Fatwa panel prepares Covid-19 edict for royal approval

Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri chairs a special meeting in Putrajaya last night. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Islamic officials and scholars held a special meeting last night to obtain religious opinion about the Covid-19 pandemic, in the wake of a spike in new infections because of a massive religious gathering in Sri Petaling two weeks ago.

Among the main topics discussed were about religious gatherings or religious activities involving mass gatherings, as well as the management of corpses of people who die of infectious diseases such as Covid-19, according to the director-general of health, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

There have been no deaths from Covid-19 infections so far among the 428 cases reported up to noon yesterday.

However, 190 new cases of infections were reported as a result of a tabligh (missionary) convention attended by 14,500 Malaysians and about 1,500 foreigners at a mosque in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, two weeks ago.

The fatwa committee meeting took place amid calls for firm action against large gatherings, while the health ministry has advised against gatherings of more than 50 people being held.

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Religious officials have recently taken contrasting stances on whether Friday prayers should be called off or whether mosques should be closed.

Last night’s meeting in Putrajaya was called at the command of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

A statement by the minister in charge of Islamic affairs, Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, said viewpoints of Islamic jurisprudence in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic will be presented to the Agong and state rulers before obtaining consent for further action.

“The fatwa committee members examined the legal studies tabled by Dr Aizam Mas’od, director of the Fatwa al-Zuhaili Research and Management Centre, Federal Territory Mufti’s Office,” the statement said.

“The consensus of the edict will be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and rulers of the states for their approval and further action.”

The statement did not give details of the consensus that was reached or what further action was proposed.

Last week Friday prayers were called off in Perlis, while mosques in the Federal Territory carried on with shorter sermons and the congregation told to conduct ablutions at home before going to the mosque.

The meeting, chaired by the head of the fatwa committee, Zahidi Wan Teh, was attended by all state muftis and representatives, directors of state Islamic affairs departments and representatives of state Islamic religious councils.

Besides Noor Hisham, directory-general of the National Disaster Management Agency, Mohtar Mohd Abd Rahman, was present to give updates of the Covid-19 situation.

Noor Hisham said he had also held a discussion by video-conferencing with Jakim, the Islamic development department, and management of the Sri Petaling mosque, where the tabligh convention was held.

He said the officials at the meeting discussed the cluster of infections relating to tabligh members and the steps taken by the health ministry and the mosque.

“The mosque management will assist and work closely with the ministry and Jakim to continue to be in contact with the tabligh members to ensure that all involved would go for health examination and screening,” he said.

Participants at the tabligh convention are to be placed under surveillance and observation under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases 1988.