Is it permissible for me to perform the janazah prayer in absentia for the Muslims who passed away due to the COVID-19 or others during the Movement Control Order?
Waalaikumussalam wrm. wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The janazah prayer (prayer for the deceased) is one of the fardhu kifayah on every Muslim towards his brother who passed away. There are numerous evidences that state the sanctioning of the janazah prayer. Among them is a hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas R.Anhuma, where he said the Prophet PBUH said:
مَا مِنْ رَجُلٍ مُسْلِمٍ يَمُوتُ فَيَقُومُ عَلَى جَنَازَتِهِ أَرْبَعُونَ رَجُلاً لاَ يُشْرِكُونَ بِاللَّهِ شَيْئًا إِلاَّ شَفَّعَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِيهِ
"If a Muslim man dies and a group of forty people, who do not associate any one with Allah, pray for him, Allah will accept their intercession for him (by way of their du’a for him).”
Sahih Muslim (948)
It is the custom for Muslims to perform the janazah prayer in congregation especially in mosques and surau. However, during the Movement Control Order (MCO) this undeniably affects the congregation janazah prayer. The reason is among the matters that are restricted is any religious activity in mosques and surau throughout the MCO includes any form of congregational prayer.
Coming back to the question presented, we would like to first state performing janazah prayer in absentia means the janazah prayer is performed without the presence of the deceased where the prayer is performed. Which means the deceased is not placed in front of those who are performing the janazah prayer. Performing janazah prayer in absentia is sanctioned in syarak. This is according to a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where he said:
أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم نَعَى النَّجَاشِيَّ فِي الْيَوْمِ الَّذِي مَاتَ فِيهِ، خَرَجَ إِلَى الْمُصَلَّى، فَصَفَّ بِهِمْ وَكَبَّرَ أَرْبَعًا
“Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) informed (the people) about the death of An-Najashi on the very day he died. He went towards the Musalla (praying place) and the people stood behind him in rows. He said four Takbirs (i.e. offered the Funeral prayer).”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1245)
Fiqh scholars generally have different opinions in istidhlal with this hadith. We state the different opinions as the following:
First: Some scholars are of the opinion that the hadith is specific for only Najasyi. The reason is Najasyi passes away in a time when there are no other Muslims living in his region to pray for him. Thus, the Messenger PBUH took it upon himself to ask the Muslim ummah during his time to fulfil the fardhu kifayah commandment.
Imam Ibn Battal who is among the al-Malikiyyah Kibar scholars said that performing the janazah prayer in absentia is specific for only Najasyi. He supported his opinion saying:
والدليل على ذلك أنه لم يصل (صلى الله عليه وسلم) على أحد من المسلمين ومتقدمى المهاجرين والأنصار الذين ماتوا فى أقطار البلدان، وعلى هذا جرى عمل المسلمين بعد النبى (صلى الله عليه وسلم) ، ولم يصل على أحدٍ مات غائبًا، لأن الصلاة على الجنائز من فروض الكفاية يقوم بها من صلى على الميت فى البلد التى يموت فيها
“The evidence for this is the Prophet PBUH did not perform janazah prayer in absentia for any muhajirin or ansar who passed away throughout the country preceding this incident. And this is the practice of the Muslim ummah after the Prophet PBUH. They did not perform the janazah prayer in absentia. The reason is janazah prayer is among the fardhu kifayah which is performed by the doer in the same region/state of which the deceased passed away. Refer Syarah Sahih Al-Bukhari, Ibn Battal (3/243)
Second: Whilst other jurists istidhlal with the above hadith saying that it is the sanctioning of performing janazah prayer in absentia. They said that the above hadith is a clear sanction of performing janazah prayer in absentia and it is a commandment on every Muslim to follow the example of the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH.
Imam al-Nawawi a Kibar scholar of al-Syafi’iyyah holds the opinion that it is permissible to perform the janazah prayer in absentia. He based his opinion with the above hadith saying:
وَمَذْهَبُنَا جَوَازُ الصَّلَاةِ عَلَى الْمَيِّتِ الْغَائِبِ عَنْ الْبَلَدِ سَوَاءٌ كَانَ فِي جِهَةِ الْقِبْلَةِ أَمْ فِي غَيْرِهَا وَلَكِنَّ الْمُصَلِّيَ يَسْتَقْبِلُ الْقِبْلَةَ وَلَا فَرْقَ بَيْنَ أَنْ تَكُونَ الْمَسَافَةُ بَيْنَ الْبَلَدَيْنِ قَرِيبَةً أَوْ بَعِيدَةً وَلَا خِلَافَ فِي هَذَا كُلِّهِ عِنْدَنَا
And our madhhab (al-Syafi’iyyah) states the permissibility of performing the janazah prayer when the deceased is not in the same state. Regardless of whether the deceased is in the direction of the qibla or others. However, the people who are performing the prayer must face the qibla. And there is no difference between the distance between the two countries whether it is near or far, there is no khilaf (difference of opinions among scholars) for all these matters for us. Refer Al-Majmu’ Syarah Al-Muhazzab (5/253).
Thus, we agree with the opinion of madhhab Imam al-Syafi’e in this issue which ruled it permissible to perform the janazah prayer in absentia. The next question which arises is, since we are under the MCO, surely, we as one of the people in society cannot go to the mosque to perform the congregational janazah prayer throughout this duration if anyone dies due to the COVID-19 or other diseases or causes.
In answering this question, the following we share the opinion of Syeikh Zainuddin al-Malibari who said:
لو تعذر الحضور لها بنحو حبس أو مرض جازت حينئذ على الأوجه
If there is a debilitation for him that restricts him from attending it (the janazah prayer) because he is isolated/restricted or sick, then this is permissible (to perform the janazah prayer in absentia) according to the opinion (presented by ashab al-wujuh). Refer Fath Al-Mu’in, Zainuddin Al-Malibari (225).
Thus, this opinion shows that a person who is unable to attend the congregational janazah prayer due to a debilitation, then it is permissible for him to perform the janazah prayer in absentia.
To conclude, after analysing the above evidences and arguments, we would end our statement with the following points:
- Janazah prayer is fardhu kifayah on the Muslim ummah. Which means when there are already people who had fulfilled it, then the obligation on others is abrogated. During the Movement Control Order, if there is any death and after the deceased has been bathed or tayammum (for a deceased who can’t be bathed), then their closest family or people who are directly involved in the process of management of the deceased and funeral is permissible to perform the janazah prayer in any appropriate and clean place. It is not conditioned that the janazah prayer to be performed in the mosque. Regarding the performance of the janazah prayer, please refer to our previous article: https://www.muftiwp.gov.my/en/artikel/irsyad-fatwa/irsyad-fatwa-umum-cat/4406-irsyad-al-fatwa-series-480-the-saf-arrangement-for-the-prayer-of-the-deceased-during-an-epidemic
- It is sanctioned to perform the janazah prayer in absentia for a person who passed away outside of the state and it is also permissible to be performed for those who are unable to go to the mosque due to debilitation. We have also discussed the permissibility of janazah prayer in absentia even for a deceased who is in the same state in our previous article: https://muftiwp.gov.my/en/artikel/al-kafi-li-al-fatawi/3091-al-kafi-1089-solat-jenazah-ghaib-dalam-negeri
- Regarding the methodology and procedure of performing janazah prayer in absentia, we have detailed it in our article: https://muftiwp.gov.my/en/artikel/al-kafi-li-al-fatawi/2891-al-kafi-968-kaifiat-solat-jenazah-ghaib
- We have also stated that iff a person did not get the chance to perform the janazah prayer during the Movement Control Order (MCO), then it is permissible to perform it at the grave after the MCO is over. This action is tsabit with the action of the Prophet PBUH according to a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where he said:
أَنَّ رَجُلًا أَسْوَدَ - أَوِ امْرَأَةً سَوْدَاءَ - كَانَ يَقُمُّ الْمَسْجِدَ ، فَمَاتَ ، فَسَأَلَ النَّبِيُّ عَنْهُ فَقَالُوا مَاتَ ، قَالَ أَفَلَا كُنْتُمْ آذَنْتُمُونِي بِهِ ، دُلُّونِي عَلَى قَبْرِهِ - أَوْ قَالَ قَبْرِهَا - فَأَتَى قَبْرَهَا فَصَلَّى عَلَيْهَا
A black man or a black woman used to sweep the mosque and he or she died. The Prophet (ﷺ) asked about her (or him). He was told that she (or he) had died. He said, "Why did you not inform me? Show me his grave (or her grave)." So, he went to her (his) grave and offered her (his) funeral prayer."
Sahih al-Bukhari (458)
This hadith clearly shows that it is permissible for a person who did not get the chance to perform the janazah prayer to perform it after the deceased has already been buried at the deceased’s grave. We have discussed this issue at length in our previous article: https://muftiwp.gov.my/en/artikel/al-kafi-li-al-fatawi/3225-al-kafi-1165-adakah-sah-solat-jenazah-di-atas-kubur
Whereas, regarding the duration of which it is permissible to perform the janazah prayer at the grave, Imam al-Nawawi has stated six opinions in this issue:
- It is permissible to perform the janazah prayer until the third day the deceased is buried and the deceased is not prayed upon after this duration.
- For a month.
- As long as the body of the deceased has not decomposed.
- The janazah prayer is permissible to be performed by people of fardhu prayer (who are not a disbeliever, on menstruation and others) on the day of the death of the deceased.
- The janazah prayer is permissible to be performed by those who are people of prayer even if he is not included as the people of fardhu prayer which includes children who are mumayyiz (children who are able to discern between good and bad).
- On this basis, it is permissible to perform this prayer on the graves of the Companion and the previous nations on their graves to this day. And the ashab (al-Sayfi’iyyah) ruled this sixth opinion as dhaif (weak).
Refer Al-Majmu’ Syarah Al-Muhazzab, Al-Nawawi (5/247)
Imam al-Nawawi stated that the opinion in madhhab al-Syafi’e states that it is permissible to perform the janazah prayer for as long as the deceased has not decomposed, which means for as long as there are still bones, flesh and body parts of the deceased.
Thus, in our opinion, there are two choices on this issue. First, it is permissible to perform the janazah prayer in absentia during the Movement Control Order especially for those who are directly involved in the process of the management of the deceased. Regardless of whether the deceased died due to the COVID-19 or other causes. Second, it is permissible to perform the janazah prayer after the MCO is over on the condition that the person is eligible to perform fardhu prayer on the day of the death. Which means it is impermissible for a disbeliever or a woman who was menstruating on the day of the death, even if the person embraces Islam or the woman becomes pure after the death. Wallahua’lam.
Lastly, we pray to Allah SWT to give us all the correct understanding in practising the religion. Amin.