UK Muslim bodies: Prepare for congregational prayer suspension amid coronavirus
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) have advised leaders of mosques in the UK to plan for the suspension of congregational prayers in light of the increase in coronavirus cases in the country.
A joint statement issued by the MCB and the BIMA said that although they are not advising mosques to immediately suspend congregational prayers, it “is highly likely in the coming days, should the outbreak continue at the projected rate.”
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) announced 10 further deaths of patients who tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 21.
Official figures released on Saturday showed the country has 1,140 confirmed cases, an increase of 342 from the day before.
The MCB and the BIMA recommended that mosques, Islamic centers and educational institutions establish communication channels with attendees, consider live-streaming programs and set up online fundraising channels for attendees to be able to support mosques remotely.
The statement also said they should seriously consider shortening the length of congregational prayers and continue to monitor guidance from public health bodies in preparation for a government ban on large gatherings, in which case congregational prayers will be canceled.
The MCB and the BIMA also advised congregation members to maintain good hygiene in line with NHS advice, and to set up a support network for the socially vulnerable so that the most vulnerable members of Muslim communities are not negatively affected by isolation.
“We advise all mosques, religious schools and Islamic centers to comply with the government’s advice,” Zainab Gulamali, the MCB’s public affairs manager, told Arab News.
“If the government bans large gatherings, it’s imperative that Muslim communities abide by this,” she added.
“As special as congregational prayers are, we need to be very mindful of the impact they can have on the health of the congregation.”
Speaking about the very real possibility of suspending iftar programs and congregational taraweeh prayers during Ramadan, which is due to start at the end of April, Gulamali said: “We don’t know what the situation will be like next week, let alone in just over a month’s time when Ramadan will start.”
She added: “However, it’s really important for mosques to put in place procedures to accommodate for the temporary suspension of programs during Ramadan, and to be aware and considerate of the impact of having programs in the holy month on the safety and wellbeing of members of their community.”
She said: “Whilst Ramadan in mosques is really special, with congregational prayers and a communal atmosphere, it’s really important to prioritize health and wellbeing so people can pray at home instead. Lots of mosques are facilitating a live stream of programs so people can still feel connected to the mosque and tune into programs from their own homes.”