By Shaikh Ahmad Kutty
With the COVID-19 Pandemic entering its 3rd month in parts of the world, governments around the world are proposing alternate ways to navigate around this pandemic with curbside pickups, etc.
In Ontario, Canada, Drive-thru religious gatherings have been permitted. This happens to coincide with our Eid-ul-Fitr prayer and celebration. Is this something we can make use of for Eid prayers?
This issue pertains to an unprecedented situation; in Fiqh, such circumstances are termed as a Nazilah. As is the case in dealing with a Nazilah, we often need to come up with rulings while taking into account the spirit, objectives, and purposes of the Shariah for the matter (primarily because of the absence of explicit agreed-upon judgments concerning the matter in question).
Hence, we do our best to arrive at a judgment based on our understanding of the texts and past precedents. In light of the above, I would venture to say that for this unprecedented situation, as a temporary measure, any masjid that can safely implement Drive- through Eid prayer following governmental guidelines can do so.
The two Fiqh issues that we need to sort out here are about the validity of praying in the car and organizing prayer lines.
Firstly, although, ideally, we are to stand and pray, praying in the car would necessitate that we pray seated. The Prophet has already set a precedent for this as he used to pray Nawafil sitting on his camel or mule. Therefore, with Eid prayer being a Nafl or non-obligatory prayer, sitting for prayer should pose no real issue or warrant objection.
The second Fiqh issue is around organizing prayer lines. While sitting in the car, one cannot observe the ordinary rules of organizing or adhering to prayer lines. We may find that we have women in the front seat and men in the back or both men and women (siblings) beside each other in the backseats, etc..
However complicated this may seem, I would venture to say that this should not be seen as too much of an issue -especially when we consider the fact that such rules are often compromised in the Haram of Makkah during Hajj or Umrah due to overcrowding.
In such circumstances, men and women often end up sharing the same lines without any or tiny gaps between them. It is also a common sight to see women praying in front of men, especially near Maqam Ibrahim. Scholars have tolerated this because of it being due to unavoidable circumstances. It is precisely for this reason why Usul al-fiqh has rules that dictate that ‘when there is a hardship, the rules can be relaxed’.
Furthermore, as Imam Ibn Taymiyyah has pointed out, citing numerous examples, when a particular condition (on which, the validity of an act of worship is dependent) cannot be implemented, the Ibadah ought to be performed even without it. Examples for this abound in the sources:
For instance, if covering the awrah (which is a condition for the validity of the Salah) cannot be done, salah can even be performed in the nude. A menstruating woman who must leave with a group and cannot wait in Makkah is allowed to make Tawaful-Ifadah while menstruating (since the condition of Taharah is waived out of necessity).
Of course, people may ask, why can’t we pray our Eid prayer at home? Nothing should prevent us from doing so. However, Eid is a communal prayer where the Prophet even ordered women who were not eligible to pray to join the communal celebration. Thus, by allowing people to offer prayers in congregation, albeit in their cars and with certain limitations, they would still experience some semblance of the spirit of the community gathering in one place. While praying at home, listening to an online Khutbah, although beneficial, however, would not impart the same communal experience.
Therefore, holding a drive-through prayer is preferable, provided it can be safely implemented. Understandably, organizing such an event requires dedicated volunteers and a lot of patience on the part of organizers and participants!
Allah knows best!