ISLAMABAD: While most religious organisations have adhered to government guidelines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by limiting gatherings and congregations, the Lal Masjid administration has announced new study classes from March 20.

Defying government directives and seminary boards, Maulana Abdul Aziz and his wife Umme Hasan, who heads the Jamia Hafsa seminary, have decided to keep the seminary open and running.

Mr Aziz has continued to occupy the state-owned Lal Masjid. He released a video on social media in which he could be seen carrying an assault rifle on his shoulder while sweeping the floor of the mosque. He criticised the government because the mosque was deserted and said he had been forced to clean the floor himself.

The management of the mosque on Tuesday also announced a schedule for advanced Quran learning classes for men and women. The classes will be held separately, starting from March 20 (Rajab 25) until around May 20 (Ramazan 27).

Various religious bodies have expressed support for government guidelines to limit gatherings, congregations

Meanwhile, the Jamia Sadiq Masjid and Imambargah in G-9 have announced that all Rajab and Shaban related celebrations will be suspended.

Allama Nasir Abbas, the head of the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen, on Tuesday expressed support for the authorities on coronavirus warnings and announced that the party’s general convention scheduled for April 2020 has been cancelled.

He said that coronavirus has become a pandemic.

“The government and the people will have to fight together. We will, and I ask the general public to strictly follow the directions given by health departments,” he said.

The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) on Tuesday issued a decree asking the public to adjourn political and religious gatherings with immediate effect and announced that clerics will shorten Friday sermons.

Wafaqul Masajid-i-Madaris-i-Pakistan Darul Afta Pakistanissued a decree stating that clerics should not deliver sermons in Urdu and should only save time for a short sermon in Arabic.

PUC Chairman Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi held a meeting with clerics from various schools of thoughts where it was decided that the mosque committee would be asked to remove carpets and other sheets as much as possible to make it easier to disinfect mosque floors.

“We are spreading directives to clerics to educate the public that they offer Sunnah prayers at home, avoid shaking hands with each other and spend limited time in mosques or congregations,” Mr Ashrafi said.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020

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