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March 28, 2020

Praying at home

Editorial

 
March 28, 2020

This Friday, following orders issued by the Sindh government and subsequently also by the Punjab and Balochistan governments as well as the Islamabad administration, attendance for Friday prayers at mosques across the country was markedly lower than usual. The directive that only three to five persons, mainly made up of staff at the mosques, should congregate within it for Friday prayers came in the light of the coronavirus which is continuing to claim lives and leave people infected across the country. Earlier, President Arif Alvi had obtained a ‘fatwa’ from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, considered the world’s leading authority on Sunni Islam, that prayers should not be offered in congregations when there is a risk of disease and death. Some of the country’s most senior clerics including Maulana Taqi Usmani, Maulana Javed Ghamdi, Maulana Tariq Jamil and others have backed this opinion – but there have been those who have opposed it. Across the Islamic world gatherings at mosques have been restricted or banned and even the Ka’aba remained empty this Friday as did other especially holy mosques in Turkey, in Iraq, Iran and in other countries.

The directive is naturally something that has been done keeping in mind the extreme emergency we are confronted with. At a time when a disease has spread across the world and has already claimed thousands of victims, it is important to think in terms of saving precious lives. As clerics have suggested, for the present time prayers should be offered at home. Unfortunately, people have been reluctant to follow the directive. In other countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia authorities have chosen to strictly enforce the ban on gatherings at mosques. We instead have hoped that people will cooperate of their own free will in view of the almost unprecedented situation that has arisen. It seems that there are still a large number of people who are not willing to use reason.

It is essential that people recognize that they owe themselves and others a duty of care in the prevailing circumstances. In view of this, we hope our ulema reach out to local religious leaders and imams in mosques and ask them to urge caution to people. The lockdown we are in cannot be effective if congregational prayer continues as usual. We hope that the people of the country as well as the decision-makers in the country realise that we can rid ourselves of the coronavirus if only we take immediate and decisive steps.