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Pakistan Bows To Public Pressure To Reopen Mosques, Despite Pandemic

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Pakistan masjid

Pakistan’s leading religious scholars issued a statement calling for the reopening of mosques across the country this week.

The government had restricted congregational prayers in mosques to five people or less since the last week of March to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, jurist Mufti Taqi Usmani, leading the committee of clerics, said that restricting the prayer to three to five people was “not proving practical” and these impediments had to to be removed. He added that, “In the present conditions, five daily prayers along with precautionary measures are essential”.

In addition to the five daily prayers, clerics called for the resumption of Friday prayers as well. They also outlined preventative measures to be taken by mosques such as the removal of carpets, disinfection of prayer areas and use of hand sanitizers. The committee stated that the lockdown didn’t apply to mosques and that they will be resuming congregational worship.

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The restrictions on mosques, in wake of the pandemic, were met with severe backlash in Pakistan. There were incidents  of mobs attacking policemen who tried to enforce these bans; often times the police would simply turn a blind eye to those gathering at mosques to prevent conflict.

Considering the call made by religious scholars this week, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri confirmed that the government will officially lift the restrictions on daily congregational prayers in mosques. Permission will also be granted for Friday prayers, which draw thousands every week to mosques, and tarawih prayers during the upcoming month of Ramadan.

Pakistan stands as an outlier on this issue compared to much of the Muslim world. Most mosques around the world remain closed . These include Islam’s three most holy sites of Mecca, Medina and the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The public outcry against the closing down of mosques and defiance of government orders also appears to be unique to the country. In contrast to Pakistani clerics, who deemed the congregational worship a ‘necessity’, many of the leading religious bodies around the globe have approved of such restrictions considering the Covid-19 pandemic. Examples of these include the Egypt’s Dar-al-Ifta, UAE’s Fatwa Council and the Fiqh Council of North America.

Pakistan faces significant challenges in fighting the Covid-19 outbreak. The country lies east of Iran which at one point was the epicenter of the outbreak. Travelers returning from Iran first brought the virus into country which has since seen a steady increase in cases. While the number of deaths has remained low so far, it is feared that easing restrictions on mass gatherings will result in super-spreading which will cause the situation to get far worse.

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Waleed Ahmed writes on current affairs and politics for MuslimMatters. He focuses on Muslim minorities, human rights and the Middle-Eastern conflict. Based out of Montreal, he's currently pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University in fundamental physics. Waleed also has a keen interest in studying Arabic and French. He spends his spare time reading, playing basketball and praying for Jon Stewart to run in the next presidential election. contact: waleed dot ahmed at muslimmatters.org

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Muhammad Adil

    April 19, 2020 at 1:17 PM

    One can use Muslim Productive applications as well to stay better informed and connected with Ummah. I am also using one of them available here https://www.instasalam.org, You can download application from Appstore and Play Store. Just type in InstaSalam and you will get the application. You can also use this download link too https://instasalam.page.link/InstaSalam . InstaSalam application helps you to track your daily prayers, send you reminders of prayers, read Quran and stay connected with Muslim Ummah through community feature. It offers much more please must use this application.

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