More than 50 clerics warn govt not to further restrictions on prayer congregations

Updated 14 Apr 2020

Email

After much delibration and meetings with religious leaders, the government has banned prayer congregations of more than five people as part of measures imposed to curb Covid-19. — AFP/File
After much delibration and meetings with religious leaders, the government has banned prayer congregations of more than five people as part of measures imposed to curb Covid-19. — AFP/File

Senior clerics of Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia warned the government on Monday not to further the restrictions on congregations in mosques, which have been imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Despite the government's pleas to observe social distancing, more than 53 senior clerics of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, belonging to the Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia, held a meeting in Jamia Darul Uloom Zakria, Tarnol, Islamabad to discuss the matter. The meeting was attended by senior clerics representing various seminaries, banned groups, proscribed persons and political and non-political parties.

The clerics' warning has been issued before the government could come up with a plan to curb the spread of the disease during the holy month of Ramazan.

After much deliberation and meetings with religious leaders, the government has banned prayer congregations of more than five people as part of measures imposed to curb Covid-19.

A video clip released by them today showed clerics belonging to various political and non-political organisations including Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Aalmi Tanzeem Khatam-i-Nabuwat, seminaries such as Taleem ul Quran Raja Bazar and proscribed persons including a representative of banned group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, sitting in close proximity of each other.

Announcing the decision, Pir Azizur Rahman Hazarvi, president of the Jamia Darul Uloom Zakaria, Islamabad and patron of JUI-F Islamabad said: “The senior clerics have noted that all efforts will be made to avoid clash and confrontations with the government and the state institutions.”

The meeting did not acknowledge the official directives of a maximum of five persons inside mosques for the collective prayers as the clerics said that the testing times demanded more time for prayers and announced that apart from the five times prayers, Friday and Taraweeh congregations will continue. The participants agreed to take other precautionary measures, however.

The precautions to be observed include the use of hand sanitisers, removal of rugs and carpets, washing of floors, cleaning of hands with soaps and social distancing.

Pir Azizur Rehman Hazarvi added, “The closure of mosques, shutting down Friday prayers and Taraweeh is unacceptable to the countrymen.”

He insisted that in order to get rid of the virus, it was imperative to seek forgiveness from Allah and increase the populace in mosques.

Furthermore, government leaders should also abide by religious norms and seek forgiveness, the clerics said.

The meeting criticised the authorities for arresting clerics across the country and demanded authorities to quash all cases against them.

The clerics said that they have cooperated with the government since the authorities starting taking measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak in the country, but claimed that the officials' behaviour with the administration of mosques was not in the same coin.

Red Mosque

Meanwhile, Lal Masjid's cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz continues to challenge the authority of Islamabad Capital Territoty (ICT) administration by openly flouting the stipulated precautionary measures.

Every week, Aziz releases footages of huge congregations gathered for Friday prayers, denouncing the restrictions imposed by the government. As a result, the number of mosques organising large Friday congregations is increasing in Islamabad.

A senior official of the ICT administration expressed helplessness over the defiance by Aziz saying that any strict action could create a law and order situation.

On Monday night, police tried to place concrete barriers to block the entrance of Lal Masjid to stop people from going inside.

But they were stopped as female students came out from the mosque and sat on the road and in front of the heavy machinery. The social media team of Lal Masjid floated the incidents as an act of resistance by the female students.

In a related development, Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri has announced that the government will contact leaders of various religio-political parties and take them onboard to restrict congregations in mosques for an extended period of time.

After meetings with senior clerics and leaders including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Allama Sajid Naqvi, Prof Sajid Mir, Allama Nasir Abbas Jafri and Senator Sirajul Haq, the decision will be enforced across the country, Qadri said.

Later, Qadri met Interior Minister Brig retired Ijaz Ahmad Shah to discuss the formulation of a strategy to ensure that preventive measures are observed in the holy month of Ramazan.