*From the Scholars of Azzawia, Cape Town*
Further to our guidance to the community on measures taken in light of the international COVID-19 Corona virus pandemic, we are issuing the following guidance in reference to Ramadan, and our duties and obligations therein. This is relevant for all Muslims, but particularly those who have been affected by COVID-19, and those caring for those who been afflicted.
[Please note: this guidance may be found at Azzawia’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AzzawiaTr…/posts/10157840692761357…) and may be changed in accordance with changing circumstances. Always relate to the official Facebook page to confirm this advice – do *not* trust social media forwards without relating to the page or our official channels.]
We remind the folk of Azzawia, and the community that has been built around this institution for a century this year – may God allow this institution to benefit the community for many centuries to come, amin! – that our guidance is rooted in a specific awareness. That awareness comes not from a shallow understanding of what this world requires of us; nor of a superficial appreciation of our religion; rather, it is rooted in a recognition that the Divine is our Lord. And our Lord has given us direction for felicity in the life to come, and to orient ourselves in this world in a way that befits His Majesty, His Love, and His Mercy.
We continue to advise that the WHO guidelines be followed [https://www.who.int/emergen…/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019] which includes ‘social distancing’ and other medically recommended preventative measures.
As the month of Ramadan approaches us, we are keen that our community continues to benefit from the beauty of this blessed month. God willing, we will present reminders of that in due course – and we assure the community we are trying to find alternative ways and methods for so doing from within the confines of the restrictions that we agree are necessary at this time.
As such, the restrictions we announced vis-à-vis congregational prayer at Azzawia remain in effect until further notice, which includes the Tarawih prayer, and the Eid prayer. We remind our community that Tarawih is a strongly emphasised sunna, and that it is one that may be fulfilled at home. As for the Eid prayer, it is a communal obligation, and strongly recommended (not compulsory) for the community to attend; under these circumstances, however, that strong recommendation is suspended. The communal obligation will be fulfilled in Cape Town by a small group so doing it.
Some of our community have contacted us requesting clarifications about the fast, and what consequences, if any, the ongoing pandemic has on this Islamic duty. To that end, we do so stipulate that the sacred law already has within it sufficient flexibility in any normal circumstances to accommodate the current situation.
We should all note that from within the paradigm of the shari’a, there are regular exemptions from the fast that do so exist. Common ones include:
i) The traveller, if the trip is lawful and, according to the majority, if they leave before the time of the morning prayer. However, they do have to make the fast before the following Ramadan.
ii) The elderly for whom it is deeply risky to their health to fast; though, they will have to pay a compensation (fidyah).
iii) An ill person for whom fasting will worsen their illness; or delay their recovery (as they cannot take the medicine while fasting); or cause someone significant harm; they are exempted from the fast, but they do have to make the fast before the following Ramadan.
iv) A person with a chronic health condition, such as diabetes, that requires medication that cannot be delayed to the night, as per professional medical advice; they are exempted from the fast, and should pay a compensation (fidyah).
v) A pregnant or nursing woman; if fasting will harm her or the child’s health, then she is exempted, though she will make up the fast later.
vi) Specific types of labourers for whom the fast would be difficult, due to excessive hunger or thirst. There are a number of conditions that apply: their work cannot be delayed to after Ramadan; they cannot work at night; the fast means they experience difficulty that is difficult to tolerate; they make the intention to fast, and they start the day fasting; they break it only when it becomes intolerable; and they do not intend to do their work as a way to keep away from fasting.
vii) Someone who is normally healthy, but believes, as per professional medical advice, that fasting that day would result in serious harm, then they are exempted from the fast that day, and should pay a compensation (fidyah). If the probability of serious harm applies only intermittently, they should fast those days that they do not have suspicion, and they should make up days they missed on days where they do not consider it probable that illness is likely.
**Fasting and COVID19 victims, and COVID19 carers**
We have also been asked about two particular cases that arise specifically due to the pandemic. The first relates to those who have COVID19; and the second relates to those who are caring for those who have COVID19.
When it comes to those who are fasting, we remind that it is already established in the law that if the ill are undergoing treatment that requires them to break the fast, then they are exempted from the fast. If missing the treatment would delay their recovery, they have the rukhsa (license) to be exempted from the fast, and it is permissible for them to do so. If missing the treatment would, according to a medical professional, damage their health, then it is wajib for them to take the rukhsa and break the fast.
All of that is already well established within the law. The only change that might apply due to COVID19 is that because of the severely infectious nature of the virus, we would argue that it is not only recommended to take the permissible option of suspending the fast for them for treatment; but that it is compulsory (wajib) for them to do so. For if they did not, they might infect others quite easily; and, additionally, they would be are taking up the valuable care-time of their carers, who could be taking care of others.
When it comes to those who are caring for COVID19 patients, there is little that COVID19 changes. Our tradition already recognises allowances for workers for whom the fast would be difficult (see [vi] above), and medical professionals may well consider themselves in this category, if, and only if, they fulfil the conditions mentioned above. Or, alternatively, if they may come under case [vii] above.
Such an assessment would revert to every individual, similar to outside the pandemic scenario.
As our final counsel, we offer a supplication modelled on the narration of the du’a that is offered in the middle of Sha’ban as related to us by our shaykh, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki, may God’s mercy be upon him.
O God, O You who showers favours on everyone and for whom none can do any favour! O the Possessor of majesty and honour! O the Distributor of bounty and rewards! There is no one worthy of worship except You—the Support of the fallen, Sanctuary of the refugees, Guardian of the fearful, the Healer of the ill.
O God, if in the Mother of All Books that is with You, You have written me down as someone who is doubtful of achieving salvation, or deprived, or rejected, or without enough sustenance, then with Your Grace, O Allāh, remove all of these misfortunes from me. Then establish me in the Mother of All Books that is with You, as someone who is blessed, with abundant provision, charitable good deeds, and healed of all blemishes, inwardly and outwardly.
For surely You have said—and Your Word is True—in Your Revealed Book on the tongue of Your Messenger: “God changes and establishes what He wants and with Him is the Mother of All Books.” (Al-Qur’an, 13:39)
O our Lord, for the sake of Your Divine Manifestation as we approach your noble month of Ramadan, the month in which you mention “The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion.” Surat Al-Baqarah 2:185
We beseech You, O Most Merciful of all, remove from us all calamities and hardships—those that we know about as well as those that we are not aware of, while You know best everything—for truly, You are the Most Powerful, the Most Generous.
May God bless our liege Muhammad and his Family and Companions and grant them peace. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.
• Shaykh Seraj Hendricks: Resident Shaykh, Azzawia Trust
• Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks: Resident Shaykh, Azzawia Trust
• Dr Hisham A. Hellyer: Senior Scholar, Azzawia Trust; Professorial Fellow, Cambridge Muslim College