QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
|ON THE APPLICATION OF|
|- and –|
|SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE||Defendant|
(instructed by Blacks Solicitors LLP) appeared on behalf of the Claimant.
SIR JAMES EADIE QC, MS ZOE LEVENTHAL, MR CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT
(instructed by the Government Legal Department) appeared on behalf of the Defendant.
Hearing Date: 21 May 2020
Crown Copyright ©
MR JUSTICE SWIFT:
"3. We take seriously our responsibility to minister to the welfare of the Community, both worldly and next-worldly. This involves a recognition of the serious importance that our religion places on life, health, community, and spiritual well-being. To trivialise any aspect of this would be an error. As our scholarly tradition demands, our approach in the Guidance is directed by consideration of what is essential, recommended, and desirable. This includes a keen understanding of when (and which) religious rulings may be suspended due to temporary harms or hardship.
4. The concern within this guidance does not merely relate to the risk of becoming infected with Coronavirus, but more so to the risk of transmitting it to others, especially the old and infirm. To choose to put oneself in harm's way may be acceptable, unwise, or even prohibited; to put others in harm's way is always more severely censured. The guidance uses a risk matrix approach that considers both likelihood of infection/transmission and consequence of infection, from mild to severe.
5. In the event that government directives are issued over-riding any part of the guidance relating to gathering in public or private spaces, then the government directives would take priority.
6. This document is [not] intended to provide specific guidance to individuals, but a general framework of decision making for institutions and mosques. Given that each mosque and institution is different ... we call for local imams, scholars and mosques to decide on what is in the best interests of their communities. However, our advice is that this should be done when all parties are properly informed and have considered all the principles outlined in this document."
"It is understood that this is the most contentious question within this guidance, and it has been the subject of significant and vigorous debate among religious scholarship and among the members of the BBSI in particular. Jumu'ah is both an obligation on healthy adult males and a clarion sign of Islam; lifting or suspending that obligation from the community at large is not a step that can or should be taken lightly. Nonetheless, we reiterate that the prime directive for animating this briefing paper is people's health and welfare, particularly protecting the elderly and infirm. Given these factors, the question of Jumu'ah will be explored in some detail. Equally it should be noted that this section primarily refers to the norm of performing Jumu'ah in the mosques.
Two points of consensus emerged from the discussions: (1) If the government issues a directive banning public gatherings this needs to be adhered to, and (2) high risk individuals (as previously identified in the congregational prayers section) SHOULD NOT attend: not only is the obligation of Jumu'ah is lifted from them but their attendance, if any congregation does occur, should be severely and proactively precluded. If they are at high risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable people, it should be unambiguously clarified that their attendance would be immoral and sinful.
With this being understood, two broad opinions are articulated by BBSI members: that of the continuing obligation of Jumu'ah and the position as individuals in the UK are generally exempt from the obligation of Jumu'ah prayers.
Strenuous efforts were made given the extremely short timescales and the difficulty of engaging in detailed legal argumentation remotely, to survey the opinions of over 100 members of the BBSI on their basic stance regarding these two positions. A clear majority of those consulted opined that at this time and until further notice the obligation of Jumu'ah should be lifted from the generality of UK Muslims. These guidelines will be regularly reviewed for continuing relevance and proportionality."
L A T E R