The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has issued a guideline for Muslims to perform their Taraweeh salah at home during Ramadan, following the closure of all masajid in South Africa. The country is in the fifth week of a national lockdown, aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus. The virus has already claimed 79 lives in South Africa and the Western Cape has the most infections with 1413 out of the national figure of 4,220 (as of Friday 24 April).
While having to grapple with the sudden onset of the pandemic, many Muslims find themselves struggling with the closure of the masjid, as it a source of comfort and solitude.
“As much as the closure of our masājid causes us great pain and anguish, we realise that the duty of combatting the virus cannot be executed without the temporary sacrifice of some of what we hold most sacred and dear,” said MJC Mufti, Maulana Taha Karaan.
“We have, for the time being, stepped away from congregating for ṣalāh in the masājid, be it for the five daily Maktūbāt or for Tarāwīḥ. We have not done so simply in submission to government regulations. To us this is a sacrifice of an infinitely higher order. Despite the pain of separation from the Houses of Allah, it was a sacrifice we willingly made, because we believe that this is what our Deen requires of us under such circumstances.”
Karaan said the lockdown, however, does not at all require that any of the other obligations and acts associated with Ramaḍan needs to be set aside. Pertinent in this regard is Sunnah of Tarāwīḥ.
The Fatwa Committee of the MJC, therefore, issues the following guidelines:
1. In the same way, as the daily farāʾiḍ and even Jumuʿah were made at home, Tarāwīḥ will be made at home.
2. Only the persons living in a house should gather for Tarāwīḥ in that house. There should be no gathering of neighbours, friends or extended family.
3. If there is a ḥāfiẓ in the house he may lead the Tarāwīḥ in the normal manner, to his ability.
4. Where there is no ḥāfiẓ, any capable male who can read any part of the Qurʾān from memory may lead the Tarāwīḥ. The imām does not have be mukallaf.
5. Females, ḥāfiẓāt or otherwise, may lead groups of females only. Being mukallafah is not a requirement.
6. It is permissible for the imām—be he ḥāfīz or not—to read from a muṣḥaf open in front of him. The muṣḥaf should preferably be placed on a stand before the imām, and he may occasionally turn the page as needed.
7. The imām may even read from an electronic device, hand-held or otherwise.
According to Maulana Karaan, reading from the muṣḥaf was a common practice among the early Muslims.
“Umm alMuʾminīn Sayyidah ʿĀʾishah, for example, used to have her mawlā Dhakwān lead her in Tarāwīh from the muṣḥaf. The practice is furthermore sanctioned by all of the four Madhāhib except the Ḥanafī madhhab.”
Although the masjid does bring with it a sense of brotherhood and unity in Ramadan, closure of the masajid does not mean that the sacred month has been robbed of all its sanctity. As Maulana Karaan emphasizes, the sanctity of Ramaḍan has much more to do with the choices we make for ourselves in this month than the extent to which we are able to access the masājid.
“If the masājid are for the moment closed, then let us maintain the sanctity of this month by turning our homes into mini-masājid in which the word of Allah is recited by all and sundry, and wherein the Sunnah of Tarāwīh is kept alive and vibrant. May Allah grant us a blessed Ramaḍān, and grant relief from all that afflicts us.”