On 27th March 2020, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa (Caliph), delivered a special message from his office in Tilford, Surrey in place of the weekly Friday Sermon due to government restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. The special message was broadcast live worldwide through the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s satellite TV channel, MTA International. The message was also live-streamed. We present below the official full English translation of this address.
After reciting the Tashahhud, Ta‘awwuz, and Bismillah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) stated:
“Due to current pandemic, many governments around the world, including the British government have imposed certain restrictions. Among them is that the congregational prayer cannot be offered in the mosque, or even if the prayers are allowed to be offered, no more than a few people can congregate for it, who must be closely related.
The exact law however is not yet clear. People are offering various interpretations. As I said, some say that it can only take place with close relatives, others say that friends and those living together can all participate.
In any case, in light of the current situation, until there is no further clarity on the matter, the Friday Prayers cannot take place. Furthermore, certain matters with regards to offering the Friday Prayer require further elaboration. Hence, after seeking consultation, I have decided that instead of the Friday Sermon, I will address the community from my office in the form of a message and the formal Friday prayers will not be offered.
Listening to the Sermon of the Khalifa of the time on Fridays through MTA is something that people have become accustomed to. If today I did not address the Community, it is possible that some people could have become disheartened, or at times people begin to speculate and make assumptions. Thus, I deemed it appropriate that I ought to address the Community in one way or another and thus I decided to address you in the form of a message from my office.
Nevertheless, as I have mentioned, we will not be offering the Friday prayers today, however, the members will be informed of the provisions that will be made in future, God willing. Moreover, we cannot miss the Friday Prayers for a prolonged period of time. As I have mentioned that for me to remain in contact with the Jama’at (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) is important and even more so in light of the current circumstances. Therefore, after consulting with those well versed in the law and other relevant individuals, God Willing, we will find an alternative solution for this.
I would also like to say to the members of the Jama’at that the government has imposed restrictions on attending the mosque in light of the current outbreak. The UK government has not completely prohibited the people from attending the mosque, however, they have stated that people can come individually or a few members of a family can come to pray. Even then they ought to maintain a reasonable distance between them as prescribed by the government that there should not be any close contact. In any case the formal congregational prayers cannot be offered in the mosque. Hence, in these circumstances, the members of the Jama’at should offer prayers in congregation and also the Friday prayers in their homes. They can read an extract from the Malfoozat [sayings and discourses of the Promised Messiah(as)], the books of the Jama’at, other writings of the Promised Messiah(as), Al-Fazl, Al-Hakam, or from any other periodicals of the Jama’at and deliver the Friday sermon. Any adolescent or adult male of the house can lead the Friday prayers as well as the congregational prayers. Nonetheless, the Friday prayers cannot be missed for a prolonged period of time.
When people start preparing to lead the Friday Sermon at home they will have to research, which will lead to their knowledge increasing. Thus, remaining at home through the government lockdown will become a means of spiritual and educational benefit. In fact, Al-Hakam have started to get feedback from people as to how they spend their time under these restrictions and most responded that they are gaining further knowledge through reading the Holy Quran, Hadith, books of the Promised Messiah(as) as well as literature of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Even on secular sites other people in the world are saying that the current situation has been an opportunity to improve and revive their domestic lives and has led to self-improvement. We should similarly strive to adorn our homely lives, to better ourselves and to give good training and upbringing to our children. There are excellent programmes on MTA, which you should make an effort to set aside time to watch together. As I have previously mentioned, you must also fully abide by the policies and guidelines issued by the government given in the best interests of the public and for everyone’s health and safety.
Most of all, as I said in my previous sermons, give heed greatly towards prayers. Through prayers we can absorb the blessings and grace of Allah the Almighty and we can maintain a healthy spiritual and physical state. The Promised Messiah(as) has repeatedly admonished us towards this. Further, he has counselled us with reference to similar circumstances, that most importantly we should seek forgiveness from Allah for our sins, purify our hearts and engage in pious deeds. Allah the Almighty has granted us prayer as an immense tool and thus we should give heed towards this in order to derive benefit from our prayers in a manner that through them, we can enter into the refuge of Allah the Almighty.
As far as not offering the Friday Prayer is concerned, according to some Ahadith there are certain situations in which offering the congregational prayer and the Friday prayer becomes exempt. For example, there is a narration recorded in Sahih Bukhari by Hazrat Ibn Abbas(ra) in which he said to his Muazzin [the one calls the Azan – Call to Prayer] on a day it was raining: “When you have recited: Ashhadu Allah ilaaha Illal-Allahu [I bear witness that there is no god but Allah] and Ashhadu Anna Muhammadar Rasoolullah [I bear witness that Muhammad(sa) is His Messenger] do not recite Hayya Alasalat [Come to prayer]. Instead, recite Salloo Fi Buyootikum [offer the prayer in your homes].” This seemed somewhat new to the people and they expressed their astonishment. Upon this, Hazrat Ibn Abbas(ra) stated: “This practice was also carried out by the Holy Prophet(sa), who was far better than me.” Hazrat Ibn Abbas(ra) further stated that indeed the Friday prayer was obligatory, however, he did not wish for people to be troubled by walking through mud and slippery ground.
This narration has also been recorded in Sahih Muslim with a slight variation of words: On a day when it was raining, Hazrat Ibn Abbas(ra) said to his Muazzin [the one calls the Azan]: “When you have recited: Ashhadu Allah ilaaha Illal-Allahu [I bear witness that there is no god but Allah] and Ashhadu Anna Muhammadar Rasoolullah [I bear witness that Muhammad(sa) is His Messenger] do not recite Hayya Alasalat [come to prayer]. Instead, recite Salloo Fi Buyootikum [Offer the prayer in your homes].” The narrator then stated that this instruction seemed somewhat new to the people. Upon this, Hazrat Ibn Abbas(ra) stated: “Do you express your astonishment at this practice, whereas this was carried out by the one who is far better than me [i.e. referring to the Holy Prophet(sa)].” Hazrat Ibn Abbas(ra) further stated that indeed the Friday prayer was obligatory, however, he did not wish for people to be troubled by walking through mud and slippery ground.
Allama Imam Nadvi writes in the commentary of this Hadith that in certain extenuating circumstances such as rain and so on, the permission to make the Friday prayer exempt has been established according to the aforementioned Hadith. He further writes that this was his view as well as the belief of other jurists, however, Imam Malik held an opinion contrary to this – God Almighty knows best the truth of the matter.
Similarly, jurists have also included certain outbreaks in which it is difficult to congregate in the mosque as part of the reasons which exempt congregational and Friday prayers. They have based this argument on the commandment of Allah the Almighty in which he states that God Almighty does not desire hardship upon believers in matters concerning faith. It was in light of this very teaching that during the days of his illness, the Holy Prophet(sa) would not go to the mosque and instructed Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) to lead the prayers. This Hadith can be found in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Likewise, this exemption also applies to an individual who is fearful for their life due to an outbreak of disease. This is based upon a tradition narrated by Hazrat Ibn Abbas(ra) in which the Holy Prophet(sa) expounded on the exemptions owing to fear and outbreak of disease. This Hadith has been recorded in Sunan Abi Daud.
Thus, the recent outbreak is highly contagious and the government has also issued guidelines and imposed certain restrictions, which are important to follow in accordance to the law. Therefore, owing to these guidelines, it is not possible to congregate in one place and offer prayers or the Friday prayers. However, as I mentioned earlier, everyone should make a habit to offer their prayers in congregation in their homes. This will instil the importance of prayer within children and they will realise that, despite not being able to go to the mosque owing to the present situation, they must fulfil the obligation of congregational prayers in their homes.
Thus, the members ought to pay particular attention towards this. Even in the time of the Promised Messiah(as) during certain journeys, there were instances that owing to the conditions, he did not offer the Friday prayer.
Nevertheless, there are many such narrations in which it states that it is not safe for people to congregate or meet one another during an outbreak of an epidemic or disease. Therefore, one should keep a distance from another. As mentioned earlier, we are not abandoning the Friday prayer for a prolonged period, but instead we are looking for alternative possible arrangements for the Friday prayer to be offered in the homes, and I will also look for an arrangement for myself.
It is also imperative to pray that may Allah the Almighty grant His blessings and as I mentioned before, may Allah the Almighty swiftly rid the world of this epidemic. May Allah enable the mankind to fulfil the rights of one another and to recognise God Almighty. May Allah enable all of us to fulfil this.
May the peace and blessings of Allah the Almighty be upon you all.”
(Translated by The Review of Religions)