April 27, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8718

Egypt's Official Fatwa-Issuing Body Warns Against Extremist Fatwas On Coronavirus, Calls To Follow Instructions Of Medical Establishment

April 27, 2020
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 8718

On March 16, 2020, Dar Al-Ifta, Egypt's official fatwa-issuing body, published a report on fatwas (religious rulings) issued across the Muslim world regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The fatwas reviewed in the report were collected by the Global Fatwa Index, a body established by Dar Al-Ifta in 2018 to fight extremist fatwas in the Muslim world. They include rulings issued by official religious bodies in the Muslim world (comprising 40% of the fatwas reviewed) and rulings issued by non-official elements (60%). The report  describes the content of these fatwas and states the position of the Egyptian religious establishment regarding them. Its publication is part of the Egyptian regime's general efforts to renew the religious discourse in the country.

The report states that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Salafist elements in Egypt use the epidemic to advance their ideas by issuing extremist and misleading fatwas aimed at spreading chaos and fear among Egyptians and undermining their faith in their leadership and government institutions. As examples of this, it presents fatwas that refer to the epidemic as divine retribution against Egypt for passing regulations banning the niqab (full-face veil) in certain public places, or as Allah's revenge on China for its oppression of the Muslim Uyghur minority. The report also comes out against fatwas that permit people to flee infected areas, stating that this contravenes the shari'a, and criticizes Salafists who take advantage of the epidemic to make a profit, for instance by issuing fatwas advocating the use of amulets as protection from the disease. Also condemned are fatwas by ISIS that urge Muslims to rejoice in the spread of the disease in China and Iran, and fatwas that call on ISIS members who have contracted COVID-19 to act as "biological bombs" by deliberately spreading the disease among the organization's enemies.

The report urges the Egyptians to heed only fatwas issued by the official religious institutions in the Muslim world, which call to follow the instructions of the medical authorities, including the instruction to suspend all public prayers, avoid making the pilgrimage to Mecca, and refrain from congregating and shaking hands, so as to avoid spreading the disease and protect human lives, as the shari'a commands. It also calls on the fatwa-issuing authorities in the Muslim world to refute fatwas circulated by extremist and terrorist organizations and to encourage the public to obey the directives of the authorities.  


The following are translated excerpts from the document.[1]

"The Global Fatwa Index (GFI), subordinate to Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta … reviewed the fatwas about the coronavirus [epidemic] issued across the world by official institutions (40%) and others (60%). The Index stresses that the [epidemic] is being exploited by two elements. The first of these elements is the extremist and terrorist organizations, which use it to implement some of their ideas… in order to spread chaos, fear, hysteria and mistrust of the homeland's [official] institutions and leaders. The second [element that is] exploiting the spread of the virus is vile [speculators] who try to monopolize [the market] for medicines and medical equipment that help to protect against this virus…  or hoard foodstuffs… so as to raise their prices. They do this even though Islam forbids speculation…"

The MB And Salafist Fatwas – Describing The Coronavirus As Divine Punishment Or Permitting To Flee From Infected Areas – Contravene The Shari'a

"According to the Index, the terrorist MB and some Salafists continue to exploit the [epidemic] to advance some of their ideas by linking the appearance of the virus to the ban [imposed] by some officials on donning the niqab [full-face veil] in Egyptian institutions and universities. [They] claim that  [the virus] is divine punishment for such measures…  For example, MB member Wagdi Ghneim issued a fatwa stating that 'the coronavirus is Allah's revenge on China and a trial and test for the Muslims,' and Salafist Yasser Burhami issued a fatwa saying that 'the virus is divine punishment for the crisis of the Uyghurs [a Muslim minority in China]'… The Salafist Najel Al-Hayouni wrote, 'Find favor in the eyes of Allah, modest [Muslim sisters]. Eyes that have become addicted to the sight of naked bodies will never understand the beauty of the niqab. Circumvent this vile and arbitrary decision [to ban the niqab] by wearing those medical masks, so that Allah will grant you salvation'… Whenever these people [the Salafists] see an opportunity to circumvent the law, they take it, on any pretext, even if it goes against what they believe. That is what Osama Hijazi, a broadcaster on the Al-Rahma channel, did when he said that the niqab is an effective medical treatment for the virus, and that, were it not for its embarrassment, the World Health Organization would have advised the countries of the world to compel men and women to wear it. Such talk reveals a fierce hatred of science and of all safety precautions and security measures…

"The Index also notes that 10% of the fatwas deal with fleeing from infected areas. Salafist Sameh 'Abd Al-Hamid permitted this…The Index clarifies that this was contrary to the opinion of the Muslim scholars who determined… that the Islamic ruling is not to leave the area where an epidemic or contagious disease has spread, unless this is necessary and is done with the permission from the relevant authorities… so as not to transmit the disease or expose [others] to it… This is what is now called curfew or medical isolation.

"The Al-Azhar Council of Senior Scholars stressed the obligation to follow the precautions posted by the relevant authorities and avoid attending Friday prayers or public prayers, now that it has been medically determined that the disease is spreading and causing many deaths worldwide…”

Misleading Salafist Rulings Issued For The Purpose Of Making A Profit Must Be Ignored

"At the same time, the Index states that some Salafists are exploiting the virus commercially, using religion to make a profit, such as Mauritanian Sheikh Yahthia Ould Dahi, who said, 'COVID-19 is treated by clerics, using a shari'a amulet. Don't worry, we are prepared to go to China and deal with it, Allah willing'… He said [further] that 'the cost of the treatment for this disease varies according to [the identity] of the patient, his circumstances and his (financial) means.' The Index notes that such statements must not be credited, that the Prophet encouraged us to take steps to preserve our health, saying [according to a hadith related by the Prophet's Companion Abu Hurairah]: 'Run from a leper as from a lion.' In this hadith the Prophet instructs to avoid anyone who is infected so as not to spread disease among the public…”

The Religious Establishment Must Guide Muslims On Dealing With The Epidemic; Information Should Be Drawn From Official Sources Alone

“The Index states that it is the duty of the religious establishment to assume the role of raising awareness and providing guidance, and mentioned the warning of the Al-Azhar Council of Senior Scholars that it is important to strictly follow three [instructions] in order to help wipe out this virus, namely: 1. In the event that Friday prayers and public prayers are suspended, the call to come pray at the mosques must all be suspended [as well], although the muezzin may call out 'Pray in your homes;' 2. Once [it has been announced that] there is no obligation to hold public prayers at the mosque, the residents of each household may pray together, until it is announced that the danger has passed, with Allah's help; 3. According to religious law, all citizens must obey the instructions and guidelines of the health authorities. In order to prevent the spread of the virus and eradicate it, they must draw information from the relevant official sources and avoid spreading rumors that alarm the public and cause confusion and uncertainty about the situation."                                         

The Index Warns Against The Call By MB Member To Deliberately Infect Egyptian Military And Police Personnel

“In this context the Index mentions a video circulated on social media by Bahgat Saber,[2] an MB member who fled [from Egypt and is residing in the U.S.], in which he urged anyone with flu symptoms and a high fever, who is suspected of having COVID-19, to enter police stations or military and government institutions [in Egypt], such as Media Production City [an information and media complex located near Cairo] and mingle [with the people there] as much as possible in order to spread contagion and take revenge on those he describes as 'the Egyptian regime.'

"The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide warned about the implications of this, especially in the difficult [current] circumstances in Egypt and the world… It also warned against spreading rumors and disobeying the laws and directions posted by the relevant healthcare authorities in Egypt in order to prevent the spread of the virus and eradicate it…"

For a MEMRI TV Clip of Bahgat Saber's remarks, click on the player below:

ISIS Fatwas On The Coronavirus Contravene The Shari'a And Reflect Its Failure

"The Index [also] notes that ISIS and other terrorist organizations exploit every opportunity to inculcate the idea of jihad and gain the support of young people and recruit them. Issues 220 and 223 of ISIS's official newspaper Al-Naba featured front-page articles headlined 'Allah's Crushing is Mighty' and '[When Adversity Touches You at Sea], Lost Are [All] Those You Invoke Except for Him [Allah]' [Quran 17:67], in which the organization expressed glee at the spread of the virus, especially in China and Iran. In the articles the organization referred to China as 'the infidel, the tyrannical government,' and ruled that [the Chinese] deserve suffering in this world and the next and that delighting in their misfortune is praiseworthy according to the shari'a, even if [the virus] spreads to the Muslims [as well]… The organization also expressed joy at the spread of this virus in the Iranian Shi'ite city of Qom, describing its residents as 'fools and polytheists.'

"The Index draws attention to an intelligence report recently published by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which states that 'the terrorist ISIS organization strives to recruit members who have contracted the coronavirus and spread them throughout the regions of Iraq, especially in the southern regions [populated mainly by Shi'ites] and in Shi'ite religious sites, and to use them as human biological bombs.' The Index stresses that this reflects the organization leadership's shortage of weapons and personnel, which has led it to take alternative approaches in order… to maintain a presence on the ground… [and that] their choice of using the virus to attack innocent people, Muslims and otherwise, contravenes the shari'a, which aims to protect people and the universe, as it is written: 'And do not make mischief in the earth after it has been set in order [Quran 7:56].'"[3]

Fatwas By Official Bodies Are Aimed At Protecting Muslims From The Epidemic And From Those Who Are Exploiting It

"Among the fatwas [issued by official bodies across the world], 69% deal with issues related to worship, reflecting the determination of the official institutions to focus on protecting the worshippers, pilgrims and others from contracting the virus, given that these collective commandments may expose the public to infection. Therefore, fatwas were issued which permit or oblige [Muslims] to avoid performing the Hajj [annual pilgrimage to Mecca] or the Umrah [a lesser pilgrimage,  undertaken at a different time of year] at this time due to the spread of the virus... Moreover, several fatwas decreed that whoever intended to perform the Umrah and was surprised by the Saudi decision not to grant entry permits and to cancel the reservations [at hotels, of tickets, etc.] because of the virus will receive the full reward [for performing] the Umrah. The fatwas also stressed that reporting cases of infection [during an] epidemic is a shari'a obligation, and so is avoiding handshakes.

"On the economic level, the official institutions, chief among them Al-Azhar's Council of Senior Scholars, Dar Al-Ifta and the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, played the most significant role in warning against the practice of some sellers to hoard vital goods, staples and medical protective gear [instead of selling them] to the public, so as to monopolize [the market ] for these products and raise their prices. This is forbidden according to the shari'a and constitutes a breach of trust. All the official fatwas noted the importance of protecting human lives and stressed the focus placed by Islam on people's health, regardless of their religion..."

We Must Place Our Trust In Allah; Official Fatwa Bodies Worldwide Must Refute Misleading Rulings

"The report ends with advice not to panic and not to fear hardships that may befall a Muslim. Rather, a Muslim must pray and trust in Allah, for Allah will surely heed his prayers and save him from this affliction if he takes the necessary precautions and measures to stay healthy, as posted by the relevant authorities… For it is said 'do not cast yourselves into destruction with your own hands; do good, for Allah loves those who do good' [Quran 2:195]. The Index also urges the fatwa-issuing authorities worldwide to issue reliable rulings on the epidemic, refute rumors and extremist opinions circulated by the terror organizations in order to divide the nations and sow fear and alarm, and warn the citizens to be careful about circulating reports and fatwas, in particular on social media. It concludes by beseeching Allah to shield Egypt… and the world from disease and epidemics, provide them with means of  treatment and protection, and heal the sick."

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