On Saturday, Pakistani President Arif Alvi announced that restrictions on mosque gatherings will be lifted during the month of Ramzan. The decision was taken following a meeting with political representatives and Islamic clerics.
The Imran Khan-led-Government which earlier allowed only a congregation of 5 people at one time in a mosque, owing to the outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus, had to give in to the mounting pressure of the radical Islamic preachers. Pakistan has the second-largest Mulsim population in the world with 19.4 crore followers.
Guidelines issued by Pakistan Government
However, the Government has reiterated the mandatory use of protective masks and adherence to social distancing guidelines during Ramzan prayers. The mosque visitors have been asked to maintain a distance of 2 metres while the administration has been directed to disinfect the mosques every day. Reportedly, the Pakistani Government had warned to tighten the restriction if people were found violating the guidelines.
Minors and those above the age of 50 are barred from entering the mosques. Special prayers (Taraweeh) can only be conducted within the mosque premises and not on roads or footpaths. Worshippers have also been asked to avoid shaking hands with each other. As of April 19, the deadly Chinese virus has infected 7,993 people and had claimed 159 lives in Pakistan
Warning Issued by Islamic Clerics
Earlier, a group of over 50 senior clerics in Pakistan had issued a stern warning to the Imran Khan-led government against the ban on religious congregations during the coronavirus outbreak. The Islamic clerics had said the authorities should instead abide by religious norms and allow more worshippers in mosques to seek forgiveness from Allah and to beat the coronavirus.
Despite the government’s warning not to assemble, more than 53 senior clerics of Rawalpindi and Islamabad belonging to the Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia on Monday held a meeting in Jamia Darul Uloom Zakria to discuss the ban on prayer congregations. Representatives from the Jamiat-e-ulema Islam, Jamiat-e-ulema Pakistan, Jamaat-i-Islami and Tanzeem-e-Islami and many other religious parties had also attended.
Other Islamic countries extend ban in Ramzan
While Pakistan has relented to the demands of Muslim clerics, other Islamic countries have extended the ban on gathering in mosques during the Ramzan. Saudi Arabia has said that the ban will continue until the Coronavirus pandemic is over. Given the Saudi govt order, the Saudi grand mufti has asked the devotees to offer the Ramzan’s Taraweeh (evening) prayer at homes. He also said that the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues till that time.
Other Islamic countries like Jordan, Egypt etc have also issued similar orders banning gathering of crowd at mosques during the month of Ramzan, while Iran is also likely to issue a similar order soon.