KARACHI: Religious scholars and leaders of religious parties and madrassas in a joint meeting on Tuesday unanimously announced holding congregational five prayers, Friday and Taraveeh with the necessary precautionary measures. The meeting was held at Darul Uloom Karachi seminary and attended by religious scholars and leaders of religious parties and madrassa bodies of various schools of thoughts. They discussed the ongoing coronavirus crisis and the government’s efforts, particularly the clashes between police and worshippers during Friday prayers in Karachi and other parts of the country, and said that registering cases against prayer leaders of mosques was against the assurances of Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and law enforcement agencies.
The congregational prayers were first banned in Sindh on March 26 over fears of coronavirus spread due to mass gatherings. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Liaquat Baloch, Professor Sajid Mir, heads of religious parties, and Deobandi madrassa board leader Qari Hanfi Jalandhari also spoke to the participants of the meeting and discussed the ongoing situation.
After the meeting, key leaders, Mufti Taqi Usmani, Mufti Munibur Rehman, Maulana Shah Owais Noorani, Dr Rashid Soomro, Muhamamd Hussain Mehanti and Qari Muhammad Usman addressed a press conference at the Karachi Press Club to announce that they were going ahead to open the mosques for congregational prayers and the lockdown restrictions would no longer apply to them. Coincidentally, the Ulema announcement came minutes after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government extended the countrywide lockdown by two weeks.
Mufti Usmani at the press conference urged the elderly to pray at home, but said prayers would be held at mosques. “People were not abiding by the government's guidelines of letting only five people offer prayers at mosques,” he said. He called on people to implement the government's safety precautions but said that for a Muslim, offering congregational prayers in Ramazan was obligatory.
He called on people coming to mosques to observe precautions, including practicing social distancing, use sanitisers, wear masks and perform ablution at their homes. Usmani instructed mosque administrators to remove rugs and carpets, clean floors, and ensure sanitiser and soaps available. “There must be proper space between the rows and among the people who pray.” He also asked the provincial government not arrest people from the mosques. “All those arrested (for coming to mosques) should be released,” he said. “The Sindh government had violated its agreement with the clerics and nabbed and registered FIRs against the prayer leaders.”
Mufti Muneebur Rehman, the chairman of Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, said that the lockdown was not applicable to mosques and arrangements would be made for Friday prayers and Taraweeh in Ramazan. He said the solution lay in seeking forgiveness from Allah and increasing attendance in mosques. He said that they want to tell the government that mosques should not be closed. He also criticized the police for using force against prayer leaders in the country. “The prayer leader’s job is to lead prayers, not to stop them.” He also demanded that bills of mosques and religious institutions should be waived. The speakers also announced a 12-member committee to implement their decisions and negotiate with the government.
Those who attended the meeting included representatives from Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia, Pakistan, Fazl and Sami factions of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tanzeem-e-Islami, the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadees Pakistan, he Jamaat Ghuraba Ahle Hadees Pakistan, Alami Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat, the Jamiat Ishaat Tauheed Wa Sunnah and other organisations.
Meanwhile, Mufti Taqi Usmani said while talking to Shahzeb Khanzada in Geo News programme ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Key Sath’ that the Ulema have asked the government that lockdown must not apply on mosques. He said the Ulema have no problem in meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan and discussion the issues. He said the Ulema want to make the congregational prayers in mosques under full discipline with precautionary measures. He said five times congregational prayers are still being observed in 90 percent mosques and the government’s directions are not being followed.
Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said in the programme that it will be the upmost effort of the government to avoid unpleasant incidents during implementation on the lockdown. He said the people must not put the law enforcing agencies to test. He said the government will never want arrest of Ulema and therefore they will be contacted and an amicable solution to the problem will be devised. He said the provincial governments and respective district administrations will talk to Ulema in their respective areas to agree on a common mechanism to deal with the issue.
The government has also called a meeting of Ulema on April 18 to take a unanimous decision on allowing Jumma prayer, Taraveeh, Aitkaf and other prayers, particularly during the holy month of Ramazan.
President Dr Arif Alvi will chair the meeting with Ulema, religious leaders, representatives of four provincial governments. President Azad Kashmir would also attend the meeting to be held through video link.
Interior Minister Ejaz Shah and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Coordination Dr Zafar Mirza will also attend the meeting.
In a statement on Tuesday, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri called upon Ulema to refrain from taking isolated decisions at local level as a unanimous decision at the national level must be taken.
“The political leadership and Ulema from all schools of thought will be taken into confidence on the important issue of gatherings and Aitkaf at mosques,” the minister said. The minister maintained that the government was giving importance to safety and life of faithful while taking any decision.
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