The Grand Ayatollah Sistani answered a question regarding the Mourning Ceremonies of Imam al-Hussain (p) for the Month of Muharram, 1442 A.H. during the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
The texts of the question and answer are as follows:
In the Name of Allah
The Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the Supreme Religious Authority
As Salamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
The sacred month of Muharram approaches, and with it, commemorations marking the anniversary of the tragedy of Karbala. Yet, we still find ourselves in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As such, health authorities are continuing to stress the necessity of avoiding large gatherings, especially in closed areas (i.e., indoors). Therefore, many believers are asking what they should do with regards to commemorating the martyrdom of the Master of Martyrs Imam al-Hussain, his family and companions (pbut), especially given their sincere desire to observe the annual Hussaini rituals?
A group of believers – Holy city of Najaf.
In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Peace be upon al-Hussain, the children of al-Hussain, and the companions of al-Hussain, and may the Mercy and Blessings of Allah be upon them all.
There are many ways of expressing sorrow and grief on this painful occasion, and sharing in the feeling of loss and showing sympathy to the holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) and his purified progeny for the great calamity that befell Islam and all Muslims. These methods include:
1 – Increasing and promoting live broadcasts of the beneficial Hussaini lectures (majalis), whether on different television channels or via the internet. Islamic centers, and religious and educational organizations should coordinate [such activities] with good orators/speakers and lamentation reciters, and encourage the believers to listen to them and engage with them [in the Hussaini rituals] from their places of residence.
2 – Holding Hussaini commemoration gatherings in the private homes at certain times of the day or night, and ensuring that attendance is restricted to family members and those who are usually in close contact with them. Congregants in such gatherings can listen to beneficial Hussaini lectures on the television or via the internet. As for public commemorations and gatherings, the believers must adhere strictly to the health guidelines by observing social distancing, wearing masks, and implementing other precautionary measures appropriate and necessary for preventing the spread of coronavirus. In addition, the number of attendees must be limited to what is permitted by authorities. This will vary according to the situation, for instance, whether the gatherings are held in outdoor (i.e., open) or indoor (i.e., closed) areas, and in terms of the unique circumstances of different countries in terms of coronavirus cases and the risk of its spread.
3- Broadly spreading (i.e., broadcasting) the symbols of Ashura by raising black flags and banners in the [city] squares, streets, alleys, and other public places, provided that this does not entail an infringement on private property rights or violation of state laws. Banners should include passages from the words of Imam Al-Hussain (p) to remind others of his profound reformative movement, as well as the masterpieces of poetry and prose that were composed about this great tragedy. As for the foods that are commonly distributed on this occasion, all necessary measures to preserve the health of others must be implemented during their preparation and distribution, even if this means limiting these activities to delivering dry foods to the homes of believers in order to avoid congestion.
May Allah grant success to everyone in the revival of this important occasion and the mourning ceremony for the master of the youth of Paradise (p) relative to what the current circumstances allow, for He [Almighty] is the guardian of success.
9th of Dhu al-Hijjah, 1441 A.H.
Office of al-Sayyid al-Sistani (May Allah prolong his life) – Holy city of Najaf