural calamities Muslims were directed to pray inside their houses.

“The coronavirus is more dangerous than rain, therefore, a ban can be placed on congregational prayers,” it read.

Meanwhile, in several Arab countries, the azaan has been amended and now it urges people to pray in their homes.