ISLAMABAD: Following the Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab governments’ decisions, the federal government on Friday also put restriction on collective prayers including Friday congregation.

The Auqaf Department of the capital administration issued a notification Friday noon, allowing four to five people to offer Friday prayers as well as five times daily.

The notification issued by the Auqaf Department said the decision had been taken as part of precautionary measures adopted by the government against Covid-19.

“Only three to five people, including prayer leader, muezzin and khadim, are allowed to offer collective prayers on Fridays and five times daily,” the notification said.

It added: “Other residents may offer their prayers individually at their homes to protect other people from the disease.”

The order applies to all mosques in Islamabad territory, but many held Friday congregations as per their schedule under the earlier guidelines issued by the government that the people would spend least amount of time in the mosque, and the prayer leaders would only deliver a short Arabic sermon.

Almost negligible number of people attended Friday prayers at Faisal Masjid mainly because the road leading to the mosque was blocked by the police.

Though Maulana Abdul Aziz had made calls through social media asking people to come to Lal Masjid in large numbers, the attendance at the mosque was low.

Some other mosques in the city including Masjid Noor Qadimi and Hanifa Masjid in G-7 also held Friday prayers.

Later in the evening, SHO Aabpara police station met the Imam of Qadimi mosque who then agreed to comply with the government’s health advisory.

On the other hand, all mosques belonging to the Shia and Ahle Hadith schools of thought were either closed or did not hold collective prayers.

“We held the Friday congregation with a minimum of four people as required by the Auqaf Department notification, and the mosque was closed to public,” said Khateeb of G-6 Masjid and Imambargah Maulana Akhtar Abbas.

Similarly, the management of Jamia Sadiq of G-9 also announced that there would not be any collective prayers till the official advisory was lifted.

An official of the Auqaf Department told Dawn that the government had taken the decision on Friday morning, but it was notified by the interior ministry to the capital administration around noon.

“As a result many mosques were not aware of the government directives, but we tried to implement the restrictions,” the official added.

He said khateebs and prayer leaders were asked to close the gates of the mosques and make announcements from loudspeakers, informing residents about the restrictions.

He said the directives were observed in maximum number of mosques in the capital.

People were asked not to come to mosques for Friday prayers and offer Zuhr prayers at their homes instead.

Talking to Dawn, Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat said mosques would remain open and its staff will offer prayers there but people should offer prayers in their houses.

He said the directives were followed 100pc in the Industrial Area, adding presence of 1pc people was observed in mosques in Secretariat, 2pc in Shahzad Town, Nilor and Khanna, 3pc in Loi Bher, Golra, Ramna and Shams Colony, 4pc in Margalla, Noon, Karachi Company and Sihala and 7pc in Kohsar and Bhara Kahu.

Besides, one to 5pc people were found in each mosque in Tarnol, five to 7pc in Shalimar and Banigala, 4 to 5pc in Koral, 10 to 12pc in Sabzi Mandi and 10 to 15pc in Aabpara, he added.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2020