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April 18, 2020

Taraveeh, Eid prayers at home if corona persists

Top Story

April 18, 2020

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said on Friday that prayers during Ramazan and for the subsequent Eidul Fitr should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues.

“Taraveeh prayer can be offered at home if it cannot be offered at mosques due to the preventive measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus,” he said in response to a question, adding that the same applies for Eid prayers. Saudi Arabia in mid-March stopped people performing their prayers and the Friday prayer inside mosques as part of efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Madina said it was banning events, which dispense evening meals in the mosque to those in need during Ramazan to break their daily fast.

The kingdom has reported 6,380 cases of COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 83 deaths so far.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Religious AffairsNoorul Haq Qadri said he was hopeful that Ulema would cooperate and adopt a ‘middle path’ while organising events for the coming month of Ramazan.

Talking to media, the federal minister said that during these challenging times of the pandemic, religious scholars are expected to show sheer seriousness on the matter.

The minister also asserted that the incumbent government has taken all steps to ensure the health and well-being of its people and if the number for coronavirus cases surge because of any negligence, the situation will be out of control.

Describing tomorrow’s consultative meeting with government officials as ‘critically important’ in formulating a roadmap for the month of Ramazan, the top cleric said that the religious fraternity will present their point of view in front of the government tomorrow.

“We have contacted religious scholars from various schools of thought in this regard. We will also meet Prime Minister Imran Khan after our meeting slated with the president for tomorrow,” the minister informed.

Assuring that the Ulema's stance will not be ignored while crucial decisions are made, Qadri said that the government has imposed a partial lockdown across the country and has not issued directives to close mosques completely. Instead, officials have instructed to reduce the crowd at places of worship to contain the spread of coronavirus, he said.

“All religious ceremonies can be conducted with vigilance and integration during the holy month of Ramazan”, said the minister, adding that the government let alone cannot fight the pandemic and Ulema will have to play a pivotal role in containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier in the day, President Arif Alvi spoke to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and took his advice on limiting congregations at mosques during Ramazan. The President also took Maulana Fazl’s advice on the Taraweeh prayers.

Ramazan is merely days away and due to the pandemic and measures to curb its spread, strict lockdown measures have been ordered by the government, both federal and provincial, until April 30.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the authorities concerned for devising a safety plan against coronavirus during the month of Ramazan after holding consultations with Ulema.

The prime minister expressed these views in a meeting with Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri.

The consultative meeting of President Dr Arif Alvi with Ulema, to be held Saturday, came under discussion. The prime minister is also due to hold a meeting with Ulema next week.

Meanwhile, at most places government instructions regarding measures to contain spread of coronavirus were ignored as Friday prayers held at many places in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan were held as usual. However in Sindh the situation was a better due to provincial governments lockdown from 12:00 noon to 3:00pm. However, there were a number of religious scholars and prayer leaders followed government instructions and restricted Friday congregational prayers to the minimum possible level.

A lack of consensus between religious leaders and the Pakistani government has seen Friday congregational prayers still being held at some mosques across the country, in defiance of government guidelines on social distancing amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

In the federal capital, hundreds gathered at the Red Mosque to offer prayers, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and filling the mosque's main hall to capacity. Reports indicated that congregational prayers were also held at major mosques in other cities, with varying levels of social distancing.

Mosques, have been advised to restrict congregational prayers to a maximum of five people, all of whom were required to be staff members residing within the mosque's premises. Police stood guard outside the Red Mosque in Islamabad, but did not intervene when the crowd formed inside.

A police official at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, told a media a foreign media they did not have orders to stop people. On Tuesday, religious leaders from more than a dozen prominent religious organisations signed a pledge to reopen their mosques, while promising to take precautions against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order was rescinded on Thursday, with several religious leaders who were present at the Tuesday announcement saying they were entering into negotiations with the government to develop standard operating procedures to reopen the mosques safely.

"In grocery stores, people are gathering in crowds and is there no corona[virus] there?" Muneeb-ur-Rehman, a prominent religious leader, told the media outlet on Friday. "This is just a movement to try and target religion and mosques."

"If the issue is gathering, and if people gather in other places according to an SOP [Standard Operating Procedure], then we can do that in the mosque as well. Please end the hate against the mosque."

At another prominent mosque in the city's F-8 neighbourhood, normally packed for midday prayers on Friday, there were roughly 40 worshippers gathered, all sitting nearly six metres apart from one another. "We are following all the advice on distancing given by the government," said Ghulam Nabi Janbaz, a member of staff at the mosque.