Several local masajid have announced that they are temporarily closing their doors in the wake of widespread fear around the spreading of the coronavirus. It comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the National State of Disaster on Sunday evening, following an increase in the number of South African patients testing positive for the Co-Vid 19 virus. Ramaphosa effected far-reaching contingency plans with immediate effect; including a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people in one place.
Masjidul Quds in Gatesville was the first South African mosque to announce its closure, which many have lauded as a bold, decisive step. Resident Imam at Masjidul Quds, Sheikh Abdurahmaan Alexander, stated that the decision was made after urgent consultation with various other masajid, the imaamat of Masjid ul Quds, the board of trust and the executive committee. The masjid will be closed as of Tuesday, 17 March 2020.
“We need to take extra care. So, for the welfare and wellbeing of the broader public, we have made this regrettable decision,” said Shaykh Alexander.
All activity at the masjid has been postponed until further notice, including all madressa classes, Jumuah prayers and the Mi’raaj programme scheduled for Saturday 21st March.
On Monday morning, Claremont Main Road Mosque (CMRM) and Shukrul Mubeen masjid in Lansdowne followed suit and confirmed they will be executing similar measures as a precautionary measure to prevent the disease from spreading.
Resident imam at Shukrul Mubeen Mosque in Lansdowne, Imam Gasant Moos, also reiterated that the decision was made for the benefit of the ummah.
“Islam teaches us that preservation of life comes before everything else and taking cognizance of what has been happening globally, the Imaamat and Mosque Committee decided that Shukrul Mubeen Mosque will be closed with immediate effect until further notice. All activities and classes will be suspended. The committee will take guidance from the MJC Fatwa committee and any changes to this decision will be communicated,” said Imam Moos.
Sh Alexander said it’s “too early to speak for Ramadaan but for the time being (the masjid) will even be closed for jumuah.” He explained that any gathering would be risky and the community could face serious repercussions:
“We get about 300-400 people every waqt and also an influx of tourists and visitors from other provinces. So, this is a precautionary measure we have to take because Masjidul Quds is a hub of activity and we don’t want to be the cause of people contracting this virus by interacting with one another.”
Shaykh Alexander reminded the Muslim ummah that prayer is a crucial aspect of Islam and should not be given up.
“You can’t follow the imam on radio or on tv, you have to make your own salaah. We must bare in mind that the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says that one of the greatest gifts that Allah has given to this ummah is the masjid.”
“‘I’ve made the entire earth for you as a masjid’. We don’t have to go inside the masjid to pray. We can pray at home, we can pray anywhere,” he added.
Claremont Main Road Mosque also clarified in a statement that the imam will continue with ritual prayers at the appointed times inside of the masjid to observe the function of the masjid, but in a quarantined state. No other persons will be allowed to enter the masjid for prayer purposes.
“It is the masjid boards responsibility to prevent the spread of the disease and not expose congregants to risk. Other masjid staff such as the administrator, caretaker and cleaner will also not be on site. Current building works will continue as far as it is possible. We are mindful of the fact that workers and professionals in the Claremont area frequent the mosque for Thuhr prayers and we regret that they will not have access to the masjid. We recommend that they utilize facilities at their workplace to accomplish their obligatory prayers and in the absence of such remedies they can utilize the Sharʿī dispensation under these circumstances and combine their Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr prayers as soon as they return home before Maghrib prayers (jam’ ta’khir),” said Imam Rashied Omar.
CMRM said the closure was carefully considered as a “precautionary, proactive measure” to minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus amongst congregants, their families and the broader public.
“The most important public health principle is containment of the disease as far as possible through social distancing i.e. avoiding social gatherings, minimising gathering in groups and public events, but also making daily choices to avoid going out in public. Closing the masjid is thus a form of social solidarity and promoting public health,” added Imam Omar.
Alexander also noted that performing salaat with your family will help reinforce the concept of ‘a family that prays together, stays together’.
“We can take this as a blessing in the form that this can be a time, we can re-consolidate our family bond. We can interact with our wives and our children by praying together.”
”We should see this as a blessing and not as a balaa (calamity). We didn’t close the masjid forever, we didn’t ask the people not to pray and make salaah…salaah must carry on,” he urged.
The adhaan will still be given but “Hayya ‘alas Salaah” and “Hayya alal Falaah” will be replaced with “al-Salaatu fee buyootikum” (Salaah in your homes). The mosque’s decision follows that of other Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt.
Alexander said that suggestions to minimize the amount of people inside the masjid by using ‘colour tags’ that designate a specific time frame that one would be able to access the masjid, would be a “logistical nightmare.”
“Who do you allow in and when do you stop people by saying ‘look, there’s enough people inside, you cant go in”?. You’re looking for problems. To avoid this, we’re doing the most practical thing : just close the masjid,” he stated.
The masjid’s committee put its weight behind governments call to avoid spreading fear and panic.
“We call on the community and the ummah at large to engage in dua, have conversations with Allah, beg with Allah, cry with Allah to take this coronavirus away from the planet In Shaa Allah, Ameen ,” said Shaykh Alexnder.
“We urge the community to not cause pandemonium and panic but to take all necessary precautions to not be exposed to the virus. Our imammat reminds us that everything happens with the decree of Allah, and the best cure is from Allah. In this very difficult times, we urge the Ummah to return to Allah and make duah for a cure. May Allah guide and protect us all. Ameen,” urged imam Moos.
While there remains uncertainty on how some of the restrictions outlined in Ramaphosa’s plan will affect all aspects of Muslim life, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) will host an urgent national discussion with the United Ulama Council of South Africa, UUCSA on Monday in an attempt to formulate a national strategy on the coronavirus outbreak.
During his announcement, Ramaphosa also advised South Africans to: limit contact with infected or sick people, avoid travel to high-risk countries, citizens returning from high-risk areas are to contact the NICD and undergo self-quarantine, implement stringent hygiene practices at all businesses/workplaces, shopping malls and minimize overall physical contact.
A travel ban will also be implemented on Wednesday for high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the US, the UK and China. Domestic travel has been discouraged and 35 of 72 ports of entry has been shut, while two seaports have been closed. Funding will also be made available to monitor reinforce the systems introduced
The number of COVID19 cases has increased to 15 in the Western Cape, while the national figure has risen to 61. The University of Cape Town confirmed that a staff member is among those who tested positive and will be self-isolated at home. Classes have since been suspended and those who have been in close contact with the staff member will remain in quarantine for 14 days.
Major upcoming events have either been postponed or cancelled including the Cape Town International Friendship Run, Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Cape Epic, Two Oceans Marathon, Boland Summer Festival, and the Whole Sun Bread Cape Town Big Walk.
The National Disaster announcement came four days after the World Health organisation declared the outbreak a “pandemic”, after noting with concern its rapid spread and “alarming levels of inaction”.
“All countries can still change the course of this pandemic – if countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilise their people in the response,” said WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, while speaking at a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
As of midday on Monday, 171 045 infections were detected in 156 different countries and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, Japan), while 77 791 people have fully recovered. The death toll stood at 6 526. The virus currently has a 3.82% fatality rate.