BARMM extends ban on congregational prayers to prevent COVID-19 spread

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 14 April) – Muftis or Islamic scholars in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have issued a fatwa (religious guideline) extending the suspension of congregational prayers in mosques to help prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the area.

Abuhuraira Udasan, BARMM grand mufti, said the BARMM’s Regional Darul Ifta’ (RDI) or Islamic Advisory Council agreed to extend the ban on congregational prayers as precautionary and preventive measures against COVID-19.

“The temporary suspension of the congregational Jum’ah prayers all over the BARMM is indefinitely extended while waiting for the appropriate time for us to relax it,” he said.

According to Udasan, the extension to ban congregational prayers in the region followed the example of “the great scholars (ulama) of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, who are more conversant of the Quran and Sunnah,” or the ways of Prophet Muhammad.

“They temporarily suspended the congregational Jumah prayers in their areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from going to the extent of beyond control,” he explained.

Udasan said the RDI, which he also heads, also decided to extend the suspension on congregational prayers due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide that claimed the lives of thousands of people across the globe.

The RDI first instructed the suspension of congregational prayers on big and small mosques across the region on March 19 until April 10 to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease in the area.

BARMM, home to 3.78 million people (2015 census), straddles the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi in Lanao del Sur and Lamitan in Basilan.

Cotabato City, which voted inclusion to the BARMM during last year’s plebiscite, has yet to be turned over to the new Bangsamoro region.

The BARMM government is located in Cotabato City.

Under Islam, it is mandatory for male Muslims to attend congregational prayer on Friday noon in mosques. Male Muslims are also required to pray five times daily in congregation at mosques or designated prayer areas.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, April 13, BARMM has eight confirmed COVID-19 cases with three deaths, three recoveries, one admitted and another one under home quarantine, data from the BARMM’s Ministry of Health showed.

So far, 71 persons suspected with COVID-19 infection were undergoing home quarantine, it added.

Outside the BARMM, 87 mosques in General Santos City adopted the fatwa suspending congregational prayers, according to Ustadz Ebrahim Sandigan, the chairman of Council of Imams in the city.

The GenSan local government has banned the conduct of congregational prayers in churches and mosques to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. The city has one confirmed COVID-19 case. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)