Ramadan 2020: UAE medics and patients exempt from fasting amid Covid-19 outbreak

Religious leaders also said Eid Al Fitr prayer should be performed at home, if the current restrictions are still in place

Medics and Covid-19 sufferers exempt from Ramadan fasting

Medics and Covid-19 sufferers exempt from Ramadan fasting
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Frontline medical workers and patients are exempted from fasting during Ramadan, according to an order issued by the UAE Fatwa Council.

This was among five rulings issued by the body about the holy month, which is expected to begin this weekend.

The first is that fasting is obligatory for healthy people. But anyone suffering from Covid-19 does not have to fast when they are experiencing symptoms of the virus, if doctors say it will worsen their condition.

Medical staff fighting the outbreak are also exempted from fasting if they fear doing so would weaken their immune systems or compromise their ability to treat patients.

The second fatwa says taraweeh, an extra extended prayer typically held in mosques after the evening prayers during Ramadan, can be performed at home under the current circumstances.

But the council said that, if possible, a family should be led in taraweeh prayers by the “man of the house”, who should read from the Quran or recite verses from it he has memorised.

People may perform Eid Al Fitr prayer individually at their homes or in group with their respective family members without a sermon

The third fatwa concerns Eid Al Fitr prayer, if social distancing rules still apply during the period.

The council said that for Eid Al Fitr prayers, which are held after fajr – or sunrise – could be performed individually in homes without a sermon, should the situation not ease by then.

Families who live in the same house can pray together but the council said congregating to perform the prayer could endanger lives, which is strictly forbidden in Islam, so should be avoided.

The fourth fatwa said performing Friday prayers is not permissible. Instead, Muslims should perform dhuhr – or afternoon – prayers because Friday prayer has its own congregational requirements which, if not met, invalidates the prayer.

August 22, 2009 / Abu Dhabi / (Rich-Joseph Facun / The National) Men gather to pray at the mosque on the Eid Prayer Grounds during the morning prayer Saturday, August 22, 2009 during the first day of Ramadan.  *** Local Caption ***  rjf-0822-ramadan014.jpg
Mosques are expected to remain closed throughout the holy month of Ramadan. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

The body reminded people it is obligatory to follow the authorities’ instructions against gatherings to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The fifth fatwa instructs Muslims to pay Zakat – a sustained, annual charity that is paid by Muslims calculated using a percentage of their income – earlier this year, “given the current circumstances”. Typically, Muslims pay Zakat once a year on a specific date of their choosing but the council said it would be “even better to pay it as quickly as possible” this year to help people suffering from the effects of the coronavirus.

Abdullah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, joins a virtual meeting of the UAE’s Fatwa Council. Wam
Abdullah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, joins a virtual meeting of the UAE’s Fatwa Council. Wam

The council cited an example when the “Prophet Mohammed allowed his uncle Al Abbas to pay his Zakat earlier than the due time to help the beneficiaries meet their needs”.

It said all types of Zakat are better spent within the country to help the beneficiaries meet their needs, state news agency Wam reported.

Zakat Al Fitr – a charitable contribution typically paid a few days before the end of Ramadan – can also be paid earlier at the beginning of the holy month, scholars said.

The council said all types of Zakat are better spent within the country and they could be paid to authorities or charitable organisations.

If there is money left over, the funds could be sent to other Muslims through the Emirates Red Crescent and other licensed charities.

Last month, the council issued a fatwa that prohibited congregational worship and called for all Muslims in the country to comply with government rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

It also banned Muslims who feel unwell from going to public places or attending any prayers, including those typically held on Friday, Eid and Ramadan.

The holy month is expected to begin on Friday, a member of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences said. The exact date will be confirmed by the UAE’s moon-sighting committee – a group of astronomers, court officials and advisers from the country’s Islamic authority.

The committee meets to search for a new crescent moon, indicating the start of Ramadan.

This year, mosques will be closed for the duration of the holy month, which will be one of the biggest changes to Ramadan brought on by the coronavirus.