Commemorating Muharram Safely During COVID-19 | August 14, 2020

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful
“And whoever honours the symbols of God, indeed that is from the piety of hearts.” – The Holy Quran (22:32)

The commemoration of Imam Husain ibn Ali is a cornerstone of the practice of our faith. He saved our religion from tyranny and the corruption set by the Umayyads, over a thousand years ago. Still, Imam Husain’s legacy lives on through our commemorations. It rejuvenates our faith and directs us to the true path of God. We hope to honour this symbol of God in every day of our lives – especially in the holy nights of Muharram and Safar.

In Imam Husain’s sacrifice, he did not merely show us an honourable death; rather, he showed us the significance and sanctity of life. In fact, Imam Husain’s entire movement was based on two lofty objectives: 1) saving the religion of Islam, and 2) saving lives. “And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…” – The Holy Quran (5:32)

The health authorities in the United Kingdom instruct that social distancing should be strictly adhered to during our commemorative gatherings, as with other activities at places of worship.[1] Social distancing guidelines advise that 2 metres of distance, or 1 metre with actions taken to reduce the risk of transmission (where 2 metres is not viable) between households are acceptable. This would necessitate the use of face coverings during in-person gatherings as a bare minimum.

Centres who are planning to establish programmes should create a COVID-19 Risk Assessment and assign a responsible officer or officers to enforce the precautionary measures in alignment with the guidelines. Any risk assessment should also consider the safety of the worshippers. This may require involving local partners such as local authorities or police.

The leaders of our charities having fiduciary duties to the communities they serve. If you are serving on a Board of Trustees for a mosque, centre, or any other organisation involved in the planning of commemorative gatherings this Muharram – you are the main responsible party here. However, management, volunteers as well as respected participants must be aware that they are all equally responsible for the safety of the attendees and must always work for the benefit of the public safety.

What is in the benefit of the charity and its attendees? It is to adhere to the Marjaeya’s guidance to commemorate safely and responsibly, without putting oneself and others in harm’s way. [2] If institutional leaders are not able to ensure, to the fullest extent, that all health and safety guidelines are strictly observed in the gatherings they hold, they could be responsible for the negative implications that will follow.

Thus, based on the instructions of medical experts, health and religious authorities, our position, as a support organisation, when it comes to the Majalis (i.e. commemorative gatherings) during Muharram is that they are surely to be held; but in the safest possible way by adhering to the strict guidance of our religious and health authorities, to protect people’s lives and the practice of our faith.

What is The Mainstay Foundation doing amid all these risks to ensure commemoration in a safe and responsible way?

In line with our position above the Foundation is working with centres and organisations across the United Kingdom, to provide virtual live streaming to the community to benefit from the Majalis from the safety of their own homes. Tailored programmes for children, sisters and families will be provided (please register your interest)[3].

The Foundation is also providing grants to centres that are live streaming their programmes and helping them upgrade their streaming technology to provide for a higher quality experience for the viewers. For more information on how to qualify for this please visit our website.[4]

We humbly urge all charities and their leadership to continue commemorating safely and responsibly as advised by both religious and health authorities. We have a great challenge before us, but together we will persevere.

Together, we will safely commemorate, honour the great legacy of our faith tradition, and protect lives.

[1] See Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government’s “COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic”; Section 5 ‘Social distancing’ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic-from-4-july/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic-from-4-july
[2] See Statement from Grand Ayatollah Sayed Al-Sistani’s office on July 30th, 2020: https://www.themainstay.org.uk/muharram1442-statement/
[3] For Majalis steaming on your platforms please register your interest here: https://www.themainstay.org.uk/Muharram-2020-survey/
[4] For grants details and application please visit our website: https://www.themainstay.org.uk/grants/