Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
UK/Spain News

Religious obligation to obey lockdown during Ramadan, says UK Muslim doctor

By Edd Dracott and Max McLean, PA

A Muslim doctor and health campaigner has said there is a religious obligation for the UK’s lockdown rules to be obeyed during Ramadan, and encouraged those who have contracted Covid-19 not to fast.

The holy month, in which adult Muslims fast and reflect, begins on April 23 and usually sees worshippers congregate, pray and celebrate together, attending mosques in numbers.

However, Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE says there are faith-based motives for people of all religions to avoid breaking the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown guidance, and even supporting religious texts.

“Following the instructions put forward by the Government is more or less a religious obligation,” Dr Chauhan, a GP who has been on-call “more or less” 24 hours a day fighting the virus, told the PA news agency.

“If the purpose of your religious obligations and your prayers is to ask for forgiveness… then certainly you can’t put others at risk while you’re asking for forgiveness.

“I’m not a Muslim scholar… but my understanding by reading the general text, the sayings of prophet and even the Koran is that you need to protect your life.”

Dr Chauhan, pointed to the words of one prophet, Munad, quoting: “The plague (contagion) patient who remains in his home with patience and expectation of reward, knowing that nothing will befall him other than Allah’s decree will attain the reward of a martyr.”

He said he believes it “unlikely” people will break the lockdown, as most “do understand it”, but that he does have concerns.

“A small percentage of leaders have asked people to continue to worship at church while others believe that their faith means they will survive,” he said.

“They are completely missing the point. Lockdown is about sparing the lives of others and putting them first; a text repeated in the Ten Commandments and in the words of the Buddha.”

The GP also “strongly” recommended those who are suffering from Covid-19 not to fast as it is important for them to keep their hydration and energy levels up to fight the virus.

“If you are poorly you are allowed to not fast… If you are suffering from diabetes and other health conditions, when your life could be at risk, then please do not fast,” he said.

Dr Chauhan, who is also a local councillor and ran as a Labour candidate in the 2019 General Election, also encouraged Muslims to celebrate with their loved ones through video calls.

“It’s a very unique situation… this will require a lot of discipline and patience,” he added.

Noor Hadi, 24, a British imam and Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (Amya) volunteer, said the group is moving its work online.

“During the month of Ramadan usually we have classes or lectures delivered by imams or other Muslim leaders,” he told PA. “We’ve made everything virtual now.”

Regular interactive vlogs, including tips on cooking and how to keep fit, will also continue to be available, while the group has organised the Big Virtual Iftar too, where Muslims will break their fast together online.

British imam and Amya national executive Qamar Ahmed Zafar, 26, said that responding to coronavirus by making alternative prayer arrangements was not a problem.

“As Muslims we believe is that Islam is a religion of ease,” he told PA.

“So when there is difficulty, it’s not like you have to find a solution to make everything work. If you are someone who is on their own, you can just pray on your own.”

Dr Chauhan, who founded the Homeless-Friendly health programme for rough sleepers three years ago, also stressed the importance of charity during Ramadan.

This year Amya – who have been helping assist hundreds of NHS staff with food and PPE, among other campaigns – will continue to help Muslims and non-Muslims affected by the global pandemic, and expect volunteering to triple or quadruple in the coming weeks.