Coronavirus and Observing Congregational Prayers: My Stand
By Dr. Abubakr Aliagan
I gave an interview to the PRNigeria News on Coronavirus. I was asked to comment on the possibility of shutting shutting down mosques in the country because of the killer epidemic.
I specifically mentioned that the steps taken so far by the Saudi Arabian government is in line with the prophetic teachings on the widespread of epidemics.
The Prophet is on record to have said that if there is outbreak of epidemic at a certain location, Muslims should avoid the danger area or place. While those that are living there should not come out until the epidemic is wiped out. The prophet, by implication is saying we should avoid the spread of epidemics with necessary precautionary steps.
On the shutting down of Mosques in Nigeria I maintained that the Muslim Ummah and its authorities in Nigeria should not toe the line of Saudi by banning congregational prayers in mosques.
I argued that the way the mosque is sigled out is as if the coronavirus is synonymous to the attendance of the congregational prayers.
No one is talking about our Markets, both public and private institutions and our transportation system which is always overloaded.
I also mentioned a point on our immune body system that it is of great suprise that the killer virus is not widespread in Africa inspite of our health system which is next to zero.
On the issue of washing of hands as a precaution, I said this is in line with the Muslim tradition of ablution for the five daily prayers.
I concluded by saying that we should go along with what the Prophet counselled. Which is that we should not take epidemics or any killer disease for granted. We should take all necessary precautions. Any advice from health officials should strongly be adhered to and abided by,”
However the reporter added sugar to the interview that has gone viral. My Son who is a Ph.D. (in view) in Molecular Medicine in America reacted as follow:
I disagree with your stance to an extent and agree to a certain extent. As a student of knowledge (Islam) I disagree with your position on a larger extent and agree with some of your opinions. Based on the facts below;
Covid-19 or Coronavirus disease presumably spreads mainly from person-to-person. People in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) spreads this virus through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Hence washing of hands does NOT really go a long way in curbing the spread of this virus.
It takes 1 person to infect hundreds through droplet and aerosols. Let’s imagine 1 sick person in Haram sneezing or coughing during tawaf, or salah. He can effectively infect thousands. Even though these thousands have washed there hands 15 times that day. All they had to do was breathe in aerosols from infected people.
Secondly, asymptomatic (non-sick) carriers of this COVID-19 virus are the worst (or best) spreaders of the disease. Because someone doesn’t show symptoms does not mean he isn’t infected and he can shed the virus effectively.
Social distancing or no contact policy can only help to curb the spread of the disease. I applaud the decision from the Saudi government to TEMPORARILY stop congrgational prayers. This will stop the spread of the disease and aerosols will be grounded and dried which renders them less infectious.
These above facts are given from the جهة of a scientist.
As a student of knowledge, Allah says
ولا تلقوا بأيديكم إلى التهلكة
Encouraging large congregation will only spread the disease. Furthermore we stretch the meaning of the hadith
إذا سمعتم بالطاعون بأرض فلا تدخلوها وإذا وقع بأرض وأنتم بها فلا تخرجوا منها فقلت أنت سمعته يحدث سعدا ولا ينكره قال نعم
We are encouraged to take precautions against the spread of a communicable disease. Therefore, we should stop gathering temporarily.
Dear Son I also agree with you to certain extent. Banning congregational prayer in Nigeria is not a solution to the widespread of the epidemic based on what I stated above. Secondly even if Schools are closed down in Nigeria it will only increase physical contacts as all available fields will be filled up by pupils and spectators.
It is of great interest to note that Nigeria with over 200 million people only record less than five cases, while Saudi Arabia with 32 million people recorded over a hundred cases of the virus and the number is still growing…..so if Saudi Arabia shut down the mosques it is understandable.
May I also add here that the call by the Chief Imam of Ghana that Muslims can consume Alcohols as an antidote for the virus is incorrect. The Prophet was very clear on this that our antidotes against any ailment is not in what is forbidden.
Dr. Abubakr Aliagan
University of Ilorin