KARACHI: One of the biggest debates in the world right now revolves around public congregation in the month of Ramazan. Considering that citizens are supposed to be avoiding public places and practicing social distancing, how does one manage that in the month that calls all Muslims to the mosque for prayers more than usual?
For starters, many Islamic bodies around the world are suggesting that Muslims stay indoors this month and pray Tarawih prayers at home. According to The News, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body — the Council of Senior Scholars — urged Muslims worldwide to pray at home during Ramazan if their countries required social distancing to combat coronavirus.
“Muslims shall avoid gatherings, because they are the main cause of the spread of infection…and shall remember that preserving the lives of people is a great act that brings them closer to Allah,” it said in a statement.
In fact, even the Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al El-Sheikh said Muslims will offer Tarawih and Eid prayers at home if the coronavirus situation continued. All major mosques in the country have been shut.
In Indonesia, the president has urged people to pray at home but has not been successful in stopping religious events across the country. Thousands of Muslims flocked to South Sulawasi for a mass gathering even though the event was cancelled, Al Jazeera reports.
In fact, even Turkey has suspended mass Friday prayers, announced by the country’s top Muslim leader, Ali Erbas. Many Twitter users have reported that the words of azaan have been modified as well; instead of the words ‘come to pray’, the azaan now says ‘pray at home’.
Similarly, Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has also shut its doors for the entire month of Ramzan.
In stark contrast to what’s happening around the world, Pakistan is the only country in the world to have relaxed the lockdown for the month of Ramazan by allowing mosques to remain open, as long as a six-foot distance was maintained among people.
According to a story in The Guardian, Maulvi Haider Zaman, a prayer leader in Islamabad, thinks that Covid-19 is not an issue. “People are not afraid to perform their prayers,” he said. “We will be imposing social distancing in the mosque but I don’t think it is needed as coronavirus will not affect people in mosques. It’s the home of Allah.” This line of thinking is very common in Pakistan.
Of course, the country has faced backlash regarding this decision. Doctors and medical experts are warning against this decision, worried that the country will see an even bigger spike in the number of cases then it is witnessing already. This week, Pakistan saw the highest number of recorded cases in a day as nearly 700 people got infected.
Justifying his decision, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan is “an independent nation”.
“I felt very bad when I saw police beating up people. Ramazan is a month of worship, people want to go to mosques.
“Do we forcefully tell them to not go to mosques? And if they go, will the police put worshippers in jail? This does not happen in an independent society. In an independent society [we] make people come together. In an independent society, people use their independent minds and then decide what is better for the country and what is not,” he said, as reported by Dawn.