It is impermissible to abandon the Jumu`ah and congregational Prayers due to the mere declaration issued by the World Health Organization. Yet, if the disease becomes a global pandemic and an imminent threat, it becomes permissible not to attend the Jumu`ah and congregational Prayers. Still, some scholars consider it impermissible to abandon the Jumu`ah and congregational Prayer even when there is a real pandemic on the grounds that a Muslim can perform the Jumu`ah Prayer along with his household or with his colleagues at work and that it is then unnecessary to perform the Jumu`ah in the mosque.
Moreover, the ruler has the right to order people not to gather in places where the disease is feared to be transmitted from one person to another through mingling, whether this be in places set aside for Prayers, government offices, or means of transportation.
Dr. Muhammad Kamal Imam says,
Claiming that swine flu is a global pandemic has a definite meaning according to the World Health Organization, and this definite meaning is that the disease has spread in several countries around the world and is no more confined within its original source area. WHO declared that it has become a pandemic and this indicates that it has become a great threat. However, the declaration is useful in indicating that the disease has spread in places other than the original source of its outbreak. As a consequence, the shar`i ruling regarding the abandonment of Jumu`ah and congregational Prayers applies to each society respectively; according to the degree of the spread of the disease. Hence, what has been declared by the WHO does not entail any rulings. Moreover, it could be said that all necessary measures and precautions should be observed in the area where the disease spreads fast, which still does not imply dropping the obligation of attending the Jumu`ah Prayer. This is because people (in such areas) will continue to go to work and to meet at home, and in turn they can perform the Jumu`ah Prayer wherever they are and wherever they may gather.
As for the issue of state intervention to preclude the performance of rituals requiring congregation, this issue in essence has nothing to do with preventing rituals, but it is rather related to the prevention of threats that could result from individuals’ performance of such rituals, such as the aggravation and intensification of this illness. Thus, as much as the threats intensify, the jurisdiction of the state expands on the grounds that the preservation of public health is among its major duties. Also, as regards entering and leaving the places where the pandemic is spread, if entering and existing there is necessary, then the rule of necessity [that is ‘necessity knows no laws’] is applied, along with the rule of benefit and harm [that is ‘fending off harm takes priority over incurring benefit’]. So, we cannot set a general ruling here, since the issue is not that typical. Rather, it depends on the situation of each case respectively. This means that if entrance into that area is necessary, we measure such necessity against the principle of benefit and harm.
In addition, Dr. Sa`dHilal, Professor of Comparative Fiqh says,
As regards Jumu`ah Prayer, attending it is an individual obligation for every Muslim male who is adult, sane, and resident; not traveling, who has no valid excuse for missing it, such as illness. Otherwise, it is impermissible to abandon the Jumu`ah Prayer since Almighty Allah says, (O you who believe, when the call is made for Prayer on Friday, then hasten to the remembrance of Allah and leave off trading; that is better for you, if you know.) (Al-Jumu`ah 62:9)
Hence, we can say that the WHO declaration necessitates observing caution and assuming all available means of safety, but not abandoning Jumu`ah and congregational Prayers, unless the pandemic has become widepsread. Moreover, those who strictly observe Jumu`ah and congregational Prayers should take care by avoiding hand shaking or completely refraining from hugging and kissing each other. They should also avoid all the means leading to the transmission of the infection, including advising those who show symptoms of it to go to the nearest clinic or visit the nearest physician. Yet, this should in no way include neglecting Jumu`ah and congregational Prayers. Still the idea of abandoning it is likely in case of imminent threat when the disease virtually turns into a pandemic. Thanks to Allah, the world has not yet reached that state.
As for state intervention to prevent people gathering in places of prayer and the like, it is difficult for the state to intervene to prevent public gatherings, since these areas are always crowded. Hence, it would be an onerous task for the state to do so. Besides, I do not think that the pandemic has reached such a state. However, if such a state is reached, we should urge people to stay at their homes. However, since the world has not yet reached that dangerous level, the state should enhance all available means of protection.