Opinion

At the end of Ramadan, Islamic places of worship will be closed

Mezquita de Madrid

Mosques throughout Spain have decided not to open their doors to their parishioners until further notice, most likely until mid-summer. The Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), whose president Riay Tatary Bakry died on April 6 from Coronavirus, issued a statement advising those responsible for Islamic centers throughout Spain to keep those centers closed, for the time being, in view of the instability of the evolution of the COVID-19. Let us remember that the Government allowed all places of worship to open their doors to their faithful on the condition that, in addition to complying with all security and prevention measures, the capacity of these centres does not exceed one third of their capacity.
Since the Council of Ministers approved the Plan for Transition to a New Normalcy, it has established the main parameters and instruments for the adaptation of society as a whole to the new normalcy, following the crisis caused by COVID-19. The plan considered a gradual, asymmetric de-escalation with common rules. Phase zero, which began on May 4, 2020 throughout Spain - and to date is still being applied to communities such as Madrid, Barcelona or part of Castilla y León - contemplates the opening, among other establishments, of small commercial premises without an appointment for individual attention. In addition to these establishments, there are places of worship with a capacity limited to one third.
But why did mosques and Islamic cultural centres all over Spain unanimously decide not to open their doors? Is it a merely preventive decision or does it have some basis in this religion professed by more than nineteen hundred million Muslims in the world? To understand the basis of the decision and the basis of this unanimity, we have no choice but to go back to the end of the 8th century with Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm ibn Mūsa, known among the medievalists as A`-šāṭibī 'gentilicio de Xàtiva', although he was a native of Granada. He is considered to be the maximum authority in the discipline of teleology of Islamic jurisprudence, Maqāṣid Aš-šarīʿa, that is, the science of ends. This exercise of understanding should be complemented by the legal approach to Islamic civilization, where a complex structural process of the corpus of law and the sources of Islamic jurisprudence is deployed. These legal sources are articulated through the rational interpretative intelligence of the texts and are based on four normative principles: the Koran, the Sunna or prophetic tradition, the consensus of the community of jurists or alphas and the legal application by analogy in cases where the similarity of the facts requires this foundation in the legal responses. There are four classical legal schools or institutions of Islam: Ḥanafī, Malikī, Šafiʿī and Ḥanbalī. Each of them is circumscribed to a different social and geographical reality throughout the Islamic world, representative of various spiritual congregations, some of which are well known such as the Shiites, with their branches of Zaydis, Duodecimans, Ismailis and Alawis, and others more unknown such as the Ibadis.
A1 developed a new methodology with which it converges different variants in the interpretation of the foundations of each legal norm from which later the legal opinions of the alphaquies are based: the fetuas. These innovative variants of the law are based on linking the text where the rule comes from and the purpose of the rule itself, trying not to contradict both, taking into consideration rational interpretation, local customs, multiple contextual meanings and prioritizing evidence according to its weight, absolute individual and collective interests, and everything circumscribed to the superior objectives of Islamic law. 
This Theory puts into value what was already agreed upon among these legal schools and established in the light of the rational interpretation of the Koranic texts and prophetic traditions of Muhammad, and which consists of the central legal objectives subject to protection above any other consideration, namely: preservation of freedom of belief, of life, of intellect and lucidity, of the species and of individual and collective property. These values have subsequently been extended to human dignity, freedom, social welfare, fraternity, etc. 
What concerns us here, with the keeping of the gates of the mosques closed, is what Aš-šāṭibī would call in his compendium Al-Muāfaqát 'Concordances in Jurisprudence' the understanding of the legal purposes, fiqhu-l-Maqasid, which is based on the consideration of the higher purpose to make any decision such as opening these centers of worship. As long as, in this case during the COVID-19 pandemic, sufficient guarantees are not observed that preserve the health and, consequently, the life of people, and there is no minimum risk of contagion 'damage' or damage in terms Legal, you cannot open mosques. In other words, preserving the life of human beings is much more a priority than praying collectively in these places, even though it is a mandatory prescription. Furthermore, life in the Islamic legal conception is not individual, although in essence it was, in such a way that "whoever saves a life, it would be as if he had saved all humanity", ratifies the Koran (5:32). Therefore, any Islamic legal-legal opinion must not only consider this situation, but must also have as a top priority the five central objectives mentioned above.
On the other hand, any legal-legal opinion must be framed and subject to the constitution of each country, a Magna Carta that circumscribes the supreme framework of the entire society. In no case can such opinion prevail over a legal text emanating from the Supreme Charter that guarantees the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
To this, it must be added that we are in the last week of Ramadan, the sacred month dedicated to fasting in the Islamic religion, where collective prayers are multiplied at night and acts of charity are increased, such as home visits to relatives and acquaintances , fact that implies an inevitable physical contact, especially in these last nights. Not being able to carry out these social relationships is an extraordinary challenge for Muslims that has rarely occurred throughout history.

However, the challenge multiplies if we consider that the party of the end of Ramdán, El-Eid, is celebrated with massive acts in which direct physical contact is unavoidable to give peace, shaking hands or giving each other hugs. Muslims are clear: if complying with an Islamic precept, however unfailing it is, jeopardizes a central foundation that is the preservation of human life, that precept goes to the background, as it circumstantially infringes a broader and sacred which is the protection of human lives.

Ahmed Kaddour. Doctor from the Complutense University of Madrid