Ask a Scholar June 2020

ASK A MUSLIM SCHOLAR JUNE 2020

Is prayer valid when we pray in congregation in a mosque keeping 6 ft distance between 2
worshippers?
 
Congregational Prayer with the gaps mandated by health authorities is valid because of
the necessity.  It is not allowed under the normal circumstances where one can afford to
stand shoulder to shoulder.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The Iman is appointed for the people to follow (in
Salah). So, do not separate yourself from him in observing the different postures; instead, when
he bows down, you should also bow down, when he says, "Allah hears the one who praises Him,"
you should say: Our Lord, to You belongs all praise." When the Imam prostrates, you should also
prostrate after him. If he prays sitting, you also should pray sitting. And form lines correctly in
salah, for setting up proper lines is part of the excellence of Prayer." (Reported by Bukhari)
On closer reflection of the Prophet's statement, we learn two important points:
First, it makes it explicitly clear that the Imam is to be followed in Salah. Therefore, the
validity of the congregational Prayer depends on one's ability to follow the Imam. 
That is the most crucial point to consider. So, it cannot be compromised at all. Therefore,
we cannot allow for congregational salah unless the followers can see, or hear or discern
the different postures of the Imam.
Second, after having stated this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) next emphasizes the
importance of forming correct lines. Although essential, nevertheless is not of the same
level of importance as the ability to follow the Imam. For he followed it with the comment,
"It is part of the excellence of Salah." 
The scholars have deduced from the statement of the Prophet that while forming proper
lines cannot be considered an essential integral for the validity of congregational Prayer;
hence the salah is still valid, even if someone does not adhere to it.
It is the view of the majority of scholars; it is also the position of the four schools.  
We can seek further support for the above conclusion from the practice of the
companions as well. It is reported that the companions often followed the Imam while
entering the apartments of the Prophet's wives; we also learn that prominent companions
such as Anas and Ibn Abbas used to pray following the Imam of the Haram while they
were in the rooms or halls separate from the Masjid. They allowed for such relaxations for
necessity or hardship due to overcrowding and other factors.
 
Coming to present times, scholars have allowed the guests in the hotels facing the Haram
to follow the Imam; they also pray in the clocktower, which is further away and not in any
way connected with the lines of the Haram.
Such lenient rulings are based on the principle: in case of hardship, the rigors of the law
are relaxed.
Also, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah convincingly argues by using various precedents and examples
that when a particular condition or aspect of an ibadah cannot be fulfilled for a valid
reason, the ibadah can still be valid without it.
 Finally, the unprecedented situation of COVID-19 demands that we follow some
stringent measures to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Hence we ought to comply
with them for the benefit of protecting the health of the worshippers. 
Protecting the health and preventing harm are essential considerations in Shariah.
Therefore, there is no reason for us to question the validity of congregational prayers
conducted even we have relaxed the rules of forming the lines. It is a concession due to an
extreme situation and only as long as the stringent condition remains. 
 
Assalamu alaikum. I'm in a difficult situation; I have been born with various cognitive impairments
but at the same time I am having to provide food for my dad who has Alzheimer's Dementia. If I
was to leave him without any meals then he wouldn't have any. On the other hand, my body will
shut down and I won't get food. Based on this is it permissible for me to purchase ready meals
containing alcohol? It's just that I only ever come across sandwiches my dad would eat, containing
wine vinegar, and my mother is concerned for our welfare as I won't purchase these and thus we
often miss meals. JazakAllahu Khair Salaam
 
I empathize with your situation and pray to Allah to give on you ease, comfort and
relief. I also pray to Allah to help you overcome the challenges you are facing and
make it easy for you, your mother and your dad.  I would urge you to turn to Allah
invoking His mercy and calling upon Him by using His most beautiful names such as
Al-Rahman, Al-Raheem, Yaa Shafi, Yaa Lateef.
Now coming to whether you can order meals that may contain wine vinegar the
answer is. There is no need to worry about it for the alcohol in wine vinegar is not
the same as found in wine or alcoholic drinks; it has undergone chemical
transformed in such that it does not have the effect of intoxication. Here is an
answer posted online by the experts:  
"Does red wine vinegar have alcohol? Although there may be some traces of
alcohol in the vinegar but it is nothing to worry about. The same traces of alcohol
that are left in vinegar are also contained in foods like fruit juices or stewed fruit. The
trivial amount of alcohol that remains in vinegar is so low that you cannot be
seriously affected by it, as if you consumed an alcoholic

beverage." (http://redwinevinegar.net/2011/08/15/does-red-wine-vinegar-contain-alcohol/
It should comfort for you to know Islam is a natural and easy religion to practice. The
Prophet (peace be upon him) has warned us against being rigid in practising Islam,
and he said, “Whoever makes it rigid will become overwhelmed by it (and thus will
end up giving it up altogether).” (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)
In conclusion. you don’t need to worry about ordering such meals. 
 
What's your take on recreational Marijuana? Does legalization make it lawful for Muslims in to use
recreational cannabis?
 
According to scientific studies, using marijuana is proven to be deleterious to mental and
physical health.
Since Islam is a religion that stresses preservation of life, mind, and health as priorities, a
Muslim cannot resort to it, or condone its use as it would be akin to suicide and self-
destruction.
The only exception would be medicinal use where there is no alternative; in which case it
is permissible under the rule of ‘necessity lifts the prohibitions.’ Allah says,
“Those who shall follow the [last] Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they shall
find described in the Torah and Gospel that is with them, who enjoins what is right, and
forbids them what is wrong, and makes good things lawful for them, and forbids them bad
things (khaba’ith), and relieves them of their burden and the shackles that were upon
them. Thus, those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the light that has
been sent down with him; it is they who shall prosper.” (Qur’an: 7: 157)
The word khaba’ith as used in the above verse refers all actions including consumption of
foods and drinks that are forbidden because they are deemed filthy and impure.
 It is clear from another verse where Allah forbids the use of intoxicants:
“O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, and idols, and divining arrows are, but filthy
(and loathsome) practices, of Satan’s work. So shun it, that haply you may prosper.”
(Quran: 5: 90)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Everything that causes intoxication is wine, and
hence all intoxicants are also forbidden.” (Reported by al-Nasa’i)
Furthermore, while explaining the reasons for banning intoxicants and gambling, Allah
says in the Qur’an:
“They will ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: “In both, there is great evil
as well as some benefits for man, but the evil which they cause is greater than the benefit
which they bring.” (Qur'an: 2: 219)
 
Based on this, the rule of the Shari`ah is that a thing which has some benefits while having
greater harm, it should be forbidden. This rule applies to wine, alcohol and all forms of
intoxicants, including the use of cannabis.
Let me cite here from the Government of Canada (health-Canada/services):
“While cannabis may make you feel relaxed and happy, your body and brain may also
experience effects that are: negative, unwanted, unpleasant, and some of the short-term
effects on your brain can include…impaired ability to: remember; concentrate; pay
attention; react quickly; anxiety, fear or panic.”
“Short-term effects on your body can also include: if smoking damaged blood vessels
caused by the smoke decreased blood pressure, which can cause people to faint increased
heart rate, which can be dangerous for people with heart conditions and can lead to an
increased risk of heart attack.”
“Cannabis use can also result in psychotic episodes characterized by paranoia; delusions;
hallucinations. The long-term effects of cannabis on your brain can include an increased
risk of addiction. Long-term cannabis use can also harm your: memory; concentration;
intelligence (IQ); ability to think and make decisions.
Other long-term effects of smoking cannabis are similar to the effects
of smoking tobacco. These effects can include risks to lung health,
such as bronchitis; lung infections; chronic (long-term) cough; increased mucus buildup in
the chest.” (Health effects of cannabis)
It is rather easy for us to conclude that the Quranic principle stated above prohibiting
intoxicants and gambling applies to use of marijuana, as well.
Therefore, no Muslim can use cannabis unless he is forced to consume it for medical
reasons – under the strict prescription of a trained medical practitioner.
Almighty Allah knows best.

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