In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful
July 2, 2020
As salamu Alaykum
The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (Shura Council) strongly recommends Masajid to suspend Jumuah prayers and greatly modify activities to lessen risk until there is a substantiated decrease in transmission and potential for serious public health consequences has sustainably lessened. This can be according to models like the CDC criteria or at least when deemed safer by overriding health authorities such as the state, which currently has orders for 3 weeks. After deliberations in the past few days with the Shura Council’s Health Task Force and discussions among representative leaders from various counties, this decision was not taken lightly and only after keeping community safety as the prime concern. All six physicians on the Task Force from various areas of expertise including public health, epidemiology, and infectious disease have taken an almost unanimous stance to halt gatherings, especially those indoor and larger in numbers like Jumuah and possibly Eidul Adha in the near future. Consideration was given to the California Department of Public Health’s monitoring of nineteen counties in California that are reporting a higher transmission of disease (including the rate of positivity), a surge of hospitalizations, and approaching full capacity as well as a greater than 40% increase in hospital admissions because of COVID-19 in the last two weeks.
It would be best to build on the positive strides we’ve made within our Islamic centers to contain the risk of COVID-19 and keep Masajid from becoming mediums for spreading illness. Based on the definition of our Masajid as higher to highest risk gatherings (even with recommended actions in place), and due to the amount of local spread in the surrounding communities, indications are to cancel or greatly reduce the number of attendees at gatherings. Further weight is carried by the scientific possibilities of asymptomatic transmission with half the cases in the state in people aged 18-49 and the true number of positive cases potentially being more than 10 times the reported rate.
The Shura Council and its Board of Imams generally adhere to previously put forth religious guidance from the Fiqh Council of North America alleviating the obligation of praying Jumuah or daily congregational prayers in the Masajid in these circumstances. The community is eager to keep our places of worship open but should do so in a safe manner. The overarching Fiqh maxim to be applied in an instance like this is
“درء المفاسد أَولى من جلب المصالح” “Repelling harm is to be prioritized over the achieving of benefits.” This preemptive, preventive measure is something other faith communities are adopting, such as the Episcopal Church and Synagogues. Islamic Centers in several states and counties have also recently either reassessed opening in the first place or decided to close again after having reopened. We realize and respect that each organization will make decisions based on their capability and capacity.
We thank the community for their attention to this important advisory and ask that everyone act with the best interest of their congregations in mind, keeping in the forefront the directives of state and local health authorities. We ask that Allah the Most Mighty confer upon us the strength, courage, and patience to get through this challenging time and gift us all subtle and sublime grace.