In times where sane minds and precautionary measures are an absolute essential, Pakistan with a struggling economy, international and domestic challenges has to deal with the Corona virus along with extremist clerics. So far, the Corona virus cases are surprisingly low, but they might spike in the month of Ramadan where Muslim clerics are pressuring the government to keep the mosques open for Tarawih (Night Prayers in Ramadan). Some suggest that this may lead to more cases and deaths than the US as Pakistan does not have adequate health facilities and thousands of people may die out of hunger if the lockdown is made more strict. 

Several mosques have violated state guidelines on social distancing. In the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) on 17th April, Maulana Abdul Aziz led the Friday prayers with more than 300 worshipers with no care to social distancing. An armed gunman can also be seen in front, holding, what seems to be an AK-47. A third case was registered against the cleric as two cases were already registered against him in the last three weeks, said the Islamabad Police. No action has been taken against him as of yet.

About 2.41 million people have contracted the coronavirus and 166 thousand people have unfortunately died from the virus, with more than 41,000 deaths coming from the US alone. Seeing these unfortunate numbers and then seeing the religious scholars’ attitude towards the universal safety measures against the coronavirus is appalling. They labeled it as an “International Agenda” and are adamant about doing congregational prayers. The President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi after a meeting with mufti’s and religious scholars on the matter of congregational prayers has said that if the social distancing guidelines are violated, the decision to allow these prayers may be reviewed. All we can do now is hope, that the apparent calamity does not befall this nation of about 210 million people as it will have far-reaching consequences.

Other Muslim Countries Measures for Congregational Prayers:


Several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, have stopped praying congregationally in mosques.

“Ramadan’s Tarawih [evening] prayer can be performed at home if it cannot be performed at mosques due to the preventive measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus,” Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh said, adding that the same applies for Eid prayers, Okaz newspaper reported on Friday.

Similarly, the Fatwa Council of the UAE said that the Tarawih prayers and Eid ul Fitr Prayers should be made at home.

Bottomline:

In my opinion, the Tarawih prayers or any congregational prayers should be done at home. The only cure of coronavirus as of now is to maintain as much distance as possible. It is like a chain reaction, spreading from one person to the other and in a congregational prayer, it could spread to hundreds in a matter of seconds.

mosque in islamabad
Photo from Instagram by Hassan khany

We also have to bear in mind that Pakistan is a poor country, drowned in debt and its health system is barely on its feet. Any spike in coronavirus cases may lead to a skyrocket in deaths due to limited ventilators and healthcare facilities. In the end, the doctors may have to make a difficult decision about who should get the ventilator and who shouldn’t, who should die and who should not. It is our collective responsibility to abide by the social distancing rules and educate others, and only then we may see this pandemic end.

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