What is the ruling on social distancing during congregational salat?


Someone requested Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa for guidance regarding the social distancing of 1.5 metres between worshippers during congregational prayers owing to the exceptional circumstances that had arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Huzooraa, in a letter dated 28 April 2020, gave the following guidance on this issue:

“According to the prophetic instruction of إِنَّمَا‭ ‬الْأَعْمَالُ‭ ‬بِالنِّيَّاتِ, ‬every commandment of Islam is dependent on intentions. For congregational prayers, the worshippers have been instructed to stand shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee and ankle to ankle and not to leave any gap between them. One point of wisdom behind this has been stated that if you create a physical distance between yourselves, then Satan will find space between you and create discord in your hearts.

“Now that we are compelled and governments are taking such steps for the welfare of their citizens, when we observe social distancing during prayer according to government rules, it is not our intention that discord may be created between us or that Satan may cause division between us; rather, it is our intention that we should remain united, fight this disease together and cooperate with the authorities regarding these governmental measures for the welfare of the people. Hence, there is no harm in keeping distance between the worshippers during congregational prayers with this intention and in this case of emergency. 

“One can draw authority for this from [the permission to] pray on a mount during a journey when compelled because in that case too, the condition of standing shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee and ankle to ankle is not met and sometimes there is a gap between the worshippers. Therefore, just as it is proven from the sunnah of the Holy Prophetsa to do so due to being compelled during a journey, there is no harm in keeping a distance between the worshippers due to this disease under the current compelling circumstances. 

“May Allah have mercy and remove these difficult circumstances from the whole world soon so that His worshipping servants may then be able to offer their offerings of worship to their Lord while meeting all the conditions in the best possible manner. Amin.”

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