Assalamualaikum. What is the status of the Zohor prayer at the beginning of the prayer time on Friday?
Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.
We’ll begin with the statement of Allah SWT:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِيَ لِلصَّلَاةِ مِن يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ وَذَرُوا الْبَيْعَ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
“O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu’ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you if you only knew.” 
The above verse is evidence of the sanctioning and obligation of the Friday prayer. Moreover, Friday prayer is also among the favours blessed specifically for the ummah of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH so that they can attain the honours of Friday. 
The Friday prayer is obligated for those who fulfil the following seven conditions:
- Reached puberty
- Sound rational mind
- A resident at the place where the Friday prayer is performed
If a person fulfils all of these seven conditions, then Friday prayer is obligatory on him. 
The Status of Performing Zohor Prayer at the Beginning of Its Prayer Time on A Friday
Generally, there is a restriction against performing Zohor prayer at the beginning of its time as a replacement of Friday prayer. In the book al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah, it is stated: “It is invalid for a person not experiencing any debility to perform the takbiratulihram for Zohor prayer before the imam for the Friday prayer gives salam.” 
However, in the issue of when Friday prayers aren’t allowed to be performed during the Movement Control Order, the restriction is abrogated. The reason is the ‘illah or reason for the restriction of performing the Zohor prayer is only applicable for those who don’t experience any debility to perform the Friday prayer. Consequently, if there is debility, such as fear of a threat, danger and illness, then the restriction isn’t applicable.
Syeikh Muhammad al-Zuhaili in his book, al-Mu’tamad, explained that any debility with the same level of a person who is ill, then the debility is analogically deduced to be the same as the debility of being ill as stated in the evidence. Thus, Friday prayer isn’t obligatory for a person who fears for the safety of his life or property as stated in a hadith narrated from Ibn Abbas R.Anhuma, where the Prophet PBUH said:
مَنْ سَمِعَ النِّدَاءَ فَلَمْ يُجِبْهُ فَلَا صَلَاةَ لَهُ إلَّا مِنْ عُذْرٍ قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا الْعُذْرُ قَالَ خَوْفٌ أَوْ مَرَضٌ
“If anyone hears him who makes the call to prayer and is not prevented from joining the congregation by any excuse,” (he was asked what an excuse consisted of and replied that it was fear or illness),” 
Included as a form of debility is what is currently happening which is the widespread of the COVID-19 pandemic which can be fatal. Hence, it is considered as one of the debilitations for there is a risk on one’s life.
In the above issue, those who are staying at home and don’t perform the Friday prayer due to the Movement Control Order or the postponement of the Friday prayer at mosques and surau, then the ruling for performing Zohor prayer to replace the Friday prayer is valid. They are not subject to the makruh or haram ruling for they are included in the group who experience a debility which prevented them from performing Friday prayer or there is no Friday prayer performed there. Wallahu a’lam.