All Praise Be to Allah, and May His Blessings and Peace Be on the Messenger of Allah,
The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA) received several inquiries regarding the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the proper response by the masjids and individual Muslims. In response, AMJA issued the following statement:
First: concerning the managements of the Islamic centers
It is not permissible for the masjids and Islamic centers to suspend the congregational prayers and jumuah because of the spread of the virus in the United States, unless the local public health authorities in a particular city advise the suspension of services at the houses of worship and avoidance of large public gatherings. In the event of that development, the masjid managements should comply with such instructions. This would be a sufficient excuse to pray jumuah at home (as dhuhr) until the restriction is removed.
It is permissible for the masjid managements to demand those with flu symptoms to wear masks during the congregational prayers. It is also permissible to assign a room for them or a designated area in the prayer hall, and to advise them to avoid handshaking with the other worshippers and follow the proper precautions to prevent the transmission of the disease. (See our recommendation for the individuals with suspicious symptoms below.)
The masjid managements should follow the updates that are periodically issued by the public health agencies like CDC and comply with their instructions.
Second: concerning the Muslim public
The permissibility of missing jumuah and congregational prayers out of fear of the disease depends on several variables. As for the daily congregational prayers, the matter is simpler since they are not obligatory according to the majority. The majority of those who considered them obligatory did not demand their performance at a masjid. As for the jumuah, it is not permissible for adult men who are otherwise required to attend it to miss it except in the case of justifiable, not conjectural, fear (whether for oneself or others). What matters in this regard is the instructions of the public health authorities. If they advise the avoidance of all public gatherings, then the epidemic has reached a level making that fear justifiable. As for the higher risk groups, such as old people and those with chronic disease, they should follow the advice of their primary healthcare providers. They are most entitled to concessions.
People who may have been exposed to the virus and those with symptoms of the disease (which are like those of flu) should avoid coming to the masjids if they suspect that they may be infected until they check with their healthcare providers and ensure they are not. This is because the harm of spreading this virus is much greater than that of bothering the people with the odor of garlic; and the Prophet (pbuh) said, “He who eats of this plant (garlic) should not come near our masjid and should not bother us with the odor of garlic.”
We ask Allah for safety and wellbeing for ourselves and all people.
AMJA Resident Fatwa Committee