Muslims prepare to offer Friday prayers at partially empty historical Badshahi mosque amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Lahore on March 20, 2020. (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

A TOP global Islamic body has issued a fatwa (religious edict) on the request of Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi, empowering the head of the state to suspend Friday prayers in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The fatwa issued by the Grand Imam Shaikh of Egypt’s Jamia Al Azhar, an authority on Islamic injunctions, and the Supreme Council in Egypt, said 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.

“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 tweeted.

Alvi asked clerics in Pakistan to act as per the principles of Islam from Quran and Sunnah, and said it purely Islamic to cancel Friday prayers over coronavirus concerns.

“Countries that have stopped congregational prayers are UAE, Saudi, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt,” Alvi said.

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

It urged elderly people to stay indoors and not partake in prayers as “these gatherings are a reason for the spread of the virus”.

The fatwa also quoted the ‘hadith’ (sayings of the Prophet), where it stated that during natural calamities, Muslims should pray inside their homes.

It is obligatory for the Muslims to abide by the health instructions of the state in case of crisis and avoid following unofficial information and rumours. In this situation, saving human lives and protecting them from all risks and threats is in line with the great concept of Islam, the fatwa said.

In several Arab countries, the ‘azaan’ (call for prayer) has been amended and now it urges people to pray in their homes.

Pakistan has been facing a rapid rise in the coronavirus cases, with the tally shooting past 1,100 on Thursday. So far, the virus has claimed eight lives in Pakistan.