COVID-19: Making the Most of the Opportunity

Is It Permissible to Pray Tarawih Over Video Conferencing?


Hanafi

Answered by Shaykh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

I hope you are well inshallah. With Ramadan fast approaching and mosques closed due to the current situation, would it be permissible to pray Taraweeh over video conferencing?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

It is not valid to perform congregational prayer over the internet and through video conferencing.

Legal Reasoning

The reason for this is that the imam and follower being in the same physical locality (ittihad al-makan) is a condition for the validity of a congregation. The act of following entails being dependent upon and subordinate in prayer, i.e. to the prayer of the imam. When an imam performs a prayer, a physical location is a necessary concomitant of it. Thus, in order to be validly deemed a ‘follower’ of someone in prayer, one must ‘follow’ the imam in terms of the physical area in which he prays. It is only then that the meaning of following is fully realised. (al-Kasani, al-Bada’i al-Sana’i)

If it were valid to perform prayers in the way you describe without it contravening the conditions of a congregational prayer, it should actually be irrelevant whether an excuse exists or not. Rather, it should be deemed valid even in contexts where no pressing excuse exists. This is something no one states though because everyone recognises that a virtual congregation does not fulfil the basic meaning of being a ‘follower’ in a traditional congregational setting (jama’a), and nor does this type of prayer fulfil the function a congregation is meant to serve.

There are some who have argued that jurists have discarded other conditions identified with certain congregational prayers (such as Jumu’a) and this should allow for flexibility on the issue. Without getting into the details, it should simply be noted that none of the scenarios permitted by Hanafi jurists as apparent exceptions to the normal conditions actually involve overturning or undermining conditions linked to the basic form and fundamental meaning of a ‘congregation’, which centres on people coming together in a shared physical space. Permitting Jumu’a in work spaces, for example, still maintains this basic form and meaning of congregation.

In light of this, one should either perform tarawih in congregation with the members of one’s household or pray by oneself.

Rewards are by Intentions

Undoubtedly, the inability to perform tarawih in congregation at the mosque will greatly affect many people. But it should be noted that Allah rewards people for their intentions. If one intended to perform tarawih in the mosque but is unable to do so now because of COVID-19, he or she will have the reward of congregation written down for him/her, inshallah.

Testing our Resolve and Sincerity

This is also a test for us: is our prayer purely for Allah? Will we continue bowing our heads to Him in the absence of others and the good feeling of belonging that we gain when performing prayer in congregation in Ramadan when spirituality is everywhere in the air? We should ask Allah to grant us sincerity and the ability to worship Him no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in.

[Shaykh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Salman Younas  graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman where he spent five years studying Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and continues his traditional studies with scholars in the United Kingdom.