His Eminence, Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al-Husaini al-Sistani, issued the following statement in response to a request for advice from a number of believers on the imminent arrival of the month of Muharram and the desire of the believers to uphold the commemorations of the tragedy of Karbala during the coronavirus epidemic, while the authorities impose restrictions on large gatherings, especially in closed spaces.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent
Peace be upon Hussain, upon the children of Hussain, upon Ali son of Hussain, and upon the companions of Hussain.
There are a number of paths one may take in expressing grief and sorrow in this most painful occasion, and to present our desire to mourn with the Prophet al-Mustafa (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and the purified members of his household on that great tragedy that befell Islam and the Muslims. Amongst them are the following:
- Abundantly transmitting the beneficial majālis of Imam Hussain by way of live feeds on television stations and internet applications. In this regard, the Islamic centres and religious and educational establishments should cooperate with proficient speakers and capable reciters, and they should mobilise and urge the believers to listen to them and interact with them, while they are in their homes or the like.
- Organising the majālis at homes during specific times of the night or day, in which those attending will be limited to the members of the family and those who have regular interaction with them, and in which they would listen to beneficial majālis of Imam Hussain, even if they are live transmissions from satellite channels or internet applications. As for the public majālis, it is necessary to abide extremely strictly to the health regulations, including the application of social distancing amongst the attendees, using face coverings, and all other means to keep the coronavirus epidemic from spreading, while limiting the number of attendees to what has been permitted by the relevant authorities; this will differ according to the situation, in terms of whether the gathering is in an open place or closed space, and in terms of the country and how far and wide the coronavirus epidemic has spread in it.
- Propagating the commemorations of Ashura on a large scale, through the raising of black standards and banners in squares, streets, roads and other public places, while ensuring that the sanctity of property, private or otherwise, is not violated, and that the enforced laws in one’s country are not contravened. They should include excerpts from the words of Imam Husayn (peace be upon him) in his great reformist revolution, and what was said in the tragedy of Karbala in the amazing forms of poetry and prose.
As for the food that is usually distributed on such occasions, it is necessary to abide by the health rules and regulations which must be applied in preparing and distributing it, even if this means limiting this to some dry foods and delivering it to the believers’ homes, to avoid the overcrowding that tends to occur when it is distributed.
May Allah grant everybody success in keeping this important occasion alive and holding the mournful commemoration of the Master of the Youth of Paradise (peace be upon him), as the current circumstances allow, for indeed He is the Master of Success.
9th Dhil-Hijjah 1441
Office of al-Sayyid al-Sistani, al-Najaf al-Ashraf