Religious gatherings

In times of corona pandemic

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Although it is a sensitive subject and ought to be dealt with caution, an undeniable fact is that people’s lives are at risk at a scale never experienced before in the living memory. These are extra ordinary times and call for equally extra ordinary steps by the governments and people alike. And we have leading Islamic countries who are leading the way for the rest of us. Saudi Arabia has closed entry of all people into the two Holy Mosques. Umrah has been suspended for an indefinite period. Now there are reports that the Saudi government is reaching out to countries to stop them from making any contracts for sending pilgrims for the annual Hajj to KSA. The other day the Supreme Ulema Council of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University has suspended all congregational prayers at mosques in view of the rapid spread of coronavirus. The decree notes that all public gatherings can cause the spread of the deadly disease hence, governments in Muslim countries have the authority to cancel congregational and Friday prayers.

Reportedly the decree came after Pakistan’s President Dr Arif Alvi had requested the council to issue guidelines for Muslims around the world.

In Kuwait, a call to prayer tells the Muslims to “pray at your home”, instead of “come to prayer.”

Conversely in Pakistan, the clerics of various schools of thought came up with a different approach. They rather urged the people to adopt preventive measures but keep congregating for daily prayers in their mosques. In president Alvi’s meeting with ulemas, we see a hope as the latter promised to abide by the government instructions. It is for the government to come up with a viable strategy in a sensitive matter of ibadat. Leaving it unaddressed shall cause more harm than good and may prove detrimental to all the efforts at keeping people from catching the virus.