By:  Dr. AbdulHameed Badmas Yusuf
Dept.of Religions,  Unilorin.
Friday is an auspicious day for all Muslims from time immerial. It is so for them because, on it, they observe two units of prayer after listening to Khutbah, a sermon delivered by the Imam. The significance of Friday has been articulated in the Qur’an and Sunnah. A whole chapter in the Qur’an is named after the day. The Prophet was reported to have remarked that Friday is the best day of the week for many reasons, one of which is that the Day of Judgement will come up on Friday. Based on the above,  Muslims across the globe always troop out every Friday with joy to observe the prayer in their large number.
However, today Friday 27 March 2020  is going to be an exception. No Jumu’ah prayer shall be observed in virtually all mosques across the globe including the two grand mosques in Makkah and Madinah. The third most important mosque in Quds might also have a similar fate. The reason is the outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic which started in Wuhan in China last December. More than wild fire, it has since spread to all countries of the world. It has left all countries helpless including the so-called super powers that always boast of advancement in science and technology. Frightening number of deaths has been recorded in Italy, Spain, and even US.
Practically, the COVID-19 has forced all socio-economic, political and religious activities to be on a lockdown. Churches and Mosques are all under lock and key. Likewise,  learning institutions, offices and social gatherings have been on shut down.
The suspension of daily and weekly religious activities in all mosques was a necessary measure taken by religious scholars in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria to contain the spread of COVID-19. The verdict was based on several prophetic traditions, the summary of which is that the sick person should not mix with the healthy ones to avoid the spread of the disease.
There is no doubt, a Friday without its usual prayer would leave every committed Muslim in mixed feelings. Unlike daily prayers which could be observed with one’s nuclear family at home, it is unlikely that Jumu’ah prayer could be observed by a family. Such a committed Muslim would be especially sad when he remembers that the Prophet was reported to have said that the observance of Jum’ah prayer is an expiation (Kaffarah) for sins committed since the previous Friday.
But one good thing about this is that such a committed Muslim might still have the full reward though he didn’t observe the Jum’ah prayer! This is based on a prophetic tradition. Full Pay without work! This is one of the manifestations of Allah’s mercy on the Muslim community. The reason for this is that his inability  to observe the prayer is not due to his negligence; he could be  compelled to miss an act of worship due to prevailing circumstances such as rain, insecurity or sickess/ disease like COVID-19. In such situations, he would still get a full reward. As a matter of principle, Allah does not wish to expose his servants to danger and hardship in all acts of worship. This much is included in a Prophetic tradition.  Yusr (ease) is what He desires for us. Should there be anything that could endanger our lives, the Law giver has provided palliative measures in forms of Rukhsah (legal license). This is because life is one of the five essential things which Allah seeks to protect for human. These  values include Religion, Life, Intellect,  Progeny, and Property. Though life comes after Religion, the former must be safeguarded to achieve the latter.
Finally, the outbreak of COVID-19 has elicited divergent perspectives from different people. For some of them, it is considered as a Biological Weapon unleashed on the world by the so-called super power with the aim of reducing the world population!  What an audacity! How can a  mortal think of reducing the world population when its Maker and Provider is responsibly in charge and is never wary of supplying all creatures with provisions? Assuming without conceding,  if the perspective is true, this would be a blatant arrogance of an ignorant being!
Another perspective is that COVID-19 is a divine punishment as a result of an array of atrocities being perpetrated in the world by men: rampant killings, usury, injustice, illicit acts like fornication and homosexuality, etc. This second perspective seems to articulate the main cause of COVID-19. The first perspective lacks logicality because the so-called super powers who are believed to be responsible for COVID-19 are not   immune against it. Death toll in American is more than 10000 and is still counting. The second perspective seems logical. Man’s atrocities are what trigger the divine punishment,  the COVID-19 inclusive. Allah has made it clear in the Qur’an that He would punish the humanity should they flout His laws. And so far, Allah has been Patient with us. Despite our atrocities,  He has been Ever Merciful and Kind towards us. (SEE Q42:30 FOR DETAILS) But now that He seems to have reacted we should hastily  repent and turn a new leave. This is necessary and more important than whatever measures of cleanliness we are taking. This cleanliness measure would remain ineffective without the sincere repentance.
O Allah! We have repented; so forgive us our sins and protect us against COVID-1O and other epidemic.

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